Working in retail

I’ve been working in retail for almost 2 years now and with the Christmas season being the busiest time of year, it felt appropriate to write this blog post. Retail, for, englobes any job where you have direct, face-to-face contact with customers. So whether you’re working in M&S, Asda, Tesco, McDonald’s, Costa, PetsAtHome, H&M, your local shop or anywhere you have to deal with customers, I hope you enjoy this post and remember, we’re all in this (Christmas season) together.

A photo take on the first day of my first job – March 11th 2018, 4:16am

Hours

Depending on your location, your job, the time of year and the size of your store, you may be working few or many hours every week. Usually though, there are times when your employer is going to ask you to work extra hours in order to fill gaps in their schedule. This can be both a blessing and a curse – who doesn’t love making more cash? But then again, who enjoys working 10-hour shifts 5 days in a row? It is important to let your employer know if you don’t feel like you can take on any extra. If you go to uni, have a child, have a long commute, have hobbies or – God forbid – have a life outside of work, do not feel pressured to agree to work more. And don’t feel like you have to give an explanation. A simple “sorry, I can’t” is more than enough, no matter what your employer might say. I unfortunately made the mistake of taking extra hours over the holidays. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like it was expected of me. So I’ve been working 6 days in a row before my exam, had one day off for my exam and tomorrow I’m starting 4 days of 10-hour shifts (the amount of hours I would do in 2 full weeks). Lesson learned, let me tell you. Most importantly though, do not feel bad for not taking more hours. If they’re that desperate, they can hire someone new to help.

Juggling work and life

I work 20 hours a week, while also going to uni full-time, for which I have an hour-long commute. It can become a lot, especially if your job is stressful. No matter what you have going on in your life, outside of work, juggling your job while also attending to all your other responsibilities and not burning yourself out is a task and a half. It’s important to take a moment to think about your priorities in life: is it your job? Is it uni? Your family? Your hobby you’re hoping to pursue a career in? You choose what your priorities are. If your job is a stepping stool for you to go where you want to go in life, that’s absolutely fine. Sometimes when we get stressed out, it is often because we put too much into something that we don’t necessarily care that much about. It can help to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities.

Hard work

Working in retail is really demanding. You deal with so many different people every day, you often find yourself problem-solving – whether that be a missing order item or substituting a product – and it can be physically demanding. Your work ethic can also determine how hard you’re going to be working. I was speaking to my really good friend/colleague about how we both stress ourselves out when there is no need for it. I’m sure you can think of a few of your colleagues that don’t give as much energy when they’re working. Sometimes it can be good to follow their lead. If you’re getting yourself worked up, take a deep breath and slow down. You’re not the only one there and the place is not going to go up in flames if you slow down a little.

Christmas

The busiest time of year in retail and every retail worker’s nightmare. I personally love Christmas. I love the Christmas lights, decorations, music, the family atmosphere and giving presents to the people I care about. However, working in retail can ruin Christmas for you. It’s a very stressful time for everyone. Customers are anxious to get all their shopping done and people in retail have to make sure that all the shops are ready to handle the volumes of sales. Most retail workers will work very long days with very few rest days in the weeks leading up to the holidays. So it might be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but it’s hard work for everyone who has a job in retail. So be kind to any person you run into while doing your Christmas person. We’re all stressed so let’s at least be nice to each other.

Customers

The main part of working in retail is dealing with customers. You help them find what they’re looking for, you serve them on the till, you have a chat with them. I have had some fabulous interactions with customers. I was even offered an internship by one of the customers I served on the till. You quickly start to recognise returning customers and you start to form connections with some of them. On the other hand, some people aren’t the nicest to deal with. I was working a few days ago and woke up with bad anxiety. In the last half hour of my morning, a customer asked me if we had any Christmas cards and ended up letting his frustration out on me because our Christmas card selection was “very poor”. I’m usually able to brush off rude customers. It’s just part of the job. However, because I was having such a bad day, I cried as soon as I got home from my shift. If you’ve worked in retail. I’m sure you’ve got your fair share of stories, good and bad. To all customers out there, please be kind to staff. We’re trying to help you so if what you’re looking for isn’t there, if you’re in a bad mood or in a rush, please do not take it out on us.

Colleagues

When you work in retail, you come across people from all backgrounds that you might not normally interact with. After working somewhere for a while, these people can become your friends. You have chats and laughs with them, you deal with stressful days together and you almost become like a family. Granted, you won’t become best friends with everyone, that’s normal. But you will form a special bond with these people and you might even make life-long friends. So don’t be shy and befriend people. It will make work so much more enjoyable.


Working in retail, especially over the holidays, can be exhausting. But as my dear friend and McDonald’s worker told me, it’s important to leave work in work. Once you walk out, once you’ve finished your shift, leave the stress behind you and forget about work. There is no point in letting work stress determine the rest of your day and life outside of work. I have used the word “work” about 20 times in this paragraph so I think it’s time to end it here! I hope you have a lovely few days and I will see you very soon with new posts. I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for almost 2 weeks, but I was working loads and had assessments for uni. It’s all done now though so I look forward to writing quite a few posts in the next few days to make up for the lost time. See you soon friends, and thank you for reading this far!

Yours truly,

Maeve

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