Don’t Forget, You’re Here Forever: The Reality of Retail Work

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Don’t Forget, You’re Here Forever: The Reality of Retail Work


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Everyone knows retail jobs are unpleasant.
Despite what may have once been promised by entry-level jobs, these jobs do not allow you to work up the ladder. They are dead-end, and often no-nonsense; sick days, personal days off, and lateness all slowly add up to a promise of being fired. Many cashiers aren’t given chairs, scheduling is hectic, and benefits are nonexistent. All these problems, coupled with a low wage and only a handful of hours, leads to being stuck in a soul-sucking poverty limbo.
One may argue that they shouldn’t be pleasant in order to coax workers into finding a better job, but with so many low-skill workers, oftentimes there are no other options. The hectic hours make it impossible to have another job or pay for more schooling, and when workers ask for different scheduling, they are ignored or have their hours cut as punishment. Entry-level positions do not lead to higher positions, and the skills obtained in retail are largely unimpressive. In a world where most jobs require a degree and the average retail worker is well into their 30s, it seems as though there is no way out.
There is one more problem of retail jobs that often gets neglected, however.
While the hectic, ever-changing schedules that make it difficult to have a second job or go to school often get criticized, the psychological aspect is hardly talked about.
While retail jobs are so often part-time, they hardly ever feel like it. When a schedule is inconsistent, it is an ever-present worry in the back of a worker’s mind. There is never the relaxation that comes with knowing that it’s Friday, because there’s always the looming threat of the next shift.
Two days off in a row are rare, and one can easily work over a week without any days off. While a company may have a policy to give workers two days off a week, if their days off for one week are Monday and Tuesday, and their next day off isn’t until the following week’s Friday, that makes for ten days straight of work.
Much of this work often leads to exhaustion because the schedules are close in hours. Take the dreaded ‘clopening;’ the term for closing one day, and then opening the next. How can a person relax after work, knowing that they only have eight hours to get home, eat, go to bed, and get ready before they have to be at work for another seven hours?
This is coupled with the fact that part-time jobs are all but a lie. There are no legal guidelines to constitute what is and isn’t a part-time job. Not only are ‘part-time’ workers working the same amount as many full-time workers are, but they’re unable to escape work and its stresses, even when they clock out.
It’s reminiscent of the plaque hung in Homer Simpson’s workspace when he was unable to leave his dead-end job: “Don’t Forget: You’re Here Forever.”