Students are perfect for retailers as they want the shifts that no one else does (evenings and weekends) and are keen to take more hours during the Christmas/summer period. Also, students are usually desperate enough to work Boxing Day (ew). This means that you can usually get shifts that work around your uni schedule, so it’s a win-win.
You’re likely to be saddled with co-workers who are also young, outgoing and borderline alcoholics. Retail tends to select people with these traits… or reinforce them. It’s kind of a downward cycle. Either way, these are my kind of people. They’re your comrades-in-arms and you get to despise your manager, store and customers together. As a team. Just the way God intended.
You Actually Have a Shot
You’re actually quite likely to get this job, and not just because retailers scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to employees (although this may be why). In an industry where ‘doesn’t steal’ is a glowing recommendation, someone who’s not dumb (“You got in to uni, right?”), willing to work shitty hours and desperate enough to take the pittance that retailers pay (see below), makes you the perfect fit.
Large companies do not give a flying fuck about you and would feed you to piranhas if they thought it would earn them a dime. This manifests itself in the pay (minimum wage, please send help, Jacinda), the uniforms (to get that sweet, sweet, dehumanisation) and the respect for your time (“I know it’s 7am on a Sunday morning and you’re hungover as hell, but could you start an eight hour shift in, say, twenty minutes time?”). Note that there are exceptions to this rule, but as a rule of thumb: if you work in a mall, you’re screwed.
The difference between an excellent day in retail and a terrible one is a single bad customer. I’ll preface this by saying that customers are just people, and most are lovely. But unfortunately, there’s that small group of ass holes that will attempt to break your faith in humanity. They start by coming in with a problem (real or imagined) and expect you to fix it “NOW!”. When you can’t fix the imaginary problem on the spot, the ass hole customer will huff, call you a racist/sexist/demeaning slur, and demand to speak to the manager. Just keep cool ‘cos you’re a better person than this whinging ass hole. Don’t let it ruin your day. And remember that it’s OK to have a quick cry in the loos afterwards. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. You also don’t have to admit it unless you’re dumb enough to submit an article to Debate Magazine.
Despite the negative tone of the article, retail isn’t all that bad. In my opinion, give it a go. It’s the best of a really bad bunch of options available to students. You might even enjoy it. Plus, at the end of your sentence, you are allowed access to that hallowed group of Those Who Have Survived Retail. Because wherever you go in the world, you will have the instant comradeship of those of us who know what it’s like.