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"I am become death, destroyer of worlds."
- J. Robert Oppenheimer

"Yes, it's your job to clean the toilet. What do you think we're paying you people for?"
- A retail manager to his employees

I have not necessarily stopped entirely, but drawing a comic is a lot more work than I have time for right now. Much as I hated it, the benefit of working in retail was that I had a little extra time to do this stuff. Now I'm a full time marketing/online sales dude for a local company, and while I make a good bit more money, I have no time for comics.

Every time I go to a retail store, after I get over the nausea, I find that I have a new idea for an RD comic. But to go home, sketch, draw, scan, color...when I have a half hour of free time every evening, we're talking about devoting 2-3 days a week to making a single comic.

I have been considering trying to get some RD stories across in another medium...photographing stuffed animals in retail scenarios, something like that, I don't know. Don't consider the comic gone forever, but don't hold your breath for more anyhow. Unless you're into asphyxiation. In which case, glad I could help.
Is it just me, or does the bald dude look like the dad from Fox Trot?
Mediums: Craft paper and Bic
It occurs to me, looking back through these old comics, that I should post an explanation with this one. It is a bit "what the hell" for those looking through it. When I made this one I had a comic due this night, but was out at this classy Christmas party for Grocery Girl's work. The place was actually pretty upscale, but had brown paper on the tables, which I found odd. I had to do a comic, so I tore some off, drew on it, put it in my pocket, and scanned it when I got home. So here you are.
retail hell
Retail Hell is where you go after you have died your retail death! And this is a great opportunity to let you know about our estranged cousin site Retail Hell Underground (, made by a friend in the retail-satire business. Go check it out!
There was a brief conversation about associate theft today with my assistant/co-worker at work, who used to be my right-hand-man at my retail gig. She recounted a tale of being put to the rack by the Loss Prevention witch hunters regarding some retail theft happening in the store. She, of course, was innocent, but when asked, "do you know who could have done it?" she specifically told them the people who were guilty. I happen to know she is right -- I saw them get away with it more than once when I was working there. But, of course, no action has been taken...the actual guilty parties very rarely come to any harm it seems. Just my jaded opinion, I guess.

The topic of theft has always been a controversial one for me. Like anyone, I'm against most crime, and think that associates who pocket from the register or prop the backdoor open with a returned laptop at the end of their shifts should face the consequences for their actions. However, when asked the question above -- "how is an associate driven to steal from the company?" -- I can't help pointing out how little these associates are paid for their work.

Workers who are paid well and are happy with their jobs rarely steal from the company. I don't have studies to back this up or anything, but it seems like common sense to me. Sure, there are going to be a few bad apples here and there who will steal anyhow, but if you make a comfortable living, why bite the hand that feeds you, right? The only reason to bite that hand is if you're starving and you're fed less than you need to survive. That's when hand-meat starts to look delicious.

I'm sure retail theft does not cost corporate retail enough money to justify paying associates a living wage. But internal theft is only symptomatic of the bigger problem. All things suffer -- from the appearance of the store, to the satisfaction of the customers -- when employees are not taken care of by their employers. Pay the workers what they're worth, take care of them as they deserve, and the payoff would be immediate. I mean, how many customers are going to complain to management of rude behavior by associates if those associates actually WANT to be there?
Blue Ones
This is a comic dedicated to all the people out there who think that just because I've changed my line of work I've gone soft. For those who think that working at an auto parts wholesaler has caused me to lose touch with the plight of the retail associate. Our operation sells to rebuilders and mechanics, mostly online or via telephone. But we've got a storefront as well. We've got customers, and they're no better than big box customers. In fact, they're often worse.

I want to stress that the event detailed in the comic above is not only true. It is very common. Somehow people don't realize that the many different applications out there -- all the different cars, trucks, forklifts, excavators, jetskis, boats, lawn mowers, etc. -- require different sorts of parts. The alternator for a 1995 Saturn is not the same alternator used in a 1978 Ford. Different tractors have different starters. And it's not possible to know which starter a tractor needs by knowing that this tractor is blue. We actually had someone tell us their tractor was GREEN one time. And anyone who knows anything about tractors should know that...well, there's quite a lot of green ones.

