"Uh, that's not my department."

Ever hear that in a store? Did visions of fiendish violence against the clerk flash through your mind?

"Not my department" topped the list of Most Annoying Words from Salesperson's Mouth, cited by 29 percent, in a poll of shopping mall customers by a retail consulting firm.

No. 2? The classic, "If it's not on the rack, we don't have it." That golden oldie was cited by 25 percent.

"That's the policy," "I'm on a break," "Ask the person over there," "I'm new here," "You'll have to wait your turn" and "The computer is down" rounded out the list.

The survey involved 230 shoppers at U.S. malls, conducted by Ridgewood, N.J.-based MOHR Access (search).

Yet, fortunately, times are changing. Many retailers are aiming to get their floor clerks "to take personal responsibility for the customers' experience," said Michael Patrick, MOHR Access president.

"What's really needed is to get employees committed ... to do their best, even when nobody's looking or listening," he said.