Why Working in Retail Sucks

I finally got a decent job this week.

When I say "decent," of course, I don't mean something I'm so proud of I would even add it in the work section on Facebook. (As everybody born after 1980 knows, no job is official unless you boast about it on Facebook.) I mean not as crappy as my other latest experience and good enough to pay the rent, which, considering I was steadily approaching the very unflattering financial status of "broke", is honestly more than enough at this point.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the other casual jobs I had in the past. My first job was as an online content writer for a travel agency in 2006-2007, for six months; in 2007-2008, I worked as a barista for Starbucks; in 2008-2010, I worked at Replay, an Italian fashion brand -- starting at a mall and later being transferred to a department store.

I like interacting with people. I'm an open person -- not always friendly, but I'm definitely not shy and I know how to start a conversation with strangers. (This, of course, is assuming I'm not trying to flirt -- in those occasions, I come off like this:)

("Eer... Hi.")

Nevertheless, my three-year experience in retail has taught me that serving customers kind of sucks. This is why:

#1. The schedules are ridiculous.

Let me be clear: I don't find 9-5 jobs all that great. Most of my dream jobs have schedules that are sort of all over the place (e.g. writers, probation officers, prison governors), and I still wouldn't mind having them. The problem with retail is that it's nobody's dream job -- it's just something you do because you couldn't get anything better (yet, or ever). You might enjoy it while it lasts, you might get something out of it (I met most of my dearest friends at jobs I had), but if it's your dream job, there's something seriously wrong with you.

(Case in point.)

So having a work schedule that includes every single day of the week (even Bank holidays, if you work at a coffee shop or a restaurant) and can start as early as 5am and end as late as 1am kind of adds insult to injury -- or, as I like to call it, fucking sucks.

And then there's the job itself, where...

#2. You have to bullshit people.

If you've worked in fashion retail (or basically anything that has to do with selling goods people need convincing to buy), you know what I'm talking about.

If not, here are some examples from the renowned English-Retail, Retail-English Dictionary:

"Those jeans look amazing on you." [ðəʊz dʒiːnz ləˈmeɪzɪŋ än jʊ]
       1. They're okay, I guess.
       2. You'll look like a cow no matter what you wear, so buy them already.
       3. I haven't sold anything today. Please oh please please buy something please.

"Yeah, I like this shirt more than the other one." [jɛə i lTHis mawr thən THē ˈʌðə wən]
       1. They actually look the same, I'm just agreeing with you.
       2. I don't like either of them.
       3. I have no opinion on the matter, but I have to pretend I do.

"Thank you, have a nice day!" [θæŋk jʊ (h)əv ā ns dā]
       1. Good riddance.
       2. I hope you fall on your face and die.
       3. I can't believe I actually convinced you to buy this shit. Haha!

Basically, sales advisors are like a bunch of street fundraisers, except without the moral superiority; like advertisers and marketing directors, except without the salary; like fashion critics, except without anyone (besides the customer, occasionally) giving a shit about their opinion. 

(Sad, but true.)

Of course, all of this wouldn't work if people didn't fall for it. But the truth is...

#3. People are stupid.

And not just because they believe what a sales advisor will tell them, even though they are fully aware that this person's job is to convince them to buy. People are stupid just because. In my three years in retail, I have had some of the most ridiculous conversations with customers:

Customer: How much does this cost?
Me: £120.
Customer: Pounds?!?
Me: ... No, Monopoly notes.

Customer: Excuse me, when does the department store open?
Me: 9am.
Customer: The entire department store?!?
Me: ... No, just the first floor.

Customer: If I press the button that says '5' in the lift, will it take me to the fifth floor?
Me: ... Depends on its mood swings.

Customer: [points at stairs leading to higher floor] Will these take me upstairs?
Me: ... No, we turned the store upside down this morning.

Male Customer: [grabs skirt] Is this for women?
Me: ... Depends. Where do you work?

(The average customer.)

It's like people just decide to take stupid pills before they enter a store, just to keep the stereotype of dumb customers afloat. And while some of the questions can make your entire day (such as the ones quoted above), most are just seriously depressing with regards to the future of humanity.

All of this, of course, can be summarised in one point...

#4. It's exhausting, but it pays shit.

This is what having a retail job means: cleaning the store (hoovering, mopping, cleaning windows), folding hundreds of clothes or placing merchandise on shelves, bullshitting dozens or annoying/stupid people in hopes that they'll be convinced and buy products, standing on your feet for eight hours, listening to your boss complain about your performance often just because they had shitty sex the previous night, whiling tedious hours away... and getting paid minimum wage because, well, anybody can do this job so you're not that special.

(Basically, this.)

So... yeah. Oh, did I tell you that I got a freelance job writing fiction for a website? Here's the link.

What? I'm promoting myself because spending the rest of my life in retail makes me want to scratch my own eyeballs off my face and feed them to myself? Haha. Nonsense.


  1. They are negative and complain, and then they get their way! This cycle makes no sense and it is unfair for the people who have to deal with it!

  2. I think it's not too bad to work in retail.

  3. Totally true in all aspects. Not sure what that says about the tagline, the 'Customer is always right' since most of the time, especially when you can prove it, they're terribly wrong.

  4. Ugh people are surprisingly stupid I can see why this country Is going toward the shit hole

  5. People who believe that customers are always right has never worked a day in retail or any service industry. They are always the worst customers.

  6. I totally couldnt agree with you more. People can be so demanding and unappreciative. Check out this "TEN Crappy Things about RETAIL Shoppers" I think you will like it. http://iwishispitinyourfood.com/ten-crappy-things-about-retail-shoppers/