Wal-Mart- What’s Wrong With Retail

It was my first week on the job as we all stood around the hideous old fixture building bamboo arrangements out of the mugs we had snatched from the clearance table.   We were to fill the mugs with river pebbles, place in 3, 5, or 7 bamboo stalks, and then tie them with raffia to finish off the perfect feng shui arrangements.

The clanging of the rocks bounced off the ceramic walls of the cups and battled the murmur of conversation between two of my teammates.  College graduation was quickly approaching and their looming future lay heavy on their minds, “what are you going to do with your life,” the female associate spoke to the male.

“I’m going to stay here, the DM has already promised me the management track.”

Her face mangled in disgust, as if the nerve of such a statement was the most stupid one she ever heard.  “You can’t stay here, you can’t work retail forever!”

The clanging of the cups were now piercing my ears like nails on a chalk board.  My blood began to boil, and though I understood why she felt the way she did, I found the judgement harsh and unfair.   I loved this job, it was the best thing that had happened to me.   Before this I had worked at many professional, “career like” jobs.  I had been assistant to a director of a Museum, Office Manager for a Plastic Surgeon for five years, and even the personal assistant to the Head of a Board of Trustees at a multi-billion dollar bank.  I had completed important meetings, achieved great goals, and performed every aspect as I was classically trained to do by my public schools.   College was the only avenue to success, and success was only measured by being a lawyer, doctor, businessman, or just about anything that required a degree.

Now here I stood, a temporary summer sales associate in retail and I had never felt more alive, so inspired, so fulfilled.  No longer was I trapped behind a desk, suddenly I was in a sea where the glass ceiling was not so foggy with the heavens of corporate shining brilliant rays of possibility down on me.   Everyday I was greeted by new amazing and interesting faces, and I was paid to share the unique oddities that I had spent my college years studying and lusting for with my customers.

I looked up at my male teammate, the guy who thought he had it figured out, and saw himself now questioning his aspirations.  I wanted to speak up, but the green to my experience made me doubt, I thought perhaps ‘I just don’t understand, not quite yet.’

For five years I worked at that job, and with zero experience and a completely unrelated and unnecessary expensive degree I mistakenly made my way to corporate just by dedication, and passion.  Before I took my leave to be a stay at home mother, I was answering to a Vice President of a retailer with a decently large footprint.  I had reached a level that I had always thought someone like me was never destined to climb.

So here I am to ask, what so wrong with retail?   I read an article not long ago that, though attempting to be fair, was incredibly condescending to the idea of a Wal-Mart Career.   The reporter ended the article with a condescending quote from a manager’s lips:

“You can be with Walmart forever.”

Wal-Mart might not be the dream job for allot of us, but with so much lack in support for any retail or customer service position, no one’s really been allowed to give that hope a fighting chance.

The beauty of retail is the excitement of your days, the people you meet, and the open opportunities.  For those of you who are seeking big pay and easier schedules there is always growth, always transfers and transitions, and that means there are always new management positions up for grabs.  If you want it, then simply apply yourself and grab it.   A Wal-Mart manager could make six figures a year, that is nothing to scoff at, and with 75% of their management team having started as associates, they are eager to grow their employees from within.  Even as a part time employee you will rake in some major benefits such as:

  • Bonuses
  • Tuition assistance
  • Work for Credit
  • Super affordable Insurance Plans
  • Retirement Plan Options
  • In-Store Discount
  • Exclusive out-of-store Discounts

When I was in retail, it never occurred to me to be ashamed of it.  I was blown back when my college mentor bumped into me on the sales floor one day.  She didn’t know if I would be there, but when she saw me she became sullen and quiet, “are you happy?”

I smiled, “I love this job!  I’ve only been with the company a few months and I’m already assistant manager.”

Her face didn’t waiver, “I’m sorry, I feel like I let you down somewhere.”

It wasn’t until I was out of the retail gig and blogging that I realized the problem is not so much being stuck in a retail, or restaurant, or blue collar gig; instead the problem is in our education. We are told we can be whatever we want, and they encourage us to “dream big”, or their definition of it that is. But one, as my husband says, “we can’t all be astronauts.”  And two, your success cannot be measured for you by anyone but you.

