Retail Reality: The Basic Truth

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Image by Clark Street Mercantile

Over the years I’ve overheard others talking about how it would be like to work a retail job because they get to wear cute clothes and dress fashionably.

In the span of about two years, I have worked for a retail store and a department store, and to say that that there aren’t any cons to working in either types of clothing stores is a lie.

Here is the reality of working in the retail industry: 

Before I start I just wanted to clarify something:

  • Retail stores are those which sell merchandise to a specific brand, such as: H&M, Forever 21, Hollister, Zara, etc.
  • Department stores are those which sell merchandise for multiple departments and multiple brands, such as: Macy’s, Dillard’s, JcPenny’s, Ross, Kohl’s, etc.

Today I’m specifically talking about working retail, but I can talk about working in department stores in another post, and then a comparison post as well if that interests y’all.

You vs The Customers:
There are moments in life where you start questioning humanity and the morals of other human beings. I have had my share of horror stories, and there are days where you will get more than one complicated customer; nevertheless, that’s a part of the job. A job as an associate, or sale’s ambassador, is a good opportunity to really test your patience and how you manage other people and handle different situations.
Regardless of certain bad days, you will also have days where you feel proud to be doing what you are doing, and that’s all because of the customer. Not all customers will be remembered as the one you wanted to strangle. These customers will be the one’s sent from above, and will be the one’s to make your day and make you say “It’s totally worth it.” 

You vs The Managers: 
Not all managers are spawns of Satan, but those who are make your life more frustrating than it needs to be. I’ve had my share of crazy and outrageous managers, and I’ve only worked at two stores. Regardless of those who fall in that category, you will find a lot of managers who are very reasonable and very personable. Some of my favorite people in the world are some of my managers. I have grown very fond of some of them because they understand what I’m going through for school and are very flexible with my schedule.

You vs The Hours:
Starting off in retail is not a walk in the park (although it is much nicer than some jobs), especially during the summer and the holiday season. Again, depending on where you work it may vary. If you start in the summer, you may find yourself starting off with 4 hour shifts here and there, and then you’ll suddenly get thrown into 7-9 hours shifts all week; Or, you will just get thrown into full shifts right off the bat.

However, what doesn’t change is the grueling graveyard shifts. When you work shipment hours, you are up before the sun is even rises and are practically working out with boxes and packaging. What’s worse is when you are closing till late and then opening really early back to back. Sometimes I find myself falling into the same pattern: wake up, go to work, sleep, eat, sleep, repeat. After a while, you get use to it, but sometimes you just get so tired of it, especially when you just keep having days with horrid customers.

You vs The Coworker: 
This is inevitable – wherever you work – you will find certain characteristics from certain people you work with that really irk you, especially if you see the same people over and over again day in and day out. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to not just burst out and argue with some people, but it’s a learning process: not everyone you work with is going to be your best friend, and you just have to find ways to either deal with it, or get over it.

Regardless, you will find some of your favorite people at work, especially if they understand and can empathize with everything you are feeling. Some of the best people that I know to this day are the people whom I work with. They are the ones that make every day bearable and full of laughter, jokes, and smiles.


Overall, working retail is still a job, and with every job there are the pros and the cons, it just depends on the situation and your surroundings – with every bad encounter there are good encounters which help make the bad not so bad. Yes, there are days where you wish you could just do anything but work, and there are days where you feel like you want to just go diva on everyone, however, this is just a part of life, and you have to learn to either work through it or work around it.

I think that working in retail is a great way to make you a more well-rounded person with skills in leadership, communication, and problem-solving. Not to mention, having a job – regardless if it’s retail or not – speaks a number of things on your resume.

Working is a pain wherever you go, but you just have to find the silver linings that help you get through your shift. Let me know if you want more posts like this one – where I talk about my work experience, my horror stories, and my favorite stories at work.

Until Next Time xoxo 




Published by

Joslyn Pham

26 • Biology alumna • Lifestyle, travel, beauty, study / education blog • Aspire to Inspire "The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters." - Audrey Hepburn

3 thoughts on “Retail Reality: The Basic Truth”

  1. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you should write more about this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not discuss these subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!


  2. That is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read post!


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