While this particular instance might be specific to auto parts, this is certainly not a unique customer experience for the retail associate. I remember working in office supplies how often someone would come in for an ink cartridge for their printer without having a clue what type they needed, or even knowing what kind of printer they had. Same thing, really. And how many music store workers have to deal with the old, "I'm looking for the CD with this one song...I don't know the words but it kinda goes da da da dee da dooo..."? I guess the moral here would be this: Customers, know what you are looking for if you're going to ask for assistance. Going shopping aimlessly is fine if you're just looking to get anything. You're looking for shoes, but not sure what type? That's fine, so long as you're there to make up your mind. But if you need something specific, please, know what that is before you shop! Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, retail associates -- no matter how intelligent -- possess absolutely no psychic powers.
I'm not actually a talented artist.

For those of you who think my drawings suck, this will not be much of a revelation. For those who think they are at least passable, who may therefore think I am just being hard on myself, allow me to explain. There is a difference between talent and skill. Talent is a quality that is more or less inborn. A talented artist picks up a crayon for the first time at age 1 and manages a stick figure that's just a bit more realistic than other 1 year olds, and that trend holds. Skill, on the other hand, is acquired. Like a lot of people, my stick figures at the age of 1 were circles with a random scribble of lines below. I learned to draw. It's a craft, not some form of free expression.

Therefore, when I draw, it takes me quite some time. I have been able to produce higher quality artwork since I resumed Retail Death in part because I learned a little bit in the hiatus, particularly about coloring. I also started drawing and inking the art, then scanning it in and coloring it in Photoshop, instead of using my Wacom tablet to draw the whole thing in Photoshop. But a big part of it has also been that I have been taking my time. Instead of telling myself I must produce thrice each week, I shoot to have something out once a week. That allows me to focus on that thing, and make it good.

I tell you this to explain why there is no comic this week. Not exactly. Instead, I have produced a piece of artwork that will be used for the Facebook fan page, t-shirts at the cafe press store, and the landing page at It took me several days to finish (granted, that means I was using the 2-3 hours of free time I have each day on those days to do it). I am presenting it to you today, as many of you link into the comic directly without going to the landing page (please do, by the way...there's actually a lot more stuff there than just the comic!) and might not otherwise see it. Also be aware that there WILL be shirts available with this design, starting as low as $12+Shipping. So if you're interested in supporting the cause, go check it out.

I'll have an actual comic up this week. Promise!
Customer Catch Phrases
I can't believe I haven't even touched on this yet.

Apart from the rude, mean, and generally nasty things customers say, they also have these sorts of catch phrases. Phrases they use over and over, in every store they go to, and most of them know them, and all of them think they're being clever.

They're not.

One such phrase is the ole "it must be free" line. This is spoken when an item fails to scan at the checkout, or when the item simply does not have a price tag/sticker on it. Compared to some of the terrible things customers say, this phrase is fairly innocent. The problem is the irritation factor. Many cashier will hear this several times a day, dozens of times a week, and over the course of a retail career, perhaps a few hundred times. Unless you're catching them on their first day, there's a pretty good chance you're NOT the first to say this to them, and they're already pretty sick hearing it. So be nice, and just wait patiently while the scanning issue is resolved. Your "wit" isn't doing anything for anyone.
Heh...good catch, Venion. Forgot to recolor the tongue :D
My Outstretched Hand
I used to get this one ALL the time in my retail underworld. The customer pays in cash, and you say "that'll be two dollars and sixteen cents, please." You hold out your hand to graciously accept their payment, and they COMPLETELY SNUB YOU, plopping their crumpled bills and tarnished coins down on the counter. You're left hanging there, as though they had asked you to "give them five", only to move their hand and tell you that you were "too slow."

Germaphobes and the X-Man Rogue may be excused from the following rant.

Listen, if you're a customer, and you pay in cash, and the cashier holds out their hand to accept your payment, PUT IT IN THEIR HAND. Failure to do so can and will be considered extremely rude. Why would you not? There are a few reasons. You might consider the cashier to be beneath your notice, the gesture of their outstretched hand too lowly to ping your radar. This would make you an egocentric asshole. You might notice, but not consider them important enough to honor their request. This would make you an arrogant asshole. You might just not notice at all, in which case you are an oblivious asshole. Or you might be afraid to touch people in general, in which case you might be either a germaphobe or Rogue, in which case that's okay. But say something first.

