In order to add a little bit of financial security to my student life I’ve recently started a job at a well known High Street fashion retail outlet. I won’t name them in case they sue me or something, but suffice to say it’s very busy – all the time! Apart from the fact that I’m quite desperate for money, here are ten things I’ve learnt from working in retail:
1.) Men only buy socks and underpants
When I work on the tills it surprises me how many men just seem to buy socks and underpants. Do they expect their wives/girlfriends/mothers to always buy their clothes for them or do they survive off birthday and Christmas presents? It’s one of life’s great mysteries. Harry Styles apparently doesn’t even wear socks though….
2.) Folding is an art
I laughed when my supervisor announced during my induction “Now we’re going to learn how to fold clothes.” Little did I know that it’s not as easy as it looks. Every item has to be folded differently and you must remember to follow the lines and make sure the size label is visible. Then you can wait 5 mins until a customer comes along, picks it up, briefly considers buying it and then puts it back on the table in a crumpled heap thus destroying your masterpiece. Repeat x100.
3.) My Maths GCSE is redundant
At school my Maths teacher always said that we’d need to be able to do mental Maths for sums and working out change etc. I use an electronic till which scans the items, displays a total and then tells me how much change to give. No mental effort required.
4.) Customer Service = Pretending to care
We are told that good customer service means being smiley, bubbly and above all helpful. Most days when I’m working I’m just counting down the time till my next break or my clocking off time when I can once again breathe the sweet smell of freedom. Forgive me if I smile, kindly apologise and tell you that the only sizes available are the ones which are displayed; I couldn’t be arsed to go on an expedition to the stockroom and trawl through seemingly identical ponchos.
5.) The General Public are a strange bunch
The majority of people I come into contact with are perfectly normal but every so often I meet an odd one. Like the woman who told me that since my till was tucked away in the corner, I’d need a rocket to alert people to the fact I was there. She also addressed me by name which I thought was creepy until I remembered I was wearing a name tag.
6.) Rudeness is one of my pet hates
Since I’m being paid only slightly more than minimum wage to smile and act as though I care about the fact that you can’t find the right shade of beige jumper, the least you can do is be polite. Once a customer told me “Oh I‘ve obviously asked the wrong person.” If only I could have replied “I’ve obviously chosen the wrong weekend job.”
7.) Age doesn’t equal experience
In most jobs the senior members of staff are those who are slightly longer in the tooth. In retail however you can start from the bottom at 16 and by 18 you can be a supervisor. Initially I felt a bit strange taking direction from someone who was three years younger than me but I’m getting used to it and I’m willing to learn.
8.) Some people become animals when they’re shopping
The state that some of the clothes tables can get in will always baffle me. I don’t expect people to neatly fold things when they put them back but surely they can refrain from just dumping them on the floor? Then there’s the mystery of the shoe department. I swear some people must finish trying on shoes and then fling one of them to the other side of the store just to mess with us.
9.) Standing is really tiring
Whether I’m working in a department or on tills I know that on every shift I’m guaranteed to be standing for at least 4 hours. Until now I never fully appreciated how tiring this is – unless of course you’re actually doing something enjoyable like standing at a concert. On the plus side however I discovered that just standing for an hour can burn around 130 calories!
10.) I appreciate being at University
Even if someone were to offer me a management position at my current job I would gladly decline. I now appreciate the full value of my education and all of the additional career options which it can open up for me. Some people thrive from the busyness and the swift pace of retail work, but not me; I’m just here for the money really.