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Horrors of retail

by khajiit

Imagine you are an impressionable young person, one who is beginning to encroach upon adult self sufficiency. You decide to get a job, and what other job is as ubiquitously known to serve as the gateway to the realm of occupations than being a cashier? You see it all the time and in fact it is a staple of our culture to associate minimum wage jobs with those who have minimal skills and experience. What could be easier than scanning items and putting them in a bag? And for money! Easy choice. You become a cashier. On your first day the novelty is thrilling and the atmosphere is bright and alive. You scan things at your own pace and get to know your coworkers who are also friendly and welcoming. An old lady comes through your lane and says “Make the bags light”. Easy request. You do so, you put her chips together and 3 cans in a bag. The old woman tries to lift the bag but is unable to. “I said I wanted them LIGHT” she repeats, this time in a caustic tone before snatching each individual can out of the bag and throwing them back onto the register. This confuses you as you realize how subjective this woman’s demands are and you do not understand why you have elicited this level of anger. You begrudgingly rebag her groceries as she rolls her eyes and mutters something under her breath. This sours your mood, but does not ruin it. The next woman that comes has a huge cart of groceries. You scan all of them through for a total of $128.76. As the woman is paying she realizes she only has $56.00 left on her EBT card and so you must void things. Because the amount you must void is so great you need a front end supervisor to use their key to authorize it. (This is done to prevent embezzling money). Because of this you have to wait until a supervisor comes and they are no where to be seen. The longer you wait the angrier the customer becomes. “Are you kidding me?” she says. You feel guilty in a strange way for her inconvenience but there’s nothing you can do. Finally the woman says “You know what? This is ridiculous. I’m leaving.” She leaves the store and all her groceries. Finally the supervisor comes and you realize they have been chatting with a friend at the front of the store, leaving you to helplessly bear the consequences of them neglecting to do their job. This also leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

The longer you work there the cracks in your job’s charm becoming alarmingly palpable. The coworkers you thought were so friendly and nice turn out to be devoid of personal responsibility and will do anything to push their workload on to you whether through taking frequent, long bathroom breaks, delaying the start of their shift by talking with coworkers despite having already clocked in or outright leaving their register in the middle of a shift to talk to coworkers. You realize there is a social hierarchy and people within this clique will get away with laziness and negligence but YOU will be admonished immediately upon doing any of the aforementioned deeds. The longer you work the more you realize racial stereotypes DO actively exist. The only people that blatantly attempt to commit credit card fraud is black people. Many Hispanic people will come in with 5 kids, pay with EBT (food stamps) + WIC (government assistance for mothers/parents) and speak ZERO English, making it awkward and impossible to tell them that they have no EBT/WIC funds left in their cards. Black families will openly slap their children. If someone looks like white trash there is a 90% chance they are on government assistance. Then you meet the worst customers. The verbally abusive, give-no-fucks-that-you’re-a-human-being-too motherfuckers. You accidentally crush their bread, something that while annoying is easily remedied. But no. “What are you, a fucking idiot?” they shout at you. “This is why you work at Walmart/Target/MinimumWageJobPlace.” Eventually you come to the full realization of how toxic this place is. You tell the manager that you only want to work 4 days a week instead of the onerous, crushing 6 days a week but then after the week of processing they’ve scheduled you for 5 days and 38 hours/week. That’s basically full-time except because it’s not 40 they don’t have to give you insurance benefits. “I said I can only work 4 days a week” you tell your boss. “You need to be flexible” your boss simply responds. “We can’t meet everyone’s needs exactly”.