What I always found funny was that after picking up those little dollar bills, and prying the coins off the counter with my FINGERNAILS, then putting the money into the register, the customer would usually hold out THEIR hand to accept either their change or their receipt. This is one of those rare, golden opportunities. One of those shining chances to throw the customer's dickery back in their face with total impunity. Take the change, take the receipt, and plunk those little babies down on the counter. Let them pick it up. See, if they didn't put the money in your hand, they must be avoiding this contact, right? So surely they don't want you to put it in THEIR hand.

I love that.
Idea? YES!
Thanks for the comments Chibibarb. I wanted to address your offer in a comment here so that everyone reading can see. For the record, I am ALWAYS eager to hear ideas from my readers! I worked in retail for several years, but only in one store. I know that other people have vast variety of other experiences they can share and wisdom they can impart that I would NEVER have come up with/thought about on my own! So if you, or anyone else reading this, have funny stories you want to share that you think would make a great Retail Death comic, let me know! I'll be sure to credit you as a co-creator of the comic somewhere in the notes/comments. Heck, if I get enough ideas this way, I might just create a section of the site to house these ideas "customer is always wrong" style! We'll see...

SJ users feel free to just message me...anyone feel free to post ideas via comment...or e-mail me at!
Name Tag Abuse
When you've worked in retail for a long time, everything a customer does pisses you off. Whether it's one of their many annoying tendencies or something completely innocent. And I recognize that my veteran status has made me far quicker to wageslave rage than many others. But I am sure I can't be alone in my profound annoyance with customers who look at my name tag and use drop my name into their dealings with me.

Here's the thing. Customers don't wear name tags, and very few will be forthcoming with their personal nomenclature. They, on the other hand, know your name, because your retail slave masters force you to wear it on your shirt. Maybe a customer occasionally uses your name to be polite. But -- not to be paranoid here -- most of the time? It's a power play. It's, "I get to know your name, and wield it as a symbol of my power in these proceedings. You, on the other hand, shall never know my name!"

Imagine that you are at a party. Someone wants to know your name. How do they find it out? You likely expect an exchange like this:

Person: "Hi, I'm Jim."
You: "Hi Jim, I'm Austin."
Jim: "Nice to meet you."

In retail, however, it's more often:

Custy: "Hey..." (custy eyes name badge) "...JIM. Where's the pencils."

But what bothers me more is when they try to use it like we're friends. I used to have regulars at my old store who all knew my name. Some recommended me by it, some filed complaints by it, it really depends on what day they caught me initially. But they would always use it when we interacted. I, on the other hand, might have recognized them from the store, but had no idea who they were. So afterward, they could just disappear again, anonymous and secure.

And it's the anonymity that really appeals to most of them, I think. I have an old saying I live by, paraphrased from the Matrix (sorta): "If you're an asshole in a store, you're an asshole in real life." People seem to think it doesn't count when you're a customer...that it's part of some game that only they're playing to argue with and jerk around the staff at a store. Now if I know this customer is Susie Johnson, I can tell all my fellow associates, friends, and family, that Susie Johnson is a douche. But if I don't know who she is, well, word that "that mean ass blonde lady with the dog" is a douche isn't exactly going to work in the grapevine.

In comic related news, you will surely realize that this comic is the same drawing as one used last week. Well, I have had a hell of a time at work this week, staying late, going in early, and tonight -- my normal drawing night -- has been interrupted by a visit from my parents. Tomorrow I have to go see a friend I haven't seen in months. So I'm booked. When I made the other comic, however, I'd had two ideas, and realized the same drawing worked for both. So I made an "A" and "B" version, and ended up posting B. So this week you get A. And don't get me any C about it either ;)
As anyone who has worked in retail since about 1997 knows, there is a common misconception among customers that any product available for order on the company's website must also be available for purchase at any and all of said company's brick and mortar establishments. It seems to be difficult for some people to comprehend that a website can be used not only for distributing useful shareholder information, store locator apps, and contact information, but also for allowing the store to carry a greater array or products than can actually FIT into a store.

A good many of the products will be available in the average store of course. If it's an office supply store, it's likely that they will have most of the same paper clips and post-it notes available online and in-store. However, when you start looking at the one hundred and twenty-seven different varieties of office desk available on the company's website, if you expect to find each and every one available in the store you've got another thing coming.

