10 Things You Learn At A Retail Job

1. Folding shirts: The job that never ends.

There is some sort of pheromone present in mid-size retail store shirts, one that is at its most deliciously potent when you have just finished perfectly stacking them by size, and finally feel secure enough to walk away for thirty seconds. All of them, the perfect little flapjack-esque stack of tops, ready to be daintily thumbed through by a discerning shopper to find their size, are soon to be destroyed by the rabid horde of semi-human creatures, flecking them with their frothy spit as they tear through your pile with the urgency of a pirate digging for buried treasure. Retail shoppers are born with some innate longing to find these shirt stacks and destroy them with such vigor that you are left considering suicide the second you walk back to your once-perfect display table. They are cruel.

2. People steal sh-t, and no one cares.

Though there will always be the facade of training employees to be vigilant and even aggressive towards shoplifting, it is an inevitable part of the retail world, and you totally stop caring. You’ll walk into a dressing room and see a bunch of plucked off security tags, or go into an electronics section to see a conspicuously empty video games section, and you just kind of sigh and walk away. The thing is, if you were to actually try to stop people who are in the process of stealing from your store — and a huge amount of them are organized and do this routinely to resell the stuff, this is their livelihood — things are not going to end well for you. A coworker of mine at a clothing store once got a knife pulled on her when she chased down a guy stealing a bunch of shirts. Her job was not worth a stab to the kidneys, and neither is yours. You are not paid to be a cop, and you quickly come to understand that.

3. Listening to the same song every hour, on the hour, is the cruelest punishment conceivable.

Most of the bigger chain retail stores have enormous music contracts that give them access to a certain number of poppy, easy-to-enjoy music to rotate at hour-long intervals from open to close, for at least three or so months at a time. Do you enjoy that Katy Perry song? Get ready to enjoy it ten times a day, every day, until you long to ram your head into the cash register repeatedly every time you hear the opening notes.

4. The customer is always right, which is the worst thing ever.

There’s going to come a point where someone is going to put an item in front of you that has clearly been used within an inch of its life and they’re going to insist on trying to return it and pretend like they’ve never touched it and that you should take it back and why aren’t you taking it back — I’m sorry ma’am but we have a policy — I’d like to speak to your manager where is your manager get your manager right now. You have lost the ability to care, and just want to give this horrendous lady her stupid refund because it’s not like it’s your money anyway and you would like her to evacuate the premises as soon as humanly possible. But God forbid your manager should walk by at this moment, because regardless of the verbal abuse that’s being slung at you over a 15-dollar refund, you’re going to be the one getting torn into and treated like a monkey wearing a nametag. “The Customer Is Always Right”: battle cry of the defeated.

5. You can never underestimate how cheap people are.

If something is marked at a certain price — even if it was mistakenly put above that price marker by a lazy shopper who didn’t want to put their item back in its proper place — your customer is going to all but reach over and rip out your esophagus before they let you charge them the actual price. People will stand for an hour at your register, screaming back and forth some nonsense about a coupon or “I saw this price on the shelf” or whatever other horrendous reason they have deemed worthy of screaming at you for. And you are usually powerless, because the price scans the way it scans, and you can’t fix it, so you just kind of stand there like some modern-day Christ figure and absorb their wrath until they eventually leave in a huff, talking about how they’ll never shop here again. You will then think, “Right, that’s a tragedy.”

6. Inventory is the worst part of being alive.

Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s worse than that. Much, much worse.

7. When your store closes, everyone needs to GTFO.

There is going to come that moment when, after staring relentlessly at the clock for the past hour, you are finally able to close up and get out of there. But wait, no, there is some useless person meandering around the displays, pretending like they are going to buy something, and being wilfully oblivious to the fact that you’ve already closed the front door to new customers and are standing next to them, staring at them, willing them to leave with your eyeballs. It is now your job to make them feel as awkward and unwelcome as possible until they get the message. I recommend following them around and adjusting things behind them until they can’t even make eye contact with you.

8. People set off small explosives in dressing rooms.

Or, at least, they must, given the state they are in 90 percent of the time upon someone leaving one. People apparently just try something on, decide it’s not for them, and then crumple it up and throw it on the floor like a scrap piece of paper. Hangers are scattered by the mirror, dresses are thrown over the chair, pants are hanging by their belt loops off a hanger hook — it’s like a war zone. You will come to find that the person who actually gathers all of their clothes, properly hangs them back up, and gives them back to you with a small “Thank you” is essentially a modern-day Gandhi. Otherwise, most people will just treat you like you are some combination of their mother and an indentured servant, only there to pick up after them and relieve them of the pressure of having basic human decency.

9. You’ll be forced to ask people if they need help, and then punished for doing so.

One part of working in retail — especially more “upscale” retail — is that you’re expected to ask everyone at one point or another if they need any help with, I don’t know, looking at shirts or something. You’re doing your job, and gently asking them if you can do something to assist them — no big deal. The customer could easily just say, “No, thank you,” and to be fair, some of them do. But many of them will take this opportunity to turn on you and hiss about how they’re doing JUST FINE THANK YOU as they shuffle away from you like you were about to mace them. People will not hesitate to let you know how much your simple question is ruining their shopping experience, their day, and their entire life. If you’re interested in quitting, I recommend doing the whole retail world a favor and responding to such rude customers with “Lol I did not even give a f-ck about helping you anyway you bridge troll.” Or something of the like.

10. When you get a call at 7 AM on your day off, you throw that phone across the room.

You throw it across the room, then you go out back and dig a very large hole, then you bury the broken remains of that phone, then you napalm the entire backyard, then you have your whole house bulldozed, then you destroy your phone service provider’s headquarters. You are not going into work today. They are not going to get you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


image – Greg Gerrard

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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