You work there?

There are two types of people in the world: people with jobs, and people without them. Or at least that’s what I used to think… before I got a job. Now that I have one, I’m a little less thrilled than I thought I would be.

Don’t get me wrong—for the most part, I love working at a certain store at the mall that rhymes with “whatever plenty-fun.” There are just certain things I expected to be a little more enjoyable than they turned out to be.

First of all, there’s the paycheck. What’s up with taxes? Why is the government taking like six hours pay from every direct deposit? I get that we need to pay for roads and schools and stuff like that, but if every single employed person is paying then why does it need to be so much? I was planning on buying clothes with my teeny tiny discount with that but now I can barely afford food! 

So, basically, what I’m saying is that the first and only paycheck I’ve gotten so far was dismal compared to what I was expecting. Yes, that’s because I took the first weekend I was supposed to work off, but still. Hopefully the next one will be bigger, since I’ve been working eight-hour shifts for the past week in lieu of sleep and homework and spending time with friends. (But it’s great, trust me—I’m getting to that part).

Besides that, there’s the people. I’ve never had a job before, let alone a job in retail. People are awful! My coworkers and I watch people every day just pick things up, look at them, and throw them back either on the same table or in a completely different area of the store. I mean, seriously, do they have no empathy for the people that have to clean up after them? I literally cannot. 

And don’t give me that crap about “oh, that’s your job,” because I know it is—but to an extent. It takes little to no effort to put something back where you found it somewhat nicely or to put your clothes back on the hanger and bring them out of the fitting room to me or to know what you’re actually going to buy instead of throwing it at me at the register. Really, it’s not that hard, people! (And I don’t mean you, kind and wonderful Insight reader, I’m just frustrated with the general public. If you’ve ever worked with them, you get what I’m talking about).

Even when people aren’t being awful, it’s just hard to have to always walk up to people and talk to them. I’m sure not everyone is like this, but I bet at least one person who reads this will understand my discomfort with constantly talking to random people. It is getting better, though, and I’m a lot less awkward now than when I first started, which will probably benefit me in the future somehow, I hope.

And then we have the situation with coworkers. Looking for a job, I was imagining something like my friends in high school had—a bunch of “work friends,” hanging out, occasionally partying or doing white elephant gift exchanges together or whatever. (I had a friend that worked at Starbucks and another at Safeway and they were always doing things like this so it’s not just some random image I came up with). 

Instead of that lovely picture, I ended up with a bunch of fairly nice twenty-something year olds who probably won’t be jumping at the chance to hang out with a college freshman anytime soon. I do really like most of them; they’re some of the nicest girls I’ve ever met, and maybe eventually I’ll call a couple of them “work friends.” For the first week or so, though, I was freaking out because I was one of the four new girls and I felt like no one really liked me because of that (they’ve hired some more new girls now, so now I’m not the newest and that probably helps).

After that initial paranoia, I realized that was because I was so nervous about keeping the job that I hadn’t bothered to get to know anyone. I’ve started to do that now, which has made working for hours on end a whole lot better. If you’re having trouble at a new job, I would 10/10 recommend simply talking to your new coworkers and managers; they’re probably not that mean, and wouldn’t mind helping you out.

But, whatever you do, try not to ask a lot of unnecessary questions. When I was first getting started, I asked a thousand questions an hour that, now that I think about it, I probably could have figured out myself. I was just way too flustered to do it at the time. I also made a ton of mistakes, so much so that I was afraid I would get fired after the first week—which I now know doesn’t ever happen.

Once, embarrassingly, I called my manager over to my register because a return wasn’t going through the system. Turns out, I hadn’t checked the receipt to see that the item being returned was from sale. We don’t do sale returns. (Or cash back—which a lot of people are surprised by even though it’s printed right on the receipt, but whatever). But, since I had taken up so much of the customer’s time already, my manager had to spend twenty minutes of her time making up a new discount to give her. So, basically, the moral of the story is to pay attention to what’s going on around you and try to remember what you’re taught. (It might be overwhelming at first, but as far as I can tell it gets easier). That way, you don’t annoy anyone you’re working with too much.

