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This trope applies to shows which showcase a type of workplace that is typically open most of every day, yet some or all of the employees seem to be able to leave work at any time and do something else.

For example if all of the characters work at a restaurant, and they all decide to go to dinner together, then who's watching the store during one of the most profitable times of day for an eatery?

Often it is necessary to get the characters out of their normal environment so it does not seem boring. This is not a problem, but if the show has not set up a suitable number of background employees whom the audience can believe are capable of operating the business when the principal character employees are out, it can stretch the viewer's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Often merely Handwaved or ignored. Sometimes lampshaded for a little humor. Often comes to mind during Fridge Logic. Supposedly being able to abandon a workplace in part or entirely is some sort of higher level of Ultimate Job Security. If a worker is seen around but never doing their job, then see The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

Examples of Who's Watching the Store? include:


  • Coming to America: McDowells hires two people in one day, obviously needing the employees. Then, during the rest of the movie, most of the known employees of the restaurant are shown to be away from work.
  • Parodied in Airplane! when Ted Striker leaves his cab at the airport just as a new fare gets in. Ted says he'll be right back and starts the meter running, but he instead gets on a plane. At the end of the movie, hours later, the man is still in the cab with the meter still running.
  • Clerks: Dante and Randall close their respective stores to play hockey on the roof and go to a funeral, among other things. However, they're fully aware of this trope--in fact, the game happens on the roof in case someone turns up, and the fact that no one will be watching the store is Dante's main argument for why Randal shouldn't attend the wake (though naturally that doesn't stop him.)

Live Action TV

  • On True Blood, one of the waitresses at Merlotte's is murdered, and a replacement is not found for several episodes. They also tend to all run out into the front lot from time to time, leaving a full house of customers inside.
  • Whenever the bartenders on Cheers went somewhere during business hours they often had to point out who was watching the bar.
  • The 1980's show Alice had the entire cast leaving Mel's Diner a few times during business hours with no explanation given.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine sometimes has a problem with this. They send the entire main cast on away missions occasionally, and it seems like that's everyone of any authority on the station.
    • Other Star Trek installments have also appeared to do this. It wasn't a problem on the original series because they left Scotty and some competent secondary characters behind. On NextGen, it was Captain Picard left behind -- but that show has sometimes come close to this. And Voyager and Enterprise have sometimes had the entire known command staff leave the ship.
  • On the Britcom Are You Being Served the staff of the mens' and ladies' departments are frequently shown having their lunch and coffee breaks together. It is highly unlikely the store closes for lunch and breaks, so who is serving customers while the sales staff are eating?
    • Grace Bros actually does close during lunch.
      • But do they also close during those morning coffee breaks?
  • Two seasons of Power Rangers:
    • At least a few Rangers worked at a music store in Power Rangers Mystic Force, and the rest used it as their Local Hangout. This was played relatively realistically, as the boss often got annoyed at his employees running off and eventually brought someone else on to pick up the slack, and a music store doesn't need a large staff in the first place.
    • Power Rangers Jungle Fury had the Rangers work in a pizzeria. They didn't have a problem with the boss as he was The Mentor, but there seemed to be no background employees; he seemed to run the place by himself before hiring the Rangers and one other girl in the pilot, and once he became a Ranger himself it apparently fell on the girl to keep things running while the Rangers saved the world.
      • This trope eventually came back to bite them in the behind, however, as it became impossible to keep the girl from finding out their secret after leaving her to handle the pizzeria alone so many times.
  • The creators of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia made the main characters bar owners so that they could believably get into hijinks during the day. Even still, the trope is lampshaded in one episode where a newspaper reviewer writes that patrons of Paddy's Pub must often serve themselves because the owners are too busy arguing with each other to actually tend bar.
  • On Wings, Joe and Brian are the only two pilots for Sandpiper Air, but half the time they're either just hanging around the airport or flying the plane for their own personal use without any passengers. It's no wonder that Joe could only ever afford one plane.

Web Comics

  • Questionable Content has seen Coffee of Doom abandoned at moments of high drama. It really is abandoned during these moments, too, since there are no background extras. Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, since roughly half the cast works there, and there's almost always somebody not involved in the hijinks of the moment to watch the store.

Western Animation

  • On SpongeBob SquarePants the Krusty Krab is a profitable fast food restaurant, run by a manager who freely admits that he is in it for the money. However often all three employees are shown to be away from work during daylight hours.
    • In one episode Spongebob and Squidward deliver a pizza for Mr. Krabs, presumably leaving Mr. Krabs to run the entire store himself.
    • In the episode where Spongebob gets a splinter, he and Squidward spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen, begging the question of who is manning the front register.
    • Lampshaded in one episode, where Spongebob convinces himself and Squidward that Mr. Krabbs is a robot. Before they tie him up, he nervously asks them what they're doing, and his last, frenzied question is "Who's running the cash register?!"
  • Mr. Meaty: Often the main two employees take long breaks and go around the mall.
  • In one episode of Curious George, George picks up takeout from a new family-owned Asian market/take out place across the street. The entire family that runs the market help him carry the food home and then are invited to stay for dinner by the man in the yellow hat - they accept.
  • The Simpsons uses this one with the Kwik-e-Mart numerous times. It's almost always answered as well. Either it's Apu's brother, or his infant nephew (he had a gun) or James Woods or... The one time Apu hasn't thought about it, Snake steals the store.

 *shot of Kwik-e-Mart pans out to reveal that it's on the back of a flat bed truck*

Snake: "I'm taking this thing to Mexico!"

Real Life

  • Constantly on the back of the mind of any owner/operator of a 24-hour establishment. Did the next shift come in?
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