A Day in the Life of a Retail Worker

Submitted into Contest #121 in response to: Write about someone in a thankless job.... view prompt

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Holiday Drama Creative Nonfiction

Working in retail is a daily struggle, dealing with people of all kinds, and usually not the most pleasant, often the employees are overlooked as humans, and now with the current problems, there are those feeling underappreciated, and leaving because the job is just too stressful, of course there are also those who prefer government handouts rather than earning their way, but that’s another story altogether.

Let me give you an inside to the retail life.

Every day I rise early to go to work, scarf down breakfast if I have time, which is almost never, I exit the house as quiet as possible, my hands full, coffee in one hand, lunch bag in the other, my purse draped around my neck, and a sweater hanging awkwardly in my grip, As I pull out of the drive, I finally take a breath, I can still make it in time...that is till I find myself behind Grandma, on her way to get the early bird senior discount at Denny's.

Finally I arrive at work, and hurry to clock in before the time changes to 7:01 A.M. Tossing my lunch in the fridge, I take a final swig of coffee, greeting fellow associates along the way and grab my name tag, walkie, and a device.

Customers are already at the door, oblivious to the large sign that reads; OPEN AT 8 A.M. all in caps, gesturing wildly wondering why we won't open the door yet, quickly I survey any leftover damage from the previous night's close, looks like it was another rough one! The fitting rooms are full, and the dock is loaded down with returns that need to go back on the floor nice and neat, some of the aisle tables need a touch up, to make matters worse, five people called off, so now we are short handed, and this is not a good sign coming into the holiday season.

Finally the doors open and customers flood in, some already mad before the day has even begun. Only ten minutes in the Customer service desk is calling for back up, so I drop what I am doing, and head over to help, halfway there, the registers are calling for an extra checker, meanwhile a customer flags me down, looks me over, notices my uniform, and name tag, then asks in a dumbfounded tone as if they can't believe their own eyes "Hey you! Do you work here?"

Believe me it's everything I can do to not say "No ma'am, I just like this store so much I dress like an employee" I mean it really is tempting, I'm pretty sure I could get away with it.

Of course the retail rule is customers first, so I radio I will not be able to help at the desk, and give my undivided attention to the lady.

“Yes Ma’am, how can I help?”

“Where’s your restrooms? I’ve been all over the store!”

My eyes are automatically diverted to the sign literally over her head, and I point to the hallway behind her.

“It’s just over there”

She snickers embarrassed, and walks away, and I run back to the project I was previously working on, however no sooner have I planted myself in the middle of the mess, the phone rings, jumping up I grab the nearest phone and do my speel

I hear a crackle and finally a voice comes on “Uh yes, do y’all carry long sleeve shirts for women?”

I try not to laugh “Yes we do”

“Well uh…what kind, and how much are they?”

I explain to the best of my ability the brands and styles.

“You got any purple ones?

Now I give her a list of colors, and also cover ground on the patterns.

“You got any larges?”

I tell her they come in all sizes, but it depends which one she chooses if the size is still available, willing to check personally, but she just grunts “I guess I’ll have to come in and see for myself, probably won’t have my size anyway”

I apologize for the inconvenience and wish her a good day…Now back to my project, but before I get all settled I peak in on the state of the dressing rooms, I overhear a mother telling her daughter not to bother picking up the clothes they have discarded “Alex, just leave that there, that girl will clean this up, that’s what she’s paid for” Alex steps out of the stall shrugging her shoulders as she drops a pile of clothes on the floor, the mom looks me in the eye as she walks by, her attitude full of disdain.

Quickly I pick up the clothes off the floor, tags are ripped off hangers are strewn, and a good portion of the clothes are inside out, I wish I could say this is the worst of it, but sadly it’s not, I just watched another customer destroy the table I just folded and they didn’t even add a single article from it to their cart.

At registers, people constantly cut in line, and claim the item they wish to purchase is way cheaper then the price ringing up, and how dare I not honor a expired coupon, or “ I don’t see where this sweater is marked excluded from coupons, it should be marked clearly! You need to honor this, lemme talk to your manager!”

My manager is tied up in six different directions, and can’t make it over immediately, frustrating the customer further, and holding up the line. My manager to avoid further problems allows the customer to use the discount, and he doesn’t even thank him.

Some Customers even expect us to follow them around as a personal shoppers and carry their purchases, then walk them to a register, and checkout, forget the people waiting patiently in line.

Attempting to keep the floor clean at this point, is practically useless, by the time my shift is over, it looks like I wasn’t even there, and I let my mind go places it probably shouldn’t hoping my manager doesn’t see only the mess, and feels like he or she needs to tell me I need to do better and keep up.

I get it, really I do, when I’m shopping I appreciate help and respect, but the workers need respect too, after all, we also have a life and family, but to pay the bills we forgo family activities, working on weekends and through holidays, when everyone else is off, often we are spread thin or working double shifts to cover someone who didn’t show up, sometimes we are dealing with personal or family trauma, while bending over backwards to meet your needs instead of our own, while we don’t even come close in comparison to our courageous veterans, not by a longshot, but we choose to show up and help you purchase the products you want or need, setting our own needs aside, all with a smile no matter how we feel to give you that wonderful experience that everyone deserves, so when you go shopping this holiday season, especially now with these chaotic world problems, please remember the employees are people too, and kindness no matter how small goes a long way, don’t let retailers or people working in the food industry for that matter, think they are working a thankless job, but just doing our part for the community, and earning a living like everyone else.

November 24, 2021 01:22

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1 comment

Boutat Driss
19:10 Nov 29, 2021

nice tale!


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