In Defense of Retail

hell on earth

Retail is a thankless, unforgiving industry: it drains you of your time, energy, and few find a successful and fulfilling retail career. Black Friday should be a holiday commemorating the hard work of our brave and downtrodden retail employees, and no stores should be open. Or maybe people should just stop being jerks during the holiday season.

I have spent 7 Black Fridays waking up earlier than the swarms of crazed shoppers to prepare for their descent. That means I have spent 7 Thanksgivings going to bed early, bowing out of post-dinner drinks and conversation, popping a Benadryl after dessert to insure that I get as much sleep as possible before 4 weeks of not sleeping at all. Seven times I have gone to bed and woken up before dawn to sell things to people who take shopping way too seriously.

I worked alongside dads with 3 jobs to support their family, students working to pay their way through school, two sisters who worked extra hours to afford to pay for their entire family’s healthcare, and dozens of incredibly talented and brilliant people who just couldn’t get a better job in this crappy economy. I have so much love and respect for the people I worked with on all those crazy sale days, Black Fridays, and Saturdays in December. I think of many if those great people as friends for life, and a lot as fellow members of an army that has seen a great, stressful war.

That’s why I loathe when shoppers are disrespectful to any of the great people who work in retail. When I see ugly old women snap at a teenage clerk for not having the right size in stock I want to tell them how awful they’re acting. The front line employees are treated the worst. They don’t have any control over inventory/mall hours of operation/prices/manufacturer’s delays/whether or not the iPhone works in China, so for the love of god please don’t take out your anger on them. They don’t make the rules and they don’t control them. Yelling or being cranky won’t make anything go faster, so save it. Take a deep breath and remember that the person helping you is giving up a lot of time spending the holidays with their family and friends to spend it with you.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop, whether it be on Black Friday or any other day. Even the most well-meaning shoppers tend to fade about two hours into their trip. First they get hungry, then tired, followed by hypoglycemic, and then downright evil towards salespeople. I suggest bringing shots (espresso or Bailey’s–spice up that white mocha!) in order to maintain happiness. Never shop hungry: Bring sandwiches. Never, ever assume that the person at the cash register is a lazy, uneducated, unmotivated loser.

The best thing you can do as a shopper is to just be nice. It helps to have a good sense of humor and to be understanding. Try to make the day of every salesperson you encounter, and just calm down: it’s just stuff.


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