"'There's a huge cultural barrier there. They [the buyers] make
a fortune whereas the poor sod standing for eight hours in the store
is making no money. This is the challenge we have--we pay you like
crap, we make you stand there all day, customers treat you like crap.
Nobody cares about the associate! It's highly improbable that retail
will treat people as human beings.'"
Although I do not have the brightest of job prospects, where I
took a quarter century out to raise children and I failed the eyesight
test to become a licensed driver in two states, I have sworn if at all
possible not to work retail. I've heard all the horror stories. I
would much rather collect garbage than pin on the plastic badge of a
sales associate. I had only anecdotal evidence on my side until I
scooped up Caitlin Kelly's Malled: My Unintentional Career In
Retail. (The above quote is from a company's CEO she interviewed.)
It's a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating la vida retail.
Kelly had never dreamed during her successful journalism career
that she would stand on the other side of the counter. Then the
economy started to tank. Freelance work slowed down just as more
people competed for each assignment. A steady gig to supplement
income seemed like a pretty good idea.
Kelly started her job with an upbeat attitude. "...I liked
having a set routine, a good-looking, comfortable, free company
supplied uniform, and a break from my work as a writer. I loved
learning and perfecting new skills. I really enjoyed the variety of
customers and my friendly coworkers..."
As time wore on, her optimism was eroded by the countless
indignities and real dangers sales associates have to deal with, the
lack of opportunity to learn and move up the proverbial ladder, the
poverty wages, and the capriciousness with which higher ups throw
obstacles in their paths while demanding they meet their sales
quotas. Based on research as well as her own experience, she came to
the sobering conclusion that workers in retail are seen as a commodity
to be used, abused, and discarded since there will always be others to
take their place.
If you are contemplating working retail or if you want to know
just what it entails in our capitalist system, make sure to take Kelly
up on her invitation to step behind the cash wrap.
On a personal note, I know I am very lucky that my husband of over a
quarter of a century supports the family. I can't drive. Public
transportation is extremely limited. I am trying very hard to get a
day job in an area with limited prospects and abundant competition.
I'm also looking for odd jobs and freelance writing opportunities.
Just gotta keep on looking and believing.
A great big shout out goes out to the January Hathaway birthday boys:
my husband (17th) and my son (the 29th). Hard to believe my baby is
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod