The internet is currently infatuated with the Tumblr account of a freshly hired retail clerk and his adventures during his first week of employment at Target. And that’s great. People who work in retail often find themselves planted on the front lines of entitlement, rudeness, and bizarre behavior. It’s good that this Tumblr highlights the reality of the ridiculousness that retail workers face. It’s even better that the author is so unflappably optimistic and bright-eyed about his new job. But… it’s been a week, and a lot of these stories are par for the course and adorable when compared to what retail clerks have to endure over a long period of time.
I put in almost five years in my early ’20s working for three separate retailers. That’s a long stretch, but it’s a pittance compared to lifers whose souls have been toughened by the fires of repetitive verbal abuse, weirdness, and low pay. In short, I got out in time (with valuable customer service, conflict resolution, and managerial experience as well as friends that are a part of my life still) and I’ve got stories that, while reflected upon with bemusement (and then eventual amusement), may horrify a fair bit more than those on Target guy’s Tumblr. Because like quicksand, working in retail punishes you more the deeper you get.
— On one of my first days running a register, the hooks on a small bag rack rub against my pants and eventually break my zipper. 19 and frightened, I go to Human Resources and beg to go home early.
— I ring up cheap lingerie for an unrequited childhood crush who I hadn’t seen since junior high graduation when she shattered my affection for her by vocally objecting to a handicapped girl getting a spot on the honor roll. I inadvertently make it weird by letting her know that we went to school together whilst bagging her bangin britches.
— I take back a used toilet seat, mark it as damaged, and then proceed to push it into a shopping cart by using the handle of a broom. Two colleagues have to help me. There were many gross things that were returned but this represents the gold standard.
— I encounter a cart guy who almost certainly sh*t his pants mid-shift. There are visible stains.
— I’m forced to cover the front end and service desk because some of my co-workers have just been led out of the store by security for shoplifting. One of them offers me a big thumbs up on her way out the door. I admire her optimism still. Minutes later a cashier alleges that she was slapped in the face by another associate over a coupon.
— I am assaulted by an old woman who practically runs me over with her shopping cart because I refuse to give her a sale price on a garden hose.
— A woman came in to return less than $5 worth of merchandise during a full blizzard and then promptly left.
— A drunk customer takes a tour through the store with his family and insults several employees before discovering me on the front end. He gets in my face and calls me a “Fat f*cking f***ot.” I kick him out of the building telling the people with him to, “Get him the f*ck out of the store” while shaking like a leaf for fear that I’m about to get dropped.