Shout out to all the frazzled retail workers: I feel ya. This time of year is awful for you guys – until very recently, I was one of you guys! After my time as an Xmas sales assistant, three distinct experiences spring to mind…
1. The queues. Oh dear God, the queues…
2. The questions. Just so. Many. Questions.
3. The very rude, inexplicably angry customers. “Why don’t you have this in stock?” “I’m actually in a rush, I don’t have time for any of your offers.” “5p for a bag?! Outrageous!” “Why can’t I return this without a receipt? I know my rights, you know!”
It’s shit. You get zero time to yourself. You’re expected to work crazy hours that give the bigwig CEOs – who sit in their comfy offices and work nice, normal hours – cartoonish dollar signs in their eyes. You’re there at the crack of dawn for the early shoppers. You’re there until late at night for the after-work buyers. You’re there on Christmas Eve for the last minute-ers. You’re there on Boxing Day for the sales fanatics. You’re literally always at work.
There’s no build-up for you. No lovely festive shopping trips, no pre-Christmas get-togethers, no cosying up on the sofa for a day of mulled wine and Christmas films. Grabbing a spare few hours between shifts to purchase, wrap and deliver presents is a military mission. You get one day, ONE DAY, to celebrate – Christmas Day. My ‘one day’ had to be split between mine and my boyfriend’s family, so I ended up with half a day to see my ‘rents, my grandparents, my extended family (who I bloody love)… everyone!
It makes getting into the festive spirit really, really hard.
This year I left retail at the very last moment – I was Indiana Jones, rolling under the store shutter and snatching up my trusty hat just in the nick of time. I switched to my first office-based role in December and, thanks to the time of year, I’ve instantly felt the benefits.
The Christmas party, for one. When you’re a retail worker in a shopping centre or central city location, it’s impossible to arrange the perfect time for a Christmas bash – someone, somewhere, is always working and, inevitably, we’re told the party will just have to wait until the New Year… Again. But the office Christmas party – much like the recent Jennifer Anniston flick – went all-out and, for the first time, work felt Christmassy to me.
The computers are decorated with tinsel. Treats sit waiting for you on the desk – a secret santa gift, a thank you from your manager. Everyone wants to go for pre-Christmas drinks after work because, why not, it’s only 5pm. Not to mention actually knowing in advance which festive days you can spend with your loved ones – including Boxing Day and the glorious feeling of not facing the crazy ‘o’ clock shoppers first thing in the morning!
I don’t at all envy those who are stuck in yet another year of Christmas retail. I sympathise – no, I empathise – with you. Who knows, I may well end up back there again one day, the office might not be the place for me after all. Only time will tell. But for now, I know for sure that I’m so, so glad I left my retail job when I did because I finally feel like I can enjoy Christmas, just like everyone else.