I have worked in retail for the past four years of my life and aside from babysitting and a paper route it is the only job experience I have; after complaining about the poor hours and rude customers I sometimes ask myself why I have yet to say goodbye to retail for good.
But like anything it is a learning experience, so here are some things that I learned from working retail that I will carry with me in any job or circumstance:
1. Always Be Nice To People
9 hours into my 13 hour boxing day shift a few years ago, I had a very angry customer come into the store and scream at me because she didn’t agree with the sale price, while I had to nod and smile when all I wanted to do was scream “I AM A PART-TIME SALES ASSOCIATE – DO YOU THINK I HAVE ANY SAY IN THE PRICING OF ITEMS?!” I understand people have bad days, but if your day is okay enough to go shopping I don’t think you have a reason to treat me like garbage.
After this scene, and ever since, I made a vow with myself to always be polite to servers, cashiers, and sales associates.
In retrospect, my opinion on certain stores has been permanently tarnished because of horrible service I received from their employees; and it is for this reason I always worked with a smile – and trust me, hangovers, boys, and fights with friends certainly made it challenging to keep that smile on.
2. To Love All Body Types
As a starry-eyed, Vogue-addicted, naive 16-year-old entering the fashion industry, I honestly thought that in order to look good in everything you have to be a size 2. That is the most incorrect I have ever been in my life; and thankfully working in retail changed that perspective. I would see the same dress on size 2’s and size 14’s and sometimes it just looked better on curves.
I am a firm believer in wearing whatever it is that you feel beautiful in and I have seen first hand all sizes can feel and look stunning in the same pair of jeans.
3. There Are Some Pretty Kick-Ass People Walking Around
One aspect of working in retail is walking up to complete strangers and attempting to strike a conversation, and although most of the time customers put their heads down and try their best to refrain from making eye contact some people will give you the time of day.
These people who decided I was worthy to take a small portion of their day are a huge reason why I continue to work in retail.
I have been able to talk to some people who, outside of the store, our paths would have never crossed.
I have had my fortune told and discovered an amazing jewelry brand all while I was on the clock.
4. How To Appreciate Clothes (Quality vs. Quantity)
Although no one understands why I will spend 200 dollars on a pair of jeans that I really can’t afford instead of buying 4 different pairs, I still stick to it and I still agree with it. I also love knowing the stories behind small designers and being able to see their brand develop and grow; and I would rather have one pair of jeans that I absolutely love than a few that only fit me decently.
(I’m not trying to convince anyone to blow their money on designer jeans here, because somewhere deep, deep down I know I am wasting my money.)
5. To Cringe At The Thought Of Boxing Day
Christmas, like most, is my favorite holiday but for the past 4 years I had to enjoy Christmas dinner with the upcoming 5 am alarm ringing in my head. Anyone who works or has worked in retail understands the pain of a 12 hour boxing day shift.
6. Patience Is Key
The mall closes at 9, if the store is clean by 9:30 you will be able to get out by 10 and have just enough time to race home shower and meet up with your friends before a night out. You have your table folded perfectly and are guarding it with your life; you turn your back for a second and someone has ripped through your pile.
As the customer attempts to joke with you and say “sorry I didn’t mean to ruin your pretty display,” you respond with a very operator-like “no worries, it’s my job,” as you come to the realization that showering is not in the cards as you will be stuck at the store for an extra 15 minutes.
Yes there are days when I would come home from what seemed like a never-ending shift and call my friend saying “that’s it I have had enough,” but the passion I have for the clothes and being able to work alongside people who share this passion always seem to bring me back – even at 6 am on boxing day.