If you thought you hated the human race while shopping in Primark, you should try working there
You lose your faith in humanity
Let’s face it, no one wants to work at Primark.
It’s a store best known for its huge queues and infamous clothes-production methods. With that in mind, this is what you learn when you happen to find yourself working in Britain’s most notorious clothes shop.
Primark attracts the UK’s most badly-behaved customers
Shoppers’ moral standards are about as high as the prices of the T-shirts Primark sells. Once I experienced a middle-aged woman do a shit in the fitting rooms and wipe it up with the dress she had taken in there. Worse still, she had the shamelessness to tell me “You can’t prove I did it”, as she put the shit-stained dress back on the rail.
On another typical day, a man and a woman tried to have sex on top of the women’s knickers table. Stuff like this is so common – stores even have a special code for bodily fluids. At mine it was “code four”.
But the worst customers get treated the best
Sometimes you would see people cutting up clothing with scissors, before approaching you and asking for money off the price because the jeans were “damaged”. Managers were aware of this but were so terrified of complaints to head office that they would always give them the discount anyway.
All customers are potential shop lifters
Obviously it’s true anyone can shoplift, but what surprised me was how paranoid you were taught to be about shoppers. At the tills you had to check inside shoes and handbags to make sure customers hadn’t hidden extra clothes inside them.
What made this rule even more ridiculous was that staff were hardly ever searched before leaving, so it would have been super easy for us to steal stuff.
A lot of the staff are clueless (but that’s not necessarily their own fault)
Despite it being compulsory to attend an unpaid training day before you started, most of this was spent indoctrinating you in Primark’s crystal-clear ethics and about how all the sweatshop claims were not true.
I saw staff regularly make up answers to customers’ questions and then hide for a bit while the customer complained to a supervisor, who usually failed to follow it up and would just offer them money off.
You’ll never talk to 90 per cent of the staff
When you start, you get allocated a department. That department never changes and if you get caught outside of it by a manager for no good reason, you risk being fired.
We were occasionally asked to go on the tills during busy times, but even then it was forbidden to speak to other staff. The supervisor used to keep watch from behind the tills and would shout at you if you spoke, even if it was to ask a colleague for help. It all made for the weirdest, most cliquey Christmas party ever.
School and college commitments are no excuse
The managers and supervisors seem to forget that it’s 2016 not 1816, and that nowadays it’s compulsory to go to school and stuff. My supervisor, besides regularly forgetting who I was, would weekly ask me if I wanted to work 9-5 on weekdays.
When I explained for the thousandth time that I had to go to school, he’d look at me weirdly, tell me I could earn £35, and ask me to let him know if I changed my mind.
Shagging the boss will get you far
As the staff turnover is so high and because you hardly ever speak to senior staff other than the few directly responsible for your department, it’s difficult to progress. Through official routes anyway. It was a half-heartedly veiled secret that many supervisors were having after-work Netflix and chill sessions with one or more managers.
It’s just like being at primary school
Not only do you have to ask a supervisor to go to the toilet, they’ll time you and interrogate you if you take too long.
If you’re under 21, it pays better than a lot of places
When I was 17, I was earning more than £4 an hour (which is absolutely outrageous), but also amazing compared to a lot of my friends who worked nights in hotels for barely more than £3 an hour.
Everyone wants to leave
The young staff just want the retail experience so they can apply to Topshop. The old staff are counting down till they retire. The supervisors want to be managers so they can spend more time in the office and the managers want to get promoted so they can work entirely in an office.
You’re NOT a Sales Assistant
You’re a “retail operative”. To be honest, we definitely weren’t trained enough to be of assistance to anyone. In the words of a manager: “Just pick stuff up off the floor, that’s all that really matters.”
We made the store operate just about enough so that you could buy a pair of £1 sunglasses for each day of your sixth-form holiday in Ayia Napa. And given what we were up against, I think we did a pretty good job of it.
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