Friday, September 7, 2012

Retail: Behind the Rack

A little down on our luck I found myself driving 70+ miles one way to a retail job for slightly over minimum wage - the pay just about covered my commuting expense but at least I was working right?  I went from  $150 an hour as a consultant to $10.25 an hour and worked 100x harder.  There is something so wrong with that.   What I learned from this experience is that retail is almost as bad as the restaurant business in that it is extremely hard work with little to no benefits, the pay sucks and the people, employees and customers, are miserable human beings.  And they (employees) have good reason to be, like the fact they are not making $150/hour!  I know it made me miserable.

Understand for barely above minimum wage the un-glorified role I played as a sales person. . .cleaning, selling, counting, ringing (cashier), inventorying, merchandising, ordering, stocking, hanging, fitting, fixing, reporting, banking, financials, budgets, scheduling, managing, and smiling, while standing for four, six, eight or 12 hours a day.  To be clear this was a higher end women's retail store so I'm not talking about Kohl's where the sales people don't even know they sell shoes.  Obviously my fashion passion has an arbitrary line in the sand.

You're probably thinking, cleaning, you had to clean. . .yup!  And let me ask; do you seriously vacuum, dust, wash windows, wipe down shelves and mirrors every night at home - hell no, but all of sudden there I was doing it for someone else and I'm not even going to justify it by saying they were paying me because clearly the meager pay did not compensate for the responsibilities.

Selling and up-selling, OK it is retail so this part I sort of get.  But there is no incentive to up-sell to anyone.  I didn't get paid more if I managed to convince someone to spend more.  I still got what I got so who cares if the store makes more money - what's in it for me?  Nothing.

Inventory sucks.  If you had twelve shirts and didn't sell any you should still have twelve shirts. . .it's when you don't still have twelve that it's a problem.  And of course there is the annual New Years inventory bash that is mandatory for everyone to attend that starts after the store closes and lasts several hours into the night/next morning.  I'm not in college so I don't do all nighters anymore.  You got a shift differential for working but it didn't matter, I'm not sure how much money it would take to make it tolerable but what they offered wasn't enough.

Working the fitting room was probably the most degrading.  Women would try on countless items, fling them at you when they were done and demand to see something else or alternate sizes.  When they were finished more than half bought nothing and you were left to clean up their mess.  Let me  be honest, I do not do laundry, I don't fold, iron, hang up or put away - that goes for my own wardrobe, husband and three kids.  So why the hell am I standing here putting away some strangers shit - again, you could say it was my 'job' and I was being 'paid' to do it - whatever, I don't want to keep repeating myself but you can't really call it being paid when you consider what the job really was.

The odd twist in all of this is that believe it or not I actually enjoyed part of it - I know, you didn't see that coming because this has literally been a rant of what a horrible experience retail work is.  What I liked about it was that at the end of my day it was done.  There were no 'to do' lists left for the next day.  When I was there I was 'all in' and the clock restarted the next day.  Having worked in corporate America for the last 20 years or so it was some what of a nice mental break to get away from the office bureaucracy and political bullshit.  However if you ever find yourself in this situation do not tell your fellow co-workers you were a VP at some bank and were settling for this until something better came along.  It was in very bad taste for me to do that and I didn't win anyone over.  But when it came to customers I could have won the academy award for acting like a kind, knowledgeable, helpful, fashionista, I even had regular repeats that came in to see me.  Sure I was exhausted and broke but I wasn't panicked or stressed. 

They offered me a full time assistant store manager position at a different location, the pay was ridiculous, the hours longer and the commute just as bad.  I accepted and then that something better came along so I never showed up for my first day.  To this day I have not stepped foot back in that store.

No comments:

Post a Comment