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So You Want to Work in Retail - Part 2

Updated on April 8, 2013


The boss can definitely have an effect on how much you will enjoy your job. There are some that are great at employee relations, but bad at business acumen, some the reverse, some are good at both and some are bad at both.

One of the best things as a retail employee that you want in management is flexibility. Since the schedule in retail can be a wild card, having a boss that is accommodating when you need a day off is one you want to work for, and want to do your best for. A true gem is one that will adjust the schedule after it is already made if you somehow forgot to request a day off in advance and were scheduled to work that day. Some bosses have the policy that once the schedule is made out, that's final on their end. If you want that day off, you will have to take it up with one of your coworkers that might be willing to switch with you. Fortunately for us, my boss was very accommodating in that regard.

Another quality that an employee desires in a boss is loyalty. Most of the time in business, "the customer is always right" usually prevails. But, if a customer is being exceptionally abusive to an employee, a good boss to work for is one that will tell that customer to leave. Especially if the abuse is done loudly. A customer carrying on to that extent carries the risk of not only causing undue stress on the employee, but also driving other customers out of the store.

If your boss is flexible, loyal, and fair, that goes a long way.


This is one of the most important and unsung attributes you will learn when working in retail. Inevitably, there will be periodic disputes with customers. Sometimes you may be in the wrong, sometimes the customer may be, and sometimes it may be a mix of the two. Diplomacy is a very important quality to develop, because it has the potential to take you very far in the business world, way after you may leave the retail establishment you are employed in. In order for a business to survive, it needs customers, and thus you must learn how to settle disputes with customers without losing their business. The art of diplomacy is most important and the hardest to use in cases when you are clearly in the right. In many cases, it's often best to let the customer have their way even when they may be 100% wrong. For example, I had a customer return to the store complaining that we sold him beer that had gone bad. He handed me the open bottle, and I smelled it. This particular brand of beer has an exceptionally bitter taste, and smell to go with it. It had not gone bad, that was its actual taste. He even conceded he had not tried it before. However, I gave him the refund he demanded, and we just returned the five unopened bottles to the cooler to be sold individually. The price of that one bottle of beer was not worth losing his future business.


More retail store jobs than not pay lower than the median salary. According to the BLS, the average retail sales associate makes just over $12 per hour. If you work in a small party store like I did, expect to start at minimum wage. Many of those jobs are, entry level positions that may not pay well in salary, but provide a lot of learning and skill building opportunity. I know that the business acumen I acquired, as well as people skills development benefited me exponentially more than the salary. I was in college on a commuter campus, living at home. I did not need to make a very high wage at the time. If you need an immediate wage that is considerably higher than minimum, your best bet is to work in a retail store that gives commission.

To Make a Career of Retail or Not

Like any job, it's wise to give it your 100%. Learn as much as possible, as well as you can, because you never know where the future will lead you. My former boss started out as an employee in the store he ended up buying. He was someone working part time and in college, like me. But he liked the line of work so much that when he was 21, the owner was ready to retire and asked him if he would like to buy the store. He was taken aback at first, but the rest is history. He eventually bought two more stores, and the rest is history. He was a party store/grocery store owner for 50 years.

If you do not end up making a career out of retail, and like me, end up using it as an entry level stepping stone, it would still behoove you to put just as much effort in it. When seeking your first job in your chosen field, a good reference can help a lot. And some of the knowledge and skills you acquire can help you in your future occupation. My job was frustrating and maddening at times, but overall I am glad I worked there. I value the experience.


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