Working at a retail chain store when you’ve settled down is bizarre to the point of absurdity. The managers complain about turnover at places like this, and yet they do nothing at all to reduce it. Apparently, a “mature” employee like me is someone they want to keep, and yet complaints are ignored and explanations about even little things are repeated ten times over, as if you hadn’t mastered it on your third day of work. It’s demeaning.

Have you heard the one about too many cooks spoiling the pot? Imagine five consecutive days of work, working with three different people. Your manager telling (not teaching) you one thing, at length, on the first day. Your assistant manager doing the same on the second. Your manager again on the third. A seasoned vet on the fourth. And your manager again on the fifth. It’s grating. It’s lame. I know what I’m doing here, thanks. I think I’m qualified enough to operate a cash register and put movies back in alphabetical order.

This isn’t me acting high and mighty. I’m not saying this because I think I’m too good for the store, though gradually I’ve realised that I am. It’s because it wears you down, day after day, being treated like you don’t matter. Like you are infinitely replaceable. Like there is no real difference between you and a thousand others. And there isn’t! Not for this job, which monkeys could do. But the daily affirmation is what kills me. I can see how you could slip into working there for years and years, based soley on your demolished self-esteem.

Two weeks into working there, my assistant manager actually stopped what he was doing, without saying anything, and watched me — from literally one foot away, entirely in my line of sight — handle a customer. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been observing me, that’s part of his job, but the way it was handled was not healthy. The way that it happened implied expected failure, on my part. He was itching to correct, not teach.

Is it just this one store that’s the problem? Is it chain stores in general? Is it me?

Is this work? Is this what it’s like in the Real World? Are you beat over the head until you submit, is that normal for everybody? Maybe it is. But I’m not submitting for ten dollars an hour. Not for a job that doesn’t even try to care about me. Not for a manager who regards trading shifts and the mentally challenged as impediments to doing business. Who doesn’t understand what it means to serve your employees and the community.

There’s so much more I could tell you about this job, but I’ll just skip to the best part: I can quit. I have another job. It pays more. It’s not full time, but for us it’s enough. I can be home with my wife. I can write in between.


  1. God, I know what you mean. If you stay there long enough you get sucked into this whole sick system of wanting to do well for “the company”. I mean, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, but I see many people around me get sucked in. And the truth is, when you’re in that environment, even though you know there’s so much else you could be doing, you conform to the hierarchy. You want to fulfill expectations, and it’s hard to realize, “Hey, this is something I do for money. It’s not the end of the world if I fuck up or the company does because my life won’t be ruined as a result.”

  2. Very true! And the money part itself makes it uglier, I think. Because it’s not something you really want to do, you force yourself into this little space, and if you don’t eat their BS in some respects it’s your only reward.

    It’s just odd, thinking about systems like this on the large scale, and about the systems they replaced in the past– where sustenance was in large part your responsibility, and it still is, but now the vast majority of people have to indirectly ask other people for help? And a lot of people ignore this part of it, and don’t realise that they can’t get out.

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