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I Need to Get Out of Retail

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

For the sake of preserving anyone's dignity involved in this, I won't name names or point fingers at specific persons, places, or things. However, there's a lot of people I love here, and with the devotion I put towards my job, I felt like I'd just put this out here.


For almost a year now, I've been working at a retail establishment as a salesperson. I've weathered plenty of turmoil, I've met some great people, and I've proven that I'm worth a damn. I've ascended from part-time to full-time recently, and I've garnered more and more responsibility and ambition along the way. Having just gotten out of college, I've kept it in the back of my head that this is not a career path, and I've been hanging in there.


Past my optimism, the sensation of intolerance has been growing insidiously. In short, I feel like I'm trapped in some kind of warped hybrid of Glengarry Glen Ross: rampant sniveling and opportunism, with the added insult of high-school-level archetypes who gossip and deceive. Lying through my teeth and playing the role of con artist to impressionable clientele to help achieve "the bonus." Leadership of which I've never seen in such an aberrant and unlikable manner, bullies and sociopaths who masturbate to the idea of perfection and financial gain.


They represent a gamut of personally deplorable qualities: a douchebag who never assimilated his flippancy into a tolerable, mature skin. Someone who's probably a nice guy, but has a hot-and-cold persona that's impossible to decode or tolerate. Another who abides the rules strictly but is insufferable in how he does it.


A few exceptions aside, my co-workers are a motley crew whose success is only skin deep and have no other ambition other than to make a living through sniveling and opportunism. One of them in particular is a comically aloof schmooze who plays like a human ED-209, a bull in a china shop that management loves so much that they forgive his pettiness because he makes the store money. Another is a good-hearted milquetoast who takes off one weekend a month to LARP. There's a few wide-eyed college kids, much like I was at first, who see it as a stepping stone but don't muster the enthusiasm the powers that be want, leaving my charismatic self to talk sense into them.


Recently, my dislike of it all has been awakened by a number of events and behaviors: increasingly condescending delivery of comments and tasks, idle threats, purported sexual harassment, desperation that ends up equating to poor business ethic, and more. A manager who's since left wanted to fire me in my first month because I didn't mesh well with him and had a different way of processing my job. Four months later, he still supposedly complained about me as "some new guy," then complained about how a pickup slip wasn't taped to something.


My response: "Are you saying I'm losing my touch over a piece of paper?"




This was management's golden boy, a spoiled brat who might as well benefited from nepotism. Easily the John Williamson of the whole thing, but now he's gone.


Another moment involved one of my other managers moping that a co-worker had sold a customer a lesser item than he should have over "the bonus," when they should have viewed it as inching closer towards a long-term goal.


Several employees have begun wearing Members Only-esque zip-up sweatshirts that have "The New Jersey Shore" on them, as if you'd want to be associated with planning in acronyms and fist-pumping debauchery.


The biggest clench, however, is that this month, management has decided to have a free-for-all sales "competition" where the highest sales of one of four teams will get a free lunch, which is after repeated ploys by them that we're not in a "commission-based" environment and "in this together" and using nonstop sports analogies. Today, one of the only co-workers I fully trust, and who's become a close friend, put in their two weeks' notice over the mockery and unprofessional demeanor they showed. I still need to find out the full story, but it involved denying a promotion when one wasn't being sought. That was the breaking point, which was met with a "you don't have to do this" response.


Mind you, this is probably great training for the real world, but I'm not in a shark tank yet. I'm in a small-time community pool that hasn't been cleaned, hinging on a green tint and filled with dead leaves and bugs. The management all came from a company that went out of business in the past few years, and the cracks show deep and clear. I've played this game, and I'm amazed at how much shit I've taken. The reality is, it's not a career choice for me. I'm only in it for the money, yet at the cost of sacrificing so much time that I could be writing during. That's where I want to succeed, and I'm struggling to not let this farce cut into that. At the very least, this will be easy to spin into my creativity, but at the moment, I'm burned out, and I'm at a loss at where to make myself feel cohesive.


Management keeps talking about how they want to have a meeting on professionalism. That's why I went to college, asshole.

post #2 of 25

No job is worth your sanity.  If you're feeling that shitty and unfulfilled, get out, but only after you have secured another job.


Not all retail is this horrific, though.  It depends on the organization and the location.  I have a friend who works for a big-time furniture chain as a salesperson, and she's very happy working there.  She makes great money, the people who work with her are friendly and helpful, and the customers are 90% easy to work with.

post #3 of 25


Retail. It ain't Hell...but you can see it from there.


