Smelly feet and smothering mums: The various stages of losing your soul as a Clarks employee

For the love of god bring socks with you

There is no place on earth like Clarks in late August. The start of term is imminent and many, many children need school shoes.

Being a children's shoe-fitter is more than just green tickets and shoe size numbers. There are numerous ways you'll lose your soul as a Clarks summer temp. If you've been there, you'll understand.

Trying and failing to measure babies’ feet

The babies would come in cute and smiling, but measuring their feet was a nightmare. By the time you’d forced their podgy feet into the measuring gauge they were bawling and Dad was giving seriously dirty looks. Even the good ones would curl up their toes so you couldn’t take a proper reading.

Little feet don't equate to little voices

Little feet don't equate to little voices

Having parents challenge your professional opinion

Look Linda, I may be 17 with few qualifications, but I did eight hours of training and 50 checked fits to become a shoe-fitter, and I’m telling you those brogues are too tight.

Seeing a family of five walk through the door and knowing you'd lose the next hour of your life

Wave goodbye to that scheduled lunch break, a family of five children would take at least an hour, and that’s after they’ve bickered about who’s going first. The two girls would want the same shoes but obviously you’d only have one in stock, and whoever wasn't getting fitted would be running round screaming with the others.

By the time they were done you'd be submerged in shoe boxes and have 20 pairs to take back to the stock room.

Losing your voice from screaming out the ticket number

There was actually an automated ticket machine, but who could hear that above the pandemonium of the children's department?

Getting up close and personal with cheesy feet

Seriously, who brings their children out for a shoe fitting without socks? Show me one child who is genuinely clean and I won’t have a problem, but until then bring a bloody ankle sock out. I’m not touching your child’s verruca just to meet my sales targets.

Occasionally turning away a child with abnormally wide feet

I’m sorry ma’am, but your son’s foot is a 13H+, there’s nothing we can do for him.

Surviving the week before school started, aka Armageddon

Everyone slogged through eight-hour days almost every day for two weeks before school started. It was like god had plopped hell on earth and it was confined to Clarks Children’s department.

There were constantly at least 20 children waiting to be fitted, the stock rooms were getting more and more empty, and parents (who made a personal choice to leave it to the last minute) increasingly had that toxic build up of middle-class fury. It was a wonder none of them had a seizure.

The container for Hell

The container for Hell

The one parent who tried to skip the queue

Sometimes they’d blind-side you in between walking to the stock room, asking if you could "quickly check if my daughter’s shoes fit". Other times they’d be the opportunist, jumping to the scream for ticket number 30 that was never answered. For some reason they would be angry when you said they’d have to wait in line. Everyone was angry.

The barrage of returns after the first week of school

Look, if you buy hard leather expect to wear it in a little.

Trying to make the measuring kit look fun

Do you want to be measured by Jack or Daisy? Ooooh look you can press your age into the iPad!

Colluding with parents to pretend the shoes with toys weren’t really all that

The shoes with toys were a rip-off. We all knew it. You could save a tenner buying normal shoes and getting a shitty toy from Poundland next door if you were really fussed.

To avoid starting the water-works parents would often ask for you to pretend that the toy shoes weren’t in stock, or that the dolls were rubbish anyway and look these ones had a bow on them! If that performance wasn’t worthy of an honorary Drama GCSE I don’t know what was.

Having to promote the weird app that went alongside the toys from the shoes

Actually, it wasn’t even a bad app and you embarrassingly enjoyed playing it when you got shown in training.

Making 30 trips to the stockroom, to never ever find what you’re looking for

Especially in the weeks before school started, that stock room was empty AF. You had to stop yourself automatically shaking your head whenever anyone asked for a specific style in their size. In the end you’d just fake a trip to the stockroom and sit down for 20 seconds, contemplating life and pretending to look.

Pretending to fear every mum's threat to go to Jones Bootmakers

As if it wouldn’t be a relief to tick someone off the 30-minute waiting list. But no, she’d be back 10 minutes later, furious that she’d lost her place in the queue and having to snatch another ticket.

Dealing with people's requests for Lelli Kellis / Sketchers / Start-Rite shoes

This is Clarks. We sell Clarks shoes.

There we have it, Clarks is a riot to work at. The only thing keeping you sane is your colleagues – if it wasn't for all those bitching sessions in the stock room you would've started crying with all the children.

But hey, it was all worth it for the free pair of shoes.