Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Not Me, It's You

I finally gave notice at my retail job, and I no longer have to work there anymore.

When I gave my two weeks' notice, I simply wrote a note indicating that I was leaving and when my last day would be. There was so much more that I could have said about why I was quitting sooner rather than later, but I didn't because I might need my retail employers for a job reference later on. And it's not like I could have said, "This job SUCKED and sometimes I hated it so much that I thought you SUCKED, but can I still list you as a reference?"

Giving notice to your employer is a little like breaking up with a significant other. You can't be brutally honest about why you're leaving, because you don't want to come off sounding like a jerk. (Side note: But there has been more than one occasion where I've wanted to say to a guy, "I never want to see you again because you're always bragging about the fancy electronic gadgets that you buy, but you expect me to pay for dinner or drinks every time we go out," or "I don't want to go out with you because your hair kind of makes me think of Dennis the Menace.")

But if I could have been honest about why I was leaving that job, here's what I would have said:

1. You make me sick. My retail job this summer stressed me out so much that I kept scratching at my arms because it felt like bugs were crawling up and down my skin. I ended up with small scabs all over my arms, which still haven't completely healed. Because it's T-shirt weather, I feel self-conscious exposing my arms in public, because I feel like people are going to take one look at my skin and gasp, "What happened to YOU?"

2. My life doesn't revolve around you. Even though this was supposedly a part-time job, it took up a lot more time than I thought it would. At my other retail jobs, I usually only worked three or four days a week. At this one, I worked five days a week, sometimes more.

It took almost an hour to commute to the Tourist Trap and an hour to get home, not to mention taking public transportation every day with a bunch of sweaty people who apparently don't believe that deodorant is necessary didn't do anything to help my nerves. Even though we were scheduled to leave at a certain time, if we were working the closing shift we were made to stay until the store looked perfect. That meant that I had to work late, anywhere from a half hour to more than an hour past my shift every time. The managers would keep coming up with more stuff for us to do, and even after we completed our tasks, they'd walk around the store and point out places that we missed.

      I'd get home from work too tired to do anything but fall asleep watching TV. I hardly got any work done on my dissertation, and I missed more than one deadline on my website job. I didn't get to blog as much, and I was only able to write fiction sporadically. I didn't get to spend much time with my friends, because what I was earning was barely enough to pay for groceries, let alone a night out. I always promised myself that I would never become one of those girlfriends whose entire life revolves around her boyfriend, but it had gotten to the point where it felt like my whole summer revolved around this job.

3. Being with you makes me miserable. As I've mentioned before, I've spent years working in retail, first as a bookseller, then as a clothing store employee. I never really liked it very much, because the work is boring and repetitive; it's tiring to stand for several hours a day, and the pay is extremely low. But I didn't hate working at the bookstore or the clothing store nearly as much as I hated working at the Tourist Trap.

     The tourists weren't really the problem. I mean, it wasn't fun navigating crowds of tourists every day, but for the most part they were actually nicer than a lot of the customers I'd encountered at the bookstore and Expensive Clothing Store. Even though the high Chicago sales tax (9.75%) often shocked them, they were a lot less likely to throw tantrums over the prices of the products we sold. When I worked at Expensive Clothing Store, customers would often blame me for the high prices of the clothes, and I'd be all, "Don't blame me! I just work here." (I didn't actually say that, though.) They'd get back at me by making me run all over the store to find clothes in different sizes or colors; then they'd try all of them on, leave the fitting rooms in a mess for me to clean up, and they wouldn't buy anything.

When I worked at the bookstore, one customer literally started stamping his feet like a caveman and bellowing insults at all the sellers because we wouldn't give him cash for his gift card. Other customers would get mad at me because I wasn't ringing up their orders fast enough; they'd say, "I have really important things to do today. Can you speed this up? Or do I need to talk to a manager?" I always felt tempted to say, Exactly what important things are you planning to do? Are you talking about all the money you're going to burn through, which you think makes you entitled to treat underpaid cashiers and salespeople like crap? That sounds REALLY important.

But at the Tourist Trap, the customers were usually just happy to be in Chicago and would chat about all the places they'd been to or the interesting things that they'd seen. So it wasn't them that bothered me.

What bothered me was having to work late every night. It was one manager telling me to do one thing, and then another manager telling me to do something else at the same time; then both managers would get mad at me because I didn't get all the work done fast enough. It was certain (though not all) coworkers who would stand around and do nothing, leaving other coworkers like me to pick up the slack. It was knowing that with all the money the store raked in every day, my employers could more than afford to pay us even just a little bit more (which would have made a big difference), but they chose not to while pressuring us to sell as many "add-ons" and make as much money for the store as possible. It was the fact that even though I was working two jobs (plus a couple hours a week tutoring the daughter of one of my parents' friends), I still couldn't afford to pay for all of my expenses without the help of a credit card.

