This is going to be pretty off topic, but I hope that you’ll hear me out and not be scared off.
I have had an intense feeling of unease the past few days. I have seen so many FB statuses that center around bashing retail employees. I don’t like to post controversial things on FB. I don’t think it’s the place for it. If you really want to have a debate with me, talk to me in person or read my blog. I will stick to posting pictures of my baby and talking about my races. However, I feel like I need to speak up on this topic.
I have worked in the retail industry for 20 years. I started as a cashier in high school, and worked on breaks and summers during college. That’s right, I went to college. I have a degree. In fact I have two degrees. But here is the reality, as a 20 year old, I wasn’t sure what I wanted do with the rest of my life. I declared a major (actually 2 and a double minor) because it was required. I didn’t know that what I chose wasn’t specialized enough to be viable in the job market.
I graduated and took another retail job to tide me over while I sent out resumes. I was motivated, driven and smart. For those reasons, I kept getting promoted. So I stayed. Eventually I got to a level of pay where it didn’t make sense to start over entry level in a different industry. And here’s the big shocker, I ACTUALLY LIKED MY JOB! I am a salaried executive. I work a minimum of 10 hours per day. I work 2-3 weekends a month. I work at 5 am most days, sometimes earlier. But I make 4x what my employees do so I don’t complain. On Thanksgiving I will be there at 7 pm. I will work a 12 hour shift without sleeping. I will not be paid time and a half. I will smile while people yell at me because the cheaply made sweater that they want for $12.99 is sold out.
Here’s an insider tip, the best prices ARE NOT on Black Friday. Retailers know you will shop regardless, so they aren’t going to give you the best price that day. Mid December is when the prices really dip to the lowest level.
I have been with my company for 16 years. This is the first year we will be open on Thanksgiving. We were not open on Thanksgiving when I was hired. Unlike doctors, nurses, police officers, military personnel, firefighters etc. who knew that was part of it when they chose that career. They know when they step into those roles that they will work long hours, Days, nights weekends and holidays. But one of the biggest arguments I am seeing is “I’m a nurse, there’s no such thing as a holiday. They (retail employees) need to get over it.”
The average retail employee makes less than $10 an hour. Even making time and a half on a holiday, they are making far less than a nurse. The other reoccurring argument is, “They need the money because they are poor and uneducated. They should be happy to make holiday pay.” Firstly, it is ridiculously offensive to assume that people only work in retail because they can’t or aren’t qualified to do anything else. Secondly, there are very few people who work for me that aren’t highly educated. One woman on my team is a Russian immigrant. She speaks Russian, English, Japanese and Farsi fluently. She has lived in more than 10 countries. She works in retail because the schedule is flexible which allows her to be home when her son comes home from school. Her choice to work for me has nothing to do with being poor or uneducated.
Most retail employees have accepted the fact the being open on Thanksgiving is the reality of the world we live in. So why are people blaming retail employees for complaining about being open? I personally don’t want to work, but I will so that my team can spend more time with their families. The problem lies with the CEO’s of big corporations that are driving our thirst for consumerism. The people who are deciding to open the stores on a National Holiday will not be working on Thanksgiving. In fact, like many Americans, they are taking a long weekend off to spend time with friends and family and to celebrate the season.
So all I ask is this, put the blame where it belongs. Before you head out to a store on Thursday, please think long and hard about whether or not you really need another $200 TV or $20 sweater. If the answer is no, then please enjoy the time with your family. Snuggle on the couch. Have a glass of wine. Read a good book. If you can’t resist consumerism’s siren song, then just be nice. Remember that the people working in the stores probably make less money than you.They probably had less time with their families than you did. And they are most likely operating on little or no sleep. So just be nice. Be patient. Look them in the eyes and treat them with kindness.
My job isn’t brain surgery. It won’t change the world or help to make it a better place. I fold sweaters for a living. But it pays my bills and allows my family to live pretty good lives. I will no longer feel ashamed about what I do for a living. My job is not who I am. It does not define me. It is merely a means to an end. I am well within my rights to want to spend Thanksgiving with my family and I will not be made to feel bad about it. Do not tell me that I should be grateful to be employed. You would never say that to a lawyer. So unless you have walked in my shoes, get off your soapbox.
I couldn’t agree more with all of the above. All the feels for you brothers and sisters in retail.