Journalist Discovers How the Rest of America Works
Bill Quick

My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor – Joseph Williams – The Atlantic

The first thing I noticed on my first day on the job is that in retail no one sits.


It didn’t matter if it was at the beginning of my shift, if the store was empty, or if my knees, back, and feet ached from hours of standing. Park your behind while on the clock, went the unspoken rule, and you might find it on a park bench scanning the want-ads for a new job.

Another quick observation: Working in retail takes more skill than just selling stuff. Besides the mindless tasks one expects—folding, stacking, sorting, fetching things for customers—I frequently had to tackle a series of housekeeping chores that Stretch never mentioned in our welcome-aboard chat. Performed during the late shift, those chores usually meant I’d have to stay well past the scheduled 9 p.m. quitting time.

Mop the floors in the bathroom, replace the toilet paper and scrub the toilets if necessary. Vacuum. Empty the garbage. Wipe down the glass front doors, every night, even if they don’t really need it. It was all part of the job, done after your shift has ended but without overtime pay.  

Welcome to the real world, pal.  And it’s not just retail.  “White collar clerical” jobs can be and often are just as demeaning and degrading.

Most people don’t get to make a living by appearing on MSNBC to make thinly-veiled racist smears against presidential candidates.

Posted in Work permalink
Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Journalist Discovers How the Rest of America Works — 5 Comments

  1. I was thinking, try the Army. Stay on your feet with a 40 pound pack and a rifle. Unless you’re carrying a machine gun or a mortar or anti-tank launcher. (The LAW [EDIT: I meant, Dragon: several times as heavy, but it's more likely to hit and more likely to do something more than annoy the tankers that you just shot at] tube was previously fired, but was filled with sand to make sure it wasn’t too lightweight.)

    In Korea my infantry batallion had a 6-mile and a 12-mile stomp under those conditions every month, summer or winter, rain or snow. That’s in addition to the frequent (more than one per month, on average) field training exercizes of 16 to 320 hours. And the couple of 30-mile marches in the 13 months I was there.

    Standing for an eight-hour shift? Without the 40-pound rucksack? No problem. Unless you’re a candy-ass. Then it’s, like, medieval torture or something.