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December 2013

Re(al)-tale: Two Weeks Notice

I turned in my notice today at my retail job and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only do I get a new job with better pay and benefits, but it’s actually a major step toward my career goals in life. It’s also not retail, so I won’t have to deal with customer service. Hall-a-fucking-lujah.

An interaction I had with a pair of customers today summed up my entire retail experience, or how I’ve begun to feel about consumerism and “low-paid” jobs.
I was helping this pair at one register and next to me my co-worker was dealing with a typical complaining customer. I didn’t hear all of it, but if it was like 90% of the crap we hear I’m sure the customer was blaming my coworker for sale signs that weren’t to her liking. It’s funny when I get blamed for corporate marketing campaigns. Do people really think I have to power to change a promo or policy? They must for them to call me the things they do.

Anyway, the customers I was helping looked over and cringed at the rude woman having a fit over what was probably a $2 savings. They looked at me and I kind of shook my head and shrugged, continuing to ring them up. One of them said, “Just keep saying, ‘I love my job I love my job I love my job.'”

They both laughed a bit at that and I did too, but I replied, “Actually, I turned in my two weeks notice today because I got a job at [insert major broadcast company here] so I will love my job.”

The couple became quite and one of them said something that made me realize he was interpreting my statement as false. It reminded me of when parents say, “Sure honey, sure you’ll get to go to Vegas this weekend with your friends. We’ll see.” As if he didn’t really believe me.

I looked at him and repeated, “No, really. I started my paperwork today. I’m working for [major broadcast network].”

Up until that moment they had both been pretty genial customers. Talkative, laughing and polite. It was like I broke a rule by letting them know that I didn’t have to “love” my job. I didn’t have to stay at a low-paying profession. I didn’t have spend the rest of my life listening to pop songs on repeat. I didn’t have to put my high aspirations aside. I didn’t have “love” the rude customers I got on a daily basis.

And worst of all, I didn’t have to pretend anymore.

I think this interaction speaks volumes about how retail workers are viewed by those that haven’t worked retail. People assume we aren’t going anywhere. People assume that rude customers are all part of the job. People assume we have to put on the face of corporate complacence. All of these things perpetuate the way people actually treat retail workers.

If we all assume that rude customers are part of the job, then aren’t we, in a small way, saying that that is acceptable behavior toward the employees? Why aren’t we more shocked by retail horror stories? Why aren’t we outraged?

I don’t know. I’m sure my last two weeks will bring about more insights, but I’m glad I worked retail, even if it wasn’t for a full year. I’m glad I could say I actually know what it’s like to be on that side of the register.


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