The people you work with
Whenever anyone asks me what the best part of working in retail was, I always say it’s the people. There’s just something to be said about having a shared experience with people that understand what you’re going through. I once compared working in retail to being a soldier in the trenches during WW2. You know that your situation is shit and depressing, but at least you can find the small moments of joy in that situation with your mates. Except we weren’t being bombarded with artillery or suffering from trench foot. I did once get a nasty cardboard cut though.
Being asked to go home early
Ah, the bittersweet moment when you are asked if you’d like to go home early to save on hours. You don’t even think about it, “YES, of course I’d like to go home early!”. It’s the best feeling in the world when you get to escape from that building earlier than planned. Even though you know you’ll regret it in 30 days time when your wages are shit and you have to live on Pot Noodles and reduced-priced bread for the rest of the month.
Friendly and respectful customers
Every now and then you’ll meet a customer that actually treats you like a human being. And if your supervisor leaves you alone long enough, you might even get a decent conversation out of that customer. Moments like this help to break up the drudgery of working in retail and remind you that you’re more than just a polyester-clad pet food stacking machine. Of course, these customers are few and far between. Savour them when you meet them!
Developing valuable soft skills
So working in retail has many drawbacks, but as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All those confrontations, forced interactions and problem-solving moments will help you build up an arsenal of soft skills. If you don’t know what soft skills are, they are essentially foundational life skills that can’t be learned from a book. You have to get out there and experience stuff and learn from those experiences – good and bad. These soft skills in communication, conflict management and organisation will set you up for life. So much so that I actually believe that everyone should work in retail for a few months, just to gain them!
Being able to switch your brain off
Did you know that Einstein once got a job in a mail sorting office, just so he could amuse his body with trivial tasks while his mind worked on complex physics? Retail is a bit like that, except you’re probably not attempting to figure out the secrets of the universe. But you are probably thinking about a million other things you’d rather be doing while you mindlessly stack those shelves. I actually found this quite therapeutic. Being able to just busy myself with a task while I switched off into a daydream. I wish I could do that now that I work in an office!
Let’s face it, even with companies going out of business, pandemics and god knows what else, there’s always going to be jobs available in retail. People are always going to want to buy stuff from stores and someone will have to answer their stupid questions and prevent them from getting run over by pallets of Diet Coke. That’s where you come in, you’ve got a job for life if you want it!
And finally, as long as you don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the politics or career aspects of working in retail, then it’s just easy money. Especially if you have the free time to work extra hours and come in on your days off. The company and management will love you for it. And as long as you’re savvy about how you work and ensure you don’t get burned out, you can just watch the cash roll in.