Some customers can be unabashed thieves of holiday joy. There are few things that promote grotesque pain and suffering more than working a retail gig from November to January, and for those who do these customer service-oriented jobs there should be hazard pay, hazmat suits, and free liquor and weed just to deal with the Scrooge McDick shoppers who want what they want, right now, and don't care if they have to take down innocent, hard-working employees to get it.
Here's our list of the five worst things about working holiday retail. And yes, there is a better way to shop and spare employees the worst...read on.
5. Teenaged shoppers
Malls are teen magnets all year round, and they are also a convenient holiday dumping ground for other people's half-cooked adults, so when you have a job working at a mall shop during the holidays, you get a parade of twerpy teens with droopy drawers, hair covering at least one eye each, a less-than-basic grasp of the English language and enough entitlement to fill a stadium. Trying to explain things like sales taxes to teenagers is excruciating enough, but usually these snotty hipster trainees have wads of expendable income from their "Mall Is Free Babysitting!" parents and little to no idea what to shop for, which means that harried sales clerks have to do their best to decipher mumbly text-speak, and tell these little bastards that no, gramma and grampa would probably not like to unwrap a blacklight vampire poster for Xmas.
On second thought, maybe it's best to tell teens to get their elderly relatives coffin-shaped ashtrays and oversized jawbreaker candies.
4. The holiday music over...and over...and over Holiday shoppers are lucky because they can always shop quickly and escape to the parking lot to avoid hearing "Jingle Bell Rock" fourteen times in forty-five minutes, but working retail means you get ear-raped to the tune of "Winter Wonderland" until you wish the entire world was overrun with Jehovah's Witnesses. There are only so many times you can be forced to listen to "Silent Night" and "The First Noel" before it should be perfectly legal to hack down X-mas displays with an axe, and too much holiday music turns people's thoughts from celebration to homicide.
Too bad that shoving tampons in ears is usually against retail dress code guidelines.
3. Unchecked thievery It's a little-known fact that a lot of retail stores are lax with security to the point that they have become free loot depots for thieves both seasoned and novice-level. Store employees have little they are allowed to do when witnessing people stealing, and even less when suspects are underage. And the holidays seem to bring out roving bands of stealers ranging from the sophisticated "hide stolen goods in baby strollers" types to the ever-popular hacks who cram their pockets with free keychains and Chapsticks. Workers have to sit back and watch "shoppers" help themselves to whatever they like, with only the occasional stink-eye to deter them, and the merchandise going out the door means less money for pay and bonuses, and more hassle doing inventory.
If you get X-mas gifts of Chapsticks and keychains, be sure to give the gift-giver the stink-eye as well.
2. Sales competitions
Jumped-up, corporate-suckling middle management seems to have special hard-ons for running sales contests for employees over the holidays, whether it's hawking gift cards, soft pretzels or bottles of peppermint schnapps. But there is one constant in every single sales competition no matter what the store sells: The crap you have to sell the most of to "win" is always something nobody really wants to buy. Beer pong sets, camo snuggies, warming cupholders for cars or those sets of nail clippers with the shoehorn that no one will ever use — all of this useless dreck must leave the store and fill spaces under Xmas trees so that overworked, underpaid employees can "win" a $5 gift card to the store they work at.
Making pity-purchases on behalf of these poor workers would be an act of holiday kindness, and there are always relatives on the lowest tiers of the gift hierarchies that can give all those snuggies good homes.
1. Way above the paygrade multi-tasking
Holiday customers frequently mistake retail workers for free babysitters, personal assistants, therapists, cops or even bar/bud tenders. This is the biggest holiday pain in the ass for workers — who are often making minimum wage, or only just above it, which is too little for the stress levels. Stores are packed, shoppers are not in jolly-jingle moods, customers have self-inflicted "emergencies" with batteries, software and bike parts, and more often than not, store employees are ask-manded to work longer and later hours, including shifts on Xmas eve/day, even though they — gasp — have families, too.
If you are one of these holiday shoppers who makes retail employees want to light your holiday sweater-beanie hat combo on fire while you are still wearing them, then do them a big favor and save your holiday shopping for the one place where you can be the ass of all the X-mas asses with the least amount of damage: the Internet.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.