Confessions of a retail worker

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B3196B3DD86F506CF464DE418AC3DDArticle: Autumn McDowell – Sports Editor

Currently, I have three jobs, but I only really like one of them. That’s probably because the other two are in retail.

Almost everyone has experienced the joys and miseries of a retail job at some point in their life; a job that you hold simply for the great discount, but have no intentions of making a career out of. Sound familiar?

The truth is that, if it weren’t for that discount, no one would want to work in retail because of what you have to put up with on a daily basis. Sure, every job has its downfalls, but besides working as a server in a restaurant, working in retail is the worst job that I have ever had.

For starters, the everyday happenings of a retail worker are generally awful — easy, but awful. It begins when a customer comes in and, as a worker, it is my job to say “Hi,” and ask how your day was, because if I don’t do this within two minutes of you walking in the door, I will be in trouble. You think I’m lying, but I’m not.

And when I try to make conversation with you by asking you how your day was, most customers say “good” under their breath as if they are annoyed by the question, and don’t bother to ask me how my day is going, despite that being the polite thing to do.

Others simply pretend that I don’t exist and assume that I am on commission and will activate my pushy salesperson button the moment they respond. Then, there are the few exceptions that I am truly grateful for, the customers that actually engage in a conversation with me, that let me help them and that don’t give me a bitchy attitude when we don’t have the product that they are looking for in a particular size and colour – because despite what you may think, I have no control over that.

But, it’s not just the customers. Retail workers, from my experience, are generally treated as disposable by their employers, and in most cases, that’s because they are. At one of my jobs, despite working a 5.5 hour shift, I don’t receive even one fifteen minute break. If I start walking to the back one minute before my shift is done I am told to get back on the sales floor, but if I work 15 minutes of overtime helping a customer, do you think that I am compensated in the slightest for that extra time? No. Obviously not.

But, I can’t say anything about this; I can’t demand for my basic labour laws to be filled because I know, and my employers know, that if they lose me, there will be another 16-year-old waiting to take my place. There are plenty more where I came from, so they can get away with it.

I understand that I am fortunate to have one job, let alone three. I know that some people are struggling for money and the things that I have to complain about are miniscule in the grand scheme of life, but there is a reason why retail turnover is among some of the highest in any occupation, and until employers and customers start treating these workers with respect, that won’t change.

So, the next time you go shopping and some poor and innocent retail worker smiles at you and asks how your day was, for the love of God, smile back and say “good, how about you?”

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