For most of us, coming home from college is an instant vacation and a gift of relaxation. For people who come home and return to their retail jobs, like myself, things aren't so cheery. Yes, there are some benefits like shopping with your employee discount or helping that clueless boyfriend find his girlfriend the perfect gift. Yet, the majority of your associate experience during the holidays consists of: lines, crowds, stress, and pressure. It's easy to fall out of the Christmas spirit and "season of giving" attitude when you are caught up in a crazy shift. Let's have a toast to the moments of insanity for college retail workers everywhere.
1. You feel like you're holding a ticking bomb while working the register.
One second there's no line, and the next, there is practically a line out the door. Your fingers are typing at maximum overdrive speed, and you are scanning things as fast as humanly possible. No matter how fast you go , it never seems to be fast enough and the line keeps growing. You can feel the sweat start to drip tentatively down your forehead as the customer in front of you decides to hand you $2.00 in change - and just like that, you've forgotten how to count. The pressure is unbearable as you make eye contact with the lady next in line, who seems to be really pissed off that she had to wait this long.
2. You fail at wrapping something.
You smile at the customer as you both know that this delicate mug will be a gift for his significant other, and you begin to stealthily wrap it up - until the wrapping paper breaks and the mug handle pokes through. Or, that huge sweater is not going to be held by that tiny strip of tape, and it keeps popping open, earning an unamused glare from the customer who expected better. Most of the time, you catch your mistake and do the best to rewrap or make it better, but if you refer back to #1 on this list you know that it's not that easy.
3. You get asked questions about people that you don't even know.
You find yourself becoming Oprah Winfrey or Barbara Walters as you interview customers about the people that they are actually shopping for. It becomes a game of "20 Questions" and you have to try your hardest to sketch out this mystery person in your head. Is she boho chic? Is she quirky or girly? Suddenly, it's all on you if this person likes the gift they receive and you feel like you have a huge responsibility. Never mind that, as a seasonal associate you probably have no clue what apparel is what anymore - so good luck finding something for someone.
4. You get sick of the Christmas music.
At first, you're happy that you'll finally get to listen to all the Christmas songs that you've missed out on while cramming for finals - or so you thought. Instead, you'll hum along to the first five times that "Last Christmas" plays, and then you'll want to bang your head against the nearest wall. Not only that, you realize that not everything out there is as good as the Michael Bublé Christmas album. You're guaranteed to hear some super weird covers and reimagined versions of classic Christmas songs, and Zooey Deschanel will probably sing half of them.
5. You try to squeeze boxes into bags.
There's something inside of you that wishes that boxes were literally just flat pieces of cardboard. Instead, they have a billion different flaps and panels sticking out of them that make it impossible for you to squeeze them neatly into a bag. Once you finally figure out where to fold them so that they stay in tact, you have bent about four boxes. Of course, there's also a plethora of sizes, from medium cube, small-medium cube, large box, semi-large box, box #4 (take your pick).
6. The phone is ringing off of the hook.
Your cell phone never gets notifications, but the work phone is ringing nonstop. You've got people asking you about candles, dresses on hold, shipments, and things that you haven't had in stock for months on end. The best part is when you have three people on hold, and you have to remember which conversation was which - multitasking at its WORST.
7. You have to tell people that everything is out of stock.
Since everyone is buying everything, there's practically nothing left. You have to be the bearer of bad news about once every ten minutes, as people ask for sizes that you don't have. You try to make them happier by going in search of a replacement item, or something that they might like better - but to no avail. Sometimes, when you attempt to explain that it is out of stock, you have to convince them that it actually, legitimately, out of stock.
8. You get distracted by cute gift items/apparel for yourself.
After all of those exams, there's no way that you have finished your holiday shopping. So, as all of the customers pick up things for themselves, you start to notice some prime gift possibilities here. You get distracted by nearly everything that has potential, and mentally make a list of what you are getting when you finish your shift. Unfortunately, a million other things happen before you clock out, and you would rather leave than battle your way through the crowds.
9. You have to print out a million receipts.
Did someone say gift receipt? You're printing out enough gift receipts to staple to every page of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, and you're asking, "receipts in the bag?" like it's your new mantra. The highlight of the receipt show is when they all stick together with that extra little paper hanging off the top that you attempt to quickly and swiftly rip off - but you fail.
10. You breathe a sigh of relief.
You rush out of that shift like you have never experienced freedom in your life, and run home to sit in front of the TV and binge on whatever cookies you have. There's a subtle sense of accomplishment inside of you, even if everything went completely wrong. In the world of holiday retail, every shift is a shift to be proud of when it comes to a close.