My so called life-Adventures in retail seasonal employment

I haven’t been involved in retail on the ’employee’ side of things since my early 20’s.  When I was a teenager, it was tough to get a job anywhere-there was a permit that had to be obtained from the city and certain hours that could be worked, nevermind the fact that employers at the time weren’t really ‘into’ hiring young people. I do remember working at a clothing store, a department store, and even managing a card store at one time (boy was THAT a short stint-just wasn’t for me).

However, due to some recent events in my life, I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and dive into a seasonal job at one of my favorite retailers (I will not be divulging the name here although I’ll give you a hint-they sell handbags and leather goods and I’ve been a customer of theirs for several years. Anyone who knows me, will know what company this is….).

My experience ranged from “hey I could really get into this” to “What was I thinking-get me the hell out of here!”

I’ll tell you-seasonal employment is NOT for the weak at heart.  I’ll also tell you that I’M SO GLAD I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE THIS.

The good:

-Teamwork.  Retail businesses don’t survive without it.  Other industries should sit up, pay attention, and take notes  on how retail operations run so efficiently.  Because they run EXTREMELY well.

-Comraderie.  I was the oldest seasonal employee. I’m even older than the manager of the store.  But somehow, the younger people (some still in their teens) and I seemed to make it work.  We shared laughs and good conversation during work.

-Discounts.  It’s a selfish reason but I did enjoy it and bought the majority of my gifts at the store.  I did not buy anything for myself (pick yourself up off the floor now).

-A paycheck.  Getting paid to work with a product that I already love? #winning

The not-so-good:

I was the oldest seasonal employee.  Yes, I know I listed that in the good section.

-Having to learn to do new tasks in limited time.  I was hired on rather late in the season and was the only *new* seasonal employee.  I had to pick up new tasks quickly-there just wasn’t any time not to.  I found myself feeling ‘helpless’ in many situations because I didn’t know what to do.

-Odd hours.  It’s not easy for a 9-to-5 gal to start working 11-7, 12-9 or most recently 3pm-MIDNIGHT. Way past my bedtime!

-Long hours. The closer it gets to Christmas and New Years, the longer the shift.  I won’t complain about a “nice” paycheck, but I definitely earned it.

-Standing on your almost 40 year old feet for 9 hours.  Let’s just say I’ve already scheduled my trip to the podiatrist because my feet h-u-r-t.

-The customers. Surprised I’m saying this?  People aren’t always sugar and spice and everything nice…you need to have a thick skin and be prepared for absolutely ANYTHING to be said or to happen.

So before you go into a retail establishment and think that the employees are the lowest of the low and are beneath you and your office job or 6 figure salary, I want you to know:

1. Kick yourself in your own rear end right now.  Or punch yourself in the face.

2. There is a lot of business sense needed to manage a store.   There is also quite a bit of knowledge involved in simply working in one.

3. This is a business-it is meant to generate revenue.  Time is money-so if you’re feeling a sense of entitlement and want to waste everyone’s time, think twice.  Not only will karma get you, but next time you DO want to actually purchase, things may become a bit difficult.

4. People that choose to work in retail or be managers in retail aren’t stupid.  For some, this is what they have chosen to do-and they need to be respected.

5. Some retail employees are part-time and may have either multiple jobs, families, or are going to school.  It may be a part time gig for them but they’re still there to help, so have some courtesy and respect for them.

Overall, I’m glad I chose to work this holiday season. I gained a new appreciation for the behind-the-scenes action at one of my favorite retailers.  Would I do it again?  Hmmmm, ask me again next year.

 

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7 Comments

  • Ande

    Great post Meredith, I like #1 kick yourself..lol

    I love retail, everyday is a different experience.

     
  • Rebecca

    I have done this since I was 17. You are right. Running a store, especially a corporate store is not for the weak. Respect is lacking all around. Office people have no idea what we go through and the behind the scene hours we put in. Let me off, before it goes into a rant.

     
  • Denyse Malette

    It is quite nice to se someone rediscover retail or at least view it in a different way. I remember all to clearly working retail and as you stayed it is not always a walk in the park it is hard work and yes you Definately have to have a thick skin sometime cause customers are let’s just say special at times 🙂

     
  • Debbie D.

    I work retail back in the 80’s when I was quite young. I know that I could never do it at my age now. I give you a lot of kudos! Your fave store & you didn’t buy anything for yourself? Wow,that’s will power!

     
    • meredith

      @Debbie I couldn’t believe it either! I was tempted but decided to exercise some control….

       
  • Susan

    Excellent post Meredith. I worked retail many years ago and have experienced the gamut of shopping styles. From downright miserable people to sweet people. I keep that in mind, always! when I deal with any of the salesclerks.

     
    • meredith

      @susan I had some coworkers that used to abuse salespeople like crazy. I don’t know if they would ever read this or even acknowledge that I am talking to them but after working in retail, I thought it was important to mention!