Why Christmas sucks for retail workers

Stressed retail worker_2December2016_James Mott

Taking up a position as a casual retail worker while studying seems like the most logical way of making money, right? And for most of the year, it’s a pretty good gig.

I’ll get my little group of polite school girls stopping by after school to buy a couple of pens, or the pleasantly hilarious young mum and her little bubba barely making a peep out of its weird-looking pram. But behold, all good things must come to an end.

What I didn’t sign up for, or I conveniently chose to ignore at the time, is the dreaded Christmas period. I guess the only plus of working during this time of year is the extra digits on my paycheck.

Now, I know, I did choose to work in retail but, at the same time, some people just choose to be assholes – and that’s not okay. Especially when I have your nagging 5-year-old daughter asking me how much a pen costs when you can clearly read it yourself and I clearly have a million other relevant things to do.

The next time you venture off on your Christmas shopping endeavours, spare a thought for the person behind the counter. While you’re breezing through the mall in a Jingle Bells bubble, the people there to serve you may not be struck by the same sense of Christmas spirit. They are working during one of the busiest times of the year and are trying to add to your positive experience, despite having to deal with unreasonable requests, work through lunch breaks and carry out around-the-clock restocking, not to mention listening to mind-numbing Christmas songs all day, every day.


Don’t forget the fact that we’d rather be shopping too (or preferably enjoying time with our loved ones) during the holiday season, but you know, who cares? Go ahead and enjoy your Christmas shopping, just try not to be an asshole, okay?

Now, if you’re like me and you have a somewhat short fuse and absolutely no tolerance for parents who let their children run wild at a shopping centre, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Sorry Barbara, but contrary to (your) popular belief, your local Westfield is not a fucking day care for your obnoxious shit of a child.

On an average day I’d be totally against chucking one of those child leashes on your kid, but damn it if little Becky doesn’t stop ruining the display I just set up then I’ll be throwing more than sour looks.

It’s like Christmas shopping somehow brings out the worst in people and all sorts of morals and human decency are completely forgotten as people begin to take out their festive frustrations at the poor dickhead scanning up their items.

I’ve had my fair share of shitty customers, and I know that it’s something all retail workers have to deal with, and to some, I may come across as whining about a first world problem. I get it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it sucks.

I worked at a kids’ shoe store over one Christmas period and, let me tell you, 9 out of 10 of the times – I could see exactly from where these little assholes got their behavioural problems. I guess you could say that humble shoe store is where all the trauma started for me.

And I guess it’s something like childbirth, not that I would know on a personal level. But I’ve heard it said you forget about the pain – until that first contraction hits. And the Christmas contractions have well and truly hit. If only there was a retail workers’ epidural equivalent.

I now work in a stationery/gift shop that has recently received some media attention for the profanities displayed on some of its products. Great stuff, honestly. The amount of entitled grandmothers that have come up to me to complain about little Tommy reading the word “fuck” off of one of our books makes me laugh. Like, I’m sorry Gladyce, I’ll just remove every swear word from every item just for your little grandson who will probably end up wearing boat loafers and polo shirts every Saturday night at the Ivy.

But I’ll move on from my very subtle dislike for rude children and bring forth the stem of all issues. Shitty adults.

I’ve heard some terrible stories from fellow retail workers so I know I’m not alone on this – and I always seem to ask myself, “Why?”. Why do people have the ability to be such assholes? But more importantly, why do they feel the need to flaunt how much of a difficult person they can be in the middle of a busy shop during the busiest time of the year?


A mate of mine told me about her manager finding a used tampon in the changing rooms, another told me about being reduced to tears by an angry customer that couldn’t grasp the terms of a simple item return and, of course, there’s the average inappropriate sleazy comment you hear every now and again. I mean, believe it or not, being asked if it hurt when you fell from heaven while you’re wearing triple denim and a bow tie isn’t going to make me swoon over you. Nor is the remainder of the Halal Snack Pack you have sitting on your chin.

And you can’t forget the oldies that come in and are mind-blowingly pissed off at you, the person serving them, not because of anything you have done, but because of the amount of people in the shopping centre on a “quiet” Sunday arvo … during the lead up to Christmas. Not today mate, not today.

It just seems like people forget that we generally work long hours, have a million things to do and surprise, surprise, don’t have a lot of spare time to drop everything we’re doing to serve you. I’m sorry to say but here it is: The customer isn’t always right.

To be fair, I can understand how large crowds, super long lines and absolutely fucked parking can affect a person’s attitude, but honestly, nothing good comes from being an asshole to retail workers. If anything it’ll ensure we do the absolute least to help you.

And don’t forget; chances are you’ll end up being the story we tell our friends and co-workers at the end of the day and laugh about your shitty behaviour.

P.S. A big shout out to the angel face customers that know it isn’t easy working through this time of year and do their best to help make our lives a little easier. I’m happy to say there’s more of you out there than the assholes I’ve spoken about. You the real MVP.

Top image by James Mott