Penny Arcade’s Retales of Truth

Last week, Penny Arcade ran a series of comics on the holiday season and working in retail, which couldn’t have been more true. Having worked in retail for seven full years, I can tell you it’s a frightening existence, particularly for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

First off, if you’re a retail employee at this time of year, you don’t even get treated like a human being by the average customer. Most holiday shoppers see the retail employee as an inconvenience at best and a hinderance at worst. For some reason, rational people convince themselves that retail employees are doing everything in their power to prevent the customer from purchasing the items they need.

Seriously people, what kind of insane logic leads you to conclude this. We want nothing more than to sell you everything under the sun. For those of us that are on commission (which I never was), our livelihoods are at stake. For the rest of us, holiday bonuses are usually linked to sales figures. So it’s of no benefit to us to lie to you and say an item is out of stock when it’s not.

Somehow, though, as Penny Arcade so skillfully pointed out, people think there’s some magical place called “the back” where all the best holiday gifts are stocked to the ceiling, hidden away from the buying public. This is bullshit. I can tell you from experience that the only stuff in “the back” is more of the same crap that’s on the sales floor that you don’t want to buy anyway. “The back” is filled with shitty Transformers action figures, iPod socks, red and green sweaters and every fucking useless USB device you’ve ever seen on Gizmodo. There are no more Wiis or $500 52-inch LCD TVs or Motorola Droids in the mystical “back”. If we had those items, we’d be pushing them out to the front as quickly as possible, to sell more of them.

Because of my experiences in retail, I still hate this season of the year. “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men”. That goes out the window when someone wants a pink iPod mini two days before Christmas. I heard profanities that I’m pretty sure were made up on the spot. I’ve had things thrown at me. I even once had a guy threaten to punch me. His exact words were “I’m going to fight you.” When I responded “OK”, he seemed kind of shocked that I didn’t cower in fear, and backed off. The lesson? Don’t fuck with a retail employee during holiday season.