Reality and the Retail Workplace —How to be a Conscientious Shopper
From my own experience as a retail worker over 3 decades, the only stores in which I was treated as a professional valued employee are the upscale stores in which sales people earned commission. With a book of loyal customers, employers take notice of the sales persons needs.
My last job in retail was with a large retail drug store. While I was valued at the store level, it was very obvious that corporate only considered the store manager as an asset. The rest of us were grist for the mill. The biggest insult, I felt, was never having a set schedule. This resulted in my leaving the company after 5 years.
Most of my co-workers were adults, not students or high-schoolers, many with college degrees. People who depended on the job to pay the rent and for benefits. Only a few of us worked enough hours to qualify for benefits. Young adults with children and/or car payments were truly wage-slaves. They couldn’t depend on any set schedule and it made child care and planning any activities for their children difficult.
As a middle-class, old(er) white woman who was working mostly for something to do and for extra savings, it was a BIG WAKE-UP CALL when I learned that most of my co-workers with children qualified for WIC. This meant that the government paid for their baby formula and other staples because they did not earn enough to do so.
My co-workers were not lazy or stupid. They were individuals doing the best they could in a complex world. It is a honor to call many of them friend to this day.
Never again will I complain about my tax dollars going to social services. There is such a thing as the working poor in the United States of America.
The Retail Action Project conducted a study of retail workers called Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short. The results from the report, published in 2012, show alarming trends in the retail sector — trends that make it difficult for workers to cover basic needs and raise families on the salaries they earn.
The study found that
Only 17% of retail workers surveyed have a regular schedule
About 34% of relied on public assistance
Over half earn less than $10/hour
More than 70% don’t get health insurance from their jobs
77% of Latina retail workers made under $10/hour