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Retail Manager Sparks Debate After Repeatedly Sending Home An Employee For Smelling Like 'Pure Trash'

An assistant manager at a retail store was forced to repeatedly send an employee home due to his perpetually foul body odor.

Making matters worse was the employee's stinky attitude, as he would behave disrespectfully towards his superiors.


Redditor "Due-Courage" asked the "Am I the A$$hole" subReddit community if they were NTA (not the A$$hole) for demanding strict hygiene standards from the difficult employee.

"I am an assistant manager at my job in a retail store. We hired a guy who is best described as someone straight out of r/neckbeards."
"I would be a little more sympathetic to him, but he is very rude and I've had to get on him a lot for talking back or giving me attitude for no reason (for example, telling him to make sure he deactivates security tags before bagging them up for a customer and him replying 'i know how to do my job, thanks' and low-and-behold, the customer will come back the next day pissed because the security tag is still attached)."
"Now, he also smells like a$$ ALL the time."

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"The intensity varies but he has never smelled pleasant. Our store is very small and cramped so the smell lingers and it's gotten to the point where customers leave and I've even seen a few gag as he's walked by."
"It seriously smells like unwashed d*ck and unwiped a$$."

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The OP was in a pickle as there was only so much they could do.

"Part of company policy is coming into work presentable and groomed. I'm unable to write him up and my store manager is hesitant just because she is a softie, so on days when I'm the manager on duty I will tell him he needs to go home and to come back to his next shift showered, in clean clothes, and deodorant."
"If he comes back the next day reeking, I will do it all over again."
"He has complained that he barely has any hours to work anymore. My manager stands by me and has tried to have a talk with him but it's futile, and yet she won't write him up or fire him."

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To set the record straight, the OP clarified that the employee was not homeless and has an apartment.

The OP also described applying mindful disciplinary protocols so as not to humiliate the employee.

"I've met his roommates and another coworker (who lacks a sense of smell lmao) has dropped him off there."
"If it's a medical issue he's had plenty of opportunities to speak up. While it's a possibility, I really really think he just doesn't care."
"I also think that he thinks he showers but gets into the same dirty clothes and sleeps on the same dirty sheets. Judging by a few of his roommate's hair and skin, they have the same issue."
"Whenever I send him home I always do it while in the backroom. I'm not the biggest fan of him but I won't humiliate him in front of coworkers and customers."
"I do keep a record of every time he's sent him and what the reason was for. It is easily accessible in our daily sales journal."

Most Redditors responded and said that the OP was NTA.

"NTA. Let's completely ignore the 'don't offend your coworker's nose' aspect here (which is 100% a legit concern)."
"This is a retail position, meaning this guy is the face of your business. If he smells like a$$, then your company smells like a$$." – alek_hiddel

Redditor "Mata187" shared a similar story with a different outcome.

"I had a friend/co-worker tell me a similar story, but the details were more heartbreaking (to a point)."
"They worked at a major coffee chain and this one guy had an odor that was gradually getting worse day by day. My friend and the store manager took the guy outside and wanted to inform him of his scent."
"The guy started crying because he was homeless and living in a hotel and he ran out of soap a few days ago so he was waiting for his first paycheck to restock. My friend handed him a $10 and told him to go buy some travel size soaps and shampoo." – Mata187
"The only thing similar about those 2 stories is that they both involved someone who smelled. Yours was sympathetic."
"The other one? More like bro, pathetic." – duffman13jws

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Are people usually unaware of the odor they emit?

"Smell is the first sense to desensitise. If you can smell yourself even slightly, then holy hell you stink to everyone else." – WhenYouKnowTheReason
"NTA: Its a curse but I have a superb sense of smell and taste. I always catch hell when I talk about someones odor."
"This seems to be the one thing people can have and I have no right to not smell them."
"To me its just like they are shouting constantly. I recognize some people don't have a sense of smell but why do I have to be the one to put up with it." – Itdidnt_trickle_down

Users suggested that the manager needs to step up.

"Nta, your manager needs to do her job, part of which is write ups and firing. Im not saying to fire him immediately, but a write up is due."
"The manager is the unintentional a$$hole for making everyone suffer, and the employee sounds like a d*ck." – Vilkusvoman
"Yep, if management is too incompetent to handle this, they are going to lose business."
"Op, I understand you are in a bad spot here, since you can't write him up, but your boss has no backbone and has no place being a manager if she can't discipline employees." – Icy_Obligation
"NTA But your manager is. These issues are affecting the business."
"The first time you saw a customer gag the manager should have been written up (is going directly to firing not an option)? You and the other employees shouldn't have to deal with it." – PhoenixRisingToday

Sure, the truth hurts, but we all move on.

"NTA. When I worked retail, I once had a manager pull me aside and say that people complained that my breath smelled bad."
"Yes, it hurt. I remember feeling embarrassed as hell. But I got some breath mints and sorted it out." – SereniaKat

This could be the source of the stench.

"Has anyone asked him any questions on why he smells bad? I heard a story once about a student who smelled so bad the tutor didn't want to work with him. The tutors manager spoke with the student."
"It turned out he knew about the smell, but did not know how to stop it. Turns out he was letting his clothes 'air dry' in a damp basement causing a strong musty smell. Started drying clothes fully in a dryer and no more problems with smell." – squidgylynn

There are solutions to solving the olfactory dilemma. Now the employee just needs to work on his rotten attitude, if he wants to keep his job.