Not many people understand how difficult working in retail truly is. As someone who has been working in retail and in restaurants for seven years, I can tell you from firsthand experience that these jobs are never easy. This goes for anyone who has worked in the service industry or any other form of customer service as well. We work long days and late nights constantly on the move while trying to maintain a happy face and positive disposition even though 90 percent of the time we would rather be ripping our own hair out. We all have that one customer who ruins your entire week. I spent three hours meticulously folding and sizing jeans the other day, hoping to leave my eight-hour shift early, just for a customer to walk past and knock half the pile down with her enormous purse. Needless to say, I was pretty aggravated, it would be one thing if she was actually buying something or even if she had helped me pick up my day's work, but no, she looked back, smirked, then continued to walk out of the store. This happens to workers all the time, whether you're seating a problematic table or listening to complaints via phone call, we all have those tough customers.
I have learned that many people disrespect or disregard anyone who works in retail, customer service, or the service industry, and I believe it is because they do not truly understand how hard we work. I have heard many people refer to these jobs as "not real jobs" and here's what I have to say about that: We work just as hard and just as long as people who work 9 to 5 careers, we constantly deal with rude customers, we handle these difficult customers with kind words and a smile, and we do this all for minimum wage. A dear family friend once told me, "When you go on a first date, don't judge them on how they treat their mother, judge them on how they treat their waiter because that says a hell of a lot more about their character." No wiser words have ever meant more. Everyone is kind to their mother, but not everyone is kind to the people who serve them. I am here to tell workers everywhere that you are not alone. I understand how hard you work and praise you for your efforts. I wish I could reward you for every rude customer you've ever served, because I'm sure you handled it professionally and spoke to them as kindly as you would to your own grandmother. So, if you are reading this and have a great life career and have never worked a low paying customer service job, here is something to consider. More than 80 percent of the people I work with are in college, working on top of taking classes in order to pay off their student loans. Half of them work other jobs as well, and most are under the age of 25. You don't know these people, they could even be paying hospital bills for a relative or supporting a family. So next time you are delivered a pizza, seated by a hostess, given your coffee order, or ask a retail associate for help with a size, be sure to be extra nice because they've had long days, too, and don't deserve to be treated poorly. Treat them with respect, and they'll respect you back.