As the riots over towels and toilet paper continue, I sit back out here in the middle of the Pacific and remember with great fondness, the many years I worked retail during the holiday season…just kidding. It was hell on earth.
If you work retail, number one…quit now. Get out while you still have some semblance of sanity left in you. Shoveling shit is more better than working retail and you won’t smell nearly as bad at the end of the day. For those of you still standing behind the counter or on the sales floor, you have my sympathies. I’ve been there.
And number B…To all you wonderful retail customers out there braving the weather, traffic, and each other in search of all those special presents…
For the retail worker bee, the holidays from Halloween to the big weekend after Turkey Day to the New Year are by far the worst part of the year. One can look forward to insanely long hours, lines of pissed off customers, managers making threats if unobtainable sales goals are not met, a steady diet of crappy food, and not enough pay in the world to make it worth your while.
You are the front line soldier in this war. The Forlorn Hope. On you, all hopes of victory will be dependent. On you, all blame will be placed when said victory is not achieved, and victory is never achieved. No matter how good the sales wind up over this time period, it is never enough to satisfy the corporate warlords. If by chance you do manage to hit or exceed your expected sales goals, all you can look forward to is higher, more unobtainable goals next year.
Any retail worker bee who can get through the holidays without losing their temper, patience, sense of humor, good health, and not commit a felony in the process deserves a medal. But not a monetary bonus. Those only go to the management. All the worker bee gets is to come back to the crappy job to start the new year. Seriously, go over to hardware and buy a shovel using your employee discount, then quit, go find a pile of shit and dig in. You’ll sleep soundly at night and enjoy the holidays way more better.
The holiday season in retail actually starts in the spring and summer. This is when the suppliers show their holiday wares for all the retailers to purchase. Said purchases are made early, without regard to what the economic conditions may be like later in the year, and the merchandise starts showing up in early fall. Meanwhile, the corporate warlords start computing their sales goals for the season, always assuming the best scenarios. Everyone is going to have money or credit to burn. Your store is the greatest in the land and customers will come from far and wide to shop there. All the worker bees will be happy and eager to put in the long hours necessary to make it all happen.
Sure it will. Just like in the movies. Happy endings for everyone.
For the worker bees the hell starts early. All the merchandise has to be processed, priced, and displayed. Meetings will be held to give forth the marching orders. Whiteboards and graphs will show the magical numbers one is expected to obtain by way of one’s sales skills. Mythical bonus’s will be promised, but never paid out.
For the old hands, they know what is coming. You can tell because they start drinking heavily. But the newbie retail worker bees always make the classic mistakes, thinking they will be able to enjoy the holidays. They quickly find out there is no time off during the holiday season. While everyone else is out making merry, going to parties, having dinners, traveling to be with family, the retail worker bee is always there, behind the counter, on the sales floor, working, working, working. No sacrifice is too great as long as the sale is made. You’ll be a more better person knowing your hard work and sacrifice instead of spending one last holiday with your dying grandmother is worth it for the good of the company…the bosses will tell you as they are heading out the door to catch their flight to Aspen for a holiday skiing vacation with the family. Do as they say, not as they do.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is the worst. Even in the smaller businesses there are lots of customers at the counters, refusing to wait their turn, demanding to waited on hand and foot immediately because this holiday season will not be perfect without some special doodad or bangle which they just have to have. And woe be to the worker bee if said doodad or bangle is sold out. You had better hope you can get one in on time before the holiday or a plague of frogs and pestilence shall rain from the heavens down upon thee. Nothing worse than facing the wrath of a customer who has paid for something and does not get it on time. Especially if they told a manager first. Customers love to tell managers when a worker bee has done something wrong, just so they can stand there and watch said worker bee get their ass chewed out in front of everyone. Humiliation is a major perk in retail.
In the meantime, all the extras one does for the customer goes completely unappreciated. They don’t care if you are missing out on the holiday with your loved ones, as long as you are only satisfying their retail desires. The management expects you to go the extra mile to get the sales. Anything less and you just ain’t a team player.
The days drag on until the big events at the end of the year. By then, the retail worker bee is completely exhausted, frazzled and if there is one more holiday song about reindeer with glowing nose tumors, the aphrodisiac powers of hanging a weed from the ceiling, or some brat playing drums right after some woman has given birth in a hay bale, said worker bee is going to strangle somebody with some tinsel. The last minute shoppers come in about 5 minutes to closing and get pissed off because you are now sold out of something they could have picked up weeks before. All you want to do is close up and go home but the boss is fighting with his wife so he would rather keep the store open then face his family. While you are still working, the boss is back in the office getting drunk, putting the moves on the secretary.
And when it’s finally all over, and you come back the day after the big holiday, a new hell begins. All the returns, exchanges, and redeeming of gift cards. This didn’t fit, it’s the wrong color, or I don’t like it. You have to maintain your happy face and take care of every whinny ass who comes through the door. All you are looking forward to now is going out to celebrate the New Year. But not so fast.
Many companies run their fiscal year according to the calendar year. While others are out at wild parties counting down the new year, you will be back in the stacks, doing year end inventory. And it will last all day and most of the night.
Then comes the big let down. The holidays are over, things have settled, and a meeting is called. Sorry folks, we didn’t hit our sales goals so no bonus this year. You all just didn’t try hard enough. Remember, you will be the one who gets blamed, always.
I’ve been there. Way too many years. I will never work retail again and will tell anyone who is listening, don’t get into retail or quit now while you can. It ain’t worth it. Retail is the bottom. The worst you can do in life. The work is hard, the rewards are few, and respect is non existent. Your bosses consider you to be nothing more than a tool, no different than a broom or a cash drawer. As long as you produce more than you cost you will be kept. Once you become a liability you are gone.
But, if you need some solace just remember…all you did in retail, all the sales, all the help you gave customers, all the extra hours you put in…is totally and completely meaningless. You accomplished nothing. I know I did. And I got nothing to prove it.
Enjoy the holidays.
Go with the longer handle shovel. Easier on the back.