Is there any acceptable way to ask retail staff for a date?
August 26, 2005 1:13 AM   Subscribe

AttractiveRetailWorkerFilter: If someone would like a date with someone they only see at retail/checkout, is there any acceptable way to communicate this, that doesn't impose on the worker or make their job harder/unpleasant if they're not interested?

I'm thinking mainly female retailer workers here, who often get unwelcome advances, potentially even souring the day, but perhaps sometimes also see people who might not be unwelcome. (Or people who wouldn't be unwelcome if the retailer were single, but isn't).

Don't worry, this is a question of long-standing curiosity, no retail worker will be harmed in the making of this thread :)

Other times, I'm pretty sure I've been hit on as a customer, (always a tricky thing given the nature of retailer-customer relationship), so I'm also interested in discussion on the shoe being on the other foot - what kinds of ways might a retailer communicate interest to a customer (assuming the retailer risks getting fired for coming out with it directly while on the clock).

Next week: Strippers. (I kid :-)
posted by -harlequin- to Human Relations (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Slipping a note might be a good way to do it. It's fairly non-confrontational, and it gives them an easier way to ignore it than a direct proposition. I don't know that there's a subtle way to do that though.
posted by Kimberly at 1:30 AM on August 26, 2005

Response by poster: The closest thing I can think of to a minimally-obnoxious method would be to, as you are collecting your items after paying, leave the person a business card or similar, telling them you'd really welcome talking to them again, and leave immediately so they don't have to reply, on the assumption that their reply is quite likely to require the kind of diplomacy that they have more important things than that to be doing. Don't expect to ever get a call, and consider yourself lucky if you do. And don't go all weird if you checkout with that person again in future.

But I've never done this, so; Comments? Is it still just a pain in the ass? Is there a nicer way?

On preview, Kimberly beats me to it :)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:44 AM on August 26, 2005

I'd say that catching said employee on a smoke/other type break and starting small-talk would be ideal. However, you risk coming off like a Grade A penis if you use the "so when do you get off?" line, and you risk coming off as a stalker if you wait around outside the store around closing time.

Failing that, how about coming to the location during times that you know are low-traffic and just being nice -- smalltalk, make jokes, etc. Don't force one's self onto the person, but just chat a bit when no other customers are around. If you make this a regular thing and it's obvious that the other party isn't weirded out, then there's probably a chance that he or she would be receptive for more. If you make it a repetitive thing with some regularity then you at least establish some rapport and aren't starting out as strangers. However, there's a definite difference here between coming off as "that creepy weirdo that always comes in every sunday morning at 7AM and never buys anything" versus "that nice guy that drops by on sundays and makes me laugh."

I guess the "slip the person a card with a phone number" route could work. It certainly solves the "don't want to make a scene or embarrass the person" since it's rather discreet. But, also impersonal.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:19 AM on August 26, 2005

I'm gonna say no to the slipping of the card -- and I'm assuming this is guy hitting on girl here, because let's face it, if it's the other way around, then we're on the way to our own Penthouse Forum letter. The business card is headed straight for the trash unless you've got sparkling blue eyes and George Clooney's jacket (which would probably make you George Clooney), and if you're George Clooney, then you'd have other game that's better than slipping a business card to a girl who just made change for you.

Seriously, this is what you do:

Ask her out. Right there. I'd do it after I paid, as I was ready to leave, and after some major flirting that the other person responded to. It's gotta be away from the counter and away from obvious ear shot by the other employees (and especially the manager). Sure, it's confrontational, and sure it might ruin her day. Guess what -- that's how you get dates. Three out of five times, she'll say yes. the other two times, she'll say she's dating someone. As long as you don't ask her out while you've shoved your hand down your pants, it shouldn't come across skeevy. Just be chill about it. Not super-suave, but relaxed and non-commital. "Hey, you're a lot of fun. Would you like to get a drink/coffee sometime this week?"

About the asking: You gotta have a specific thing planned, at a specific place. Drinks at Akbar. Lattes at Urth. Or maybe... "I'm going to a party tomorrow night. You should come." Is there a party? Who cares? If she says yes, you can convince a friend to throw something together at the last minute. It doesn't matter, because it's going to be all about her anyway. And be careful about that 'returning to the store' thing to catch her at low-traffic times. I'd do that if it were an hour later, or maybe a couple days later, but any more than once is just creepy/stalkerish -- and that's returning to the store once whether or not she's there. If she isn't, tough cookies.

