Brown Friday: Why do people poop in retail stores?
Unless you’ve worked in retail, you’ve probably never heard of it. If you have worked in retail, then you know that sometimes, if you will, shit gets real. For some unfathomable reason, people poop in retail clothing stores, particularly in fitting rooms and inside the circular clothing racks called “rounders,” but other times they’ll just do it in a corner or, perversely, on the floor right next to the toilet.
As a former employee of Gap, Inc. and Borders Books, this reporter can confirm that the phenomenon exists. With depressing frequency, often during the busiest and most hectic times of the year — Black Friday weekend and the weeks before Christmas — sales employees or managers will open a fitting room door, or brush aside a pile of clothes to find that some shopper, large or small, has defecated and left the results behind.
Amanda Atkinson of Athens, Georgia worked in retail for nine holiday seasons as an Old Navy sales associate. She found messes in fitting rooms and in the store’s public restrooms, some of which were truly staggering.
“Obviously you had the ones in the bathroom,” she said, where people would miss the toilet entirely, clog the toilets and walk away, “or they would go out of their way to smear their poop on the walls.”
The worst thing she said she encountered was on the Saturday night of one Black Friday weekend. “There were clothes on the ground everywhere” in one of the store’s “Clearance” areas. Hundreds, if not thousands of shoppers had come through, many trying on items right in the section and then just flinging them to the floor.
“There was a pile of clothes that, like, three people could have slept on, it was so big,” she said. As she dug deeper into the pile, the first thing that hit her was the smell.
“Somebody had gone out of their way to stuff into the very center of the pile, not the bottom, mind you, but the dead center of the pile, a shitty diaper,” she said. “To the point that we couldn’t do anything with the clothes, we had to throw it all out. We couldn’t even go through the clothes and see what we were throwing out because it was just too much of a biohazard. We just threw it all in trash bags and took it outside.”
Alison, who works at an independent bookstore in Lexington, Kentucky, declined to give her last name, but told of an event that occurred in her store, recently, in which an older gentleman “who bought no fewer than ten copies of Shit My Dad Says — and not at the same time,” disappeared into the store bathroom, then departed without her knowing.
“So about ten minutes later, I go back there to check things out,” she said, “Bathroom’s empty, but there’s an odor, for sure. I walk in and I look in the toilet, and it’s completely clean.”
Then, she looked down.
“And all of a sudden I realized there was shit all over the floor. Not only did the guy shit on the floor, but he stepped in it and tracked it through as he left,” she said.
She and her manager tackled the mess. They haven’t seen the customer since.
Raw Story contacted psychologist Jeanne Dugas to find out if perhaps this phenomenon is among the panoply of recognized human fetishes, if maybe the desire to shit undetected in a public place is akin to the thrill that some people get from having sex in a location where they might get caught. In fact, it was the first time she had ever heard of the practice.
“They do what?” she asked. “Really?”
When asked if there might be a particular psychological motivation involved, Dugas replied, “I tell you, I’m at a loss. A, I’ve never heard of that before and B, Holy cow!”
She said that the most charitable explanation she could offer would be that they were unable to make it to the rest room in time to get back for a particular sale item, or maybe they just weren’t up to the fight through the throng of holiday shoppers. To her, however, the acts sound more like aggression.
“I mean, it is, literally, ‘dumping’ on the store,” she said.
“Really, though?” she asked, still grappling with the notion. “People really do that? It’s, like, a thing?”
Indeed it is, and for thousands of retail workers across the country and perhaps around the world, it’s just one more element of the abiding joy that is the holiday sales season. If it’s not the top of the list, then it’s certainly there at Number 2.