I’ve worked in a camping and travel store for the last four years, and I’m starting to get to that point. On my good days, that point is when I’m contemplating selling everything I own and moving to Mexican freedom. On my bad days, that point is when I plot the gruesome murder of my customers and co-workers. The thing is, retail sucks. It does. It blows goats. It sucks because you’re paid an exceptionally meagre amount to be everything from a child minder, to a counsellor, to a life coach, to a waiter, to a clairvoyant, to a travel guide. All while maintaining a happy disposition and ensuring the most pointless of tasks are carried out with great care.
Its like being Cameron Diaz’s personal assistant, without any of the celebrity parties or access to Justin Timberlake’s phone number.
The other day I was hiding out behind the counter when a guy came in with his young son. The kid would have been around eight years old. The dad goes off to look at tents or something, and his kid is just sprinting around my store. He’s pulling shit off hangers, he’s messing up displays, all round he is having a fantastic time. After I chatted with his dad, and respectfully asked that he control his fucking child, the kid went and sat on a blow up couch and waited it out. It was only after the two of them left the store that I noticed a wet patch on the ground. A wet patch that waterfalled upward and into a small puddle in the middle of the seat where the kid was.
The fucker had pissed on my couch and then just got up and strolled out the store like it wasn’t no thing.
If their kids aren’t pissing on my furniture, then their parents tend to be extraordinarily concerned with stuff they have no idea about. I had an upset mum get irate at me because I told her the cheapest sleeping bag in the shop might not keep her kid warm. She had no idea where the kid’s camp was, or what time of year he’d be there. Sadly, my telepathy is off-line these days, and I’m all out of tea-leaves to predict the weather. But maybe run your magnifying glass over the school issued camp form, before you come in and berate random shop assistants. Could be some clues there, Sherlock!
Customers also have no ability to dissociate me, from every other wing of the company; design, manufacture, corporate policy, and the list goes on. I had a lady get personally angry with me as a human being because of her inability to set the combination on her combination lock. She was livid, that I, the complete physical embodiment of the company, who crafted this product with his bare hands, would make it so hard for her to use. “It’s a test!” I said, “To see who is deserving of the golden combination lock! The true prophet!” Surprisingly, she didn’t that funny.
And from the other side you have management. Now, management are just trying to do their jobs; they’re trying to keep their staff from messing around on YFH all day, and keep customers from complaining. They just want the ship to run smoothly. The problem is, it’s part of their job to make you care about shit that really doesn’t matter. To anyone. Ever. Like all the straps on every backpack being perfectly, symmetrically, neatly tied up. Who the fuck has ever bought (or not bought) a backpack because of how neat the straps were tied up. I mean, since 50 Shades has gone galactic you would think that any loose strapping is now kind of sexy! Sadly not.
Despite all of this, I actually believe retail has made me a better person. Because it gives you an entirely new appreciation of people who work in similar jobs. I was buying jeans the other day, and folded them up after trying them on and put them back where I found them. The sales girl behind the desk nearly welled up. It gives you an alarming realisation of how crap most people behave in shops and cafes round the nation, and a deep desire never to be anything like those fuckers.
Written by Patrick Cullen.