Why Everyone Needs to Work Retail Once in their Life

Starting at the age of 16, I have been working in retail, selling everything from shoes to food. From those almost 4 years of experience, I can easily say that retail has given me a lot of knowledge about humans and their behaviors while also teaching me some very valuable life lessons in general. I know that when I talk to adults or other people my age that don’t work in retail or that never have, they don’t have the same respect for retail workers or have gone through the life lessons that retail workers like myself have. Like most retail workers, I could write a book about all of the things that have ever been said to me, done to me, and done to my coworkers that most people wouldn’t believe. For some reason, when you stand behind a counter or are wearing a uniform or nametag, people’s humanity gets ripped from them and they treat you as subpar in every way. For those of you that may not have worked retail, or that may be considering it, here are some of the most important things that retail has taught me.


I truly could write my entire article on just patience. When your job is to interact with the public, you have to be able to keep your patience for so many different situations. You may have to talk to an elderly person whose hearing is not great, or a young child/teenager who isn’t very good at communication yet. Many times, there are people who speak broken English or have very thick accents that may be difficult to understand. No matter what customer you had to deal with before them or what may be going on in your personal life, you have to remember that they are a new person that has nothing to do with all of those other things. They deserve your patience, cooperation, and respect. Losing your cool on someone is the one sure way to lose that job as quickly as you got it, not to mention ruining someone else’s day.

Master the Neutral Expression

While there may be great and nice customers who are understanding and respectful, there are about the same amount that are unbelievably rude, careless, and disrespectful. There are customers that will come up to you and ask really stupid, obvious questions or say something that really just gets under your skin. The most difficult part of retail for myself, as I am a very expressive person, was to keep my emotions in check and master a neutral expression that I could tack on anytime someone was bothering me or completely baffling me. Once mastered, it is a handy gift that can be used in your real life as well!


Depending on what retail job you have, multi-tasking can be one of the most important aspects of the job. There were times at my job that I would have 3 or 4 things that I was trying to accomplish at once, and I had to keep them all straight in my head and work as efficiently and accurately as possible. You never know when someone might call out sick or be late, a machine might break, or a customer come with a big complaint. Retail jobs certainly keep you on your feet and make you stretch your memory and skills to higher and higher levels.

Let Things Go

Arguably one of the most important lessons that retail ever taught me was to Let. Things. Go. Sometimes people will just be nasty to you for no reason- maybe they themselves were having a bad day and decided to take it out on you- and that some people will just never be pleased, no matter what you do or say. If I held on to every person who was ever rude to me, I would have exploded by now. Like I said before, some people just don’t seem to realize that they are talking to an actual human being, not an emotionless robot who can’t feel pain. The only way to get back at them is to not let whatever they did or said to you ruin your attitude or shift or day. This is such an important thing to bring into your actual life as well; there will always be little things that you could let ruin your day, but you have to learn to let them go and continue pushing forward.

The next time that you go to order food or check out at a store or ask an employee a question, keep in mind a few key things: these employees you are talking to are just as human as you are, so we are prone to make mistakes and may not know the answers to everything. We could have a million different tasks were supposed to be doing at that moment, or we could have just been cursed out by the customer right before you. Try to be as patient, respectful, and cooperative as you can, because the easier and nicer you are to work with, the more accommodating and helpful I can be.