Thought Catalog
January 10, 2014

5 Tips I Have Learned From Working In Retail

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In my past three years of working in retail, I have learned many things you would never understand unless you have spent a closing shift on a Friday night as a sales associate hating your life because all of your friends went to that Blink 182 concert and you didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, if you have never had a job before, retail really provides a first glimpse of what being an adult with an actual job looks like (minus the constant folding). Here are five tips I have learned from working in retail:

1. Folding is your friend.

I don’t know why I ever believed working in retail would be fabulous. I blame all the times I walked into Abercrombie and Fitch as a twelve-year-old thinking that being a model for them would be the high point of my career when I grew up. Working in retail isn’t fabulous, it’s a job, and one of the first skills that any new sales associate should know is how to fold. When you walk into your first day at your retail job, you will inevitably be shoved to the front of the store with a giant pile of t-shirts and a folding board. You may feel like you are the hottest/coolest/hippest sales associate because of this, but don’t be fooled. Your manager most likely just wants to know how well you can fold without totally fucking up a stack of t-shirts. All of this to say, if you don’t know how to fold a stack of t-shirts, learn. I can’t tell you how many sales associates I have met that actually cannot fold a t-shirt into a passable square fold. Seriously, did these people not have mothers in their lives that yelled at them every five minutes when cleaning their rooms to fold their clothes correctly? This brings me to my next tip. If you don’t know how to fold a simple t-shirt, then remember…

2. The folding board is also your friend.

When I started working in retail I thought I would enter a new social circle of beautiful friends that would ask me to do awesome things like go for lattes at cute cafes after work, etc. (L.O.L.) Realistically your only new friend in retail is going to be the folding board. Most stores have two different boards: a men’s folding board and a women’s folding board. Remember this because when you spend ten minutes trying to fold a men’s extra large sweater with a women’s folding board you will actually rather burn in hell than look at that ugly mustard knit sweater again. Also, if your manager asks you to “perfect fold” an entire wall of graphics (seriously one of the most evil things a manager could ask of you), USE A FOLDING BOARD. Air folding never impresses anyone (including your mother when you were eight years old) so always turn to your handy friend Folding Board when perfect folding anything in the store.

3. Do not stress out about the sales section.

Being a closer at a retail job can be awful for pretty much one reason: the sales section. My inner monologue when refolding the entire sales section can be summed up in a quote by actor Jim Carrey in one of his most inspiring works ever, The Grinch, “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY.” Seriously though, what is it about the sales section that screams to customers, “Tear me apart! Rip through me! Because underneath this entire stack of women’s extra large turquoise sweatshirts will be the perfect piece of clothing that you will cherish and wear forever!” I am not trying to be cynical of customers who only shop in the sales section. I am just trying to comprehend why people cannot browse through the sales section like the rest of the store. All of this being said, if you have spent the last hour fixing the store while it is still open only to realize you have to refold the entire sales section, DO NOT FREAK OUT. I can distinctly remember a closing shift I had with one other sales associate who actually started crying because the sales section looked so bad. Don’t be that sales associate who begins silently weeping when they look at the work that needs to be done on the sales section. Remember that this is merely a minimum wage job and that there are more important things to weep about (like how Taylor Swift has dated every hot male celebrity ever and you are still somehow single. WHY?)

4. Cherish your lunch breaks.

If you think that lunch period is/was the best part about high school, lunch breaks are also the best part about any job, including retail. This may be an obvious tip, but sometimes the simplest things like a lunch break can really make or break working a retail job. Trust me, when you spend the hour before your scheduled lunch break arguing with a mother because she wants her money back for the thong her daughter bought a week earlier, you will need a mental break for the next fifty years. Take the fifteen to thirty minutes you are given for your lunch break to be antisocial. Retail is all about being personable and chatty with customers, so taking the short amount of time you are given on your lunch break to read a book or sit on your cellphone can really eliminate any stress those sassy customers give you during your eight-hour shift.

5. Learn to live with the playlist.

I remember going to the mall with my friends in high school and whenever I walked into a store the music made me feel like I could buy everything in the entire store (I was so cute.) My first day working in retail was an unpleasant surprise, however, when I realized that the playlist at the store I worked at played the same twelve songs over and over again. I specifically blame my hatred for techno/electronic music on my experience working in retail (R.I.P. “We Found Love” by Rihanna.) As bad as the continuous playlist may be for your mental health, learn to live with it. Focus on other things (folding) or choose to make fun of the songs with your coworkers. Those moments where my coworkers and I would lip-sync to each other the same twelve songs in the store not only made us laugh, but actually made the music more enjoyable. I am not denying that such a short continuous playlist is actually retail torture (trust me, I never want to hear “We Found Love” ever again,) but finding ways to live with the playlist will give you a happier retail job experience. TC mark

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