Top 10 Myths About Working in Retail

Army grocery shopping.

Working retail during the holidays or any transitional period comes with some advantages. The work is usually relatively easy to find, and it can provide a boost to your income while you attend school or look for another job. However, it's important to understand the reality of the industry. The Guardian reported 10 myths about working in retail, which we've covered for you below.

1. Most retail workers are young people who don't need the money. In reality, the average age for retail workers is 37 years old. Furthermore, they're usually contributing a large portion of their household's total finances.

2. Retail workers are unskilled. According to The Guardian, 28% of retail workers have earned some college credits, and 15% hold a degree. Employers are also reporting that they want employees who have both hard and soft skills, including the ability to use technology to understand and facilitate online shopping.

3. Most retail workers are working temporarily so they can be promoted or find a job in another industry. Although the retail industry experiences a higher turnover rate than many others, many retail workers stay in their job for the long run. They typically stay with their employers, but will switch to other companies if the pay is particularly bad or they aren't receiving satisfactory scheduling.

4. Retail work is meant to be entry level. Despite the qualifications needed for most retail work, it effectively cannot serve as a steppingstone to every individual. While many people use it as a financial stopgap or combine retail experience with other qualifications to hop industries, it is unlikely that every person out of the roughly 15 million currently employed will transition.

5. Retail jobs are good because the environment is safe and climate controlled. Despite a handful of positive aspects to retail work, many component pieces required for job satisfaction are missing. The Department of Labor reported that the median wage for retail work is $9.53 for sales associates and $9.13 for cashiers. While this may be viable for many, 15% of retail workers currently live below or near the poverty line.

6. If retail workers ever encountered legitimate issues, they could easily approach their employer for a raise or report them to the government for infractions. There are a few legal paths for retail workers to take when it comes to fighting for their rights. However, it effectively is very difficult to take them. The Guardian reports that studies show employers will frequently penalize, punish and harass workers who legally protest or organize, and that asking the government for assistance is a lengthy, difficult process.

7. Most retail workers prefer part-time work. Although part-time work can be advantageous for employees who have other obligations, most of them aren't able to influence or change their schedule. Thirteen percent of retail workers working part time reportedly would take more hours if they could get them.

8. Most retail workers are lazy. Every place of work has its share of workers who aren't up to standard, but that doesn't mean everyone else is, too. Many retail workers report enjoying the work itself and want to do well. Some companies impose very strict policies, which make it difficult for workers to actually engage with customers.

9. Raising retail workers' salaries would mean increased costs for consumers. While it sounds logical that increased earnings would translate to large price hikes, studies show otherwise. According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, if Walmart paid every employee $12 an hour instead of the minimum wage and 100% of the cost was passed to consumers, prices would only increase by about $0.46 per shopping trip. Further actions could be taken, such as decreasing the pay of executives.

10. Most retail workers want to work holidays for increased pay. Retail companies are not legally required to offer increased pay for holiday hours. Although many of them bill holiday working hours as voluntary, workers are more likely to take those shifts because they need more money.

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