I understand the fear of infringing on her personal space and souring her day, but here's a great trick I didn't understand until I was in my 20's -- most cute girls never get hit on. Swear to god. Or if they do, it's by the sleaziest of guys who hit on anything and are totally disgusting about it, licking their lips and twirling their pinkie rings. If you don't do that, then you're ok. There's a way to ruin a girl's day by asking her out, and there's a way to make her day (whether or not she's interested). Anything that's not direct and to the point and face to face (as in: no notes in homeroom/business cards at checkout) just won't work. And don't forget, I'm assuming there's been some flirting already here.
posted by incessant at 3:25 AM on August 26, 2005

leave the person a business card or similar, telling them you'd really welcome talking to them again, and leave immediately so they don't have to reply

Hmm, I agree with incessant here, I don't think the card is a good approach especially if you just drop it and leave. It could come off as arrogant.

I think what Rhombold suggests about trying to chat to her during moments when she's not busy and incessant's advice to just plain ask her out are better ways of going about it. Try and establish some kind of contact before you ask, though, don't do it out of the blue before you've ever even chatted to her.

Also, what kind of store is it? You could start some kind of conversation based on what you're looking for there and what you like, if it's a record or video store it could make things a lot easier.
posted by funambulist at 3:45 AM on August 26, 2005

incessant more or less summed up what i would have said. the difference between "sleazy guy who comes in every day" and "that sweet guy that comes in every day" is a difficult line to toe. not only that, but let's be practical - it takes time to build up the "i'm a regular" relationship, if you really like the place then you risk feeling awkward going back if you're turned down.

somewhere between the flat out asking out and establishing 'regular' status is the best approach. make small talk: "what do you recommend [on the menu, between these two items, etc.]" "what's it like working here?" --[leads to]--> "yeah, i know what you mean, i [interject some personal experience akin to theirs]", and so forth. hopefully, this puts them at ease and takes away the 'creepy' aspect. it should also give you some kind of an idea of if they are interested or not. again, difficult, given the customer/employee dynamic.

then, just ask them out. the idea of making it non-confrontational really is your best bet and i agree with incessant here: have a plan, keep it simple and not too intimate. no dinner, no movie, nothing dramatic - lunch or coffee. again, taking away the 'creepy' edge to things.

one approach: if you pay by credit card, your name will already be on the receipt. if conversation has gone well they already know your name, but it never hurts as a reminder. write your number on the back and as you hand it to them, ask them out. be sure to do it on the customer copy however, so they can just pocket it and don't have to copy it down themselves from the store copy.
posted by whatitis at 4:56 AM on August 26, 2005

"If you'd like to go out sometime, I'd love to take you out."
posted by plinth at 5:55 AM on August 26, 2005

Sorry, but the card approach sucks. Passing notes to indicate you like somebody is generally frowned upon once you leave grade school.

incessant is on the right track. I flirt shamelessly with "retail workers" all the time and, really, it doesn't have to be a big deal. You don't need a specific plan or several battle scenarios. The process is generally very simple:

(1) Say something that clearly demonstrates that you like her. Say it in a way that shows you mean it--smile and look her in the eye!

(2) If she responds positively, ask her out for a low-pressure situation (not dinner and dancing) but coffee, drinks, lunch.

(3) Try, but don't press, to get her number--if this doesn't work for whatever reason (she wants to remain in control, most likely) write down your number and give it to her.

In step 1, you can improve your chances greatly improve if you can make her laugh. One time I asked this quite pretty woman where the cough syrup was and she said 'Aisle X' or something. I paused, and told her she was undoubtedly the most helpful clerk I'd ever met in my entire life. After a couple of minutes of me explaining how blown away I was by her deft handling of my situation she gave me her number. I didn't even have to ask. It's quite ok to make a fool of yourself, just don't be a prick.
posted by nixerman at 6:24 AM on August 26, 2005

I second incessant's advice: pay close attention to how your lady is reacting to you--if she's not maintaining eye contact or looks anything but pleased, just stop. I have had so many creepy experiences with dudes just hanging out, staring at you "meaningfully" (it comes off menacing 9 times out of 10) and trying to start schmoozy conversations they think is flirting ("Wow, have you ever modelled? because I'm a artist and you have a great profile...").

