Since I’ve been in the work force I’ve held a few different jobs in retail. If there is one good thing you can say about working retail, it is this: No matter what company you work for, you will run into the same annoyances.
You walk into a store and you look at all those smiling faces. Look closer, into their eyes, and you will see the cold reality. They are barren like the Sahara desert. These are husks of people torn down mercilessly by the weight of consumerism and it’s cacophony of faceless patrons.
Abandon all hope ye who work at a department store. Take my hand as we walk into the inferno, circling down to the product soaked depths of Hell-Mart. Gaze into the horrors that lay beneath the 50% off rack. A voiceless scream will escape your lips as you venture into the horror that is the ‘public restroom’. Forsake all you know while we stroll to the god-forsaken blight known as ‘The Returns Counter’.
Hold tight because here we go
Level 1: ‘I like this store. I bet it is fun to work here!’
If you have ever thought that while travelling through your favorite shopping haven, the best thing you can do is get that out of your mind as soon as possible. You think it might be fun to know the ins and outs of that business, and perhaps *gasp* even get discounts! You can shop and save at the same time! You poor pathetic fool, you know not of what you speak!
If you love that store as a shopper, you will HATE it as an employee. Anytime a commercial or logo for that place comes up you will cringe and mutter Psalms under your breath in order to get it far from your mind. Because that store you once loved will become the bane of your existence. You will never want to shop there, regardless if your loved ones still do. Each time you put on that shirt and nametag, a piece of your soul will slough off you like dead skin. Your misguided attempt at finding fun in work will only lead to disappointment and with time the complete and utter disintegration in your faith in humanity.
Level 2: ‘I think something is wrong with my paycheck’
So you didn’t take my advice and now you are working at this place. Your first 2 weeks are alright. You are introduced to how things work and the true torture known as ‘The Training Video’ in which cheery faces tell you that smiling is good and punching a customer in the face is bad. These folks are the choir of Hell, damned for all eternity to repeat common sense to people only half paying attention to them. You have now learned the register and the corporate ‘mission’. Which is to say that you are nothing more than a dried up dog turd on the lawn of capitalism.
By the end of 2 weeks you may still have a bit of excitement in this job prospect, but also the sinking feeling that things may not be as wonderful as they once seemed. But hey, you know that payday is coming up. You’ve worked 40+ hours, you’ve had to stalk heavy merchandise by climbing up a 15 foot ladder and hoping not to fall, but money is coming your way. You’ve earned it.
Then you see your paycheck. At first your mind races in a panic. Maybe they forgot to add your hours in. Was there a tax you didn’t know about? What if you messed up on your W2 (you know that document written in a dead language that you just write arbitrary numbers in hoping that it doesn’t bite you in the ass at the end of the year). But then you look at the hours worked, you look at the tax section. Everything is in its right place. Then your heart sinks because you know all the hard work you are going to have to put in to keep this job will not be able to be used to buy anything you once thought you could get at a discount. Hell, your paycheck won’t even cover some of the cheaper items you once bought with ease.
So you walk out into the midday sun, check in hand. You are delirious and your head is spinning. And that is only the beginning.
Level 3: Working the register
This level is devoted to the helpless many that have ever stared at the ever growing line, hungry and consumed by their need to spend their money. Sure your break was 3 hours ago, but these people NEED to by throw pillows NOW! The Throw Pillows must not be forsaken! You are tired and hungry, yet have to smile as customer after customer pile through. Until the inevitable happens. Something goes wrong. A customer hands you a traveler’s check or wants to pay with loose change. Or another one forgot to grab the right color of sheet, so you must wait as they scour the store while the folks behind them grow increasingly agitated. These people who just wandered the store for 2 and a half hours are now furious due to the fact that they have to wait for 2 minutes until they can buy the useless junk shoved into their carts. Your brow is filled with sweat and the woman yelling at you because she got the wrong item that she thought was on sale is breaking down your resistance. Yet you continue to smile and look around with some hope that someone will come to rescue you. And just when you think you can’t take anymore, the moment of pure dread comes as you spy a purse or handful of the damned beast known as ‘The Coupon’.
