I Worked In Retail And It Ruined My Outlook On Humanity

I Worked In Retail And It Ruined My Outlook On Humanity

Maybe the customer isn't always right
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I started working when I was 16 at the local concert hall in Naples. I spent four years there as an usher and worked my way up to be a Floor Captain. I had more responsibility and made sure to assist my fellow ushers with any patron-related issues.

I started working at this place because I wanted to help people further enjoy the world-renowned live entertainment that would visit the popular venue. Had I known then that people were going to make me see the world differently, I probably would've avoided retail and customer service for as long as I possibly could.

I know that being a young adult with no experience makes getting a job in retail a lot easier than trying to work in an office as an assistant or a temp. It's easy to train people at our age and we don't complain about paychecks as much as the average 30-year-old employee would.

However naive and young we are, though, we are still human and we do have feelings. We tend to feel hurt when customers talk back to us, insult our work ethic, or are just straight up rude. But who wouldn't?

I have been called some nasty names, whether it was from the time I worked at a retail clothing store or at a grocery store. Being a cashier is probably the most painful torture we have to endure.

Having to stand all day, sometimes without a mat to cushion the hard tile beneath us, having to hear the complaints of our "terrible" store, or having to call a manager when the customer begins to make us feel a little too worthless.

The worst part is, I was always told I'd be perfect for retail or customer service because I was personable, I wanted to make the customer as comfortable as possible, and because I had a warm and welcoming disposition. So I thought, I must be able to do really well in a job where I have to smile and help people.

And then I got hired and all my predisposed notions of helping people and smiling and making their time at our establishment worthwhile went right out the window. Sometimes the hardest part to handle is when you try your best to fix the problem they come to you with, and then they dismiss your idea.

Don't get me started on managers. Let's say that a customer is returning an item and wants another item that is defective for half price. You explain that because they're the same price, you can exchange them and they'd still be getting the item for free.

However simple this explanation is, they would rather have it their way. As soon as you call a manager to set the customer straight, they undermine you and make you out to be the bad guy. That makes a lot of sense, right?

Sometimes I want to work in a small cubicle with only my colleagues surrounding me so it's not a surprise what I may have to deal with every day. Working in customer service or retail has disappointed me thoroughly and I only wish I could have the same vigor I had for wanting a job in this type of business.

I know I'll have to endure the pain just a little longer, but one day I'll be able to look back at the lousy times I had in retail and thank the lucky stars that I'll never have to hear, "Do you work here?" Especially when I'm wearing a uniform and nametag.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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11 Things Retail Employees Are Really Thinking But Won't Say To Your Face

Have you ever wondered what's inside a retail workers mind?

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Everyone has been in a store at one point in their lives. Whether it's a Wal-Mart or a Gucci store, you've been somewhere where people are hired to help you out. Retail employees have relatively hard jobs and most of the times customers make it worse. In one eight hour shift we feel a wide range of emotions and have millions of thoughts.

Most of the time the thoughts are sarcastic and funny, and we wish we could say them out loud. Here are just some that are most common.

1. "Clearly that's the price."

If you point at a price tag and then ask me if it's the price again I will lose it. If it's marked different then that's the price, it is literally that simple.

2. "Haha, wow, haven't heard that joke before."

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No it isn't free if there's no tag, or if it doesn't ring up properly. You're not funny and my laughter is fake.

3. "I cannot give you another discount."

Honestly, even if I could give you another discount I wouldn't. Just because you asked for it I am more inclined to not give you one.

4. "Oh, I'm totally sure you didn't wear this once left the tag on and are returning it."

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Did you really think I wouldn't notice that it smells like cologne and has pit stains? I mean, I know I work in retail, but I'm not stupid.

5. "Really? You know that's not where that goes."

So you're really just going to screw up my whole store because you're too lazy to put stuff back? I mean, are you really that terrible of a human being?

6. "Oh cool, F me."

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If I greet you when you walk in the door, just be polite. It is so easy to say hello back, do not ignore me or cut me off saying you're just looking. Are you starting to sense a theme? Hint: IT'S BE NICE.

7. "Get. The. Heck. Out."

If you come into my store 5 minutes before I close, you're getting the worst service ever. You're a jerk and deserve to be treated like one. Once someone came in at 8:59, when I closed at 9 and stayed for 30 minutes just to pay in all cash? I wanted to scream my head off. Instead, I put on my customer service smile and took their money.

8. "Is it nice outside? I wouldn't know, I'm stuck inside helping your dumb self."

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I get it the weathers nice, don't rub it in my face? Cool, you think you'll go to the beach later? CAN'T RELATE.

9. "I do not get paid enough for this."

Your stupid questions do not pay the bills so I need you to buy something or leave.

10. "You can clearly see I'm closing. Why are you here?"

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The register is shut down, the floor has been vacuumed, the store looks pristine. I have a minute until I lock the door and you and your fourteen children are really going to come in here and destroy my store? Why me? What did I do to deserve that?

11. "If I just told you the answer why do you continue to ask?"

"Do you have this in other colors?" No sir, I don't. "OK, so like you wouldn't have it in brown?" Nope, that would be considered a different color. "How about blue?" NO SIR, I JUST TOLD YOU. Consider that color on repeat for ten times and that's one day.

BONUS: "If I quit right now I could just get another job."

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Every second of the day and every time I endure more terrible human interaction I get one step closer to ending it all. The only thing stopping me is the fact that everyone else's jobs suck too.

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