I worked in retail for Blockbuster from age 16 to 21 and it was easily one of the worst experiences of my life. It was one of my first jobs & I didn't think that better jobs existed, so I stayed with it for 5 years. In that time, I'd reached the level of Store Manager & it was a $10hr/50-60 hour job, easily. Working with the public & dealing with inter-store politics is just dreadful.

Unless you REALLY enjoy it, retail is a dead end. Never stay in it more than you absolutely have to. GTFO, ASAP.

Edited by Art Decade - 3/2/12 at 6:54pm
post #4 of 25

I worked at Wal-Mart for three years. This site? All true.


Near the end of my time there, I finally snapped at a supervisor over getting kept overtime one time too many. She sent me to the store manager. He starts lecturing me about my gall for complaining, considering my "history" at the store. I find this pretty fucking confusing, since I am/was a goddamn model employee, no matter how shitty the customers/conditions are/were. Finally we figure out that he mixed me up with a different employee who had the same first name as me. So that goes to show how much they appreciate their big ol' happy family there.

post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post


Retail. It ain't Hell...but you can see it from there.


I worked in retail for Blockbuster from age 16 to 21 and it was easily one of the worst experience of my life. It was one of my first jobs & I didn't think that better jobs existed, so I stayed with it for 5 years. In that time, I'd reached the level of Store Manager & it was $10hr/50-60 hour job, easily. Working with the public & dealing with inter-store politics is just dreadful.

Unless you REALLY enjoy it, retail is a dead end. Never stay in it more than you absolutely have to. GTFO, ASAP.

I'll be starting my search for something more sane soon. For now, however, it's Conan's plight, but I feel more like this:


post #6 of 25

I feel for ya, Hunter. It sounds like a fucked place to work, and if it makes you feel any better I'm in a similar position having worked in call centres since I moved to Melbourne (About 3 1/2 years now). A lot of what you're saying about the politics and the people sounds very familiar though, and... Yeah. Fuckers aren't worth the stress. The problems with it cutting into your creativity has been EXACTLY what I've gone through, and have only recently started to get the energy up to write seriously again. I'm currently looking into other jobs, and it sounds like it's time for you to do the same. The good news is, you know you have to get out which means you'll never get sucked into it like a lot of your co-workers have. That's a good, good thing.

post #7 of 25

HunterTarantino, I worked in retail, and the song...Take This Job And Shove It, comes to mind for your situation.  Now, you should of course have another potential job, before that happens.  I hope all goes well for you.

post #8 of 25

With regard to shit jobs that cut into your creative life, any job that drowns out your existential reason to live needs to be abandoned, post-haste. Over the years, I've learned that in order to maintain a healthy balance, I've had to deliberately live in less than desirable apartments to lower the cost of living enough to where I don't have work 40-50 hrs a week JUST to survive.

I'll tell ya, preserving that bubble of time where you can work on your art makes it all worth it.

post #9 of 25

I was in retail management for 8 years before I got out.


GET OUT if you can.


post #10 of 25

I have to agree with everyone else, Hunter. Get out while you still have your sanity. Good to know you're already looking.

post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

My problem's been I've been internalizing. Can't thank you guys enough.

post #12 of 25

I worked for nearly three years at Target. I did almost a year at a deli which almost lead to a nervous breakdown.


Get the hell out of there, Hunter.

post #13 of 25

Working retail was one of the most depressing periods of my life.  I had decent enough co-workers, but the customers made me question humanity and the work was dull, repetitive and only well-paying enough to keep me afloat during school.  I know that some people manage to succeed and become the "lifers" that are content to stay with the business for their lives, but all I can recall is feeling like a useless cog in the machine who would die with unfulfilled aspirations.  When I got out, it was like a fucking exorcism -- the dark, dreary spirit of retail that made me feel like shit was lifted, and I felt better about my future prospects.


I managed to get by with reassurances that retail was a stepping stone, a means to an end, a way to have funds while I got through school.  As long as you don't believe for a single second that you will be doing this for the rest of your life, you should retain just enough sanity to keep a smile on your face and not have a nervous breakdown.

post #14 of 25

Oh good lord am I right there with everyone condemning retail. I won't name any names either but I recently worked for possibly the biggest cinema chain in the UK and it's an absolute joke. I saw so many people start working there and quickly hand their notice in as soon as they saw how awful it is and how incompetent the 8 (EIGHT!) managers of this one cinema are. I was in no position to do that but the decision was taken away from me the night I made an apparently unforgivable decision. 


