The effects of working in retail on Christmas spirit

The effects of working in retail on Christmas spirit

[Written by Charles Pring]

[Image by Elena Roselli]

I have generally always been in good supply when it comes to festive spirit, especially once the days of mid-December starting drifting past. Sure, the predatory commercialism can be disillusioning, and my acrid rage smoulders at the sight of Christmas goods before Halloween, but it is hard to resist the charms of seemingly endless food and drink, the gathering of family, and the glorious receiving of free stuff.

Of course, my emotions towards December 25th have changed as I’ve aged. I don’t feel the same rush of maniacal excitement as when I was eight, and my more recently developed tradition of attempting to drain the local Wetherspoons certainly makes getting to sleep on Christmas Eve a little easier.

But a feature of adulthood that has particularly impacted my Yuletide experience is being employed over the holidays. In childhood, the days leading up to Christmas are relaxed and joyful; warmed by a growing sense of magic in the air. By contrast, late December in the working world is often more synonymous with chaos, panic, and despair at the thought of carrying on.

2016 was the first year I spent working the season of Noel, when I was a waiter in a seafood restaurant. It was my first proper job and I’d only been there a few months, so in a way it was kind of exciting to be involved in all the office parties and festive menus, and something about it made me feel quite grown up.

Even working on Christmas Day itself wasn’t too bad. I did admittedly feel very Grinchy watching everyone open their presents that morning, knowing that I had to leave for work in an hour, but once I got there, and was greeted with a tall glass of champagne, my frame of mind improved quickly.

There may have been some correlation between my increased spirits and my position behind the bar (“one drink for you, one drink for me!” he mused merrily to himself), but either way everyone was in a cheerful mood, and I made it home in time for Christmas dinner, so all in all, not too bad.

2017 was a different story though. I had migrated to the realm of retail by then, plying my trade in a local M&S store. It was not a customer facing role, and for most of the year was actually a fairly pleasant, leisurely job.

However, this was very much not the case over Christmas. And by Christmas I mean all of November and December, and some of January (and also a bit of October thrown in for good measure).
While many things come to mind as I recall the various acts of mild torture we endured, by far the worst was the daily waterboarding provided by the store’s omnipresent sound system, with it’s punishingly repetitive playlist. I had always been a big fan of Christmas music, but after you hear “Santa Baby” for the fifth time since lunch, and it’s only November 12th, the thought of continuing for the next 43 days is sometimes too much to bare for your rapidly wilting will to live.

[Image Description: A photograph of the entrance Argyle Arcade covered in fairlights at nighttime, with people walking past and a well-dressed porter standing at the entrance.]

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