Shopping smart when it comes to clothing isn’t always quite as easy as you may think. Retail stores both big and small are run in very specific ways to make sure the company always profits – even if that means you don’t. It might sound harsh, but at the end of the day, these big clothing stores don’t actually care about the customer. They care about how much money they’re making and how well their store is doing. And that means that you might get the short end of the stick, even if it doesn’t seem like it. However, there are more behind-the-scenes clothing store secrets than you might think!


There are a lot of little clothing store secrets out there that employees have become privy to when working. Although they aren’t really supposed to spill these retail tidbits, a lot of them end up doing exactly that online. Lucky us! If you want to know more about what’s really going on behind the scenes, check out these clothing store secrets that will really surprise you.

1. Most retail fashion is marked up, like, a lot.

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While not exactly surprising, it’s certainly discouraging to hear that you’re likely paying way, way too much for an item that was so much cheaper to make and distribute than you’d think.

A former retail employee who worked in a high-end clothing store told Insider, “Most retail fashion is marked up by at least 100% — meaning you’re being charged double the wholesale price, which is the amount the shop owner paid for it. But markups can range up to as much as 350% for clothing (particularly jeans) and 500% for shoes. And, generally, boutique stores — especially those in high-traffic areas — have higher markups than chain retailers.”

2. You should definitely always wash your clothes before wearing them.

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Do you tend to buy a piece of clothing and quickly run home to wear it or put it away before washing it? Stop immediately!

Employees admit that conditions in stores are far from ideal. Reddit user Menix8 explained, “Unless it’s an easily damaged fabric, clothes can be dropped under giant shelves, shoved in second hand boxes, found in the dusty back corner, tried on by several people (customers and employees alike), and dropped on wet floors. Since working in retail, I always wash new clothes before I wear them. Always.”

3. Black Friday deals are really just a trick.

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Spending your Black Friday in line to get a highly sought after item might not earn you as great of a deal as you think.

Reddit user turkington19 said, “My advice is to avoid Black Friday sales unless it’s a store-wide sale (50% whole store) or a particular item you’ve had your eye on for a while and know the quality of. Every store I worked at (fashion and kitchen appliance/boutique) would have a special shipment of ‘Black Friday Products’ and they were all lesser-quality items. We’d get an item with a $499 sticker, and as soon as we put it on the floor, we’d have sale signs all around it. It was never sold for the original inflated $499 price and probably wasn’t even worth the $299 ‘sale price.'”

4. Actually, a lot of sales are just tricking you.

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According to Time, many big companies use a little trick to make their sales seem much better than they are.

JCPenney CEO Mike Ullman once told investors that being competitive “means initially marking up our goods to sufficient levels to protect our margins when the discount or sale is applied.” In other words, they’re marking up merchandise to make it more expensive a few days before saying it’s on sale. So…it’s not really as big of a sale as you think it is.

Reddit user applejackisbestpony said the same thing: “There is no such thing as a sale, just price increases. Every now and then we raise the price so that we can lower it again the next week and claim it’s on sale.”

5. If you have a problem, call customer service instead of complaining to a manager.

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The manager can’t always do as much as you may think.

Unless you’re shopping in a small, privately owned boutique, you’re better off waiting on the phone to speak with an official customer service representative than complaining to a store employee or manager. Reddit user TheQueenBoo suggested calling the 1-800 corporate number if you need help, explaining, “It used to drive me crazy when customers would complain that something ripped or broke and ask me to exchange the item that was 5 years old. But as soon as they’d call the 1-800 number, a customer service rep manager would give them some insane refund and let me do the transaction.”

She went on to say, “While it sucked, corporate always believes the customer is right. They would rather lose money than lose a ‘loyal’ customer. This also goes for any sort of late fees you have on store credit cards. Unfortunately, the more you complain, the more likely you are to get what you want when it comes to customer service.”

6. You’re probably being profiled while you shop.

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This is one of those clothing store secrets we just wish weren’t true, but it is.

If you feel like you’re being watched extra carefully while you shop because of your age, the way you’re dressed, or your physical appearance, chances are good that you actually are. Redditor d0ndada revealed: “Worked 10 years in retail. Our loss-prevention team profiles you. Teenagers, especially in groups, are watched the entire time they’re in the store. You are economically profiled, if you look like trailer trash or a gangster or just sh*t broke, there’s a camera on you the whole time.”

7. Outlet stores are kind of a sham.

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Outlet stores seem great in theory: you can shop a big-name brand for a fraction of the price!

Unfortunately, they usually aren’t what they seem. According to Time, “outlet stores pretty much operate as their own separate brands.” Basically, most of the items in the store were actually made specifically for the outlet store, meaning that you’re not getting an expensive item for cheaper – you’re just getting a lower-quality item that is outlet-only merchandise. That full price that’s crossed out? It’s most likely fake.

And Redditor turkington19 said that all of their defective merchandise was sent to the outlets: “We’d get a shipment of obviously terrible quality product (uneven seams, pattern mistakes, texture variances, lesser quality fabric) and be instructed to send it to the outlet distribution center. We sold all of the good quality at ‘kill prices’ in store after the season was over. The outlets only got the crappy product.”

8. There is truly nothing in the back.

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Unless you’re shopping at a boutique, they probably don’t have extra items stored in the back.

Redditor Placter said, “If a store has a lot of items stocked on the shelves/racks, that is probably all there is. There isn’t a surplus of medium or large shirts of a certain design sitting in the backroom. That’s why there is a discount rack; because what isn’t sold of that design goes there. If there are items in the back they are usually being processed into the store and we aren’t allowed to grab them anyway.”

