By: Dorsa Rahbar
Working in retail has changed the Christmas season for the worse
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
As I popped some candy corn into my mouth, I couldn’t help but feel sad.
The rows of houses were lined with faceless pumpkins, our neighbours were either too tired or too unbothered to carve scary faces into the orange circles that were displayed at their front doors. Halloween is not only my favourite holiday, but it’s also my favourite time of year. The leaves in reds and yellows, the autumn air that feels familiar, and the marathon of horror movies that await me.
Instead of joy, I feel uneasy. Halloween night is followed closely by the glitter and chaos; ornaments that are too fragile, an endless pile of returns no longer in carts, and lines of customers ready for checkout. Christmas for me, and pretty much every other retail worker, starts on the night of Halloween. As my co-workers stay late to pack away the remains of costumes and graves, replacing them with candy canes and tiny pine trees.
It’s almost as if Halloween never existed. All traces of it are stored in lifeless boxes that are put away, and reopened the next year. For me, Halloween is celebrated throughout the entirety of October but never on the 31st. The end of October reminds me of the looming stress from the holiday season, which is heightened this year by the pandemic.
Each year, Christmas feels even more stressful than the last. With shopping carts filled with returns in the backroom, the swarm of customers in each aisle, long lines of people ready for check out, and now door duty to cap the maximum number of people in the store.
As well as worrying about exams this December, I’m also worried about my next shift. What happens if I’m alone on cash and get customers who grow impatient with me? What if I’m on door duty and there’s a long line outside in the cold winter and people start to give me glaring looks?
Christmas no longer feels the same. I can’t curl up on the sofa and watch Home Alone anymore like I used to when I was 10 years old, without wanting my own escape like Kevin, regardless of how he had to fight off two escaped convicts. And I certainly can’t listen to music while drinking hot chocolate without recalling what aisle it belongs to (it’s aisle four, by the way).
Each December, I’m reminded of the importance of patience and care, and how the words please and thank you go a long way. On behalf of retail workers everywhere, it is crucial to be gentle and understanding this holiday season.
Working in retail, I’ve learned so much about these teachings. One day, I’ll have an experience with a customer that makes me want to never leave the house again. On another day, I’ll have a customer that was literally God sent, making me feel safe and appreciated.
Christmas in retail is quite honestly one of the toughest jobs you will ever work. One of my life mottos is that everyone should work at least one month in retail before they ever complain about long lines or merchandising.
So, before you complain about waiting in a long line, ask yourself how the cashiers feel. Or, before you start to complain about the lack of merchandise, remember how hard the stockers are working for you to obtain your necessities.
Working four years in retail, you learn a couple of things. For example, when it gets busy or I’m having a bad day, I remember a piece of advice that helps me work through my problem. I try to remember that it’s not my fault and that I am doing my best. As I regard my own co-workers, many who are older than me and many who are younger, I feel a bit less alone when I talk to them, joke around, and share small moments of our lives to one another. While retail isn’t the easiest job in the world, I count myself lucky to have met so many hard-working, kind people.
While this year comes to an end with one of the busiest Christmases I have ever witnessed, it’s important to be patient and gentle with retail workers. Sometimes we forget that we are all human, and like each other, we are going through various emotions and experiences. Be considerate of each other’s circumstances—this means tolerating long lines and being patient when someone makes a mistake. It goes a long way, and it helps to diminish much of the stress retail workers carry.
This cold December night feels quiet and while Christmas isn’t my favourite holiday, it sure does look pretty. The rows of houses festive with red and green lights and pine trees with snow hanging from their spiky branches, this month, our neighbours are excited and eager for Christmas, embracing the new year ahead.