Slaves to consumerism? Living and working with the darker side of retail

Valentines, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s. The four events a year that retail stores (but not limited to) cash in on people’s simplistic and brain

Valentines, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s. The four events a year that retail stores (but not limited to) cash in on people’s simplistic and brainwashed commercialised views that a single day a year truly has significance. Yet year after year people fall into the retail lure and spend significant amounts of money on novelty gifts that each year they say they won’t be buying.

It’s no surprise that it’s during these weeks that shops make significantly more money than they would in a usual week. If shops didn’t sell or advertise any of these days, would anyone truly celebrate them? Is it only that it’s thrown in our faces and implanted into our minds 24/7 for 28 days prior to the event that anyone truly does partake in it?

Having worked in retail for the last four years I have seen first-hand the emphasis placed on these ‘commercial’ days. It is no coincidence that the small convenience store I work in makes an extra £8,000 in sales the week leading up to Christmas which is the equivalent of two normal midweek day sales. However is the emphasis more with the retailer or with the customer? This is the tough part. Does it not work in a viscous cycle of retailer advertises and emphasises importance of the said day to its target customer, the target customer is then influenced on various factors from; price, quantity, item and appearance by the person they are buying it for, but then the person they are buying it for is probably suggesting to the customer what they want having seen it advertised by the retailer.

Refuse to ever buy my Mum anything on Mother’s Day. Take away the retailers part, would the receiver still be asking the customer to buy them something if the ‘commercial’ day hadn’t been advertised? Would the customer still be buying something for the receiver had they too not seen the ‘commercial’ day advertised? However take away the whole idea of there even being a receiver would the retailer still advertise the ‘commercial’ day? As if no one wants anything for it then there will be no customer to purchase it. I wonder, is it too late to change customers views and spending habits on these ‘commercial’ days or is it something customers want to stop celebrating to use the word loosely.

I refuse to ever buy my mum anything on Mother’s Day. To buy her something on just one single day deters from the fact that I should do that every day. Buying flowers and a box of chocolates one day a year does not show I love/appreciate my mum, if anything it shows I don’t value her that much and see it only fit to treat her once a year. Take for instance flowers. The standard gift to a mother, they look nice, they smell nice and have become the stereotypical present.

What does a flower do? Within a short time of space it withers and dies and is thrown away. So surely giving my mother flowers as a symbol of my love is merely representing the ideology that my love for her will also wither and die within a short space of time. What if flowers hadn’t become the stereotypical present for a mother. What if due to some bizarre twist of events the stereotypical present for a mother was a sausage roll? I mean strip it down and take it at face value, it looks nice, it smells nice  and within a short space of time it goes stale and is thrown away, just the same as flowers on Mother’s Day. Why do retailers sell chocolates and flowers and cards on Mother’s Day stands rather than sausage rolls?

Regarding the day in the same view? I imagine it is because there is much more diversity in both range of products and the range in prices that those three are the main selling Mother’s Day gifts and offer the best profit levels for retail stores. If everyone bought there mum a sausage roll for Mother’s Day, would the day still be regarded in the same view that it is today?

If the answer is yes then it shows that people really do buy the gifts because they want to show their love and appreciation for their mothers. However interestingly enough if the answer is no then it shows that the only reason people celebrate it is due to its commercialised view and that the whole principle of Mother’s Day is about the gifts bought rather than the ideology behind the Mother’s Day concept.

My only experience within the retail market is in the food retail, but perhaps this sector of retail is the one that truly shows the dark side of retail. Food waste is inevitable within a food store—food will go out of date and may not be up to standard quality so they have to be wasted out the store. But how many people know the true value of stock that the local shop to them throws into bins every week. I was recently part of a new store launch and in its opening week an astounding £8000 worth of food was thrown straight into bins. That is nearly twice the weekly wage budget for that particular store and is a third of the national average salary!

Inspiration to become a journalist. An average convenience store (Tesco Express, Co-Op, Budgens, etc.) would throw away anything between £800 and £1500 of food a week straight into food bins just because they have over ordered on stock to attempt to increase sales. None of this food can be given to the homeless or any charities due to silly health and safety laws, it all goes straight into a bin ready to be collected and taken for disposal into land fill. We can’t blame stores for trying to increase sales but we can blame them for the lack of social responsibility they show from throwing away so much food when millions of people around the world are starving to death?

Years of working in retail have been the inspiration for me to pursue my dream of becoming a journalist. Retail uses and abuses its staff, the hours unsocial and the pay barely adequate. No one should have to face the customers every retail member of staff will deal with, from rude customers who can please or thank, to those who get angry and abusive when refused service for reasons such as not having any ID, to the customers who try to tell you how to do your job despite them not knowing how to even pay for their goods properly using a chip and pin bank card.

However for those willing to work up the management hierarchy and aim for head office management jobs, the financial rewards and 6 figure bonuses on offer are ones that are often too good to resist. In order to achieve that, you must sacrifice your life to the company and live to work rather than work to live.

Image: Andwar