Perhaps it is with surprise that you read a sentence where I say that three years into my retail job, my experiences have been largely positive.
Retail work exists in its own little bubble, separated from the stresses of other jobs. Office workers like to laugh at it, mock it, act like it isn’t real work (and then complain when we don’t have the staff to find that product they desperately need), other people think we have the knowhow of everything in the store and the time to do every single thing they require of us. It’s a work environment with incredibly high levels of stress, an unbelievable amount of work to do (if you’re taking it seriously) and nowhere near enough time in which to do it.
It’s also one of the few jobs where a Christmas holiday consists of one day.
But despite all that, I really don’t have much negativity to report about it.
I’ve found over the years that people either don’t understand Christmas in retail or they have completely the wrong impression of it. They either don’t get why I can’t get Boxing Day off, or think that every day is hell on earth. The truth is Christmas in retail is just like every other time in retail, just ever so slightly busier.
And my title is true, it’s all fun and games until Boxing Day.
The day after Christmas is easily the worst day ever to be working in a store. Customers turn into feral animals, grabbing at every single item they can – whether they want it or not – desperate to sink their teeth into something they see as a bargain. Handbags at dawn (almost literally with the queues at some shops) become a regular occurrence and if you dare bring a trolley loaded with stock onto the floor, you can’t expect it to remain full for longer than a minute.
Indeed, once I brought out a bin full of Dove products, only to almost create a riot and have to have the security guard chaperone me just to be able to put them out on the shelf.
The 26th of December is an extreme, the horror of humanity. The first, and I stress only, time where I truly understand why people hate people. I’m not someone who sees a problem with consumerism, but the sheer amount of it on Boxing Day is enough to make you stop and think.
The funniest thing about Boxing Day is when customers still hold you personally responsible for not having a particular item in stock. Yes, I’m very sorry that 300 raging monsters got to your must have gift set before you could. I tried to stop them, reminding them all that you were coming but they just wouldn’t listen.
And that is the extent of my negativity.
Because the majority of my customers are wonderful, interesting and thoughtful people. They understand that my time is limited, and don’t get mardy when I can’t immediately help them or when another customer butts in. They appreciate that I might not know everything about everything we hold in store and get the principle that we actually do physically sell out of some stuff.
I’ve genuinely had some wonderful conversations and experiences with customers, especially around Christmas time. Most people want to talk about what they’re buying and who they are buying it for and have a story about it, aren’t just buying stuff on a whim. If you give them the time to treat you as more than just a puppet (or worse, a butler), they usually respond in kind. Yes, I’m not stupid – there are people who treat you worse than dirt on their shoe – but they genuinely are few and far between.
And then the work itself is easy, and once it’s done you don’t have to think about when you get home. Experiences remain with you but the massive advantage to working in retail as a humble customer assistant rather than a manager is that you don’t have a million things to think about once you get home. It does make up for the lack of holiday, long hours and late finishes.
And I’ve been where I am now for long enough that most managers trust me and have certain expectations of me, but let me get on with my job without too much interference. That’s genuinely rewarding and worth all the effort I’ve put into it.