Working at some trendy clothing store in the mall may seem like a dream job for many college students, but I discovered the truth after spending last summer in retail hell.
The worst part about being an employee of a fashion retailer is what is often termed the “appearance policy.” This is the agreement you make upon getting the job to wear only the clothing sold by the store while working. In essence, it is the moment you become one of their conformed clones.
As if it weren’t enough to dress the same as everyone else, it is easy to get sucked into acting like everyone else. Once you are part of their club, it is assumed that you will adopt the employee’s cocky attitude and smug outlook on the lowly people who come into this oh-so-fashionable store.
Arrogance is part of the job description, despite the measly $6.15 an hour.
To prove just how snooty several of the trendy retailers are, simply look at how they take on new employees. Some stores are clearly discriminatory as to whom they will hire, while others do not even take applications because employees have to be recruited by management.
First of all, folding T-shirts and standing at the front of the store to welcome shoppers is not a job that requires avid scouting for that perfectly qualified individual. Second, it is not like there are tremendous perks that make the job extraordinarily desirable.
Yes, there is an employee discount, which often serves as the only real motivation to keep working for a retail store. But when it costs $180 for a single pair of jeans, how far does a 30 percent discount really go?
At trendy stores the clothing and accessory prices are usually extremely steep. The only thing worse than knowing your clothes are overpriced is having to convince other people that they are worth every penny.
Perhaps that is precisely why many clothing retailers push their staff to regurgitate employee taglines. These persuasive, mildly manipulative questions sound something like this: “Have you seen how great our sweaters fit?” or “Don’t you want to try on a pair of our amazing jeans?”Store upkeep throughout the day is certainly necessary, but folding and re-folding T-shirts so that all the size stickers match up in a perfect line is just silly. Why would anyone want to shop at a store where the employees follow you around to tidy up all the stacks of shirts you have looked at?
For shoppers and employees alike, just being in the atmosphere of a trendy clothing retailer can be a big headache. Loud music pounds in your chest as you maneuver through the store where posters of scantily clad models cover the walls. Playing loud music may not be hurting anyone, but displaying pictures of overexposed men and women makes for an environment that is far from family friendly.
Too often, kids find their way into stores meant for adults because their parents treat the mall as a day-care center. The result is that you will spend most of your time looking after the band of 12-year-olds who have taken up residence in your store.
Unruly kids are a nuisance, but shoplifters and people who destroy merchandise are a retailer’s worst nightmare. Although most malls have security officers, a store’s staff is usually responsible for handling incidents.
Mall security is also not always available to escort you through abandoned parking lots after a late-night shift. Safety becomes a big concern when you have to walk to your car alone after hours.
Lastly, working at the mall guarantees that you will run into at least one person you know every day. There is no hiding in your cubicle when you work in retail, so one can never plan on having a shred of privacy at work.
Working at the mall is hectic, suppressive and downright embarrassing at times. Next time you see a now-hiring sign, remember that the mall may not be your best employment option.