So what happens when sweets/drinks reach their sell by date and haven't been sold is we damage them off and they get thrown away. Anyone who's dealt with food or stock control is probably aware of this. It doesn't happen that often but whenever it did the managers would usually help themselves and we'd have to bring it to the office so they didn't have to tire their poor legs going to fetch it. As far as everyone was concerned, once protocol had been followed and the stock had been replenished in the fridges, the sweets, cans, whatever were fair game. This one night after we'd closed the cinema 6 of us had a can each and got on with our closing duties. Of those 6, how many lost their job?






One of the other guys resigned before they had the chance to sack him, and the rest got reinstated. Why was I the only one that got fired? I'd love to be able to answer that, I really would. It just spoke volumes of their lack of management and pretty much confirmed the rumours of favouritism from the general manager towards certain staff members.


The best bit? When it happened I asked if I was consequently banned from that cinema, was told it's usually 3 months but the manager dismissing me would only put it as 1 month because he had to put something even though he didn't see the need to ban me at all. Now this was 2 months ago, and I arranged to go see a film tonight with someone who still works there (but desperately wants to get out) but thought I'd just call and make sure it's ok for me to go there as a customer. A paying customer. The answer?


I'm actually banned for 6 months. At no point previous was that ever mentioned to me. 


Just incredibly frustrating, and while my first flurry of job applications were for retail I quickly realised that I'd rather be applying for customer service roles, and if I get into that and when I figure out what career I want you can bet I won't be getting back into retail any time soon.


My worry is that wherever I end up there's going to be incompetent managers! Though they can't be as incompetent as the idiots running Cineworld, oops I said the name.


Really sorry for the novel just needed to vent. You're forgiven if you skimmed over all this scrolling down and you just glimpse this final sentence!

post #15 of 25

Hunter, I could never get a job in retail so I haven't tasted that particular flavor of hell but I've worked a lot of horrible, sh**ty jobs where the fail-upward mentality reigns and I've observed that that has never gone away.  However, I've done the same job at different companies and the people you work with make all the difference even if you end up making less.  I have to agree with everyone else--life is too short to watch yourself slowly drown in that environment.  Take a pay cut if you have to but try to find a place where you can work where the people that surround you aren't so horrible.  It's very hard and sometimes it takes patience but it will happen.  You're so creative and should be in an environment that values that rather than trying to pound it out of you.  Good luck!  Keep us posted.

post #16 of 25

Retail is what it is. Sounds like you are in a toxic situation. If you can stand it while looking elsewhere, you should do so. If you can't take it, leave now.


I spent a year in an out of print bookstore out of collage. It was OK, taught me a lot, but yeah the public at large makes you wish the Mayans were right.

Also spent a year and a half at a CompUSA, and to be honest, it was a blast. Sure we had asshole managers, but most of the employees were laid back, smart and interesting. After the store closed a dozen of us would repair to the training room and use the computers to play Multi-Player Doom! It also taught me a lot about computers.


I've found that retail chains have a life cycle. In the early to "mid-life" years of the chain, there is an energy and (yes!) excitement to the place. Then a tipping point is reached. Maybe the chain gets too big, maybe new pin head management takes over. Maybe the first, fun group leaves and douchebags take their place. Whatever, decay sets in. The job becomes boring, tedious, and management makes it a nightmare. I've seen this play out at CompUSA, Circuit City, and Best Buy (the last two at second hand).


So, if you actually like Retail, look for a store that is in that early stage; if you hate it, move on.

post #17 of 25

I'm still working at Walmart as a photo lab tech. Fuck them. Seriously. Fuck Walmart to hell. Cushiest job in the store, but god I hate my life working there. Looking for something better currently though.

post #18 of 25

Dylan, I am so, so sorry.

post #19 of 25

Retail is pretty good in small doses.  Airconditioned, mostly clean, people have to be at least polite out on the floor in front of customers.  Trouble is no one lets you work small doses much these days it seems (varies with location I guess.  Remember when Casual meant Casual?  Instead of really meaning 'Full Time plus, with no benefits, overtime loading and no need for notice to sack you'.  Those were the days).

Sales though, yeesh.  Yeah, Glengary Glennross assholes are all they care about.  Run, run away.

post #20 of 25

The one nice thing about retail: if you're good at your job, you have a good chance at being recruited away by another store for more money.  Seriously, stores that are starting up or are otherwise in need of staff will sometimes go out and try and poach good employees from other stores.  Just be aware that, if it's a major store trying to recruit you in this way, it may mean that they have high turnover...there's really only high turnover if the pay sucks or if management sucks.

post #21 of 25

I gotta say, retail is fucking fantastic as long as you're not working for a gigantic corporate chain. But even then, some give great benefits. I worked at Blockbuster for three years, and it really does depend on what kind of co-workers you get stuck with. It helps so much to have a manager who will back you up to the asshole customers instead of bending over backwards and breaking their own rules to save one sale.

post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 

This follow-up is chronicling the day after my post last night, taking a more journal-like approach.


