Fitting Room Faux Pas: Leaving discarded clothes behind

by epi on March 4, 2013

Q: I recently tried on and purchased clothing at a retail store. As I left the fitting room, I left some tried-on and rejected clothing in the room. The sales associate on the floor questioned me about it and indicated with a wave of her hand that I should bring the clothes out and place them on the rack for her to re-shelve them. I was stunned at her non-verbal request and immediately complied, though not happily. If it had been a polite request with a ‘please’ I might have been more sanguine. But I was under the impression that clearing the fitting room and removing rejected clothes for re-stocking was part of her job, and not a part of mine, as I am a customer and not an employee. Is it rude for the customer to leave the clothing behind?

A: Yes. What you take in, you should also take out. There are not enough employees in most stores to restore a fitting room after very customer, and it is not thoughtful to leave your discarded clothing lying on the floor, on a bench, or even hanging back on their hangers, for this means the person who enters after you has to deal with your rejects before being able to try on her own clothing.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie March 4, 2013 at 1:48 am

There are roughly three levels of “fanciness” in dressing rooms.

At the lowest level, the attendants are essentially counting items to prevent theft. In these stores you usually have to count your items and get a card with that number on it when you go in. And then they’re not going to let you leave until you bring out the same number of items.

On the other side of the spectrum are fancy stores with employees working on commission. They are helping you on the floor, taking your clothes as you gather them, and then “setting up” your dressing room for you. They hang around the area to help with decisions, get you another size, zip you, etc. Nice places like that usually don’t even have a clear system for you to return rejected clothes because the attendants are expected to do it.

The kind of store that falls in the middle is perhaps where you were and in those stores there is some middle ground. Although nobody is counting the shirts, there is usually a clear place to put your castaways. And, while there is usually an attendant who DOES have to go into rooms and gather things up that people leave behind, she only has to do that when people are too rude to clean up after themselves. It is also “her job” to re-fold the sweaters if you decide to knock over the display on your way out.

Forcing her to do certain tasks that are technically “her job” is rude. So, if you’re looking for the polite thing to do, hang up your clothes and place them in the intended area. If you get some kind of enjoyment out of having people whose “job” it is to pick up after you, consider shopping at the nicer stores.


Jody March 4, 2013 at 9:45 am

The “fancier” stores, where salespeople are expected to clean out the changing rooms, are becoming fewer. What I’ve seen in most stores is a rack at the changing room entrance, where the store wants people to hang clothes the customer doesn’t want to purchase (I like that system because the clothes are ensured of being replaced in the proper place). Even if the store did require you to put clothes on that rack, it was extremely rude of the salesperson to indicate that with a hand gesture. She should have politely asked you to put the discarded items on the rack. The temptation for me would have been to ignore a non-verbal “command” to move the items but that would have brought me to the salesperson’s level of rudeness. The polite thing was, as you did, to move the discarded items to the rack. If you like this store and shop there again, at least you’ll know the store’s procedures.


Rebecca March 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

If you aren’t purchasing the clothing, it belongs to someone else (the store), so you should treat someone else’s things with respect. Anything I borrow from a friend, when done I would replace it where I found it or where she would like me to put it, so why would you behave differently in a store? Sales associates are already overloaded with tasks and don’t need to clean up after you.


noah March 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

If they want you to bring your stuff out with you, they should politely ask you to do so when they let you into a room. (Any place that doesn’t “clear” for you, has an attendant there when you go in.) It may be the customer’s “job” to bring their unwanted clothes out of the fitting room, but it is never the customer’s job to know or figure out on their own whether or not they are expected to do so.


Vanna Keiler March 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I like Noah’s response to this question the most, although everyone made some pretty good points from perspective of both sales staff and customer. We are all only human, and sometimes a person’s lack of social graces in performing their job can irk and ire us, to the point of wanting to retaliate likewise. Also, what may be construed as rudeness to one, can be simply another’s way of behaving like “family”, as in the hands gesture as opposed to a formal “Could you please hand me the garments? I would appreciate it. Thank you.”.

Like Jody said, if you like the store, continue to frequent it and assume there was no insult intended: it is either the culture of the store and management, bad training, or one employee with limited social skills who is just trying to make a living.


Lisa Kay June 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

Yes. It is incredibly rude to leave clothes behind in a dressing room – especially if you leave them inside out on a hook or crumpled on the floor. If you were a guest at your friend’s house and trying on some of her clothes, would you discard the rejects in an impolite manner? No, you would kindly return the clothes to your friend in the same condition you received them – hung or folded nicely. It’s common courtesy to practice this whenever you are a “guest” at the home or business of someone else. Always keep in mind that you are, in every sense of the word, a guest. Whether you think it is someone’s job to wait on you hand and foot and/or follow behind you cleaning up is irrelevant to the common courtesy and respect that you, as a lady, should always show other private homes and public businesses.


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