I honestly don’t know how to start on this subject. My last few attempts have come out as the same plain bitching and disbelief I share with those in my line of work daily. It has really become a running joke with us, how many times in a single shift that we end up asking, why?
Why did they decide to hide a pound of butter in the dark corners of the shelf in shoes? Then discovered shortly after that, why did some asshole steal a pair of shoes leaving their worn and disgusting pair in the box? Why do we have a coffee shop in store when, despite all the trash receptacles around the floor, people leave half finished sugar laden drinks all over?
All of this happens usually within fifteen minutes of starting my work for the day, but in truth is less than half of the questions I ask in that amount of time.
The simple point is that working in retail sucks. It is a beyond thankless and dehumanizing job that most people have no respect or understanding of. Yet one they will easily compare to such vital services as nurses and doctors and paramedics and other emergency responders. At least when it comes to Black Friday.
I shit you not, this is how my retail Christmas season begins. I dare to post something simple as a reminder to be polite and kind to those in the retail world who are missing out on family time because of cooperate greed. Then my feed floods in with counters about how there are many out there working the holidays in nursing homes and hospitals, and they never bitch about it.
These people forgetting the fact that I was raised by a woman who worked as a nursing home cook for fifteen years, and that for many years we had to put a hold on Christmas until she could come home from cooking and serving them breakfast. I know what it’s like to open presents in front of a comatose mother who is too burned out by double shifts to care.
The difference that these people seem to miss entirely though is that my mother was vital to the survival of her residents, as are the first responders and hospital staffers of the world. Having a young mother behind the register at midnight just so you can be the first in line to buy some watered down yet marked up piece of crap is NOT vital to yours or anyone else’s survival.
You may think it’s grand fun and such a rush that it’s all inconsequential. But that young mother you’re harassing because your hot new toy isn’t ringing it at the price you want, she is close to tears worrying about her daughter. She couldn’t get someone she trusted to watch her because the store failed to schedule her on the shift she requested.
This young mother had to send her only child to a family member she doesn’t trust because there is no other way around it. The store would not reschedule her to a better shift, and it’s instant termination for anyone who calls out on Black Friday. Even if you are legitimately sick you better be in behind that register to wait on the customers.
Would it seriously be so bad if these Black Friday hounds came for an opening at eight am instead? It could still be an event, go to Denny’s for breakfast and make your battle plans before getting in line at some ungodly hour, then shop at a humane time of day. I know our cooperate masters want us to believe that shopping and spending our hard earned money is a life-sustaining act, but it really isn’t.
And really, me as myself, I don’t care that much about opening at midnight. I get that for those on the other side it is a fun event like the midnight release of a Harry Potter, and there are those on my side that have fun with it too. And since I have no real family to spend thanksgiving with, nor children to worry about, working at opening is fine for me.
What I do care about though is the fact that there are people out there that see this one day as so terribly important that there are real life people in my own store that are struggling just like I mention above. There are people who aren’t like me and have families that they want to spend time with, who might only be getting together for this one day. But because they work in retail just like me, they have no choice.
This is why the people behind the register as you walk in deserve your absolute respect and kindness. Every one of us is there due to circumstances you will never know, and there is no call for you to look down on us because you might believe retail is a skilless job (hint: it is a highly skilled job in fact, that no one is able to pick up upon walking in the door).
And far aside from what either of us thinks of the other, everyone deserves basic kindness and consideration. I treat every ‘guest’ I meet as a real and important human being with a story and a reason for acting as they do. I don’t think it is so unreasonable to expect the same treatment in return.