First jobs aren’t supposed to be enjoyable. Whether it be babysitting, lawn mowing, or dog sitting, first jobs are sweaty, unpleasant and exhausting. But at least you could take pride in your work at the end of the day.
Once you start working retail, those days are long gone.
Sure I may not be exhausted from doing physical labor, but the mental effort of dealing with the entitled and blatantly stupid side of humanity takes a serious toll.
My first retail experience was at a trendy women’s boutique, where I was required to dress to their standards and interact with all customers in a friendly and relaxed manner. Since I hadn’t been exposed to the agonizing horrors of retail work yet, I was generally excited my first few days. Oh the days of blissful ignorance.As a newbie, I was relegated to the greeter position, which required me to stand in the front of the store in the blazing heat, repeating the same string of phrases to each new person in a nice cheery demeanor. Do you ever notice retail workers have a sort of dead nothingness in their eyes when you see them? That's because for six hours straight, we are forced to maintain a constant positive attitude and smile, no matter how frustrating a customer is we interact with. A lot of customers when approached either ignore my greeting completely or go into a long string of demands without warning. The worst part of this job is the constant repetition of sales to customers even though they’re posted all over the store, because apparently customers can’t or refuse to read the sign postings.
On one particular occasion when we had our semi-annual sale, a customer approached me to ask about the sales going on (like they aren’t already posted on every surface) and as I tell her the difference between the items that are BOGO and those that are 70% off, she gets confused and upset that there are so many different sales going on and complains to me that this doesn’t make any sense. As I try to politely explain the sales again, she demands to speak to the manager, to which my manager told her the exact same thing. So she left.
Every part of retail requires customer interaction, but none is as terrible as the fitting room. I must directly face the annoyances of customers at all times and be there to assist them in any way. However, to customers this means I am expected to act as each one's own personal attendant who slaves away without complaint. On a regular day, an average of six different customers per hour expect me to drop everything I'm doing and run all over the store collecting clothing items for them. To handle this almost-impossible task, I could do one of three things:
1. I could politely tell them I'm helping others at the moment and will be with them soon in which case, the customer(s) get impatient, leaves without buying anything and I get a nice, stern yelling at from my manager.
2. I could over-attend to one or two who I think will buy the most and suggest items for an outfit, but then they get upset anyways and resent me for pushing sales on them.
3. Or I could avoid all responsibilities and sit in the back, hoping my co-workers will handle it.
Even then, I could put in all that work- my sweat, blood, and tears (in some cases, literally)- to make them happy with the clothes, and they walk out of the store without thanking anyone and without buying anything. Though that may make me want to pull my hair out, I must be perpetually cheery and friendly while on my shift and am forced to internalize my frustration.
See? You can't really win with shoppers.
Even when customers are acting somewhat decently, you have the select few that decide to ruin an entire team's week. It’s hard enough to deal with paying customers but shoplifters are the absolute scum of the earth to us associates. My co-worker was in the fitting room, attending to two high school girls who had collected a fair amount of clothes and were taking a long time trying them on. Though my co-worker suspected something suspicious, she had to deal with other customers before she could investigate. And while she was occupied, these degenerates slipped out of the fitting room and out the door with $300 worth of clothes. That put a serious dent in our goal earnings for the week and the associates had to pick up the slack just to make the weekly quota.
Oh, how working in customer service has demolished my faith in humanity.
I've even found so-called "people persons" running from some of the most dreaded customers. I once found my co-worker hiding behind the last clothing rack in the back room, avoiding a customer that was so demanding that she asked for something we didn’t sell but she wouldn’t leave until she got what she came for.
As my torture comes a close (aka my shift ends), I am still not granted a final sweet relief because illiterate or blatantly inconsiderate customers meander into the store right as it closes, forcing all associates to stay past their hours to clean up. Like why is anyone still shopping at 11:30?! Go home, customer, you’re the worst.
Finally, even though you may make plans for a day off, your manager will call you in for another day of pure hell. But at the end of the day, at least you’re getting paid.