April 22, 2024


In my three years working as a sales associate for a major clothing retailer I have learned a few things; how to fold a hooded sweatshirt into a perfect square, how to find the right fit of jeans for any body type and that cotton and spandex in varied ratios can mean the difference between something sheer and silky and a denim jacket.

While these invaluable skills took mere hours to master, there is one thing that is drilled into my head after I punch in for every shift:

People don’t understand my job.

While employees from clothing store to clothing store serve different purposes, I can say with certainty that none of us are strictly there to clean up after you as you mosey from section to section leaving a string of garbage, muddy footprints and toppled T-shirt piles. Nor are we there to clean up whatever biohazardous materials you or your children leave behind (from used feminine hygiene products in the fitting room to actual feces that left a trail through the store.)

I am also not a member of our design team. Your complaints about the skulls and skeletons on some of our clothes are wasted on me, and for every mom who finds them morbid and evil, there is a mom who thinks they look very rock ’n’ roll.

Don’t get me started on the people who shout at me because we have neon-coloured items for winter. Have you looked around? That’s what everyone has. I have no control over the fashion trends or how we interpret them. If I did, I wouldn’t be working at store-level.

I cannot control our items, and I cannot control their prices. I am not here to run some kind of bartering system or commit discount fraud. I have better things to do than risk my job negotiating a price on a clearly marked item. If saving a couple of dollars is going to make or break you, don’t come shopping at a store that sells $70 jeans. If you do, spare me the sob story and just ask if we have any deals.

While all of these situations are frustrating, the most upsetting is when I am expected to babysit unattended children. I understand that it isn’t always possible or necessary to find someone to watch your kid, but it is simply bad parenting to let them wander about and then scream at them when they’ve wandered too far – let alone to leave them in my fitting rooms while you run to Sears to find the wallet you may or may not have left there. Has the news not scared parents enough about the possibilities of child abduction? I have seen a woman sobbing in the mall as she handed her son’s picture to security personnel. To prevent a situation like this, keep your young ones nearby at all times – it is your responsibility, not mine.

Now, this isn’t to say that I won’t go above and beyond for a customer. I almost always do, so long as the “beyond” is within reason and isn’t demanded or shouted.

I will serve as your personal shopper for as long as you are in my store, granted you are polite about it. Nothing at work makes me happier than actually feeling helpful, whether you’re shopping for a cheap outfit or an entire work wardrobe.

I will be there for you if you have body issues. I have offered emotional support to crying women, displeased by what they see in the mirror or the fact that despite a dramatic weight loss, they haven’t changed sizes. I understand that the road to self-love is a difficult journey and the terrible lighting in fitting rooms seems to spotlight cellulite and lumps.

I will call six stores to see if they have that one specific clearance item from last year in your size. I understand that you’ve fallen in love with it and I will make it my mission to get it into your closet.

I am a reasonable person and will always do what I can for you, but remember that manners and common sense go a long way with sales staff and you are more likely to get what you want.