Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thoughts on retail

I find myself once again working retail, despite my many desires to the contrary. I was getting desperate to have some income, and my desperation coincided with this store's desperation for new employees, so I got a job. It does not offer a good wage, however. It also is, overall, not a very good quality of employment. I only have one other retail experience to compare it to, so I can't make broad generalizations, but this is worse than my previous retail experience. The pay is worse, the company seems much more 'parental' in an unhelpful way, and, as a coworker said today, "if we wasn't poor we wouldn't work here." Many of my coworkers have second jobs, and at the same time, the automated scheduling program gives less hours when a person is less available, which is meant as incentive to be more available, but sometimes is just troublesome.
How do you get really inexpensive products at the store? People working there don't get paid enough to live on. The employee has to buy shirts of a certain color to wear (I suppose, at least, that buying them at the company also means one shirt only costs about the same as an hour's pay), though employees used to wear any color and put on a vest or apron as a work uniform. I imagine this changed so the company could save that money. You almost have to shop there if you work there bc you could hardly afford anything else. And yet the company tries to create a family experience and seem family friendly. Which may be well and good except that it seems to me more like a ploy to deny the idea that if they really supported people with families they would pay them a living wage.
There are nice people that I work with, and some of the managers even seem nice, though I don't quite understand why some stay working there so long and seem happy about it. But then again, maybe it's partly because they've drunk so much of the kool-aid. My department manager said the other day to me that people really shouldn't expect much more money for a position like the one I have, bc it's not so much work and doesn't require much ability. I argued for the standard of a living wage regardless of the work required. I also wonder if the company would need as many 'parental' policies if they paid people more.
I have a friend who would often talk about not being paid enough to care. At first I didn't understand, because I thought any good and moral person should always care, no matter what compensation they receive. But now I understand. If you're paid so little that you have to work another job to make ends meet and work way over the standard 40 hours a week, that pay is not incentive enough to use too much of your valuable energy. When your pay for one hour's work is less than many meals at a restaurant, the return on an investment of hard work and concentration is negative. When a nice cup of coffee costs more than you get for half an hour's work, that's not much of a reward for a hard day.
Because this is not a glowing endorsement I can't tell you where I work (you say something too bad and you could lose your job at most of these places), and this is not meant to tell anyone where to shop or not shop, but as a consideration: many cashiers are not paid enough to be nice to mean customers, and many other associates are not paid enough to pick up after you when you randomly stick something on a shelf bc you decided you didn't want it after all. Really, many retail associates aren't paid enough to fake cheerfulness when they're having a bad day, so you might should hope for common courtesy (or try it yourself) in those cases. Theoretically giant retail has helped the consumer, but there are a lot of casualties along the way.