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04th Apr 2016

7 things every retail worker knows all too well

Working in retail is never easy...

Nooruddean Choudry

Most of us – men in particular – hate high-street shopping.

It’s all the walking and the waiting and choice – there’s sooo much choice, and it’s not always a good thing. Plus it’s a nightmare on weekends – the sheer level of human traffic is unbearable. It’s part of the reason why online commerce is so incredibly popular. Not having to deal with all of that sh*t.

However, if you think being a customer is a pain, spare a thought for those poor souls whose job it is to serve you on a daily basis. There’s no escape – their working week is spent under the unforgiving glare of fluorescent shop lighting. Here’s just a few of the worst aspects of the job…

1) The pestering

Do you hate it when annoying shop assistants pester you as soon as you enter a store, constantly asking if you’re okay? Whether you want that in another size or not? Well shop assistants hate it more. They’re told to do that, partly to ‘engage’ with the customer as soon as possible, and partly to let potential shoplifters know you’re about. It’s awkward and cringeworthy, especially when you know the customer doesn’t appreciate it one bit.

2) The teamtalks

Before each shift, the Sales Manager gives staff members a quick teamtalk. It’s usually harmless enough – a few minutes on top-sellers, things to note, duties of the day, etc. That’s unless you’ve got a manager who thinks they’re either Maximus Decimus Meridius – “What you do in this shift will echo in eternity…”  – or worse, Beyonce before a concert – “Everyone in a circle, team. First of all thank you Jesus for this opportunity on the shop floor…”

3) The soundtrack

The music played in high-street stores is a genre all of its own. It is of a very specific type and that type is absolute sh*te. It’s meant to dull the senses and turn customers into braindead consumers, so it’s all inoffensive easy-listening pap like the Lighthouse Family, Simply Red, Phil Collins…you get the idea. Now imagine spending an eight-hour shift listening to a CD of 12 such songs on a loop, again and again and again. It’s a living nightmare.

4) The smiling

One thing that is drummed into you from day one is that you must, at all times and regardless of the situation, smile. Smile the creeped-out customer into submission with a grin so fixed in place that your cheek and jaws will genuinely ache when you finally finish for the day. It’s worse if you’re placed at the front of the store, because then you have to compete with a whole row of equally faux-cheery sales assistants who are all dying inside together.

5) Lack of privacy

This is one you may not have realised unless you’ve worked in a high-street store, but there’s rarely a moment to yourself. When you’re not on the shop floor, you’re in the back and surrounded by co-workers who fancy a chat. It’s a same during your break, people are in and out and won’t leave you be. If you’ve ever wondered why someone who’s gone to look for your size is taking ages, it’s usually to have two minutes of precious silence in the stock room.

6) The customers

The customer is always right? F*ck that noise. Usually the customer is a perfectly pleasant person going about their business and trying to find what they need, but quite often you are confronted with a level of obnoxious contempt and rudeness that would be unacceptable in any other situation. If an item is out of stock or discontinued, some absolute d*ckheads will think it perfectly acceptable to project all their rage onto you, even though it’s hardly your fault.

7) The sales

If you ever want to witness such depraved acts of cruelty towards fellow men, women and children that it causes you to fundamentally question the future of humanity, forget war zones or disputed territories, just get down to the opening day of a sale. Normally civilised folk absolutely lose their sh*t over a crappy jumper that’s half price, and retail staff attempting to keep the peace are treated like sub-human scum. A moment’s silence for our fallen brothers and sisters.

…and one huge positive

There’s a bond that you develop working in retail that’s pretty unique. In a weird way it’s almost like going to college or university. You end up working with a whole variety of people who you’d never normally encounter or socialise with in any other setting – from part-time students, to retail lifers, to mums looking for a little extra income. Before you know it, you’ve made set of friends for life and you can moan about all of the above together.