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Retail Work: Benefits and Hardships

By Jared Gendron
On February 15, 2019


I doubt there is a person in the country that has a cashiering position and avidly enjoys their job. That isn’t to say we all detest it; I’ve held multiple customer service positions through my adolescent years and I currently have a part-time cashiering job (full-time when not in school). There are some hurdles that innately come with the job, but it is far from the worst job in the world. In fact, there are many aspects of retail work that I am grateful I have experienced. I feel that if you were to be put in this position it could alter your perception of work environments and how you want to proceed further in your college career.

Talking to people nonstop is suffocating

There have been times where I literally feel I don’t have a moment to ground myself and take a deep breath. Humans are social creatures. That being said, constantly greeting and ringing out people one after another can be draining, especially once beginning such a job. When I first started the job I have currently, I felt like I was held to a standard where I had to be peppy and “faux” with everybody. Later on I realized this is a waste of mental energy. That’s why when you think of the typical young person at the register they seem apathetic or disconnected from customers; it’s because this nonstop social interaction is draining. Personally, I try to be as casual as I can be with my customers. This way I can let them know I’m just a person, I’m doing my best at my job and that I can be relatable. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to maintain appearances. Be polite but don’t be fake; this is the main lesson to learn.

You work with people you don’t normally interact with in outside life

    This kind of goes without saying but you don’t choose who you work with. So whoever your colleagues end up being you better get along with one another. Humans are judgmental. I might go into a job, get one glance of a person and think to myself “I have to work with this person?” That’s an extreme mindset to have and is one of the reasons why I think retail workers have it tough sometimes; customers ostracize you for your looks and position. It doesn’t even need to be any action you did that offended them. Some people are just not good customers and it’s one of the reasons why the job is draining, which is that people don’t recognize that we’re humans with feelings that are performing a task and not miscreants. When you work with people with different backgrounds, you begin to form a professional relationship with these people. As a result, you exercise real-world empathy and collaboration, a skill you will begin to apply in other aspects of your life.

You do better in school and prioritize your free time

    I currently work with an older mother over in Bristol. She has a PSU college graduate daughter, and the one advice she has given me is to use my experience as a retail worker to stay in school. She means this in the best way possible of course; she doesn’t hate her job and she isn’t encouraging me to loathe any aspect of it either. The message she’s trying to send is that college is about fermenting certain skills and talents so kids can move into a career field that applies their hard-earned training. I use my time working in retail to invigorate my artistic desires. You’ll have limited time to do it after all. Once you finish an eight-hour work day on the weekend, don’t just go home and take a nap. Use it to further your ambitions. Prioritize your time so you can get the most out of your day despite having to work for a good chunk of it. If you aren’t happy with your job then you aren’t forced to stay. Use it to motivate you to want more. If you want to paint instead of flip burgers, think about what long-term decisions you can make, but also don’t forget you need to support yourself.

Some customers are just crazy and it’s hilarious!

This is isn’t a life-skill but it’s funny nonetheless. Retail establishments are visited by everybody; the homeless, the middle-class, Barack Obama because he forgot to buy cheerios to eat in his limousine. All social classes are welcome, and many of these people have colorful personalities that make for interesting social interactions. To paint a couple of examples, here are a couple of personal interactions that stood out to me.


Me: “Did you want a bag for that?”

Middle-aged male customer: “Nah, I divorced her.”


*Mid-twenties male purchases a bottle of spray deodorant* “Thanks, I’m gonna spray this all over me.” *Sprays the deodorant all over his upper-torso in front of the register. Starts coughing excessively for at least twenty seconds. *


*Extremely excited middle-aged man comes to the register with a Halloween decoration* “My son is going to love this! He’s autistic.”

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