Why Introverts Shouldn’t Work in Retail

I begin my MA in Journalism in a little less than a month, and I’m well aware I’ve made no real attempts to write an article. I always have ideas, but I rarely put them down on paper. So here is a first draft of one I have been working on, which I know needs a lot of tweaking, and it doesn’t even look like it’s finished either. But if I don’t post it, I’ll never finish it. Opinions are welcome! I heard a quote that went something like, ‘when you finish your first draft, forgive yourself’. I can’t remember who said it.

All job listings have certain requirements for the positions they’re offering: good computer skills, excellent phone manner, fluent English, etc. Retail job offers in particular look for someone who is a people person, outgoing, a team player – basically someone who thrives in social interactions. It is pretty obvious that if you consider yourself having none of those characteristics, then you should probably avoid applying for retail jobs. Money is money, however, and in times like these beggars can’t be choosers. We must take what we can get.

I consider myself introverted, but that isn’t to say that I prefer being alone for a majority of my day. I do enjoy social situations, but with people I know very well such as family and friends. I have a tight-knit group of friends and that suits me perfectly. I don’t want to be one of those people who has thousands of friends on Facebook and has plans for the entire week. I like to have time to myself, to recharge. What happens to your phone if it isn’t recharged? It stops working. That’s not to say that I stop working if I don’t get time alone, but I become uneasy.

Retail is a pretty easy area to find work in, providing you have some experience. I applied for my current job as a sales assistant so I could save up for college, which, after two years, has finally come to fruition. While it is easy to get into, it is not easy to stay there. If you work in retail yourself, you know what you have to put up with. There are dozens, if not hundreds of websites dedicated to rants of the retail worker. As a frequent reader and contributor to some of these websites, I have nothing but respect to those who can keep up a good manner even in the face of such horrible and unnecessary abuse from customers. No, I don’t freak out at customers, the best I can do is change my tone to sound a little irritated, but mostly I hate confrontation full stop and I will do anything to avoid it.

Managers and team leaders expect you to interact with your customers, to chat to them, or at least greet them to make them feel like they’re not just another face in the queue. As a social pariah, this is not easy for me. Sure, there are occasions when I am in such a good mood that I’ll talk to anyone, but most of the time I just want to scan the customer’s items through, take their payment and send them on their way. Next!

It’s easy to talk to customers whom you can relate to. For example, when I see a customer buying cat food, I am instantly interested to hear about their feline friend(s), as I have a cat myself. It’s the same with dogs and other animals. I am a great animal lover. Most of the time it is me who has to begin the conversation, but sometimes you get an extremely chatty person who will talk to anyone and I find it difficult to keep them going with my ‘oh right’ and ‘I see that’ responses. I’m not interested in the economy, or how we should get rid of the smaller coins in the Euro. Yes, I do think it’s a disgrace that we don’t have paper bags for the clothes or the wine, but I can’t do anything about it. Even if I agree with them, they stand there expecting me to come up with a solution, which I’m convinced involves me magically pulling said out of stock item out of nowhere.


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