The Glamorous Life of Retail Work

Ashley Parent, Arts Editor |

I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be some big sob story about having to work a retail job in the midst of tackling college courses, homework, and building a kick-ass resume that will lead me to a great career after college. Well, it’s not. Working a retail job has helped shape who I am today and the adult I am growing into.

Currently, I am a supervisor at a pharmacy here in Oneonta. I was promoted to this position a year ago after holding a cashier position for a year and a half. At my store, being a supervisor involves a great deal of responsibility and management-level tasks; it’s much more than counting the tills come closing time. I act as the link between the store manager and cashier, and though I am not in charge all of the time, most days I am considered the manager on duty, the one who is subject to the terror of soccer moms with bad hair who ask to speak to the manager — the stuff memes are made of.

All jokes aside, being “the boss” has its benefits. I’ve learned how to properly communicate with people of all ages, how to merchandise and make sales, as well as how to listen to somebody’s needs and come up with the perfect solution. I am still learning how to delegate tasks, how to share work with others, and how to trust that they will complete a task just as well as I would myself. I have always been a responsible person when it comes to taking care of myself or getting assignments done on time, but I have had to learn how to keep an entire store under control and running smoothly.

I’ve also had to learn how to earn the respect of my coworkers. Currently, at the ripe age of 21, I am the youngest person employed at the store; I’ve had cashiers under my jurisdiction who are older than I am. Not to mention, I am a woman, and asserting yourself as a young woman to customers and crew is difficult when most people think of (white) men as holding managerial roles. There are times that I had to convince bitter customers that I was in fact the manager that day, the person in charge, and that my interpretation of the store’s policies was the ultimate decision when questions about coupons, sales, and return policies were at the forefront.

It’s also not easy considering that I am a full-time student, now in the final semester of my senior year. I have worked my entire three years of college, spending most weekends within the four walls of retail hell while I looked out on my peers having fun. There were weeks when I worked a full forty hours in addition to attending class, doing homework, and holding an internship. Having a social life is not always an option when you work open-to-close, and going out is always a rare treat that I can appreciate from time to time.

However, I don’t regret my decision to put work over having the “traditional college experience.” Initially, I started working to have extra spending money, but during my first year at Oneonta, I realized that my parents were struggling to support me, to even make ends meet for themselves. Coming to college made me realize it was time to cut the cord, and I am proud to say that I am financially independent and doing well for myself.

The best part about working at my store is the countless fruitful relationships I have built as a result of my job. I see many of my coworkers, past and present, as my extended family, and the environment at my store is always fun and inviting. No matter how hectic and stressful my days at work may be, I would not trade my retail experience in these years of my life for anything.

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