40 Pics From “Retail Hell,” A Place Where Retail Workers Come Together And Support Each Other
The two things I vividly recall from working in retail are the customers and the managers. But not because they were good. No no, because they taught me how to smile while my mind was repeating "Fu** you."
Of course, there was the cleaning of the floor, the stocking of the shelves, and the ringing of the register but these responsibilities were the easy part. The human factor was where the misery was usually at. And if it wasn't for my colleagues, I don't know if I would have lasted for as long as I did.
So I was very glad to come across r/RetailHell. The subreddit acts like an online support center where workers from the industry come together to both vent and celebrate their painful and proud moments on the job. Sometimes, just the fact that someone is listening is enough.
It Do Be Facts Tho
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We managed to get in touch with the mods of r/RetailHell and they were kind enough to have a little chat with us about it.
"This subreddit is very easy to mod," one of them told Bored Panda. "The community is really supportive and very little policing needs to be done, that's probably because the majority of members work retail, and anything insulting or rude to employees will be downvoted to oblivion, so it's largely self-governing."
"That said, we pretty much just ban people for breaking the rules," another mod added. "None of that negotiating a timeframe and then having to ban them again in a month. If you're [a jerk], we just ban you."
"The community itself is really positive, funny, and insightful about working in retail," the first mod continued. "Lots of people letting their internal monologues out where in work they have to keep a smile on even behind a mask."
"The most popular themes are humorous — we have a good sense of humor here. In retail, you have to or you just wouldn't survive."
However, it's not just sunshine and days off. As the second mod explained, if you dig a little deeper, you realize it's a bunch of tired people trying to get a break from life.
A large part of this emotional exhaustion comes from indifferent bosses. Zeynep Ton, a Professor of the Practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management, whose research focuses on how organizations can design and manage their operations in a way that satisfies employees, customers, and investors simultaneously, thinks the main reason why retailers underinvest in labor is that it's often their largest controllable expense.
"[Labor] can account for more than 10% of revenues—a considerable level in an industry with low profit margins," Ton explained in Harvard Business Review. "In addition, many retailers see labor as a cost driver rather than a sales driver and therefore focus on minimizing its costs. Accordingly, they often evaluate store managers on whether they meet monthly (or weekly) targets for payroll as a percentage of sales. These managers don't have much control over sales (they almost never make decisions on merchandise mix, layout, price, or promotions), but they do have a fair amount of control over payroll. So when sales decrease, they immediately reduce staffing levels. The pressure to reduce payroll expenses is so high that store managers at several large chains, including Walmart, have been widely reported to have forced employees to work off-the-clock, paying them for fewer hours than they put in."
"You Are Not At A Level Of Skill That Deserves This Wage"
However, according to a new analysis of more than 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews, a toxic culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee leaving than compensation. That culture includes failing to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion; unethical behavior; and workers feeling disrespected, the report said.
"Compensation is at best a moderate predictor of attrition," Donald Sull, a co-founder of analytics firm CultureX, which performed the analysis, told Bloomberg.
The research focused on reviews posted between April and September 2021 for large for-profit companies that employ roughly 25% of private-sector workers.
The numbers revealed that apparel retailers are losing the highest number of workers. Retail employees had an average attrition rate of 19% during that six-month period, and retail employees quit at a rate three times higher than airline workers, medical device makers, and health insurance employees.
It Said "Call Center" Previously, I Believe It Also Applies
The first moderator of r/RetailHell believes this toxicity is so abundant because "current culture allows it."
"Retail and other front line workers have not benefited yet from the change in cultural behavior that we have seen over the last 20 years, and part of that cultural problem comes from retail itself. It allows customers a lot of room to abuse employees because, at the end of the day, the customer spends money," the mod said. "These are my views only ... but I'm 21 years in retail."
The second mod said they don't think that customers are mindfully misbehaving. "It's not that they want to be [jerks] to the workers, it's that they literally can't see outside their bubble and recognize that it's another human being stocking those shelves. I really think they often don't take the time to mention that. You'll see that in stories from here. A customer is being a complete a***ole, but the worker shows emotion like crying, and suddenly they realize what they've done. I've seen workers talk about de-escalation methods that speak to this very issue. When you get them to realize that you're a human, rather than simply a conduit to donuts, their attitude often changes."
"This isn't always the case, and some people just suck," the mod highlighted. "I'm willing to bet most of those people suck outside of a retail setting, too. Sometimes retail is simply society's first line of defense against [jerks]."