The Insanity of Working in Retail

This is not an overreaction, but working in retail led to the worst time of my life.

I worked in a high street shoe shop in my university town for three months in the summer between my first and second year, and although it did help me grow as a person and grow my skills, it literally led me to rock bottom. There were issues between the manager and the customer assistants, there was a heatwave going on and even though I’d heard all the stories, I didn’t believe how insane some customers could be.

Although working in retail was awful, I did get some really good stories out of it and I thought I’d share some with you.

The shoes all had specific names and colour schemes and we had to refer to each shoe by its specific name and colour. This often led to having to correct the customer and pretentious sentences like ‘So you’d like to try on the Donna in dark teal, miss?’

During this summer we had a major heatwave going on in the UK. Luckily for us, our shop was air-conditioned so a lot of customers came to us! Unfortunately, the heat also meant that as they were walking, people’s feet would get very hot and sweaty, which was not pleasant for anyone. The worst time was when one lady came in with mud encrusted flip-flops on, and proudly announced to everyone that she hadn’t washed in three weeks! It took three of us to chisel her flip flops off with a shoehorn.

Our shoes were designed for older people and were recommended by chiropodists a lot of the time, which was advertised on our shop front, but we still had people coming in asking for children’s shoes at least once a week. We’d also have customers come in with small children who we’d have to help discipline as they’d throw shoes around and try to hit people.

There are a lot of markets in my university city, at least 3 weekly. When it was a Saturday, the food market would be along the high street. The fish stall was already right outside and it stank! Of course, every customer would make one of three jokes…

And lastly, my favourite story. One day a lady walked in by herself. She was quite  nervous and unsure about coming into the shop at all, which wasn’t helped as one of my coworkers refused to help her. I immediately volunteered, and spent nearly an hour helping her pick out and try shoes. She was so happy that she could get stylish and feminine shoes which were also comfortable and were available in a larger size. After we had finished, she left with three pairs of very pretty shoes with tears in her eyes and hugged me before she left. That was the highlight of my retail experience; helping someone who needed a smile.

So those are my best retail stories. What are some of yours?

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