For associates, I remind you to keep cool in the face of this custy stupidhood. Sure, it may seem common sense, but compared to a lot of the stuff they pull, this one is actually a pretty easy mistake to make. Keep a level head and explain the above to them, and hope you snagged a rare one who can understand at least most of the words you say to them. If they listen and then blow up on you anyway, I grant you full permission to lose your shit and give them a piece of your mind welcome-to-the-twenty-first-century style.

For customers, I would simply like to remind you that you should always call ahead to verify the availability of any catalog or internet item you wish to purchase before visiting the store. I get that you'll be pissed if you drive twenty miles to the store and they don't have what you need, but if you don't take this simple step first, you shop at your own risk!
Christmas in May!
Um so yea.

A lot of these comics are the old ones being backed up here, and presented to new readers for the first time. You can tell the newer ones, by the way, because the art will be GOOD. Or at least suck way less.

This one is from Christmas of '09. Just wanted to let you know, so when you inevitably ask "what's up with the Christmas comic in May?" you can look down here and see! :D
For the second week in a row, Retail Death gives a much-deserved nod to the good people who must suffer some of the very worst the retail customers of the world can dish out (no pun intended -- but I'm proud of it anyway). These retail slaves work so hard that the industry doesn't even bother dressing up their titles with misleading terms like "associate." Servers, they are called -- might as well be servants -- or, why not...slaves.

Essentially paid slave wages, these guys really depend on the tips that we as customers give them. Making, most of the time, about $3 an hour, it takes two tables tipping $2 to even get them up to the federal minimum wage for the hour. And that might be all they get for the hour. True, some servers in nice restaurants might get decent tips (if some jerk tips 10% on a $100 check, that's still $10 right?). But most of the time, the minimum wage version of the story is the case.

Now, we retail slaves have to stick together. This is important. And it's easy enough to go into a retail store and not be act like an asshat for all the associates working there. But being polite to your server is not quite enough. Go the extra mile, people. If you go out to eat, make sure you tip generously. Consider $3 a minimum for adequate service, even if all you get is a drink. For food orders, 15% is not really the best minimum. Try not to go lower than 20. Let's face it -- most of us are only spending $15-$20 going out, right? Surely we can afford $4 to help a fellow slave get by.

And remember, even if your server is a jerk, YOU HAVE BAD DAYS TOO. There have been plenty of times when you've given the bare minimum of service even to a nice customer in your job, simply because you're fed up with all the others. Now think of your income was based on THAT performance. Even if your server genuinely sucks as a human being, if you give them a big tip anyway, chances are you'll become their only friend. And that means good service for you next time, my friend.
Cinco de Mayo
So we went out for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant for Cinco de Mayo last night, and it was spectacularly busy. It's normally not all that busy...we're never the only people in there, but you never really have to wait for a table. We knew it would be crowded, and it's our favorite, so we were happy to wait, glad to see they got the business.

While we sat in the waiting area, claustrophobia tickling at our psyches from the thickening crowd, I observed a few funny things.

We live in a college town, so there were a LOT of students there last night (like 90% of the crowd). It's awful for the cashier (but kinda funny to watch) how these kids come in groups of 20 or more, and when they leave it's one long line at the counter of twenty-year-olds, each with their own debit card. It's even worse on the poor servers who have to maintain twenty different checks and twenty different orders (thankfully we had decided on our 8-different-kinds-of-taco dinner before arriving).

The other thing, that was so funny I almost got MAD, was this group of girls who had been waiting since before we got there. One of them, tapping her foot and crossing her arms, was quite obviously sick of waiting. Amidst a sea of people, she says loudly, looking out of the corners of her eyes at the restaurant staff, "we're ABOUT to go elsewhere if we're not seated soon!" I had to laugh. I mean seriously, there were so many people eating at this place I was worried the fire department was going to show up and start handing out citations. The restaurant parking lot was full. The parking lot next door was full. If one bitchy sorority sister leaves in a huff, I'm sure the diminished crowd would breath a collective sigh of relief.

Anyway, great tacos had by all. I wanted to dedicate a comic to all you Mexican restaurant workers who had to go through your personal retail deaths last night. I hope the tips were great!
I didn't release a comic this week because I was sick. I am planning to have a new one out by the weekend.

I use this drawing when I was sick a while back, so I thought I would share it again, along with my excuses ;)