200425956-002.jpgI do not miss one day of working in retail, and you can definitely quote me on this. In my late teens and early twenties, I was affiliated with two different areas of retail; worked with one clothing store for nearly four years (two years in my hometown, then transferred to the store in the city in which I attended college and worked there for nearly two years), worked with another clothing store as an Assistant Manager, and lastly, worked as a cashier in a local grocery store. For what is definitely a miniscule amount of money, folks are asked to do the most bizarre and outlandish things with their time, efforts, experience, and patience. My very first job was in a grocery store that was about fifteen minutes away from my house. The hours were long, the customers were rude, and management should have been dubbed, “The Authoritative Figures from Hell.” These folks lollygagged around and dictated orders all day. Not once did I ever see any of them lift a pinky finger to keep the store in total order. Sure, one would think when you have accomplished becoming manager one would not expect you to do any of the grunt work your subordinates are subjected to, but there is a fine line. I am a true believer of giving respect where and to whom it is due, and trust me, if you are not worthy of it, it will not be doled out to you, or if it is, it will not be easy to recognize. Some of the “higher ups” strolled in late, took two hour lunches, and were never on time to the staff meetings. Tell me, how is this “managing” someone if you cannot even follow or abide by the rules set in place by corporate?

I started out as a bagger for this store, then “moved up” to cashier. I was often placed on the Express Check-Out because well, I was a bit speedy in the way I greeted the customers, scanned the items, and checked out each of the patrons. I probably worked regular check-out all of two to three times. While I was there, I did save enough money to prepare for college that Fall and purchase some of the items I would need to jump head first into my higher education. My time spent there was not long-lived by any means. I worked for one summer then handed in my walking papers. One thing that stands out to this day was this one lady who came to my line and asked to change out a twenty dollar bill. Get this, she asked me for 3 five dollar bills and 2 tens. Yes, she was trying to swindle me right there on the sly, made the request swiftly with her words too. But, I was cool, I retorted, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, did you say 3 fives and 2 tens for this twenty dollar bill?” She looked at me all shifty-eyed and responded, “Yeah, that’s what I said.” I giggled to myself, handed her 2 five dollars bills and 1 ten dollar bill and wished her a good afternoon. That was the first and only time someone tried to acquire extra money out of me as direct as she did. I shook my head as she recounted her change, looked at me (like she *was* going to do something, but thought about it twice), then sucked her teeth, and waddled out of the store’s doors never to be seen on my shift again; at least, not by me.

My next experience in retail would find me there for two years. I started out as a cashier for this clothing store and caught on so quickly. I was asked to be a Customer Service Cashier no more than three months later. I actually liked working for this particular store. The people were friendly, my coworkers were pleasant, and management actually cared about their jobs and the employees. The one thing I totally despised about working there was cleaning the fitting rooms. MY GOODNESS! I never knew people could be so nasty. Women, if you must use the bathroom, please find a facility first before entering the fitting rooms! I am sure the employees on deck are not trying to clean up your bodily fluids after you, nor do they want to. And, let us not even delve into bringing a buggy full of clothing into the fitting room with you when the sign on the door near the entrance clearly states, “Please No Shopping Carts Pass This Point.” Every other night, I was retrieving a buggy full of clothes, picking up something that should have been disposed of in a restroom facility, or wiping down the seats|benches inside the fitting rooms thoroughly for reasons better left unmentioned. I transferred from this store to the store in the city in which I was attending college and the customers there were even worse when it came to cleanliness.

I have never seen so many people pick at an article of clothing, then throw it atop the rack like it was not hanging before they slovenly removed it from its appropriate area. Many nights, my coworkers and I found ourselves pretty much rearranging the entire store because nothing was where it was when the store opened. Patrons we were used to seeing on a daily basis would come in to see which “sale” was on for that day, walk around the store, try on several items, put them back in departments that seriously did not link up to the item at all (i.e. throw a bathing suit on a men’s sale’s rack), then walk out without *purchasing* a thing. The fitting rooms in this store were ten times worse than the fitting rooms in my hometown’s store. I cringed every time I had to clean them, and it was always the ladies’ fitting room that would be the nastiest. Men simply tried on their articles of clothing, kept the few they liked, and left the others in the fitting room. No big deal, right? Right. All I had to do was collect the clothes they did not care for, refold or hang them, sweep the fitting room, and make sure each room was cleaned thoroughly. Not hard at all. But the ladies’ fitting rooms? When I type that I would not have let any of my closest friends enter this place unless we just opened, I am telling you the God’s honest. This place was like removing hair from a brush, the disorder was never-ending. It did not matter that we had people working in shifts to keep the fitting rooms clean, the more women that entered those doors, the nastier it became. At the end of the night, I was glad to be punching out for the end to a disgruntling day.

The last clothing store I worked for offered me an Assistant Manager position to start, I accepted. The job delivered more money, but added more stress to my daily life. Working for this place, I dealt with it all. From assisting customers with refunds, lay-a-ways, exchanges, and etc; I also checked them out when I needed to, maintained the sales’ floor, and kept my department in tact. We had a lot of people who tried to steal and after my first few months of working there, I became very familiar with them by face and name. It was my or the Store Manager’s duty to keep watchful eyes on each of them as they walked up and down the aisles. Often, these same customers would be the few who let their children run about in the store unattended. Not only did they forget their children existed while they *shopped* they would hear their children causing a ruckus in the front of the store (in the toy section) and would not utter two words of discipline to them.

My mid-afternoon mantra usually began with, “Dear Lord, this was not in the fine print of my application, why me?” then I would huff out two sighs and continue on with my day. There were signs all around the toy section that read, “Parents, Please Do Not Leave Children Unattended In The Toy Area. Thank You. -Management.” Do you think these young ladies cared? No, they flaunted about the store in their new outfits picked up from God knows where and paid their children no mind. I acted as Assistant Manager, baby-sitter, thief –spy, and monetary transactions handler. Needless to say, $7.00 an hour was not enough. Thusly, I left this store as well after eight months of cleaning up behind grown folks, monitoring children who did not belong to me, and interning for espionage of thievery.

I typed all of this to say, THANK GOD, I do not have to deal with working in retail anymore. Those jobs are apart of a past that I do not wish to experience again if I can manage to do so. I applaud you who still have to deal with trifling customers around the holidays, noisy and disruptive children, and thieves. If you love your job, I mean truly love working in retail, I applaud you even more. It takes a special kind of person to deal with the daily goings on of a retail store. I have been there and done that, I do not wish to do it anymore.

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  • T Ronise

    I worked for 3 shoe stores, a department store and a kids’ clothing store. NEVER again! Thank GOD found a job I like although it was a year & a half after I graduated, but nothing tops the restaurant industry. God bless those people!

  • Oh so the retail pain it universal then? It’s just as bad in the U.K. I can’t wait till I graduate, so I can hand in my notice (that’s if I don’t get fired for cussing out a customer first). Oh the questions people ask me… as if I make the clothes, and females are nasty. some lady pee’d in a bag then left it in the changing room for us to clean up. I have seen thieves, people pulling buttons off of a garment so they can get money off… two more years to go!

  • tremaine

    Oh, people pulling buttons off is nothing. Trust me when I say I’ve seen it all. And peeing in a bag? At least she was courteous enough to bag that mess up. Some chick took it upon herself to “go” on a pile of clothes in the fitting room, which we had to bag up, damage out, and lose money on. *shakes head* Dag, the U.K. got it bad too, eh? Such a sad thing.