A Year in Retail

Considering I’m a licensed dental hygienist, I didn’t expect to find myself working in retail when my husband got stationed here, but due to bureaucracy and the uncertain duration of my husband’s job here, I decided to work at one of my favorite places to shop. Now, I find it absolutely crazy to say that I have spent nearly a year of my life at my retail job. There have been lots of ups and downs, but I have to admit that working this job has contributed to probably the most interesting and enlightening year of my life. I have had some really interesting experiences and I have learned a lot about myself and about others. With that being said, I would love to take this time to share some of my biggest insights.
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Just because it’s a “deal,” that doesn’t mean you need it.

This seems fairly simple but it is something I didn’t realize until I worked in retail for a few months. The company I work for has a very nice employee discount and, at first, I bought so many things because I was “getting an amazing deal!” But the more that I looked at it, the more I realized I was just buying things BECAUSE they were a good deal and not because I actually liked the items. Stores work really hard to ensure that they not only make the sale with you, but get you to purchase multiple items, building a higher dollar sale, and subliminally convincing you to come back and shop with them again for “the deal.” I had to really teach myself (and I am still teaching myself) that I should only buy what I need and not just what is on sale. Commercialism is real and working in the retail industry has really turned me off from buying/spending in general. Let me tell you right now, YOU DON’T NEED IT! Whatever it is, I don’t care, you can definitely do without it. You don’t need to take a credit card out for it. You are better off without.

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Theft is a REAL THING.

I remember being newly promoted to my management position and was closing the store by myself that evening. A group of four people came in, one got my attention asking for a certain size in something, while the others scoped out a bunch of things they could throw into bags real quick. As soon as I could turn around, they had all disappeared. I went to the back room, watched the whole scene play out on our cameras, and I wanted to vomit. I felt so guilty and ashamed that that had happened while I was the one in charge. Then I felt angry. Angry at myself for letting that happen. Angry at those people who had duped me. Angry at thieves in general, that they have nothing better to do with their lives than to steal from companies. That’s when I knew I could not do this job forever because I did not want to always feel that way when I worked, constantly concerned that every customer that walks in is going to shoplift.

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Humans are gross and will treat your store like their own personal garbage can.

I have picked up endless Starbucks cups, Auntie Anne’s pretzel wrappers, and used Sephora makeup samples to last me a life time. I have sprayed away every absolutely awful bodily smell that people have walked through the door with, removed a very smelly diaper someone just decided to leave on the floor, and I have also cleaned up a used tampon that someone left on a fitting room bench. PEOPLE ARE GROSS.

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People are jerks.

No, I mean it. People are pretty awful. Over this holiday season, which is supposed to be the time of year where people are “kinder” and “more giving,” I was called a bitch, a tyrant, a cheap ass, and a ruiner of Christmas. No, really, this woman told me that I RUINED HER CHRISTMAS because we did not have any gift boxes this year. GIFT BOXES! People would throw entire tables into an upheaval to get what they want quickly and get out, and then be pissed when we didn’t have any coupons or discounts, but refused to sign up for our FREE rewards program. Some people thought that we should have a better promotion, complaining to me that the discount was “better last year.” Ok, cause I totally get to decide how things are price pointed. And when the store says that it closes at nine? That is when it closes. Not nine o’five, not nine fifteen and not nine twenty, we close at NINE! Do not be surprised when I am annoyed with you for walking in five minutes before we close just to wander around. I would like to go home, my store associates would like to go home, we have lives outside of your shopping schedule. I have honestly never dealt with more selfish and awful people in my whole life.


Entitlement is real. 

The mall that I work at his pretty high end. There are several luxury shops, Cruise ships port in town and tourists are dropped off for the day at The Town Center to shop, dine and explore, and people drive from all over the state and neighboring states to shop there. It’s no joke. What is also not a joke is how people will treat you as a retail worker. Human beings literally think that they are above you, that you are worth less than they are because you work retail instead of shopping retail daily. The amount of people that have looked down at me or literally told me that they were going to make me “work for my money,” is disgusting. Which leads into my next point…

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Sexism is a REAL THING.

I have had plenty of men come in and shop for things for their wives or girlfriends and walk up to me and tell me that they want to buy whatever jeans I have on because “my ass looks amazing.” Same goes for my boobs. I have been told I wear too much make up. I have been told I don’t wear enough makeup. I have been stared at by boyfriends and husbands and fathers while their significant others have been standing right next to them. I have been told that I have “the perfect body.” I have been called ‘little girl’ (I’m 25, just by the way), ‘baby’, ‘sugar’, ‘honey’, ‘sweetie pie’, and many more names by men who for some reason, let sense fly out the window and say whatever misogynistic thought comes into their mind. I don’t tell you all these things to say that I am really hot, to boost my ego, or anything like that, I simply want to illustrate that these are things that I was previously naive to and can now see that they really do exist, and on a daily basis.

I say all these things to illustrate a simple point, which is to please be nice to the retail worker. We work 40+ hour weeks for almost no pay, work long and late hours of the day, have crazy demands expected of us, are constantly on our feet (I literally get told not to lean against things), and have to constantly put smiles on our faces when we are dealing with unpleasant customers. Please be patient with us. Please try to see things from our point of view. Please be kind and we will try our hardest to get the job done right for you.

But along with all of that garbage, I have also found some positive things too!

  • I’ve pushed myself harder than any other job. I have literally never had to work harder for a job than I have for this one. I have had more expected of me and had my limits pushed further than any other job in my young life.

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  • I’ve learned how I want to dress myself. I’ve learned what really does work for my body type and what really does not. I have also learned that that is perfectly ok! I am so much happier in things that fit me correctly than fitting into every trendy item. Simple, but truthful.

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  • I’ve made some of the best friends i’ll ever have. This one is the most true. When I moved here, I knew literally no one. I got my job four days after moving to Florida. My co workers were the only people that I really talked to besides my husband for the first month that I lived here. I can now say that these are some of the best people who have made my life so much more meaningful. And I never would have met any of them without this job.

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For my next job, I’ll be returning to dental hygiene at a much higher wage and much more respect. But that doesn’t mean that will make me somehow better than the girl I am now, who has had to put up with all the retail garbage I’ve ranted about above. Obviously, not every person who walks through the doors of my store treats my coworkers and I terribly, but the proportion of people who do is just not acceptable. I believe we humans can be so much better. It is so important to follow the simple wisdom that teaches us to treat everyone like you want to be treated.

My name is Jenn. I am a wifey, dental hygienist, dog mom, and life enthusiast. Cheesy, right? But why not be a little excited about the awesome life that you have. That's what I think anyways....

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