Every job, every industry has idiosyncrasies – pros and cons – but I’d argue (tiredly, over a cup of black coffee with two add shots) that there isn’t anything worse than working retail during the holidays. I happen to have had the dubious pleasure of working at the King of Prussia mall – a “retail destination” – aka a really really big mall that most people get lost in, for 4 years. Book rush at a college with only one bookstore (looking at you Villanova) is pretty bad, frappy hour at a busy Starbucks comes close too, but in my biased opinion, Black Friday through to the second week in January at KOP mall is worse.
It’s not a week you can gird your loins for, or a few hours each day that you just have to keep breathing through. It’s a hellish day that you can never quite recover from, where the music keeps grating, and just when you think “it’s getting better!”, you get slammed with angry people returning things they didn’t want and who are pissed they still hate their families just as much as they did last year. (The week after Christmas? Unequivocally worse than the week before Christmas – which is filled with people looking to buy something, anything, and who then get angry with the sales people that things are out of stock. New Years Eve is the real celebration for people in retail – it’s almost over!!!)
Prior to this, I’ve found it hard to write about retail because I’ve been “stuck” in it so long. It’s been a self-imposed “stuck”, out of convenience, but it’s been too depressing to spend time writing about it when I’m living it. I usually just want to recover during my free time with Netflix, my dog, several warm blankets and a mug of something that may or may not be alcoholic. Before I got back into voice lessons, this season was THE season to smoke. Now I just get jittery with caffeine.
This year though – this could possibly be the last holiday season ruined by working retail. This thought is so painfully hopeful, I’m having trouble trusting it. It’s like an ankle injury that’s been hurting for so long, you don’t want to put your weight down too fast on it – just in case it rolls again. It seems like a fantasy that’s too perfect to be real. Like Santa, or a good book-to-movie translation, or a thoughtful and respectful presidential debate.
(Side note – can we just vote already and get this done? As much as I love watching the late night talk shows – let’s just do this please.)
If you’re reading this and thinking “what??? it isn’t even Halloween??” good for you. You don’t work in customer service. My store put up Christmas things last week, and we weren’t even the first ones I’ve seen.
Anyway, last holiday season in retail – thinking about it I get a turning in my stomach, and a painful leap of joy in my heart. So to my fellow customer service workers who aren’t out yet, here is my oath:
I hereby promise to never forget my roots; to always be nice to sales people, to never sell them out to their managers, to always try to make their day better, and to never never never never ask them to check the mythical back closet for hidden inventory.
So one last time, one last season. Before I retire to my vine and fig tree.
And fly to Ethiopia (!!!!!)
Here we go.