Day Two: Waffle Stomp


You can punch out your boss

Get fired from your job

Collect unemployment

For your own enjoyment


None of that happened, but I really wish I could follow what Joe Walsh said without retaliation.


Short-call co-worker, my friend, got pissed when fatass jackass manager may or may not have been on the phone with a prospective new employer they had applied to. Altercation leads to a conference call with the big guy, the general manager. Puts in two weeks' notice.


"You don't have to do that."


And they did.


We talked later. Really personal stuff.


Woke up to a call this morning, saying they'd been fired. Alarm didn't go off, came in late. The big wig was there, decided to make her resignation effective immediately due to being 35 minutes late, but then wouldn't let them clear out their locker in the back.


"I'm gonna go before I have a breakdown," and that was it.


Went to work furious, ready to Driver the living shit out of the manager for not letting her in. Stress-ate two apple fritters from Wawa. Fucking manager acts, as usual, like a lethal narcissist, whistling and being a douchebag. Tells me about some company-wide movie project about overcoming mystery shoppers (I'm not making this part up, I swear) because apparently we suck at customer service because I like movies and want to make movies. Told 'em I'd think about it. No concrete idea yet, but after seeing the amateur hour Men in Black parody the sample video pulled off, I'll think of something that's gonna astound them, and I don't mean as a cinematic achievement. As me, creative madman, product of a living hell of a working environment.


ED-209 was being an asshole today, OHHHH HEY DON'T HELP HIM GET BACK ON THE FLOOR!!! Sold a sickening $5,000 worth of stuff, yeah, and I ring up some angry-looking man's headphones while he's engulfed in his thing.


My sales were okay. I'm relinquishing my duties of pressure-cooking consumers from hereon in, but I still have more charisma than 10,000 Alex Pettyfers. Which isn't a lot.


Anyway, no one discussed the entire incident in detail, and morale is low. My morale is super low. I'm depressed. I was depressed today, partly angry but primarily just broken. I don't want others' problems to affect me, like when my co-worker got fired, but when personal problems then get pushed on me like it's me solving THEIR problems (to the guy who impolitely asked me to throw out his Nathan's soda after bellowing HEY BUD! as I quietly read something for the daily sales: FUCK YOURSELF, CREAMCAKE).


Met someone today who could be an avenue to something better.


I don't know what's in store for tomorrow, and what's in store for where I'll find myself next, and to sort out my "personal" issues, but it occurred to me to paraphrase Reggie Hammond:


I'm their worst nightmare. A salesman with a college degree (everyone else, save some students and maybe one of the managers, settled for lower). A salesman with a Bachelor's in writing.


And thanks for the overwhelming support, guys. I didn't expect to be warmed by your own stories and advice.


post #23 of 25

Did the retail thing after dropping out of Uni. I was an assistant manager for two years until I actually collapsed from stress and overwork - my doctor refused to sign be back to work until I  had found a new job and handed in my notice (bless him).


Aside from the early days at Orange (before mobile phones really took off) every job I have had until now has sucked in one way or another.  Now I work for one of the UK's most successful companies  in a job that my opinion and skills are respected. It's still a surprisingly young company and still feels quite small (even though it's global and I guarantee you would know it if I named them).  But I know all the senior execs'/directors by first name, have received a thank you email  from the chief exec and have chatted to the man who started it all (and is still the owner). 


I joined when pretty much the whole department (IT by the way) had left and was recruited with 3 other people, we have turned the department around between us and become a tight effective team.


The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes you have to do the shitty jobs but they do make the great ones ever more sweet when you finally get there.

post #24 of 25
Originally Posted by Ken Savage View Post


The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes you have to do the shitty jobs but they do make the great ones ever more sweet when you finally get there.

I worked in a nursing home part-time while I was in college.  Hands-down the most depressing, tiring, stressful, yet oddly rewarding experience of my life.  My co-workers were utter assholes who had been there forever, and I could tell that they deeply resented me because I was intelligent, well-spoken, liked by the residents, and wasn't doomed to be a "lifer" like they were.  If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't be nearly as driven in my current awesome job as I am now.  That shitty job lit a fire under my ass, because even though the boss liked me enough to say that I'd always have a job there, I NEVER want to go back to that place ever again.  Sometimes, I drive past that place and see those same co-workers' cars in the parking lot four years later, and I just shake my head.  I'd feel for them if they weren't utter assholes to me.

post #25 of 25

Get a trade. 

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