Since it's our job to smiling and accomadating, many (older, skeezy) men see this as open invitation to comment on our loveliness, the great color of our sweater etc. It makes us a little jaded (or at least it did me) when it comes to strangers in the workplace, so the straight forward approach is always appreciated. Don't try to seduce, just be an interesting guy and ask us out.

FWIW, my husband was working retail when I first met him and he liked me immediately, but he was too shy to breach that customer/employee border. I thought he was the hottest thing going too, and I was just too shy in general. I'd visit him secretly at work for 3 months before I finally asked him out... We've been together 5 and half years ;-)
posted by ibeji at 6:30 AM on August 26, 2005

Building up familiarity through regular patronage would be my suggestion. Once a person is familiar with you, you can begin to establish a relationship, however insignificant it may seem. Which can easily snowball into a more significant relationship should you -- or they -- pursue it.
posted by Hankins at 6:42 AM on August 26, 2005

>"If you'd like to go out sometime, I'd love to take you out."
Plinth has a nice line, as a (male)ex-retail worker.
Of course the big action back in retail was with the retail workers at other stores (and indeed how I met my wife), not that I suggest you bend your career that way.
I guess it depends if you get a vibe or not. If you get the vibe then its about someone you meet asking you out, not about customers. If there is no vibe then it is server/customer.
If you don't know if you feel the vibe, then I suspect it ain't there, as the retail worker knows they need to over do it to make it clear this is more than business.
posted by bystander at 6:59 AM on August 26, 2005

Apply for a job at the store.
posted by spilon at 7:14 AM on August 26, 2005

spilon hit it on the head.
posted by dead_ at 7:22 AM on August 26, 2005

i'm sorry, but applying for a job at the store falls into the 'skeezy' category in my opinion. that's like moving into a house/rooming with someone because you have a thing for them. baaad idea. sure, you'll be spending more time around the person, more possibilities for that date.... buuut, seriously. stalker?
posted by whatitis at 7:26 AM on August 26, 2005

I once wrote a withdrawal slip for a pretty young woman who worked in a bank in a small, gossipy town. It worked.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:31 AM on August 26, 2005

As someone who has worked in retail for a long time leaving a note would probably get laughed off, and even if they were interested could be negative points.Don't chat them up on break initially. If others are anything like me, they don't want to talk to customers while on break at all.

Just ask them to a movie or something after a few conversations where they seem interested. If they turn you down, don't come back to the store for a while.
posted by drezdn at 7:33 AM on August 26, 2005

I had this situation with a woman at a coffee place that I had a crush on.

It was my regular place, she was one of three women who worked there and I sorta got obsessed with her, and asking here out.

I went to Mexico, and came back with little gifts for each of the three (I went to this coffee place every day so I was pretty familiar with them).

Finally, while I was sitting at an outside table there, this women took a break and came and sat at my table to chat. I said, "well, would you like to go to a show, or something, sometime," and she said yes.

A week later, I had still not asked her out, but was planning on it, and she saw me with a female friend, and I think she assumed that I was in a couple at the time. . I wasn't. . I wasn't even dating anyone. . .but when I did ask her out finally she said, she was busy and I got the vibe that she'd be perpetually busy when it came to my overtures so I just dropped it and started avoiding the place when she was there. My fantasy life around her, by this time, with all the hemming and hawing, had gotten sorta, um, detailed, so I was embarrassed to even see her.

All this to say, don't be circumspect and waste a lot of time. . go for it, smile, and accept wherever she is at about it.
posted by Danf at 8:50 AM on August 26, 2005

Sorry, but the card approach sucks. Passing notes to indicate you like somebody is generally frowned upon once you leave grade school.

What if there were checkboxes on the back? "Do you like me? Check one. ø Yes o No"
posted by kindall at 10:55 AM on August 26, 2005

I think incessant pretty much nailed it.


Few years ago, I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee. Various things intervened, he didn't show up, so I spent a few hours reading a book, drinking coffee, and people-watching. As I was getting ready to go, I went up to the (incredibly cute) boy behind the counter, and just said "Um, my name's $name, and uh, I was wondering if you'd like to go have a drink when you're done?"

