Thoughts On: Minimalism and Working Retail

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I worked retail for about four years starting at the end of high school and supporting myself through university. While I learned so many useful skills in the customer service field and all the tasks it takes to run a store, I also kept to myself many unsaid thoughts about retail and minimalism that I finally want to speak out about now.

I won’t name the place, but it was mainly a shoe retail store. And don’t get me wrong, I loved working there and still visit coworkers from time to time. The problem was with consumerism and how the retail industry is anti-minimalist in values. Of course I understand it is all about profit, profit, profit. For example, meet your sales quota, sign up customers for loyalty programs to keep them coming back, etc. But from years of experiences, I saw what it was doing to people. And it was not good all the time.

Our store always had promotions going on, one for every single holiday…even the “fake” holidays like Valentine’s Day. The thing is people thought they were getting a good deal, when in reality retail prices are raised so high so that a promotion won’t affect the discounted item much. Many times I felt bad for certain families that I knew barely had enough to buy their kids a pair of shoes from the clearance racks. I wanted to give them the best discounts I could, but of course company policies first.

Retail myths and more debunked (from my experience):

The more you buy the more you save? Not entirely true. If you truly need more pairs for your family, yes. But if you are just getting the extra pair for the discount and don’t really want it, then no…you still end up paying more money.

New and updated styles, so you need it? No. It is the same shoe, in a different shade or color with the same features. The season changed, so did our styles, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

But it’s 70% off…that’s a deal! Not if you didn’t need it before seeing the sale. It is 100% off if you don’t buy it in the first place.

Don’t even get me started on the waste consumerism causes with the plastic and packaging. I was happy that or store used mostly cardboard boxes and barely any plastic, besides the checkout bags. But sometimes I wish the grocery plastic bag fee in California also applied to retail stores, so people would bring their own reusable totes.

All in all, working retail has taught me more valuable life lessons than just a job skills set. I no longer buy anything full retail value. I will always look online for any coupons or wait for it to go on sale. If I don’t need it, I don’t buy it. I have a list on my phone of what I came to the store for and stick to it, anything else goes back to the shelves. So I encourage and hope to inform my blog followers to be conscious about your purchases before you buy.

(Disclaimer: I am not completely anti-consumerism. I still enjoy shopping and get excited about it when I do go, but am now a “conscious and mindful” shopper after having seen what the industry is like from working in it.)

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13 thoughts on “Thoughts On: Minimalism and Working Retail

  1. AWalkWithNature June 16, 2018 — 11:03 am

    The way the retail industry manipulates consumers is so lame but, as you say, the blame does not lie with the people who work on the shop floor instead it is those higher up the structure who are furthering these negative effects. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, but I agree and it is also the consumers who I feel have a first say. One does not have to purchase in the first place if they are well aware, although a lot of marketing goes into the psychology to make us think we do need it. Sometimes working in retail we feel at blame for something we can’t control and wish more people would understand we don’t “create” the sales. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We all have to be responsible and do what works best for us. However, I am laughing because I have friend who says buying shoes is cheaper than therapy!! See…everyone has their soft spot! Nice post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes most definitely. I’ve heard of that phrase before! I wonder if it really is so much cheaper lol 😉 Thanks for the read.

      Like

  3. Having worked in many facets of the retail industry for over 45 years I can tell you that people love sales even if they don’t really need something. A lot of merchandise is made to be disposable which makes me crazy, stop buying cheap crap! I might spend more for higher quality but I will be using mine much longer than you will if you succumb to “fast fashion”. I have gone to college for retailing and learned the ins and outs from some great teachers and bosses and learned from bad ones too. I have also learned that consumers don’t respect the industry or the workers, but that is another subject for another day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! I bet you have seen it all then. I couldn’t agree more, sales are what get people to make the decision of buying it then or not. I feel that in the long run too, you end up saving more on high quality items even though it cost a bit more.
      I had times in retail where I felt the materialistic item mattered more to the customer than my actual service or time, so that’s definitely something I wish would be different.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing your truth! I’ve been doing quite a bit of self reflection and soul searching on the topic of minimalism, sustainability, etc. and as a college student I find that the easiest jobs for me to pick up while I’m in school are in retail. I’m not fully sure how I feel or where I stand just yet but I appreciate your willingness to talk about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Good for you, I feel that being a college student is the best time to dive into minimalism. It helps a lot and you learn more about yourself 🙂 Retail was definitely easiest while in college for me so I understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. thank you for this post. has given me a boost to keep on being more mindful with my consuming. am getting there but still find those odd item creeping in. but I’m defiantly not buying things that I don’t need. even coming down to our food shopping. thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can do it! It’s the small steps that add up. Good luck 🙂

      Like

  6. I was in the midst of a career change or midlife crisis. I was applying for Any job that had to do with people. I worked finance before. I went into a first interview for make up counter girl (funny because I don’t where that much on day to day basis) and they wanted me to sell more product and sell credit. It pained me to say I could do it, because I could. However, I didn’t want to. Needless to say I got a job in retail, but it’s groceries…we all need groceries and no credit card is advertised.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly how that feels. Sometimes our values interfere with work and even if we know we can do it, there are times it doesn’t feel so right.

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  7. 20+ years in retail and 15 of them in furniture retail. I think you can do the job whilst being within your moral values. The one thing I won’t do is push people to buy what doesn’t suit them. It’s just about being smart enough to match people to the right item they came looking for. Retail is also about making people feel special and connecting with them, not a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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