What Retail is Like, as Told by “Superstore”


You hear a lot about working in retail, and it is not always good. TV shows are now starting to show more and more into the overexaggerated world of retail, and they are actually doing a really good job of it. The show that I am talking about is “Superstore”, and for those of you who haven’t heard of it, I will give you a quick overview. It is about a group of people who all work in a place called Cloud 9 which is a discounted retail store whose major competitor is Target. That sounds a lot like a place many of us probably go once a week or more, with the big blue sign. It is just about the ins and outs of retail, and of course you add in the love triangle, the element of surprise and you got a show.

Now as a college student most of my jobs have been in retail and right now I am working at a grocery store. Now I won’t disclose the name of it to protect the customers and my job (I need the money). I also work at a gas station, so I really see the wide array of people you can run into. So when I was scrolling through Hulu and I noticed this show about retail work, I thought why not give it a try. It has a storyline that is easy to follow and it’s funny, but what I really thought was cool was that in the show they would break away and show the weird things that customers do. Don’t worry guys, not everything that they showed happens, well I am not sure, I have never witnessed a grown man using a display toilet, but then again I work in a grocery store.

I have however seen the weirdest things and when you work in the frozen section and you are putting stuff away, you can’t help but people watch or just note the little jokes or comments you make or they make. Side note: if you are a Minnesotan, yes, we do say all the little phrases we think we don’t say. We are just so used to saying them that we don’t know that we say them or how many times we say them in the day. Working in the grocery store really made me hear all the phrases I was saying that are so Minnesotan. Such as, and believe me when I tell you that I say each of these a lot when I am working, ‘ope’, ‘let me sneak past ya’, ‘let me just squeeze in here’, and of course ‘you betcha’.

Moving on to what the show got right and things I hear at work, because trust me, I head a lot. I hear the classic ‘if it doesn’t scan it must be free’, which gets old but when you work at a place that actually offers the customer the item for free if it doesn’t scan, so they aren’t wrong. We all know the free samples around the store, how you aren’t actually going to buy any of it, but you want free food. Many of the times, TV shows use the joke of the people eating multiple and Superstore does the same thing, except instead of being the strict ‘you can only have one’ it shows that they don’t care. They like to put samples up by the two aisles I work in, so you get to smell the food everytime you walk by and when you are working a nine-hour shift, it’s painful. But enough about my stomach. While I was working and people-watching, I watched this man explain to the woman behind the sample cart that he needed to grab some for his kids. She nodded and gave three samples to him and I watched this guy walk off to his empty cart with no kids in sight as he ate all three samples himself.

When people don’t think you are looking, they do a lot of things and I am not sure if they are normal or weird. One time, at the gas station I work at I was making cookies, the timer went off, but I had a line. So I opened the door to the little oven and went up to help the next customer. As I was helping the other customer, a woman comes up to me holding the pan that was in the small oven and one of the oven mitts and looks up at me asking to buy all of the cookies on the tray. The tray that I hadn’t even taken out of the oven. I have seen a baby crying while a mother tried to calm the baby down, while the dad played Nintendo Switch.

Just recently, Minnesota had been hit with winter storm after winter storm this year. It seemed like the day, or even a couple hours before the storm that the grocery store was flooded with people. Sometimes the store was even worse than it is on Christmas Eve. Let me tell you, it was like the apocalypse came and they needed to get food before the world ended. In an episode of Superstore they show a blizzard where there were still people coming in the store like it was nothing and for the stupidest things like a razor. I laughed and remembered that the lines started at 7:30 am that morning and even when I left at 4 p.m. the lines for each of the registers were backed up beyond compare.

I have never watched a more accurate show that depicted retail work. There are some obvious reasons why working retail sucks, like the crabby customers or the customers that seems their mission is to make your life hell. You have heard all of those stories before, and yes they happen and people can be awful. Though customers, and i am not saying they all do a lot of stuff when they think you aren’t looking. I think that Superstore has a funny outlook on what retail working is and it’s refreshing because many shows only showcase what it’s like working in an office, not on the sales floor of a retail job.