When you have my job, everyone is your superior, including the guests. Whether you've worked in retail or not, you've no doubt heard the phrase, "The customer is always right." Well, the same is true of guests where I work. The guest is always right. You, on the other hand, are a human being, and as such you are fallible (unless you're the Pope, and the Pope doesn't have my job). Sometimes you make mistakes, and this isn't news to you, because throughout your whole childhood you heard the grown-ups say, "We all make mistakes sometimes." Now try to reconcile that life lesson with the saying, "The customer is always right." Let's apply some basic reason. If the guest is always right, and you're sometimes wrong, the guest must be your superior. Furthermore, if all human beings make mistakes sometimes, and the customer is always right, then the customer must not be human. This may explain why some customers do not behave with basic human decency. Some are silent; others may not look you in the eye. Some are impolite; others are just downright rude. When you have my job, part of your job is to greet every guest you serve; some do not return this greeting at all. If they were my guests, like personal house guests, I'd never invite them back. The store where I work is like one lonely, desperate man who will open his doors to anyone and treat all his guests the same, in an endless search for companionship.
When you have my job, a machine is your superior. Sure, you have a working relationship with the register, and it couldn't operate without you. (Have you ever tried self-checkout? That system is a long way from perfection, so my job isn't obsolete just yet.) But as much as you command it with your input, ultimately it tells you what to do. As soon as you log in at the beginning of your shift, the screen reads, "Start scanning." When you tell the register how much cash the guest has given you, it tells you how much change is due. And if you're anything like me, you can't do that math yourself, and you certainly can't do it in the split second that it takes for the register to do it, so of course that machine is your superior. In its own subtle way, the machine even tells you when to smile. When enough money is being exchanged, the computer screen prompts you to ask the guest if he or she would like to apply for a store-brand credit card, and on that screen is a graphic of a tiny team member, just head and limbless torso like one of those old "Little People" toys. The face on that miniature likeness of you has only one feature: a big, white grin. It has no nose, no ears, no dark brown hair, no weary bags under its eyes because it has no eyes either. Just the smile. Oh, and it's wearing your shirt, too. A team member's shirt. The red shirt of all the beasts in the castle.
I've been a red collar worker since early June, almost three whole months now. My last day is August 25th, which is followed by the day I return to Susquehanna University to start my sophomore year. When I told my employers that I'd be returning to Pennsylvania soon, the kindly woman in Human Resources offered to help me transfer to a store in that area. I told her that my schedule would be too busy for me to work as even a part-time cashier during the semester. She gave me a form for my "Voluntary Resignation," which is a phrase I quite enjoy. I will be classified as "rehire-able," so I may go back to work there while I'm home during the holiday season. The casual reader may ask, "Why would you go back to work there when you've made it sound so horrible?" I do a pretty good job of making it sound horrible, just because talking that way about retail is so easy. The truth of the matter is this, and this is what I tell everyone if I'm ever asked about work: I like the paycheck, and I tolerate the job. Still, I'll be very happy when I can go back to school and hang up the red shirts for a while.