9. You can usually get a price adjustment if you’ve just missed a sale.

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Few things are worse than buying an item at full price, only for it go on sale the next day.

But if that happens, don’t sit by! According to Redditor frontallobelove, price adjustments for this are almost always done. They said, “Watch the price of what you just bought for a week or so afterward. Check your receipt, but most big box stores will do a price adjustment within a week, sometimes two. If the price on the item goes lower than what you paid, go back to the store with your receipt and they’ll refund you the difference! You don’t even have to bring the item.”

10. There’s a good chance there was once a stain on the clothing you purchased.

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When you buy a brand new item of clothing, you expect it be flawless…right?

Well, that’s not always the case. There may have been a stain or a hole that employees fixed so you would never know about it. Reddit user _piza_ said, “We used a lot of Tide pens to get out makeup stains….so many makeup stains! Also steamed out holes in tops.”

11. A going-out-of-business sale is probably not going to get you a good deal.

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Going out of business sales are often thought of as the ideal time to snatch up items at great prices.

But according to Reddit user JimDixon, that’s far from the truth. They said, “There are companies that specialize in running going-out-of-business sales for other companies. They handle the advertising, and the management of the sale…and will mark UP (not down) the price of the remaining inventory, and they will bring in new inventory that was never sold in that store before. They will also bring in their own staff to act as sales[people].”

12. Employees are trained to try and up-sell you.

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If an employee is offering you a different product, or an add-on, don’t assume they’re being pushy.

They are actually required to do this and could get reprimanded if they don’t. Redditor pasteureyes said, “Corporate has specific instructions about up-selling, and they can enforce it. At some stores I’ve worked at, we had secret shoppers sent to check on us. If you don’t try to up-sell someone, and they turned out to be a secret shopper, corporate would send a bad write up. On the other hand, if you did perfectly, you would get an incentive, usually a bonus.”

13. Employees are sometimes encouraged to lie to you in order to make a sale.

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Again, companies really only care about making money at the end of the day.

It shouldn’t be surprising that they want their employees to do whatever it takes to get you to purchase something. Redditor mbaby said, “We don’t want to harass you, we are forced to harass you and literally get in trouble if we don’t. A lot of stores have commission that isn’t just an extra top up to motivate staff, a certain amount $ in hourly and daily sales is required.

“In a couple of stores I worked in, I was straight up told to lie to make the sale – everything looks great on you, especially if that dress doesn’t fit but it’s the closest to your size we’ve got, or if I know for a fact those shoes will fall apart in a few weeks. There’s often a product or two that are highlighted to staff as key things to focus on and sell for various reasons (excess product, company pushing it) so personalized recommendations are not always personal.”

14. The store is probably tracking your returns.

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Be careful about how often you return merchandise to a store, because they could eventually ban you from shopping there.

Reddit user dreameater_baku said, “All retailers track customer purchases and returns. If individuals make too many returns or suspected fraudulent returns, then stores may ban them from shopping at their locations. This has been known to happen at major retailers like Amazon, T.J. Maxx, and Sephora.”

15. Being nice to employees is a good way to get a potential discount.

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It might be tempting to get mad at an employee when you feel that a store has wronged you. But that’s not going to get you anywhere.

Redditor greenbean94 said, “Be nice to the staff, always! This is a general rule for life, but it can also directly help you. I used to work the register a lot and we had a lot of personal discretion over things like offering damage discounts, ‘customer service’ discounts, and other things like that. If there was a customer who was actively really nice and pleasant to interact with, I’d do what I could for them.

“This often meant proactively offering a damage discount for something like a loose thread, proactively offering a customer service discount if they had waited in line for more than five minutes, etc., waiving overnight shipping for an order, or (if we had them, which we sometimes did) giving them a discount card for a future purchase. So few people were genuinely pleasant, as opposed to just neutral/minimal effort/ignoring me, so I wanted to help them out in return. This also works the other way — people who were actively unpleasant got completely by-the-book treatment. If they were rude and asked for a damage discount, for example, they’d get the standard 10% off. Or free shipping, but the standard 5-7 day option we offered instead of expedited. That kind of thing.”

16. There is a ton of waste.

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Worried about the environment?

Then you won’t love how retail stores do business. Reddit user trolltollwhatyousay said, “I worked in a clothing store for years and when a delivery arrived every single item had to be unwrapped. A pair of socks, jeans, a pair of £3 earrings etc., every last thing comes in a plastic, sealed bag. We’d throw away enough rubbish to fill a huge dumpster easily before the store even opened every day.”

17. They have to ask if you want a credit card.

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Is it annoying to always be asked if you want to sign up for a loyalty card? Definitely.

Unfortunately, it’s just part of their job. Reddit user EatingTurkey said, “We HAVE to ask if you have our ‘X’ card. Managers are often discreetly observing transactions and writing up little feedback cards. We’ll lose our jobs if we keep skipping that question and we dislike asking as much as you dislike being asked.”

18. Just because it’s in a catalog or online doesn’t mean it’s in the store.

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If you see an item in a catalog or online, you can’t just run to the store to avoid shipping fees.

A lot of the time, these items aren’t actually in-store. Reddit user JackofScarlets said, “That catalog was printed weeks ago and is nationwide. That doesn’t mean every single store will still have stock of every single item when you come in days before the sale ends.”