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  • Writer's pictureLauren Kruse

8 Reasons everyone should work a retail or service job at some point in their life

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

This right here is one of my biggest belief systems in life. I feel this so deeply in my bones I cant even begin to express it. But I am going to try!

Ask any retail or service worker out there and I guarantee they would agree with this statement. Why you may ask? Because people can be a-holes and retail work aint easy. Here are my 8 reasons why every human should work a retail or service job at some point in their life:

1. Because, holidays.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year"...unless you work in retail and that consists of longer hours, grumpier customers, and minimal to no time off. While the rest of the world is travelling and visiting family members across the country, retail workers are typically in what the retail world refers to as a "black out period". This usually consists of a time frame from early November through the new year and means that there is absolutely no requesting off for vacation or personal leave. While all of your friends are hopping from one holiday party to the next and doing fun weekend events, retail workers are putting in their longest days on Saturday and Sunday and mostly too dam tired at the end of a shift to do anything but go home and crash. So understand people, sympathize, and when you're standing in a long line that takes forever because it's the holidays and the entire world is out shopping last minute, don't take it out on your check out person. They are just trying to get through the season. Smile. Be kind. Spread the holiday cheer.

2. Because people will return freaking anything.

One of my longest retail stints was with a company that is widely known for their forgiving return policy. Mostly because they barely have a policy at all. But I know this sentiment is shared with retail workers all over. Look people, have some shame. I mean truly. When I worked retail, I saw everything returned from dead Christmas trees in February, to 10 year old stained mattresses, to air. Yes, air. Because the customer could not be bothered with bringing in the filet that tasted funny, so they threw it out, came into the store, and received a $50+ refund for returning NOTHING. Here's the thing- I return things. But I don't abuse the system and I don't take advantage. Also, follow the process. Do not come in with no receipt, an item from a completely different store, or a fake attached tag safety pinned on the dam shirt reeking of perfume and claiming you never wore it. We see you, return abuser. We see you.

3. Because people can be a-holes

Man, is this true. I will tell you one thing I learned from working so many years in retail. Be nice. Be nice to the person scanning your groceries. Be nice to the server taking your order. Be nice to the deli man packaging your meat. For the most part these are hard working, honest people doing work that is typically not physically easy and dealing with all different  moods and personalities from all different people. Don't get me wrong- there are the people you come across that are not great at what they do. I get it when you want good service. But don't take it out on the check out lady because you're running behind and she is ringing up a line of five people before you. It is not her fault. Be nice people. Smile. Thank them for their work. I pretty much give EVERYONE across the board the benefit of the doubt when I am a consumer because I know what it's like to be on the other end.

4. Because it hardens your soul.

Okay, that sounds a little dark. But I swear it's true. Working with the public, you encounter every kind of situation imaginable. From the bickering couple, to the complaining customer, to the enraged person in line that is trying to pick a fight with the person in front of them. You see everything. Sometimes you are left putting out a fire and trying to calm a situation. Other times you play the role of therapist to the repeat customer who over shares their life but finds comfort in your familiar face. You can calm down the guy who read the coupon wrong and still wants a refund. And you do this dance every. single. day. Because people are weird and crazy and nothing teaches this to you like working with the public. Yes, it hardens your soul slightly but dam you don't rattle easy now! When I entered into other business ventures I felt so empowered to handle any type of situation solely based on my retail experience. There isn't much that could make me blink an eye after some of the things I have seen in retail.

5. Because you can fake it until you make it.

Retail can truly teach you how to put your chin up and paste a smile on your face. Because here's the deal- you do not have a cubicle to hide in and cry. You can not close the office door and wallow in your sorrows or just be tired or pissed off. Your office is the people. And the people don't care if you just broke up with your boyfriend or got in a fight with your mom. You have maybe a 15 minute break every couple of hours. So what do you do? You paste on a smile, you fake it until you make it, you throw that chin in the air and go about your day. Boom.

6. Because you learn multiple trades in one position.

Marketer? check. Just about every retail worker has had to promote some type of offer or incentive that their store is running. Whether you are having to push a product, sell an upgrade, or hit a certain number of promotions, you learn to market and sell just about anything while multitasking whatever your actual retail position is.

Janitor? check. There's a spill in aisle 10! You're closest to aisle ten? Well, grab a mop and head out onto the floor and clean up that mess! You enter into the restroom with your name badge on and there's an overflowing toilet? Well, you've just been spotted as the employee that works there, so roll up your sleeves and get to plunging, buddy!

Therapist? I touched on this briefly, but customers share the weirdest things with retail employees. They talk about their day, their problems, they share personal details and grievances. And you are in customer service! So you listen, and nod, and maybe even add in your two sense.

7. Because patience is a virtue.

Like, seriously. Whoever came up with this saying must have been in retail at some point in their life. You practice patience while the person who has been standing in line for five minutes to make a return finally makes it to you and all of a sudden remembers where they are as they begin to dig through their purse to find their receipt and whatever it is they're returning. But you stay patient.

You practice patience as the man on the phone continues his overly loud conversation, too distracted to realize you've finished ringing up his order and you need him to insert his debit card, please. :)

You practice patience as you walk around with your name badge on with your company logo in extra large print and a customer stops you to say "Excuse me, mam, do you work here?" COME ON PEOPLE! But, guess what? You stay patient!! 

8. And lastly...because..character building

At least it dam better! This is all my mother told me when I would call her after a shift and complain about what crazy person I encountered or what insane shift I had to work next. "Missy, this is all building character". Well you know what, at the age of 32 now and a decade of retail work under my belt, I can assure you this was true. Retail work taught me how to work hard for usually not a ton of cash, thus teaching me the value of a dollar. I learned how to respect others now in any position everywhere I go and put myself in others shoes. Mostly, it taught me to appreciate all that people do in their day to day and even more so when they can do it with a smile on their face. If that isn't character, mom, I don't know what is!

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