He said yes, we had a lovely date. One of the things we talked about was this question exactly. He was at the time a server at a high-traffic coffee shop in the gaybourhood, so you can imagine the ridiculous number of men who'd come in and hit on him. The only ones he ever gave the time of day to were people like me: simple, direct, and polite. Anyone who clearly tried to become a regular in order to flirt with him got the cold shoulder, anyone who hung out to nab him on his break got lthe same.

In summary: Don't try and become a regular. Don't be creepy. Ask them out, leave the ball in their court, and be prepared to make a charming and graceful exit.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2005

kindall >>> "Sorry, but the card approach sucks. Passing notes to indicate you like somebody is generally frowned upon once you leave grade school.

"What if there were checkboxes on the back? 'Do you like me? Check one. ø Yes o No'"

I have to say, that would totally work on me.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:58 AM on August 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

I must say, I don't get some of the responses here. Although I agree with some I think they are making it too complicated. If you like her, dress nicely, act nicely, and say that you do like her and would like to go out with her some day when she is free. If she says no, ok, that's it - if yes, then that's another thread. Right? What can you lose? If it becomes so embarrassing for you, I'm sure there are either other stores or other cashiers for you. Mate, take control of your life. You only have one.
posted by keijo at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2005

At least if I was in the cashier's position I would find passing "secret messages" in the form of cards rather silly. I would just ask her if she would like to see you outside the store. That's all.
posted by keijo at 12:04 PM on August 26, 2005

When I was a retail worker, I had to be nice to everyone. I could subtly flirt with people I thought looked interesting, but not so much that it might get noticed and called out by my co-workers. So it would have been hard to tell from my manner alone. But I'd usually ask some questions of the customer-of-interest, the kind of thing that might help me figure out if they're single, or if they live nearby, or if we know anyone mutually, etc. Whereas with some nice customer I'm not interested in, I'll keep up my part of the conversation but won't tack on any personal questions.

Overall, I think the best approach is just to ask the person out as soon as you can. But I do think the "become a regular" strategy helps you -- more chances to show your charm and encourages the worker think of you as less of a "stranger". You just have to do so as naturally as possible. Even if your target is not on shift, they will hear about whether or not you came in. This means you have to have a schedule that has some rhyme or reason to it, not based on the target's shift or how often you feel you can get away with coming in. A worker knows what normal customer behavior is and can tell when something's unusual. We could always spot the fake regulars, the dressing-room peepers, the jealous exes passing by the glass windows...
posted by xo at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2005

Donut shop workers get asked out a lot. I don't know - something about the smell of coffee and deep fried pastries.

When I worked in a donut shop, I got very annoyed at the men who asked me out. It wasn't like I had many options outside of work, but the vast majority were way too old for me (30 year olds, asking out a 19 year old), and/or didn't show any interest in me as a person. Maybe it was just this one place (most of the customers were male), but

I would say that passive is a bit better than active: don't ask for her number, leave yours. If you ask her out, and she says no, don't keep pressing. (I'm sure you wouldn't, or else you would never have started the thread - but there were guys who did.)

Ask her when she's not behind the counter - either wiping tables or sweeping or something. I always felt cornered behind the counter - I couldn't go anywhere, and had to serve the person. It's different if you are leaving right away.

Do ask about her life or interests (is she part-time? a student? Maybe has interesting hobbies? What does she read?) I also second the lunch/coffee suggestion, as being a lot more casual. Unless they work in a coffee shop - then you might suggest going to a nice tea shop. :)
posted by jb at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2005

Many years ago, when I was in a smaller town for the summer, there was an attractive woman working at the local post office, which I had to go to because I didn't have a postal address (renting a room). One day after picking up my mail, she asked "Can I get you anything else?" and I said, "How about your phone number?" She said yes, gave it to me. We went out on a couple of dates, ultimately not much chemistry.

Direct, but not too difficult to turn down, and only mildly embarrassing for subsequent visits if there's a negative response, I would think.
posted by birdsquared at 6:23 PM on August 26, 2005

What if there were checkboxes on the back? "Do you like me? Check one. ø Yes o No"

This is, seriously, exactly how I got my date for the prom.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:58 PM on August 26, 2005

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