The Joys Of Working In Retail At Christmas

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

It’s that time of year again, Barker enlightens us on working in retail at Christmas and the struggles that come with it.

It’s Christmas, which means everyone is in a happy, jolly, positive mood – apart from one group of people. Those unlucky few who work in retail. Working in retail throughout the year is bad enough but Christmas in the retail business is THE WORST time of year, stupidly long shifts, overly difficult customers and ridiculous manager demands to do 120 things at the same time – these are just some annoying things sales assistants have to deal with. I should know. I’ve been there. So, if you’re about to send off your application form to get a Christmas job in a clothes shop or something, here are some things you need to be prepared for, taken from my personal experiences. And if you’ve worked in retail over Christmas, you may find this article very very relatable.

Customers.

When it comes to shopping at Christmas there are two different types of shoppers – those who are calm and collected and breeze through the stores like a pro, already having their mind set on what shops they’re going into, what they’re going to be buying and an ETA of when they’ll be back in the car, ready to go home. The other, more erratic, type are fast, angry and unforgiving in their shopping methods, adventuring out 48 hours before the big day to get a presents for everyone in their entire family. Leaving in their wake, a trail of crumpled t-shirts that they can’t be bothered to hang back up and squashed grapes stuck to the floor by their army of two-year-old children they’ve dragged along with them on this hellish expedition. These people are usually very impatient and scream various threats at you after you deliver the crushing news that you don’t have the shoes they’re after in stock and that they can order it in for tomorrow as suggested to them the last three times they came in. Many times I was met with the usual ‘I’ll bust your face up if you don’t have these is a size 6’ screamed in my face. Well we don’t have it so you can take your miniature feet and empty threats somewhere else, bruv. As you can probably tell, the latter types are the ones you will come to hate.

2. Management

If anyone is more stressed than us floor staff at Christmas, it’s the managers. With turnover figures to meet, employees to partially take care of and floor staff to belittle you wonder how they cope with the stress. You will see, they pile everything on us and leg it back to their cosy offices away from the battlefield which is the shop floor. Whilst understandable, this is very annoying as anyone in retail will tell you. So to compensate this, and even out the score, you respond by passing on any angry/mouthy customers to them so they can deal with it. That’s only fair, right? I’ve personally always struggled with obeying management. If they’ve worked their way up the ranks then there is usually an underlying respect between us as you’ve been there. But managers who’ve jumped right into the role and have never worked a day on the shop floor really grind my gears. How can you tell me how to do my job if I have more experience than you in this field? I don’t wanna hear about how you’re in a senior position to me and that I have to do what I’m told, go make your spreadsheets and redesign the Nike wall for the third time this month and leave me alone. Oh and I’m taking as many toilet breaks as possible, if I’m working for £5.50 an hour what do you expect ya cheapskates?

3. Music

This point is very personal to me. As most staff, but not customers, know, the music you hear when you walk into the shop is a playlist on a loop. The store I worked in had on average 13 songs in that playlist and got updated, well, never. Apart from one time of the year, Christmas. So when it hits the 1st of November (don’t ask me why) the happy, upbeat, Christmas music starts. That 13-track playlist is replaced by 5-6 of the most hideously annoying, cringey songs you expect to hear in your nans caring home. Little bit of maths here – each song is around three minutes, so that’s 15-18 minutes of Christmas songs in that playlist, divide that by the time in a shift, which is nine hours so 540 minutes and you’re looking at listening to that playlist a round-about total of 30-36 times a day. Which- as you can imagine – cemented my hate for Christmas songs even more so than before I took the job.

4. Kids

Unless you really have to, I dunno who thinks it’s a great idea to bring your ten children and four pushchairs into the store, arming all the little ones with sticky lollies and easily-droppable cans of coke, but it’s not. The store is barely big enough to fit in customers on a Christmas rush let alone the mini terrors running around picking up EVERY FRICKIN SHOE and placing it somewhere else in the store, or removing the footballs from the colour-coordinated order that you just carefully stacked into the appropriate holders. As well as being loud and annoying, having so many small children in the store can be a trip hazard, as parents let the kids roam free around the aisles, crawling on all fours through the dust and food stepped into the floor, probably by their slightly older siblings. This is worsened by the fact that you’re running around with boxes of shoes, sometimes piled 4 -5 high, trying to avoid stepping on their tiny heads as we battle our way through a sea of rowdy customers in search of that guy who asked to try every colourway of this Adidas Shelltoe in a size 10, and will probably end up not buying any of them.

4. Theft

As the shop is super busy over the festive times, the opportunity thieves emerge from the woodwork. These silent specialists have eagle eyes while watching staff movement in the store, carefully planning out which Armani t-shirt they’re gunna stuff into their carefully tinfoil-lined rucksacks that they’ve read somewhere will fool the sensors by the door (it doesn’t by the way). If the sensor goes off they’re brought back into the store to have their bags searched. Thankfully 99% of the time a security tag has just been left on somewhere or there’s a mini tag under the insole of a shoe, but sometimes they do a runner, in which case you jump into cheetah mode and give it the legs in pursuit. If they drop the merchandise more time you let them go, you’re only really after what they’ve stolen and the only reason I was chasing them is because I got paid extra depending on the worth of the stolen items, if the manager is feeling nice. So after all this you can imagine my attitude to getting searched EVERY TIME I leave the shop, having to lift up my trousers and top and do a full 360 in front of the camera to prove I don’t have a pair of bloody Air Max 90s under my jumper.

So please, if you’re going to do Christmas shopping in store this year instead of online, think of the poor souls serving you. Don’t rush out for gifts at the last minute, don’t bring your kids, don’t tell me how nice this music is and how it makes you feel jolly and please for god’s sake order in advance. Save us all the trouble.

Have you had amazing or awful experiences in retail that you want to share with us? Get in touch with us @rifemag

Interested in fashion? Check out this creative fashion course

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.