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Jun 12 2017
by Allison Humphrey

10 Tips For Working Retail This Summer

By Allison Humphrey - Jun 12 2017
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Ah, retail. The sweet sound of minimum wage and children crying for the latest toys. Love it or leave it, most college students have worked at least one retail job (and probably more). They’re a quick and easy way to boost your resume and make some quick cash to boot — but they can also be exceptionally miserable if you don’t plan ahead. Messy fitting rooms, gross spills and strange smells can turn an otherwise uneventful day of work into a nightmare. That is, unless you plan ahead for all of the little perks and challenges of working a retail job. Here are 10 of my best tips for working a part time job, particularly retail, this summer.

1. Wear comfortable shoes.

You will be on your feet for a minimum of three to four hours each shift. Standing doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but after your first shift, your aching calves will be all too happy to correct that opinion. It’ll take you at least a month of steady work before your body adjusts, and in the meantime, comfortable shoes are your best bet. Watch the dress code though; many department stores prefer employees to dress professionally. Tip: Buy orthopedic inserts. They go for about $20 and they can make a world of difference.

2. Drink lots of water.

You probably won’t get the chance to eat or drink often. Most workplaces won’t let you take a break for less than four hours’ work; some, including my friend’s barista job at a local coffeehouse, won’t until eight hours. If you’re someone like me who enjoys munching throughout the day, just how thirsty you get can come as an unpleasant surprise. Make sure to hydrate before and during your shift, when you can.

3. Take your breaks.

Seriously. I know it can be tempting to work through your break, and asking if you can take fifteen can be intimidating, but you’re not getting paid for that time. That extra ten or fifteen minutes of work is essentially free labor that you’re giving to the company, and you’re paid with the assumption that you took your break, whether or not you actually did. Also, if you consistently ignore your breaks, it can reflect badly on management. I speak from experience: When management isn’t happy, nobody's happy.

4. Buy a watch.

This might seem strange at first, but most department and clothing stores don’t have working clocks in the store outside of the break room. If your shift ends before closing, the only way to know when to clock out is to have the time on you, either with a watch or your phone. I really don’t recommend having your phone on you during shifts, however — most stores frown upon it, and you don’t want to risk your phone being lost or damaged.

5. Actually read the handbook.

Similar to the above tip about phones, most stores clearly outline their policies for employees — if you bother to read the handbook. It’s boring, but skimming sections that apply to you (such as unpaid time off, clocking in/out and dress code) could save serious time and effort in the long run. It’s much better to know the policies on food than being called in to talk to management because you left a peanut granola bar on the table.

6. Know the store.

This one’s a bit self-explanatory. Some employers might equip you with walkie talkies or radios, in which case you can always call and ask for guidance, but it’s a lot simpler to know the general layout of the store and your specific areas in further detail. I like to know where certain brands are kept in the misses department, as well as where the bathrooms and checkout lines are, and the general locations of other departments (shoes, men’s clothing, etc). It makes things run much more smoothly, and there’s no unnecessary panic when a hurried customer needs to buy a last minute birthday gift but can’t find the item.

7. Don’t let your friends come into the store to visit you.

I know, I know, it’s tempting to invite your friends to crash your shift. But steer clear — it can come across as unprofessional, distract from actual customers and could cost you seriously in the long run. On that note...

8. Be professional.

Ever heard the saying “the customer is always right?” Forget that. It’s a blatant lie. Customers rarely know better than someone who’s paid to know the store like the back of their hand, but most think they do, and that’s the important bit. Be polite and courteous, even if it feels painful. For one, you don’t want to escalate an already unpleasant conversation; two, as an employee, you’re paid to stay in the store, the customer is free to leave at any time. Upset a customer and you may just lose their business, which could really tick off management, who rely on sales and credit cards to maintain their salaries.

9. Leave your problems at the door.

You might’ve had a bad day. You might’ve had a really bad day. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the store needs to know about it. It’s definitely too much to ask for anyone to be Susie Sunshine all the time, but try to be polite and civil to your coworkers and customers. They probably aren’t responsible for whatever’s irking you, but they could definitely add to your load if you take it out on them. Plus, they’re paid to manage the store, not act as your own personal therapist. Focus on your work while you’re at work. Whatever’s bothering you will still be there after your shift. If not, it wasn’t worth the fuss anyhow.

10. If you see something, say something.

This last one’s a big one. The reason your salary is competitive is that anti-theft measures work. At risk of sounding like too much of a narc, it’s important that if you see some suspicious behavior, you find a way to alert a higher up. This could save the store a lot of time and money, and oftentimes employees who report thefts are rewarded financially. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it might seem — a simple tip could mean the difference between raises all-around and being laid off because the store isn’t feasible. Yikes.

Fresh U wishes you the best of luck with your retail jobs this summer!

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay


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Allison Humphrey - Barnard College

Allison Humphrey is a freshman at Barnard College majoring in History and minoring in English and International Relations. In high school, she was involved with marching band and was literature editor for the literary magazine. Allison loves Byronic heroines, thunderstorms at night, and bright red lipstick of any brand and price point. Follow her on Instagram @alisbeths!

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