Rude to ask if there is stock in the back?

A couple of times, I’ve ventured into stores looking for a specific item and they were out of stock in the front. Now, according to several rants in the Pit, it seems like the employees will get extremely annoyed if I ask them “Is there anything in the back?”

The way I see it is, it never hurts to ask. If they do happen to have the item in the back, then I can get it instead of coming back. If they say no, then I can ask “Do you know when another shipment is coming in?” No harm done right?


What do you think?

Only anecdotal, but on the times I have asked (in europe) I have recieved at most a slight rolleye/sigh, but that has been on only one or two occasions. For the record, every single time I have asked “Might there be any in back”, there have had what I was looking for in back.

At the store I worked in, we didn’t usually mind the initial request. However, when we said, “No, all the stuff we’ve gotten in today is out” and the person inevitably started with the “How would YOU know without going back there and CHECKING?”…then we got annoyed.

With the shipments, we really never knew. Our computer just showed us if the order was placed, if it was on its way, or if it was in the store. It never said “More will be in around 4/27”.

Not fricking ever. Stores are there to provide a service to the patron. This consists of distributing its stock of goods in exchange for payment. If they are supposed to have the inventory on their premises, then you are entitled to inquire about them and request that they be made available to you. Employees who get their knickers in a knot because the customer requests a stock check should be reported to their supervisor. It’s called “customer service” for a reason.


PS: If you ask this question at a massage parlor, all bets are off.

I don’t think it’s rude to ask at all. However, I usually don’t ask, because the answer is almost always “No, everything we have is out here” and “No, I have no idea when we will get any more” so it seems like a pointless question these days. I would guess that any employees who give you grief have just enough knowledge to realize that it’s a pointless question…but not enough knowledge to realize that the customer doesn’t know that, and sometimes you have a more satisfied customer if you just humor them a bit.

I think it is rude to argue with the employee if they tell you they don’t have any more. What would be the employee’s motivation for lying to you? If the answer is yes, then all the employee has to do is go get it and then you go away happy. So, what possible reason would the employee have to say no unless you are asking him to do the physically impossible? But, people just don’t seem to get that.

I don’t feel that it’s rude to ask. Sometimes there is stock in the back, and as an employee I usually pay attention to the bigger stuff. If it’s smaller stuff I will go back and check as I can’t pay attention to all the little things.

Please trust us to know though if something is out. If we are asked enough about one product we can know without looking if we have any left in the back or if what was in the front is all we have.

I will admit that not all employees are like me though and possibly will get rude if asked too much (try working over Christmas season in a card/knickknack store… I did it and that was an experience. I enjoyed it though, at least some of the time, but I’m strange :stuck_out_tongue: ). Some will even tell you without knowing for certain whether or not they are out of everything. It’s kind of a split.

Asking if they know when the next shipment is going to be in can sometimes be redundant. Usually the average worker doesn’t know that unless it’s coming in today and they are told to expect it. Rarely is it kept in the computers. You can try but if they say they don’t know… then more than likely they truly don’t know.

It doesn’t ever hurt to ask, but your odds of success will depend on what kind of store you are in. IME, book stores and clothing stores will have 99.8% of their stock that is available for sale out on the floor. Granted, a book store may have an item being featured somewhere or in a display and not on it’s normal spot on the shelf. But, if you go in looking for something that is not hot shit at the moment…say a copy of Franny & Zooey by Salinger–if you don’t see it right next to Catcher in the Rye then likely they will not have it.

OTOH, huge, sprawling stores (Home Depot, Target, etc)…I will always ask in stores like these, and very often I will get what I have asked for. I guess it relates to how much storage area they have in the back.

Also, It may depend on how big the item is vs the amount allocated to display it. Just the other day I was just shopping for some Wicker clothes baskets and the shelve unit where they were displayed was obviously only big enough to hold two or three of them, and it was empty. I asked and they had more in the back.

In any case, as long as you are polite in your request, it’s never a bad idea to ask.

I work at a small natural foods grocery store with too small a building and too many customers (gosh darn it) and it is a day-long task to keep the shelves stocked. So I actually appreciate it when a customer asks if we have “more in the back”, because if I’m stocking the soymilk, I may not have noticed that somebody came and bought up all the quinoa and now the bin needs to be refilled. And if we really are out, then I can put up an Out Of Stock sign.

So, yes, please: ask away.

As a teenager, I worked at a Payless Drugs. We had a large stock room, but what stock was in there was almost always left-over seasonal stuff. Christmas Cards that didn’t sell, patio furnature, etc. The day-to-day stuff was never stuck in the back unless it was shipment day (twice a week at that store, IIRC). Usually it was on the floor in less than 24 hours.

I never thought it was rude, but I do recall getting screamed at once by an old man who was angry that I couldn’t find large-size Depends in the stockroom, because they were on special. Had to get a manager to deal with him…

Not rude to ask, as long as you ask politely, and don’t get upset when I say no, there isn’t. Or if I tell you I don’t know when the next shipment comes in.

It’s when people accused us of hiding stuff that got me upset.

Most of our stock is out on the floor. If it is in the back, 95% of the time, it’s still in a box. If our shelving staff has already left for the day, the boxes won’t be opened till the next day. Not that I don’t want to find your book, but searching through 20+ boxes with 20+ books per box on the chance that we might have one copy of a book? That would take hours, and that is why we have staff dedicated to doing just that. Sorry.

