A Gamer’s Guide to Working in Retail
I owe all of you an apology. In the time that’s passed since I advised you not to take on new career ambitions in my Gamer’s Guide to Surviving the Debtpocalypse a funny thing happened; the economy actually improved (superficially, at least). Unfortunately, this means that you may have missed your window of opportunity to pursue your dream career, most likely because somebody else pursued it for you. So again, if you took my advice, my bad.
But fret not! There are still plenty of new jobs being created for you in the exciting, glamorous world of retail. Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably something along the lines of, “That doesn’t sound glamorous or exciting at all.” And you’re right, but it’s apparently the best the economy can do right now and you’ve got bills to pay. As a person who also had bills to pay I took on a job at Target this past holiday season. After a whole three months experience I can officially say that there’s no one more qualified to make sweeping generalizations about what you’ll find and help you get your reluctant foot in the automatic sliding door. Read and be amazed at my Gamer’s Guide to Working in Retail!
1) Clean Up, Find a Job Opening
I feel like I start all of my guides with this step lately, but it’s an easy step to overlook. There’s no doubt that all of the time you’ve spent playing video games instead of chasing your dreams has prepared you for your new adventure in shelf stocking and register booping. However, you still need to present a compelling case for a potential employer to hire you.
First, dig out your only button-down shirt and dress pants/skirt from beneath the pile of Mountain Dew cans that resides in the corner of your bedroom. Have your mom wash and iron them (the clothes, not the cans). Be sure to bathe yourself too before your put on the newly cleaned clothes and head to your interview. This will give you +5 to your Hireability skill and create what’s known as a “good first impression.” The last thing you want the interviewer to remember you by is the distinct odor of Cheez Doodles in the air and a Chef Boy-ar-dee stain on the application.
2) Know Your Place
Your ability to have your mom press a shirt undoubtedly wowed your interviewer and now you have a job. You breeze through the “How to Play” tutorial (hold B to stock shelves, press Y to scan items, use the thumb stick to wander aimlessly around the store) and you’re probably feeling like you’re ready to head out on your epic quest to retail the world. And that’s where you’d be wrong.
The thing about working in retail is that you definitely are not the hero. You have no quest. You’re the non-playable character. You’re the shopkeeper. Those annoying people who keep wandering around your store, knocking things off shelves and generally looking like they have no idea what they’re doing with their lives? They’re the heroes. It’s your job to assist them in THEIR epic quest to buy shit they don’t need, even though all they do is essentially barge into your house, ransack your inventory for their own selfish needs, and leave you with naught but broken clay pots to clean up.
In the case of Target, you’re also supposed to use another NPC staple; they expect you to use the EXACT same greeting every time a customer approaches you. After you ask, “Can I help you find something?” you’re expected to have a total knowledge of the customer’s every desire and exactly where those desires are located in the store. This is impossible. At this point you’re free to say whatever you want to the customer. You can even try to be helpful like they tell you to be in the training video. However, in your early retail career you’re going to want to deflect these so-called heroes as far away from you as possible in order to preserve your own sanity. A few of my favorite responses include, “It’s on the other side of the store”, “I’m sorry, we’re sold out of that”, “I’m sorry, we don’t carry that here”, and “Ma’am, I’m not even sure that’s a real thing”. These work especially well in large stores. You’ll either never see the customer again or they’ll just give up because they assume you know everything about the inventory. It’s win-win, except for the part where the customers lose.
3) Don’t Draw Friendly Fire
There are certain things we take for granted in the gaming world. Take the lowly UNSC Marine from the Halo series, for instance. We could all be easily forgiven for questioning why anyone would let these people anywhere near a war zone. Their aim ranks down around the Imperial Stormtrooper, and their ability to pilot any land- or air-based vehicle borders on nonexistent. It constantly feels like they’re completely incapable of performing the one task that would be expected of them in a galaxy-wide conflict—killing. The exception, however, is in the case of friendly fire. It’s only in those rare instances where you just so happen to shoot a few of them that their true potential is unleashed. They can’t kill the Covenant to save their lives (or their entire race for that matter), but they can sure make quick work of the Master Chief.
You may find that your retail managers are the real world equivalent of Halo Marines. In just three months at Target I heard unsolicited complaints about the management from pretty much everyone I worked with or spoke to. Scheduling was bungled pretty badly. They were trying to save money by cutting hours, but because of this they were constantly understaffed. Then they had to call people up and ask them to come in on days they were scheduled to have off, and of course these people would turn them down because they felt mistreated for not being scheduled to work in the first place. Sales also dropped because there weren’t enough people to put the product out on the shelves, meaning that the stockroom was full of unpacked boxes while the shelves were bare. Literally everything was backed up because they tried to pinch pennies.
In spite of all of this the last thing you want to do is take shots at the management while you’re still employed, because while they may not be very good at certain/most parts of their job they sure are good at knowing how to fire you. Aside from people quitting due to the aforementioned scheduling issues, the second greatest cause of not working at Target was bad-mouthing the management too loudly. So keep that in mind, dear gamer. Like the Marines, your managers may seem completely incapable of performing the tasks their title implies. Just don’t throw grenades at them.
4) Turn Off Your Brain
This is probably the most useful piece of advice I can give. Nothing will make your job in a retail chain worse than if you spend time actively thinking about what you’re doing. This is especially true during the holiday season, when the “heroes” traipsing through your store will be angrier and messier than they normally are and you’ll have to deal with crazy parents screaming “I NEED 360 COPIES OF MODEM BATTLEWAR 3 FOR MY FIVE-YEAR-OLD” in your face.
You’ll basically be stocking and cleaning the same shelves or standing behind the same register for eight hours at a time, doing the same repetitive motions over and over again with nothing new ever being asked of you. If you try to think outside the box you may just find people getting upset at you and showing you how things “should” be done. It’s easiest and most enjoyable to just play by their rules. Luckily, if you’re a fan of the campaigns in the Modern Warfare series you should have plenty of experience with this.
I’m going to be very clear here (even though most of you already left to write angry comments. And hey, good for you). I’m not saying the Modern Warfare games are bad. They’re a shooty, ‘splodey good time enjoyed by millions of fine people like yourself. You have to admit though that their campaigns ask very little from you in the way of thought, and in fact seem to promote the absence of it. Run here! Shoot! Duck to heal! Grenade! Shoot! Run here! These are things that the game literally shouts at you, giving you constant directions on how it “should” be played. And much like a retail job, the game is best enjoyed when you follow the directions you’re given. Want to think outside the box? Go ahead, try it. You’ll find invisible walls, fenced in corridors, rubble, and stacks of boxes that are JUST too big to climb over blocking your path. I’m not saying that other games don’t employ these techniques, but Call of Duty is so in your face about it that for practically the entire duration of MW3’s campaign there’s a prompt on the screen telling you to follow someone or something. Play by their rules, don’t think, and you’ll have a great time.
Now that you’ve finished the guide you’re armed with everything you need to be a retail wizard. The only other thing I can suggest is not to punch the wooden palettes that your store’s inventory gets shipped on. I don’t know what the palettes in Left 4 Dead are made of or why there’s so many of them laying around during the apocalypse but clearly they’re made of much lighter, less durable stuff that the ones in real life. It’s a rare case of video games NOT preparing you for the real world, let me tell you.