You see how much your own boss fucks you over. They schedule you for 6 hours and 45 minutes on some days because since you aren’t technically working 7+ hours you only get a 15 minute break. Your whole life begins to revolve around working. You wake up, go to work, and when you come back you are too tired to indulge in your pleasures and past times. Your schedule is no longer compatible with your friends and you almost never see each other. Every ounce of negativity and misplaced blame on you begins to accrue and coupled with the fact that you can’t control when you work breeds a deep sense of helplessness. You watch the days blur by and melt into each other and you find yourself seeming to always be in this groundhogs day hell of being a human punching bag. Sometimes you will be struck with inspiration or the desire to do something, but that always happens when you have to go to work. The frustration of having your life controlled by someone else creates a hot, burning fury inside you. One that you cannot release while at work, a place where you are forced to masquerade happiness. When you do call out occasionally you are guilt tripped and ridiculed by your boss. You see how the majority of people are inconsiderate, selfish or indifferent. You see how little anyone cares for their fellow human being, either through seeing people commit theft and fraud, openly cheat the system or just have very little regard for the well being of anyone. People will inconvenience anyone if it will absolve them of effort. All this for the bare minimum that you can legally be paid. You cycle through other minimum wage jobs, surely they can’t all be like this? But they all are, just in different forms whether it be the snooty, entitled rich demographic or the loud, abrasive poor ones. Now imagine you have no educational prerequisites to escape minimum wage job hell and no means to get any. That’s my life.

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12 comments

notwhitenorblack 6/30/2017 - 5:22 am

Welcome to the reality of adulthood. Believe me that it’s not much better on different positions. I would say though that the worst in retails is in the commercial places like supermarkets or fast food restaurants. You’re just one of many ants that can be easily replaced.

khajiit 6/30/2017 - 5:55 am

At least in different fields I would get paid more. A good paycheck is sugar to the shit shake. Minimum wage is taking it raw.

And yes, the employee turnover rate is insane in retail, for what I described in my post and other reasons (it’s a seasonal job for people with options)

midian monster 6/30/2017 - 5:22 am

Thanks for sharing
Love the title: ‘horrors of retail’. The way you describe your working day sounds indeed pretty horrible.
I’ve never worked retail before, but have come across some of the issues you mention. Especially this gem:
“You realize there is a social hierarchy and people within this clique will get away with laziness and negligence but YOU will be admonished immediately upon doing any of the aforementioned deeds”
This has been my experience too. It always comes down to those 2 things- If the guy above you accepts it, or the coworkers do. Some coworkers you work with actually feel the same way you do, but for fear of being kicked out of the ‘group’ they won’t say shit. It gets weird / interesting when you’re not within this group and then someone who has status in the clique befriends you and makes you late for replacing the other dude.
Other guy kicks off till your new ‘friend’ puts things right with them. Then the guy who’s kicking off looks confused then accepts it…then tries to get to know you lol

I have seen myself (as the customer) what some people are like towards anyone who works the tills. Thankfully, i don’t think the UK is as bad as the States. We tend to be quite polite about these things and if you were to kick off real bad, you’d expect someone to speak up about it.
As for parents slapping their kids, i don’t think that would go down to well either. It wouldn’t matter if you were as orange as trump, try slapping your kids in public over here and prepare for the wrath of the general public.
Whatever your views or ‘rights’ are on reprimanding your kids, well get ready for a backlash over here.

Imo, it doesn’t matter what sector of work you go into, you will always face the same problems regarding the people you work with. Some peoples faces ‘fit’ some don’t. Unfortunately, you’ve got the horror of dealing with the public on top of the slime in the workplace. I can imagine getting up for this type of work can be the most depressing and awful things to go through.
Shit, i’m already suicidal without adding that shit on top of my day. If i was in your position, i’d be fired, dead, or in the newspaper followed by jail time, for either taking a baseball bat to the till or a customer.

I can imagine people saying “this is why you work harder to better yourself”
It doesn’t matter if you do. You’ll face the same problems with people, with life. Work in an office and the cliques are bad, if not worse.
I feel for you.

khajiit 6/30/2017 - 6:02 am

Thank you for your lengthy response, I appreciate the effort. The only good thing about working retail is that it makes you appreciate acts of kindness and when people go out of their way for you 20 fold. It’s not really worth it though haha.

“Unfortunately you’ve got the horror of dealing with the public on top of the slime of the workplace” Yes!! Honestly the public is the worst part. It wears you down emotionally to be treated like garbage almost everyday after a while. At least in an isolated work environment I could convince myself that maybe those particular people are irresponsible trash, but when you interact with people from every status and walk you come to know genuine human nature and it is very ugly and that itself is extremely depressing. Realizing how callous, disrespectful and cruel human beings are is very disheartening.

muspelhem 6/30/2017 - 8:48 am

Part of it is that you’re a stranger. It’s like walking through the centre of a big city trying to get a smile out of people. They’re up in their own heads.

