Doing Time in the Breadline

This is Why Working in Retail Sucks

A couple of quick points to get out of the way: First, “working in retail” typically means standing behind a cash register, ringing up people while convincing them to sign up for high-interest rate department store credit cards. However, before it gets to that point, a ton of other people have to do their jobs in order to make that happen, like the manufacturer of the products, the inventory crew that sets the floor, the marketing people who advertise the product, etc. I think those “support” people, if you will, also work in retail. At the very least, that’s how I mean it when I refer to myself “working in retail.”

Second, working in retail sucks for many reasons and on many levels in ways that the average person who has not worked in retail can imagine. I’m not going to address those points here.

Working in retail sucks in a particular way right now because not a lot of people are buying anything. So imagine working for a company that makes expensive home luxury products like spas, gazebos and barbecue islands and you’ll find that your job is in jeopardy. It’s even worse now that it’s winter and sales for these products naturally slow down.

So that’s where I am: not quite in the center of a world of hurt, but quickly tunneling my way inward. It was bad enough when they took my salary status away from me a few months ago in order to have the option to cut my hours when work was slow. Yesterday, they took away my job security entirely.

The marketing department was called into a private meeting and we were told that we would be on a “we’ll call you if we need you to come in” basis, which was obviously alarming. We had all put in our time, done good work and gone above and beyond the call of duty. Some had come in and worked until three in the morning on their day off. Now we were thrown into a game of employment musical chairs where during the days the department was forced not to work one of us would be allowed to come in. Ridiculous.

Before we left for the day yesterday, our manager informed us that we should come in like normal and that we would only receive calls if we were not to come in. It’s the same situation, spun differently. It seems like it sounds better because we assume that people create situations that require the least work. In this case, it would be the situation that required less phone calls. We have to hope that there would be less phone calls involved in calling us in to work than not to. Either way, it’s a crap situation for the person picking up the receiver: me.

Fortunately, I’ve always been a curious person and lived with a DIY-mentality. So, being hands-on in different fields has made me resourceful in the job market. A friend of mine at work hooked me up with a Web developer friend of his and we’ve been building a Web site here and there, which is not only fun for me, but also pretty lucrative. I was walking into December thinking that I was going to be a whole paycheck ahead of the game, but now I might actually just break even or, worse, be a little behind. We’ll see.

Anyway, it’s 7 p.m. and no one’s called me so I guess I’m going to work tomorrow morning. I have a cynical prediction, however, that as I get there, they’ll tell me to go home. As far as I’ve been told, the law says they’re supposed to pay me half my shift if they do that, but I’ve never heard that from an actual lawyer or read it anywhere official. In any event, I need a new job.

Any leads?