I have worked in retail for the past three years, and let me tell you – it’s not easy. It’s not just folding clothes and dealing with customers; it’s organizing, cleaning, dealing with Karens, meeting certain requirements given by managers, and much more. All this was pre-pandemic; so, you can only imagine what else retail workers have to go through.
Working retail in a pandemic was definitely not something I ever thought I would be doing when I applied for the job.
I dreamed of quitting this job for years but never did because it was my primary source of income. Working in retail also gave me a flexible schedule, especially as a college student. When we opened back up during the pandemic, I was clocking in nearly 40 hours a week on minimum wage. My paychecks have never looked this good in my whole entire life. It almost made working in the middle of a pandemic worth it. Almost.
With the pandemic and social regulations in place, especially in New Jersey, requiring everyone to wear a face mask, you would assume that it was more enforced. There were posters all over the mall and stores itself reminding customers of the rule.
Yet, despite all this, there are still customers that come in without any form of protection or facial covering.
However, we can’t blame just the customers. We also need to blame management within the store. The only two positions where we could remind customers of the policy were at the front as a greeter or if we were in the fitting room. We weren’t allowed to remind them on the floor or even up at the registers. We could not say anything to customers at the register, where we typically spend five to twenty minutes with one customer.
Working retail in a pandemic is already a struggle in itself. But it makes it even worse when you have to deal with terrible customers.
As a customer, there are very easy and simple things you can do to make life easier for retail workers working in a pandemic.
Be nice to retail workers
We understand that it can be a little difficult to breathe with masks on. With the sudden influx of hours, working in retail in a pandemic requires us to wear masks for over five to nine hours a day. So we understand. It’s not very easy to hear either, so we are asking that you speak a little louder and clearer any way you can. It’s frustrating and annoying, but if we can be nice, especially after dealing with some nasty customers, so can you.
Despite stores being open for a couple of months now, we are still getting the hang of things. It’s not easy to adjust to this new world and we know it is frustrating. We are just as frustrated, especially when we have to do things we didn’t have to do before the pandemic.
A side note: it is not our fault when lines are long, especially on the weekends at peak hours. Don’t ask us for shortcuts because we are already doing the best we can in the situation.
Don’t be a “Karen”
The main issue I have faced when dealing with customers is about returns. Certain stores will be taking returns pre-pandemic and will do whatever they can to help you get your money back. But without a receipt (physical or emailed copy), the card you paid with, or any other information, we could only do so much.
Please stop arguing with retail workers
If we are wrong, we are wrong. We will make sure to do whatever we can to bring you satisfaction. There are certain things we can and cannot return and we make sure to let you know beforehand. If an item is final sale, it is final sale (especially masks), regardless of whether or not you bought it five minutes ago or two weeks ago.
We ARE sorry we cannot meet all your expectations, but there are only so many rules retail workers can bend to best fit your needs
We have certain rules that we must follow, especially when it comes to returns and exchanges. We cannot risk losing our jobs to make you happy. I’ve had several customers berate and yell at me for things beyond my control. There were nights I would come home after a full shift and spend a couple of minutes crying in my car because of how terrible the day was. We try our best to do our job most of the time. What we don’t deserve is to get yelled at because things didn’t go your way.
Something I’ve realized throughout this pandemic is that management — at least in my store — does not care enough about their workers. You would assume that management would do something more to protect themselves and their workers. But I was extremely disappointed by this fact.
After three years of working in this job, I’ve realized that I don’t have it in me to keep working in this field. Not only was it difficult to grow in this job, but I also did not deserve to still get paid minimum wage with the number of years I’ve put in. I, along with my coworkers, was also not getting paid hazard pay, yet management allowed customers in without a mask.
It’s not fair. It’s not right. And I’ve finally put my foot down.
I’m not saying that this is the reality for every retail job. My experience is my own. It does not reflect on anyone else’s. However, many people have had similar experiences and it is not worth it to me. Retail is a good option for a temporary job, especially as a college student. However, personally, I never want to do retail ever again with the experiences I’ve had the past two months.
What we all need to remember is that we’re all in this together. We are all living through an unimaginable and serious pandemic together. The most we can do is be kind to one another.