I have applied for 3 part-time roles. All of them are are part time in-store sales in fashion industry. All of them extended an offer. I verbally accepted all on the phone since things were not certain at that point. And now I need to turn down one of them. Reasons are the location and lower wage rate, and scheduling. But here is the tricky part: I don't know why but neither of the other two have a written job offer letter for me to sign (I started my training at one of them today already). They made it clear that I didn't have to sign anything as an acceptance. Just some paper work to officially be in their system. I don't know if that's normal for part-time jobs in retail industry. The problem with the one I want to turn down is that I made a schedule with them to do the training in 2 days. I didn't do any paper work yet because the manager said there was going to be an email for the paperwork but it never came. My concerns are:

  1. will there be any legal issues if I turn down one of them which I verbally accepted?

  2. What is a polite and apologetic way to turn down the offer? And should it be a walk-in or a phone call?

  • If nothing in the paperwork mentioned you getting paid, yet you are currently training, you should be asking about that offer letter ASAP. Jul 20, 2015 at 17:28
  • You need to specify the jurisdiction. E.g. in Germany oral work contracts are legally binding, termination has to be in written form though (although no serious company skips on written contracts, legally they could).
    – lalala
    Jul 7, 2018 at 16:41

5 Answers 5

  1. There will be no legal issues for cancelling

  2. Politely explain that you found a better opportunity and are no longer available for the position, this can be done over the phone.

You have three companies who want you, you currently owe them nothing, reject the one that does not cater to your best interest and move on.

Good luck

  • I would do it in person. It is better.
    – Ed Heal
    Jul 18, 2015 at 7:51
  • 8
    Having worked 8 years in retail, I can assure you that it is by no means necessary to show up in person to turn down an offer that was previously accepted by phone. Most retail hiring managers still have to work the sales floor too, so they may even prefer a phone call, especially if the store is busy. And while they may be disappointed to have to return to the candidate search, I can assure you that they'll have already forgotten you by Monday. Jul 18, 2015 at 15:28

1. Yes, it's legal

Interestingly, any verbal contract doesn't go far if it's not recorded. A common method of fraud is to do this on the phone.

For example, an employer could offer $800 salary in a contract. You might SMS them asking for $1000 salary. They would call you telling you that they agree, then pay you $800.

This is fraud but without any recorded evidence, you can legally get away with any kind of verbal promise.

2. Just say sorry

The last time I posted a part-time low wage job post, I had non stop applicants. It's been over a year since I closed that business but I still get applications.

So just say you're not interested. That's fine. We pick the next guy on the list.

But try to be quick about it so the employer has more time to change their plans and call up the next guy on the list.

It doesn't have to be in person. In fact, asking for a meeting can be a little annoying because it means setting aside time, waiting for you to show up, or canceling some other plan just to meet you.

Just call them up during office hours, say sorry.

I personally prefer all resignations in writing because of the previously mentioned fraud thing. Even SMS or Whatsapp. It's not like breaking up with a girlfriend.

  • I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice: You can get away with and legal are not the same thing. Lots of murders go unsolved. Verbal contracts are hard to verify, but are potentially as binding as written contracts if they can be verified (witness, recorded, stipulated by both sides, judge simply believes you).
    – jmoreno
    Jul 18, 2015 at 16:43
  • I'm not a lawyer, but I have brought similar situations up with police and lawyers. In practice, they're extremely difficult, even with witnesses and a sympathetic jury. In fact, we have 'handshake agreements' - this is where, right after the phone with someone, they follow up with an email or SMS saying that "So to be clear, you'll come in on Monday at a salary of $1000?" and then you'll reply in writing with "Yes"
    – Muz
    Jul 19, 2015 at 1:40
  • I would agree that is a good practice, I just wouldn't totally dismiss a verbal agreement as being worthless.
    – jmoreno
    Jul 19, 2015 at 1:55

will there be any legal issues if I turn down one of them which I verbally accepted?

In the US, there wouldn't be any legal ramifications. Your locale might differ. Consult local laws.

What is a polite and apologetic way to turn down the offer? And should it be a walk-in or a phone call?

You just say that you are sorry, but you have realized this job won't work for you, and you might indicate the reasons why.

Either a walk-in (preferred), or a phone call will suffice. But do it as soon as possible.

Try to learn from this for the future. You don't want to get in the habit of reneging on your promises. You could burn a lot of bridges that way.


will there be any legal issues if I turn down one of them which I verbally accepted?

DISCLAIMER: FOR REAL LEGAL ADVICE SEE A LAWYER Highly unlikely. You haven't signed anything and even if you did, there is very little they could do other than being mad.

What is a polite and apologetic way to turn down the offer? And should it be a walk-in or a phone call?

Whatever was the main mode of communication during the interview process.


Coming in late but for what it's worth my thoughts on this, having been in a loosely similar situation myself.

If you've verbally accepted a job offer then the chances are you have a contract. Depending on where you live it may or may not be enforceable against you. The crucial thing is it benefits nobody to even attempt to enforce it. If the company manages to force you to honor the contract you show up on your first day and hand in your resignation. In theory the company may be able to require you to work your notice period but in practice it's hard to see any company taking that route. There are lots of risks to them, the best case for them is that you'll work normally during your notice period and they still have to replace you, and if you resign on your first day then walk out and don't show up again what are they going to do? Fire you? It's not like you'll be wanting a reference from them.

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