How Can I Help You?

A Retail Worker’s Perspective

For as long as I can remember, my parents have been telling me to save my money so I could one day put it towards something big and expensive. Seeing how I would only get large amounts of money for my birthday and Christmas, I decided at a very young age that I wanted a job. I pictured working as something glamorous, like working would suddenly make me mature and responsible.

I was about 12 when I announced that I wanted to work at Hollister Co., because “that’s where all my clothes are from, Mom.” Of course, I couldn’t work when I was 12 but couldn’t wait until the day I could start. Boy, was I wrong.

When I was 14 I got my first job at an ice cream shop, not exactly glamorous but not exactly strenuous work either. I worked there until the shop closed down and I was sucked into the wonderful, sometimes scary world we call retail. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad because I considered myself a pretty friendly person and I loved the thought of being surrounding by clothes.

Once I started working though, I realized it was much harder than I anticipated and I quickly learned the number one rule of retail: “The customer is always right.” The more I talked to my friends and peers about retail work, the more I found how many people felt the same way as I did.

Junior Michelle Schuler agreed that retail work is definitely harder than it looks. “I worked at Hollister Co., and I was only a seasonal worker but I thought it was terrible. I didn’t like folding clothes for hours or greeting people at the door saying, ‘hey, what’s up?’ and usually not even getting a response. Working at the register wasn’t bad because you got to interact with people but working on the floor was hard work,” said Schuler.

Associate professor of communication, Deanna Shoemaker, shared the benefits of her retail experience. “I gained greater customer service skills and the ability to handle conflict management in the workplace,” she said.

Kayla Gittleman, a senior who works at Katherine’s Boutique in Manasquan, NJ, said, “I think that retail workers in clothing stores not only have a love for fashion, but should also have a love to pass their fashion sense on to others. Being a retail worker is a lot of work, but if you love what you are doing it doesn’t seem like much work at all.”

My coworker at Bath and Body Works, Jennifer Pacheco, a senior, said she likes working in retail because it gives her a chance to talk to people. “I love making people feel good about themselves, but it’s hard backing up products if you don’t believe in or like them,” said Pacheco.

She added, “I’ll be honest with customers about what is and isn’t good for them and if that stops a sale, my store probably would rather that I lied to make the sale, but I think of it as much more than just that. If the customer isn’t happy, neither am I,” said Pacheco.

Even if people don’t work in retail currently, I found that almost everyone had a story or experience about it.

Looking back at the retail experiences I’ve had so far, there has been some really fun and interesting times. I’ve met a lot of great people, some of whom I’m still friends with. The hours are long and the customers sometimes put you on edge, but at the end of the day, a job is a job. Whenever I’m having a bad day at work I think that this isn’t forever and one day I’ll appreciate all the lessons learned from my days as a retail worker.

My younger brother, who just turned 16 and got a job as a bagger at a grocery store, complained to me that the hours are long and it gets tough standing there just loading things into bag after bag. When I asked him why he went to get a job anyway, he said he wants to start saving for a car. I just laughed and told him that he hasn’t seen anything yet, and he has many years of work still ahead of him.