At the beginning of the pandemic, I was laid off from my retail job. I was unemployed for about three months with no word on when I was going to be going back or even about when my store was going to be reopening.
Towards the middle of May, I still hadn’t received a call. I kept hearing about other businesses opening, but no word on mine. I went on the job hunt and found another retail job that I could work at until my pre-pandemic job was up and running.
I was excited to work, not only because I needed to make more money since my stimulus check went to rent, but also because I had been cooped up inside for so long.
I was eager to get back to work to fill up my time a little bit. However, I quickly regretted that.
The first few days of being back out in the retail world were good. I was back into the swing of things with a routine. Wake up, shower, eat, go to work and such. It was nice to have some structure back in my life.
In the beginning of life returning to “normal” not a whole lot of people were going out shopping. People were still skeptical about the virus and were choosing to stay in. There were limited numbers of shoppers in the store, which in turn means limited customer interactions.
However, about mid June or early July, more and more people started coming out. The store was constantly busy and the hustle and bustle of retail life was back.
My least favorite part of working in retail has always been the rude customers and I think any one of us could agree. There is nothing like being talked down to or ridiculed at your minimum wage job by someone who has presumably never done your job before.
Before the pandemic hit, my experiences with these so-called “Karens” were few and far between. Occasionally customers wouldn’t like the prices that corporate set or they wouldn’t be happy with a purchase due to the crappy quality of a product. All of this I could handle.
Now, more than seven months into this pandemic, there seems to be more of these Karens than I have ever experienced. Oh, your restrooms and fitting rooms are closed? Manager. How come I can only get store credit or an exchange if I have a return? Do I really need to wear a mask in here? The yelling and the stern tones they use when they don’t get their way.
I have been asked all these questions every single day since at least July. As a consumer myself, I understand why this is frustrating, but I put myself in that retail worker's shoes.
How would you like it if someone spoke to you like that? How would you feel if someone came to your work and criticized you for something that was out of your control?
One thing that I think these people forget is that retail workers are still human. While you might be upset that they can’t bypass the register system to give you that sale, or they can’t just “let you into the fitting room this one time” that they are the monster, when in reality, they are just like you.
Step back and think before you speak. Don’t belittle the cashiers or the service workers. They want this to be over as much as the next person. This pandemic has affected everyone and you don’t know what they might be going through outside of work.
Be kind to retail and service workers and remember, they’re human too.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.