A Stone's Throw: A tale of two retailers


Betty Stone



I do not pretend to know much about the retail business. My only personal experience with it was years ago when I was in late high school or college and managed to get temporary, part-time jobs at some downtown stores during the busy Christmas season. Stores had regular hours then during most of the year, from nine-to-five. Before Christmas, however, they would take on extra help and stay open from nine-to-nine.


Students like me could get jobs after school or during the holidays and make a little extra money to buy our Christmas gifts and perhaps a holiday outfit or two for ourselves. I considered myself very fortunate when I could get a job during the Christmas season.


Some of us wrapped gifts. Stores would set up gift-wrapping tables, and people could take care of some gifts with just one stop.



The thing that amazes me in retrospect is that after school or all day during the holidays I could be on my feet, leave at 9 p.m., go home, bathe, and go dancing. If I only I still had that energy!


I admit that experience gives me only a limited view of the retail business, and it was of very short duration.


Lately I have had occasion to notice two other viewpoints of retailing for the working girl --or man, too, I presume. Both these women have college degrees, one in marketing.


One is somebody who works for a large chain of stores. (I am calling no names here.) This is not a holiday job. It is a way of life. For five days a week she works 12 hours a day straight. Assuming she gets to sleep eight hours a night (which, while desirable, is not the case), that leaves her four hours to get everything else in her life done -- cleaning, cooking, child care, grocery shopping, other business, car care, errands. All of it hardly squeezes in. I thought there were some kind of laws against excessively long workdays. Still, the money is needed. She never has a Sunday off, can never attend church.


The other situation is perhaps worse. The employee never knows when or how many hours of work she can count on. Sometimes it may be a full week, but rarely. Once a week hours are posted. She works them; she is paid minimum wage. She never knows beforehand whether she will work or not. Apparently, what is worse, the store does not even know from week to week if it will be open.


Is this supposed to be the good economy we hear about? It seems to me we are more or less in a shrouded depression. And store management seems to feel the need to stay open nearly every hour. What is going on?


Mothers, don't let your girls grow up to work retail!


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in and lives in Columbus.



Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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