In my experience, a minority were super friendly, a minority were complete assholes, and most were just a bit distracted/busy/neutral.

muspelhem 6/30/2017 - 8:44 am

I can relate, I worked at 7-Eleven for almost two years. To be fair, you are too smart/sensitive to stay in that kind of job for very long.

For the longest time I wanted the customers to like me. Only towards the very end did I realise how naïve that was. They come to do their shopping, not to be your friend. Okay, some do come to be your friend, but they are rarely the types you want to associate with. I guess I was lucky with my colleagues, but there was certainly some favouritism going on from my manager’s side.

I despised the corporate side of it. Being bossed around by rich assholes who didn’t give a shit about you or the customers, only how much dough you earned them and the width of your fake-ass smile.

khajiit 7/1/2017 - 5:57 am

I appreciate the compliment. I don’t care if customers like me, I just want them to be considerate and apparently that’s too much to ask from the majority of people. It’s sad.

I feel bad for my bosses in someways, they’re forced to talk to those raving, insane customers that just HAVE to complain to the store manager that the salad bar ran out of forks or tattle on some employee for touching their hair too much (true story) my favorite thing is when customers tell the manager they’re never going to shop here again for whatever stupid reason, as if they as individuals have more than negligible value ha!

Morris 6/30/2017 - 11:30 am

If there’s an easy way to make a buck I haven’t found it yet. There’s always going to be difficult days no matter what sort of job you have, so I suppose you have to pick your poison and find a job with a tolerable level of suffering, and think of it as temporary. Eventually your day will end, you can go home and smoke a bowl or enjoy a few adult beverages, get some sleep, then return to work so you can push that boulder back up hill.
(Sisyphus was sentenced to an eternity of mindless toil, so take solace in your mortality). 🙂

Also: We can’t control what other people do, think or say, we can only control our response/reaction. When you encounter a difficult person? try to remember that a jerk is a jerk; it’s not about you, the a**hole is just being who they are, and there’s plenty of ’em out there. Dealing with them is just another daily obstacle to overcome. Good luck.

khajiit 7/1/2017 - 5:44 am

Thanks Lucy, but I don’t blame myself for the actions of others. Accumulated negativity and the preemptive Pavlov response because of it is heavy and depressing though. Real talk though, an easy way to make lots of $$ is selling drugs, but my integral moral compass, sheltered upbringing and lack of street smarts bar me from this field.

Tired of this 6/30/2017 - 12:01 pm

Bad day for sure. I just want to comment on the old lady who couldn’t pick up her bags and took it out on you. People with disabilities aren’t always nice pitiable victims we assume them to be. I once met a lady who said she was an accomplished musician until a wasting disease paralyzed her hand. I tried to talk to her normally as if she were the same as anyone else, but I quickly found out that she reacted bitterly to any statement that downplayed her handicap (in this case it was my question if she could play a less demanding instrument – I sure caught hell). My point is, sometimes you can’t win. So in a given day when you meet 100 strangers, you will meet probably 10-20 people just looking to redirect their anger at you. It has nothing to do with you, it’s just them having a shittier day than you (in their mind). I know people who can take attitudes like that and let it wash off, but I’m probably more like you and the bad experiences sit with me a long time. I used to wait tables. I couldn’t hack it so now my career is basically unemployment. I can deal with one or two harassing creditors calling per day better than 10 or 20 harassing strangers.

khajiit 7/1/2017 - 5:50 am

It’s actually about a 60/40 ratio of women over 50 who want their bags light and/or are nazis about them. It’s very common. And yeah, old women are straight cunts most of the time. Had a museum escapee once tell me that I needed to open a handicap lane for her. If you can’t stand for 10 minutes or lift 3lbs why are you even buying your own groceries is the real question…

Fro-not-so-zen 7/2/2017 - 3:52 pm

Hilarious take on the experience working with the public, but I feel your pain. Its why I treat retail workers with respect and patience. Whenever I go to the grocery store and catch some old woman trying to sneak into the “15 items or less” lane with a fully-loaded shelf on wheels, they invariably feign confusion or will let loose the dogs of disdain and grumpiness for correcting them.

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