      • As someone who works at a grocery store, I can say that except for soda and beer/liquer, the only items we have “extra stock of in back” are the special sale items that week.
  • I get more people pissed off when they come in late at night and something in the meat department is out on the shelf, and nobody will go back and “check”, because of several reasons: 1) the meat dept guys leave at 8 or 9 pm and they put out anything left they have then, 2) it’s a different department that I have never worked or even helped out in, because a) the store manager won’t let me because I have not had all the meatcutting equipment and food safety classes, and b) it’s a different union’s jurisdiction so I can’t help, according to union regulations–which is also another reason the store has never ever had me ever do anything in the meat dept., and 3) because of all that, I don’t have any idea where anything is organized in the meat cooler or freezer, both of which are 40x40 feet square and have rows of shelves often piled halfway full with boxes with mostly only product codes on them–so it could take me an hour to look for one box of anything. …So as far as meat goes, I refuse to look. If they really want it, I always say that the morning shift meat dept guys come back in at 4 or 5 AM.

I used to work at a well-known craft store chain. People would always ask me if we had stock in the back; the answer was very rarely.

We got our shipments in one day, and they were on the floor the next day; the back stock room was either bulging with huge cardboard boxes, or empty. And either way, I was not authorized, nor did I have the time, to rip open all those boxes to find out if we just got a shipment in of Item X. A lot of stores, in my experience, are like this; stock is delivered in massive freight boxes, and then opened overnight or very early the next morning…there isn’t like a whole retail “display shelf” back there where we can just go and pluck Item X off the shelf.

However, like Guin, I never took offense to the question, but a lot of people did seem to think that I was just a lying lazy bitch for not checking. Even if I knew damn well we didn’t have anything in the stock room, they always looked suspicious.

So while it never hurts to ask, please assume the employee is correct when they say there isn’t any.

Why worry about whether it’s rude or not? Life’s too short for 100% manners!

Like others, not rude to ask, only rude to argue. The store I worked at did not have a “back”. The back contained a closet sized bathroom and enough storage for the empty totes. And full totes (ie still packed product) lived in the aisle until they were unpacked…within eight hours of being dropped off. If it wasn’t on the shelf, we didn’t have any.

I only got annoyed when a customer asked me every week to look in the back woudl start screaming at me when, every week, I told them that we had no back storage. Three months of this, and I woudl hope they would learn.

I wouldn’t think its rude at all. However, I wouldn’t bother asking about groceries… surely, given the nature of the goods, the shelves would be restocked regularly (I used to work in a supermarket donkey’s years ago and I doubt the practice has changed).

Actually I was in Boots (chemist/drugstore) yesterday and asked one of the guys there to check if they had more stock in the back… he not only checked the shelves (they stocked this particular item in two different areas - I didn’t know that!) but he checked in the back too. He didn’t have any more and I thanked him and went on with my shopping. I saw him around the store being hugely helpful to everyone and when I went to the checkout, whilst one person served me, this other guy packed my bags. If I knew his name (no name tag - I did check!) I would have called on Monday morning and told his supervisor/boss how good an employee he had. It was a pleasure to see.

It’s not rude at all. I imagine that a clerk who rolls the eyes at that request would roll the eyes at a request for a price check, or a inquiry about the location of the bathroom.

I used to work at a thrift store where the proceeds supported a non-profit organization. We got that question a lot. The problem was that we always had a ton of stuff in the back, but it was in the form of unsorted donated goods. It was in heaps and piles in the back room, until we sorted, cleaned, hung, and priced it all, then we could bring it out onto the floor. Some customers would want to go into the back and root around. I don’t think so.

Oh, and I probably did roll my eyes at one sub-set of the “do you have this in back?”-ers. We sold donated second hand goods. Sometimes people, usually teen-age girls, would come up to me with a pair of pants and ask, “Do you have this in a medium?” Now that deserved all the eye-rolling I could muster.

Huh. Generally I offer to check in the back long before the customer asks. We have a smallish but usually full stockroom, and spend lots of time running fills up the stairs.

It does annoy me when we don’t have something, and a customer points at the 20+ unopened boxes we’ve just received and says, “Is it in there?”, becuase we have no way of knowing what’s in the blasted things without opening all of them.

I used to work at a well-known office supply store. I didn’t mind if people asked me if there was something in the back, especially if there was a possibility that there could be more. I was more inclined to do this for polite customers. For more popular items I usually knew what we had and most of it was out on the floor, so it wasn’t necessary to check. If the customer didn’t believe me then and asked me to check anyway, when I told them up front that we’re out of stock and I knew this because other people had asked, I’d get annoyed. Checking the inventory on the computer was not enough to convince them (though the inventory system wasn’t always a reliable indicator).

For the really persistent jerks who were being a pain in the ass and wouldn’t give up, I’d go to the back and ask the people in receiving if the product had come in, just to be sure (99% of the time it hadn’t), and then maybe rub some dust/dirt over my shirt to make it look like I really checked and checked hard. Some days I was tempted to cut my hand with a box knife on purpose just to make the customer feel guilty for putting me through such trouble, but I was never this masochistic about doing my job, and I doubt such jerks would have cared anyway. I’d spend about 5 to 10 minutes back there, depending on how busy it was out on the floor, and then finally return to the customer and say, “sorry, but I checked everywhere and we don’t have 'em.”

Why would this seem rude?

Incidentally, I understand that “could you check to see if you have any in stock” is a common secret shopper question.