Before Working in Retail: Tips on How to Survive

Cheryl Nuzum

College is the time of our lives when we have to start actually becoming…adults. As if that wasn’t bad enough, money matters are starting to become a relevant part to our everyday lives. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again: life ain’t cheap. Somehow in the next four years on our lives, we’ll have to find a way to pay for and budget our rent, groceries, gas and all the other unexpecteds that are bound to pop.
The main solution for many college students is to get a job. While admittedly those are pretty hard to come by in Statesboro, it’s not impossible. If becoming a member of the minimum wage workforce is an inevitable part of your future, here are some tips and warnings to ease you into the transition.
Buy comfortable shoes
You’ll be on your feet for 6+ hours straight. Whether you’re running the register, doing inventory or simply just working the floor (whatever that means), you’re not going to have a chance to sit down. And the second you do lean against the counter for a little comfort, your manager will be right there to prop you back up. Get some Dr. Scholls and save yourself the pain.
Working the register will be easiest and most-boring job
Entirely about going through the motions. Scan, bag, make change, receipt. Scan, return, refund, receipt. Smile. Smile. Smile. It’s easy, it’s routine, it’s boring. But it keeps your boss off your back since you’re always doing something. (Particularly helpful if you’re hungover AF).
Don’t check the time.
It doesn’t go by any faster. Honestly, it’ll start to seem like it’s going backwards. Just be surprised.
Do check the back. It’s easier.
For some reason, customers tend to think “the back” is this magical, mystery land full of stuff the store refuses to put on display and, you know, sell. “Do you have any other sizes in the back?” “This isn’t really what I wanted. Do you keep anything else in the back?” “I saw this online but I don’t see it here. Can you check the back?” While it seems easy to just say “I’m sorry, no” there will inevitably be a customer not satisfied with that answer and will ask you to look anyways. Just go to the back the first time, count to 30, come back and say no. Far less frustrating.
Customers will make the dumbest jokes
Every time the scanner doesn’t pick up the barcode, you will hear a “Oh I guess it’s free!” Every time you check the money to make sure it’s not counterfeit you will hear “Yeah I just printed that.” Every now and then you’ll even get a “That’s what she said” when you’re bagging item an item and it doesn’t fit. Most people will tell you to just smile and laugh. I personally prefer a different route. Laugh and say “That’s the fourth time I’ve heard that today”. Then it’s their turn to awkwardly laugh and feel uncomfortable. Taste of their own medicine.
Customers. They’re everywhere.
Honestly the worst part of your job is just the customers. Whether they’re asking irrelevant questions, taking up much than their fair share of time or messing up the display you just finished, you can’t escape them. But you get use to it. You’ll learn how to politely remove yourself so you can head to break room and silently scream to yourself. Then you’ll get some coffee. Then you’ll get to clock out. And two weeks later, you’ll get paycheck that doesn’t make it seem quite worth, but just a little better.