Speaking of annoying things, I want to tell you about the worst part of my job by far—the damn pop music that blares over the speakers in every section of the store from open to close. Every time I work, I count down the minutes until we can turn the music off. Unfortunately for me, the manager in charge at the time (or the LOD—leader on duty) will even play it after close sometimes, while we recover the store. I swear, if I hear “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift or that stupid song about being a “London queen” one more time I’m going to throw a mannequin. Shamefully, the one song in the Company’s playlist (notice the ominous capitalization of “company”) that I actually enjoy is “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. I can’t help it, it’s just dance-y.

Now that I’ve complained for a while, and you’ve probably stopped reading because of all the negativity, let me talk about what I do like about work. 

I like the fact that I feel like an adult now that I’m a “productive member of society.” The other day, I bought my own gas for the first time ever. When all my friends started getting jobs in high school, I started getting really anxious about getting a job, especially since it was a little embarrassing always relying on my parents for money. Eventually, I got up the motivation to job hunt, and I even quit running track senior year so I would have more time to work. But I just couldn’t really find anything, especially since the city was so small and there were so many teenagers competing for the same few jobs. By the time I actually did have a job lined up at the pizza place my best friend worked at, I was leaving for college in three months, and the manager didn’t want to bother hiring me. So I waited until college, and then until the second semester. And, somehow, I got really lucky. I turned in an application at the right time, did well in the group interview, and got a call about twenty minutes after asking me to come in for new employee orientation.

It’s a little embarrassing, but right after I got that call, I called my mom to tell her I had gotten the job. Then, when I got back to my dorm, I told my roommates, and they were all super excited for me. I was excited, too; I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a job! I could finally pay for things on my own! More clothes! Real food! Trips! That excitement hasn’t completely faded yet, so I’m still pretty eager to go to work every day, but I just get really tired by the end of a shift. Last night, I had work until 10:30 p.m., and I just about fall asleep on the short drive home. (If you work long hours, I would really suggest getting coffee or an energy bar on your break to avoid this).

Another fun part of working there is the clothes. We have to represent the store in what we wear, and even before I started I shopped there all the time so that’s not a problem. It’s nice to have a reason to dress well (which could mean anything from a nice dress and my Docs to a cool shirt, leggings, and Adidas), especially since my style had been slowly but surely sliding downhill since I started school here at Nevada. Plus, I always get to see things I eventually want to buy while I’m working. I know this sounds awful, especially with me being on a college budget, but it’s actually good because I don’t buy things right when I see them; instead, I can think about them for a while so I don’t make any impulse purchases. 

I’m a little bit of a shopaholic, too, if you haven’t guessed—so helping other people find clothes is like secondhand shopping (which is almost as good). It reduces the urge to blow all of the money I’m making on clothes, since like I mentioned before, the employee discount is barely even a discount. 

It can also be really rewarding helping customers find things. There was a really nice older lady the other day who came in looking for black long-sleeve shirts with a mock-neck (a short turtleneck, for those of you less versed in fashion terminology). I spent about ten minutes helping her find them, and she ended up getting a bunch. When she was leaving, she thanked me profusely for my help, which felt pretty great. 

Then there was a guy trying to find a short black cardigan for his wife, which I had to search the entire store for with him for about twenty minutes. Eventually, we found a good one in a size small, and then a coworker found a size large. He asked my name and thanked me, and then complimented me at the register. When my boss found out, she gave me a high five, which was weird but it made me super proud of myself.

That’s another thing that’s cool about my job—all of my managers are really great. At first, there was one that scared the shit out of me. She seemed really mean, but she actually turned out to be pretty nice. For some reason, the manager that hired me really freaks me out, but that’s probably just because I feel like she might fire me. And then there’s one that’s super nice to me and seems to really like me, and I overheard her say on the phone the other day that I was doing a good job. I kind of freaked out internally, because I hadn’t been too sure if I had been doing well at all, and hearing her say that was great.

So I’m feeling pretty good at this job now, and despite the not-so-great aspects of it I’m still glad that I have it. So far, I don’t see myself getting burnt out, either. The only thing is that I’m scared I won’t ever want to quit, so I won’t get a job or internship that’s actually related to what I want to do in the future, and I’ll just get stuck here at the same job instead of becoming a journalist and following my original plan. But we’ll see if that happens. Just check back with me in a few years at the mall. If I’m still there, do me a favor and kindly tell me to get the hell out.

© 2016 Insight Magazine