Surviving Retail -


Surviving Retail

Yes, a job is a job and in these recessionary times, people like myself, who have a job, should be very grateful.  That, however, does not mean I have to enjoy it.  I have worked in the retail industry for four years now – a rite of passage which I think has earned me the right to poke fun and complain about the daily struggle I face.
Of course, I am not alone.  I have spoken to many of my fellow retail workers and the general consensus is that it sucks!   Working in retail affects you  emotionally, mentally, physically (financially…) – on an enormous level.    It destroys any little bit of soul you may have left.  When you start to think of just how long you’ve been working in retail you realise you feel a bit like this:
So what exactly is my gripe? Let’s start with the customers and the ridiculous things they say. Some conversations are easy enough to deal with, but constantly being asked “How much is that?” when there is a price clearly stated on the sign (or sometimes the product itself) can make it hard to remain calm.  ”It’s cheaper elsewhere” is another great line that makes you want to run away and join the circus.  Then there’s the fake sympathy. “Oh, it’s such a shame you have to work on a day like today” – “a day like today” could refer to anything from a rare sunny day to Stephen’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day or any other public holiday. There’s a reason I’m stuck here in this hell hole – the damn customers who would complain if the shop wasn’t open.
Customers complain about everything from the temperature in the shop, to the quality of the plastic bags.  In my particular workplace, we have regular customers which means that a difficult customer (the majority of them) can’t be forgotten.  They’ll be back. When it comes to wholesale, the monster that is the difficult customer, is most definitely alive and always on the prowl for its next victim.  They take your legs off with trolleys, throw their account cards at you, grunt at you if you dare ask them to repeat themselves, and scream like banshees if they are overcharged by so much as a cent.  (Not to mention the customers of a more mature – and perverted – nature who like to feel up the female staff.)  Then, when the time comes to say sayonara, these delightful individuals inform you they are paying not by cash or card but will pay instead with part cash, part cheque, part lazer card, part peanuts, part monopoly money, part I.O.U and part souls they’ve borrowed from the devil himself.   “Oh, I must have given you the wrong PIN…”  No.  We have tried your card twenty five times, there is clearly no money in your account.
Possibly worse than the customers however, is management.
When you get a job in retail, you will figure out quite soon after starting that the roster is a mythical item which holds no purpose in the real world.  Yes, it might say you’re off this Saturday but your manager will still inform you five minutes before closing on Friday that you are in fact in the following day. Then again, he might just wait and send you a text on Saturday morning instead.
Your manager might drill certain rules into you, but when you enforce them  he/she will make you out to be an escapee from the local asylum.  The customer is always right, even when they’re not, therefore your manager will always side with the customer.  Your manager is not your friend.  He/she is also not a very good listener or any great help when it comes to  dealing with problems you may encounter in the workplace.  Your manager will also repeatedly encourage you to smile more or develop better relationships with customers, but, after a ten hour shift of fake smiling the only relationship you’ll feel like having is one with Ben, Jerry, Adele and your duvet.
Sounds delightful right? Well, here are a few honest facts and survival tips to remember if you’re going to work (read: suffer) in retail:
  • Customers can and will break anything in the store and still be treated like royalty by the managers.
  • Customers will buy anything if a few euro is knocked off the price.
  • The customers that look like they have a few bob to spare don’t tip.  Never. It’s the sweet old ladies that haven’t actually got anything to part with who are always trying to part with their money.
  • When a customer says “your job must be really easy” (and believe me, they will) try your hardest not to throttle them. Management frown upon this.
  • Customers will always move at a snail’s pace when there is an exceptionally long queue behind them.
  • Everyone is a comedian when an item doesn’t scan properly. No you cannot have it for free. Yes I’ve heard that joke before.
  • People don’t like being approached by retail staff in a shop, but will also complain if you don’t approach them. “I was starting to think nobody worked here.”  Get working on those mind reading skills.
  • Mothers always keep their cards right at the bottom of their huge oversized bags.
  • The longer you’ve been in your job, the greater the chance of you being an alcoholic.
  • Similarly, taking up smoking seems like a good idea so you can benefit from that extra five minute break.  A “crying in the toilet” break isn’t deemed appropriate.
  • Songs you used to love will start to have a similar effect to nails being dragged down a chalkboard  due to constantly being played in work.
  • Customers will invade your personal space and rob you of your dignity.
  • Your acting skills will improve tenfold.
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3 Responses to Surviving Retail

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi I work in retail in the uk marks & Spencers ,I am stressed out have lost weight dread going to work ,life is not good

    • mark beddau says:

      Hey, thanks for your post. I have heard a lot of bad things about M & S recently. It would be interesting to know a bit more about Them for other readers. Why are they so bad? I look forward to hearing back from you. Please follow me for further updates. Mark

  2. Great blog. For some reason, working in retail and food service really opens your eyes to the way the world really works.

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