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“Can You Check the Back?”

With Coachella, Stagecoach, and summer coming up I'm reminded of my time working as a Sales Associate for Forever 21. The amount of times I was asked to "check the back," the fitting room horror stories, the way I would see people act for clothes, and some moments that made working retail worth it are endless.

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Those nicely folded clothes you see in the picture above? Someone had to do that, I've had to do that. People don't seem to understand the amount of time and effort it takes to actually fold clothes so they look like they've been folded by a machine. I've folded three tables full of clothes just to have someone come into the store and completely destroy hours worth of work in a matter of minutes. Stop doing that, people. If retail workers are coming up to you and asking if you need help, let them help. Unless you know exactly what you want and where it's located, make your life easier and their lives easier and let them direct you to where you need to be. I know we're getting paid to fold clothes, but you don't understand how much it actually hurts our hearts to watch our hard work be completely disregarded by people. You may think that folding these clothes is easy or just part of our job so for some reason, you have a right to go through clothes the way you want. But it's not difficult to look through clothes gently and carefully, the chances are, you'll probably find your size faster that way. Just out of common courtesy, be considerate when you're trying to find what you want because we genuinely do want you to find what you need and feel happy in the clothes you're wearing, but we can't help you find what you want if you don't tell us or let us help you.

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I've actually enjoyed helping people find clothes and outfits, it's fun to see people get excited over a potential new outfit they can wear for a night out with friends. It's amazing to see young girls who seem insecure feel comfortable and happy and beautiful in clothes I've helped pick out for them because let's face it, finding clothes for girls is difficult. We all have different body types and clothing stores don't make it easy to find what will fit just right.

I used to be the sales associate stationed in the fitting room because I loved doing that and I was good at finding clothes for people. I remember helping these two girls find some new outfits and it was fun to help them see how beautiful they are, that they definitely can pull off wearing bright colors like yellow and that yes their haircut looks great with that off the shoulder shirt so buy it so you can wear it and take cute pictures and feel good and beautiful. I've also seen the other side of shopping, where this young girl was in middle school and that stage of life is incredibly difficult. People underestimate how insecure kids in middle school are but let's all face it, we know we wouldn't go back to middle school unless you paid us thousands of dollars; I surely wouldn't. It's an awkward and terrible stage of life where you're constantly uncertain of who you are and how you look and people can be mean and say terrible things to you, which can make you feel even more insecure. But I tried helping this girl find some clothes for her first day back at school and it was so hard to see her feel like she wasn't beautiful and pretty because she didn't deem the clothes she picked flattering on her. Her older sister was there and thankfully she and I were able to help her get to a point where she found an outfit she really liked. Those moments make working retail worth the trouble.

One of the worst experiences I've had with working retail was during Black Friday, that whole day was a horror story in and of itself. For some reason, everyone decides to be extremely hostile and forget that retail workers are humans beings. We have feelings, we can only move so fast and sometimes, there is nothing else we can do for you to get a better deal. Remember that retail workers can only do what they're told. No, we cannot give you a bigger discount because you've been standing in line for so long. Yes, we understand that they went on sale after you bought them but no we cannot give you a discount on clothes you've already bought. We did tell you about our return and exchange policy and yes it is on the receipt, so no we are not going to return the shoes you just bought. 

The most famous question: "Can you check the back?" is a joke. Our back is stacks and stacks of boxes of clothes that aren't out on the floor yet. If you're looking for a different size, you'll find it in the store not in the back of the store. We want to get rid of all these clothes, I promise we aren't hiding anything in the back. If you're insistent on checking the back, then it should only be for general clothing descriptions. If you're looking for a specific top, then it's only going to be on the floor, not in the back. If you're looking for a general black dress, maybe there is something in the back. But let me be clear, the back is not some closet that magically turns into the closet from Princess Diaries or Hannah Montana. "The back" is like Narnia, don't make us try to look through Narnia when we know that cute crop top for Coachella is not there, it's probably with hundreds of other girls who came to the store earlier.

Please be nice to retail workers, they really are just trying to do their jobs. Remember that these are probably college or high school students who are literally just trying to make extra money to pay for school or to support themselves. Don't yell at them if they're taking too long, especially if you asked them to go find something specific. More often than not, they're trying to ask all the other sales associates if they've seen those shoes you want, that crop top you want, that denim skirt you need, or whatever you're asking for. Ask for help, it's not embarrassing and we'll appreciate helping someone rather than trying to clean up the mess you can leave when you're frantically looking for something you need. It doesn't matter if you think our job makes us "less than," we're human too and we deserve respect as well. If you think this job is so easy, then maybe you should try it too.

Kyla Buenaventura

Cal Lutheran '19

Kyla Buenaventura was the Writing Director and Senior Editor for Her Campus at Cal Lutheran from 2017-2019. She double majored in Economics and Political Science with an emphasis in Law and Public Policy. When she was still at Cal Lutheran, she loved writing and inspiring her Writing Team to express their love and passion for topics through their own unique writing styles. 
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