At some point in your life, you looked forward to the coupon. It saved you a few dollars or more and you were happy to have it, showing it off proudly like a child who just finger-painted the wall with their own feces. But like biting into a piece of fruit that you immediately see is rotting, your friendship with the coupon is soured forever. You will meet the customer who left all their coupons at home, but still begs for the discount. You will meet the customer who yells at you because they printed off an obviously fake coupon that doesn’t even scan when you run it through. The customer who can’t read an expiration date will chastise you for pointing out their stupidity. Or my personal favorite, the customer who argues with you because you won’t accept the coupon they brought that is for a completely different store. They can clearly see the name is different, but that matters naught to these harpies of the underworld.
Level 4: The Customer is Always Right
We have now reached the deepest level of Retail Hell. Here you will see the dead eyed workers. Those disillusioned souls that work long hours, deal with constant issues, and make little more than minimum wage. Listen to the sound as their bones crack under the pressure of the Devil’s Libretto: The Customer is Always Right.
This saying is nothing short of Evil in its purest form. It has been uttered millions of times by the falsely-entitled as a means to break the spirit of the hapless employee. It is an unwritten passage that is known and invoked like some sort of black magic so that idiots and assholes can treat another human being like garbage in any situation. Though nine times out of ten the customer is absolutely wrong and being completely ridiculous, once this set of words formed into this complete sentence comes from their phlegm covered lips, you are now under their spell and forced to bow to their each and every whim. They now own you and have carte blanche to berate your entire existence. You are no longer a human being, you are their property. They know at a moments notice their stupid mistake or inquiry can be validated by speaking the next phrase in their arsenal ‘I want to speak to a manager’. Once that incantation has been spoken, you will be forced to stand humble while the customer and manager hack away at your humanity, all because the customer wanted to make your life miserable.
Not only do these creatures feel the need to ask for ridiculous things and pull your still beating heart from your chest, they find more reasons to make your life as Hellish and unsatisfying as possible. Did you just finish straightening an entire section of the store in order to make it look presentable for the couple in the ‘Never Forget Dale Earnhardt’ matching wife-beaters? As soon as you finish, they will run through that section pushing items back, picking them up and leaving them wherever they feel like, pulling them out of their wrappers and leaving them on the floor. They know they don’t have to clean it up, that is what you are there for. Then you have the minions that came in to have a snack, leaving a trail of crumbs and expectorated sunflower seeds on the floor you just vacuumed.
Or what about the adults that have just gotten out of toilet training and leave a desecration in the men’s and ladies rooms? The customer who keeps you in their clutches asking question after question, grilling you on every minute detail until you are describing the atomic structure of a dinnerware set to them, only to decide against it and go with the one on clearance. The ones who set down their trash everywhere, usually shoving it into a rack, spilling half of their ‘Big Gulp’ of Mountain Dew Code Red. Those that scream for a discount or make you get back up that ladder to grab the box that doesn’t have the slightly frayed edge. The customer who shows up 30 seconds before the store closes and then proceeds to saunter through the store oblivious to the employees who are just trying to get home before 1am. Or even better the disgusting faction of ones who steal items and hide them in their baby-stroller.
We are done know with our glimpse into the abyss. We have seen only a peek at some of the blasted terror that lies behind the motion activated doors. So, if you have never worked in retail, take this as a lesson and heed its message well:
The way you act in a public place and treat the people working there reflects upon your own soul. These are people who work hard for only a few dollars and nothing more. They might be dealing with some hard times in their own lives and are just trying to make it through the day, and they don’t need you to make their lives miserable because you are on the most infantile power-trip possible. These people work holidays, nights, and weekends away from their loved ones so you can buy a singing fish.
Who knows, someday it may be you that needs a part time job. And look, your favorite store is hiring now….