Retail Madness

General / 19 June 2021

I decided after getting vaccinated that it was time to get out, meet new people, get some exercise, see some new sh*t, and pay some bills, and so I got a part time job working as a store associate at one of the locations of a *large off-brand retailer*. 

This isn't entirely true, of course. Actually, I got rejected by all of the office administration jobs I applied to, but it's just as well. I don't think they would've provided the flexibility I needed.

My new position is the first proper retail job experience I've had. In the past, I've worked in food service and as a cashier at a pharmacy, but that's not the same. Once, I came close to getting a job at a *large natural beauty make-up and skincare retailer* because I enjoyed their products (skincare, not make-up), but the interviewer saw my hesitation when she mentioned I was required to wear a minimum of five pieces of make-up for work.

Hold on. "Five pieces of make-up?"

"Yes. It can be anything - brows, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, foundation, blush, bronzer, lipstick or lipgloss... It has be at least five pieces."

I thought about having to buy make-up and spend at least 30 to 45 (unpaid) minutes putting it on every time I had to go to work. On an $11/hour pre-tax wage (it was a time before minimum was increased to $14.25) and an average drugstore make-up price of about $12 per piece of make-up, that meant you spent the first 2-5 days of your wages just paying for the make-up you'd need to not get fired.

This was for a retail position in Toronto, where the average rent price was about $1,400/month for a one-bedroom and a ride on the bus or subway was $3.20 each way. To barely survive, you would've had to work this retail job 40 hours a week every week. It's enough to make anyone feel hopeless about their situation.

My current job is less than a 10 minute drive away, and I only work part-time. I am not required to wear make-up. With the reopening at 15% capacity, it has been an insane two weeks. I got scheduled extra shifts just because we had unprecedented levels of marking down. It seemed like 90% of the merchandise has gone to clearance. To mark down, you scan every single item in every department, one department at a time. My shifts have been mostly from 7:30am - 3pm and I work every minute of it except for the government mandated break. I love being busy because it makes the time pass faster, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after everything's been scanned and organized.

After you've spent almost a year sitting all day long behind a computer monitor, you begin to remember you have muscles because they ache. I haven't felt this way since my last effort at exercise, in particular, squats, lunges, dead lifts, and shoulder presses. 

Lastly, meeting new people. From my observations, my co-workers are 95% superwomen. I've never seen ladies (many of them with smaller frames than me) move so fast and lift so much over a sustained period of time. Using box cutters, they rip open cardboard boxes with German-level efficiency, and stock shelves up and down with the speed of a Horace Slughorn spell, the one where he puts his room back together with the sweep of his wand (from Harry Potter). At the front, they process check-outs and returns and remove sensors and bag merch super fast while also chitchatting cheerfully with customers.

There was a time when I was new to Canada and could barely get a retail job. Even after finishing my Bachelors and having worked throughout college and starting my own business, I couldn't get an interview for a retail job. I got my break finally working at a bubble tea shop. I am not sure what they look for in a resume to consider you for a position in this line of work. However, these days I suspect that there's a lot of hiring going on for jobs where you're required to be physically there.

The truth is that working on my portfolio all day long sometimes made me feel a bit sad. Sometimes, I felt like I'd never actually find work in the industry no matter what I put out. I deal with this sense of lack of control by widening my horizons and forcing myself to think of other things. On top of needing to bolster my finances, I knew I needed to fill those moments by getting really busy with something not art or 3d related. 

 I think I'm where I need to be right now.