If mowing lawns makes you happy, then do it.  If you find peace and fulfillment in a warehouse job, so be it.   And if I find bliss I never thought possible through retail…please just be happy for me.



This is Part of the #AtoZChallenge


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36 thoughts on “Wal-Mart- What’s Wrong With Retail

  1. “It wasn’t until I was out of the retail gig and blogging that I realized the problem is not so much being stuck in a retail, or restaurant, or blue collar gig; instead the problem is in our education. We are told we can be whatever we want, and they encourage us to “dream big”, or their definition of it that is. But one, as my husband says, “we can’t all be astronauts.” And two, your success cannot be measured for you by anyone but you.”

    lovely in eeeevery way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Either you love retail or you don’t and some people are just perfect for the job and the job is perfect for them. When you find a great job that gives you satisfaction and all the great benefits, why look elsewhere?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this! This world needs people in all kinds of jobs and I agree that we should be free to choose what we love and pursue it with our heads held high! Do what you love and love what you do! We spend most of our life at work — we may as well enjoy it. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My first real job was at Staples when I was 16 years old. I went from cashier to all over before ending as a supervisor. I was there for 11 years and even did some recruiting for them. I could have gone management but ended up going into education instead. I LOVED my job and everything about retail. I miss it a lot but wouldnt want the hours now with small kids.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My ex-wife worked in retail back when we were still living in Brooklyn, and I had just finished college. It was crazy hours, but she was a manager and seemed to love the challenge. I don’t think I could ever do it, though…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d try to go visit her during the day to make sure she was okay and to remind her she had this awesome guy waiting for her at the end of her 16 hour shift. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so true for so many jobs/professions–YOU are the only one who can determine what is a “good” job or career path for yourself. YOU are the only one who knows what makes you happy. I am furious that our county school system has eliminated the technical track for the high school diploma. The academic track is the only option now with stated goal that every student graduate and go to a four-year college. Um, no! One size does not fit all! Stick to your guns, Shopgirl!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think part of the problem is we allow a narrow segment of society to decide what’s a good job and what isn’t. There was a time when retail was more than a job, it was a profession and the people who held those jobs were professionals. That was true of many jobs that are now considered beneath the dignity of college graduates, including the trades (maybe especially so).

    Just my two cents…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Precisely, we need to revisit the school system and encourage kids to do whatever it is they want to do…degree optional. Success needs to be redefined around happiness and life worth rather than degree collections and income.


  8. Brilliant. The dream isn’t to be rich. The dream is to be happy. If you love what you do you never work a day in your life. If it’s retail, give’er and give’er all ya got 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I love working as a retail merchandiser- I work in various stores (supermarkets, petrol stations, hardware stores, pharmacies) as well as weekly in my “main” supermarket – the job is varied, I never get bored (sometimes frustrated though), and I rather do my job than sit in an office! Building shippers, merchandising, photographing, marketing, selling, being customer focused – the list of possibilities is endless 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  10. There is nothing wrong with retail. My husband currently works in retail and he loves it. I agree that if you can stick with it, there is a chance for growth and there are benefits with sticking with it.
    With any job, that is true. The longer you stick with it, the more you will grow and benefit. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So true. Success is subjective. I worked retail in the luxury sector in England in the 90’s and I loved it! We were trained on the history of the company and were always made to feel like we were the most important people in that company.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with retail. I worked at several dept stores as well as K-Mart before I had a family. After graduating college, I worked for 20 years at a doctors office and I don’t miss it one bit, lol. My daughters work in retail too. One at Sam’s Club and the other in a local grocery store and they both seem to like it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ll be honest, I am TERRIBLE at selling for commission/bonuses, I’m just not great. However, working at a bookstore where I got to talk about books all the time?? Absolutely wonderful ☺ I think that working in retail is an important job and people undervalue retail associates without understanding that their shopping experience would be far different without them. If someone loves it, that’s what they should do!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I agree with you. We do people a disservice by telling them they can only be happy and fulfilled in certain jobs. If they find something outside that box that they love, they have to defend their decision to people who feel sorry for them. If they stay in the box, they end up being miserable in a job they hate.

    Liked by 2 people

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