Being at that job made me extremely unhappy, more unhappy than I've ever been at any other job. I've decided that I never want to be that miserable at a job again, because it can (and did) have negative effects on other parts of my life. All that misery just wasn't worth the paycheck, even though I did need that paycheck. Next summer, I hope to find something better, though preferably not in retail. I usually take a break from teaching during the summer, but I'm more than willing to teach next year. And hopefully, once I complete my degree and find a full-time teaching job, I'll never have to work part-time jobs that make me think, So this is what hell must be like, ever again.

But it wasn't necessary for me to tell my employers at the Tourist Trap why I was really leaving. Tourist season in Chicago is mainly during the summer, because it gets so cold in the winter that even locals will usually break down at one point and cry, "I've become a human popsicle! AAAHHHHH!!!!"

So the Tourist Trap doesn't need as many workers once summer ends, and I probably would have gotten laid off anyway. School will be starting soon, so I am going to take the time that I have left to enjoy a well-deserved and much-needed vacation. Although by "vacation" I mean clean out my apartment, work on my dissertation, revise my syllabi for the classes that I'll be teaching, pick up extra hours at my website job, exercise at the gym, find an apartment with cheaper rent, etc., etc. If I were to take the kind of vacation where I just laid around all day, I'd probably start imagining bugs on my skin and start scratching at my arms again. I am a workaholic, after all.

What about you? Have you ever quit a job that you didn't like? If you could say something to an employer or a significant other that you left behind, what would it be?


  1. My husband has always said "don't burn your bridges" and so no, I've never been as brutally honest as I'd like to be with employers, employees, coworkers, neighbors, teachers.... Oh my what a long list I have LOL. Glad you are free at last!

  2. I have quit many a job that I hated. There's no shame in being happy. Congrats!

  3. Hi Karen,
    I do feel free now that I finally quit. I couldn't quit sooner because I needed the money, and the Tourist Trap was one of the few places that was willing to let me work during the summer without having to make a longer commitment.

    Hi Anna,
    I could have kept working at the Tourist Trap at least a little bit longer, because I could have used the extra money. But I managed to save just enough money to get me through the next few weeks until I start getting paid from my teaching gig again. I figured that there was no point in staying on longer than I had to, especially because I really was unhappy at that job.

  4. I loathed my retail job at a touristy place. When I quit, I mostly wanted to tell them that it was insanely easy to steal from them (I didn't, but oh the times I planned it) and that their managers were sort of idiots. I also was so mad because they promised me a certain number of hours, which I did not receive.

    Mostly I wanted to complain for former employers about how stupid they were about certain things. Like that they should fire certain people. Oh the people I would have suggested that they fire...

  5. Hi mmarinaa,
    I wish I could have told some of my former retail employers that there were certain employees they shouldn't have laid off/fired, but I didn't say anything because I was afraid of losing my job.
    At my previous retail jobs, they used to check our bags before we left each day to make sure we didn't steal anything. At the bookstore it was a little embarrassing because they would check our bags in front of the customers. But they didn't do that at the Tourist Trap, fortunately.

  6. Neurotic Alcoholic, the way you felt about your summer job is pretty much the same way I felt about summer job--but maybe I felt a bit worse about mine. I worked at a call centre this summer--and holy sh*t--I'm not ever doing that again. I felt like I was aging by the minute. Even though it was only a call centre, I ended up writing a small formal 2 week notice letter. This is what I wrote:

    To Whom it May Concern:

    Due to personal commitments, I am confirming my resignation as an inbound agent at _______. The last day I may be scheduled to work is Friday July 29, 2011. I wish all of you the best in your current and future endevours.

    But funny thing is that, 2 shifts after I gave them my 2 week notice, they decide to "terminate" me due to lack of "job suitability". They were really vague about explaining why they fired me, but at that time I really didn't care at all. I was just relieved to not be working there anymore. Now, I'm just relaxing, studying and getting healthier for my upcoming school year in September :).

  7. Hi Liam C.,
    That's unfair that they terminated you; maybe they did that because they figured that you were leaving anyway. But on the other hand, you beat them to the punch by quitting first.
    By the way, my screenname is actually Neurotic Workaholic, not Neurotic Alcoholic. I actually hardly ever drink alcohol because I like soda better.

  8. I'm glad that you got rid of that job because it was obviously driving you insane. I used to work as a waitress at several places (pretty much the only job offered for students around here) and had terrible experiences--working 8 hour shifts when my contract said I was a half-time employee, and never getting the full paycheck. Or drunken customers yelling at me for refusing to give them free drinks even after they were so drunk they rolled on the floor. Anyway, it strengthened my determination to graduate as soon as possible because that was not the kind of life I want to live for the rest of my life.

    I'm really happy for you, I hope better days are ahead :)

  9. Good for you. Life's too short to be unhappy.

  10. Hi Ivana,
    You did those customers a favor by not giving them free drinks, because it's obvious that they'd already had enough. Like you, working jobs like those made me figure out what I don't want from my work, and it made me more committed to pursuing a career that I do want.

    Hi Libby,
    I know, right? Working is a lot easier when I actually like (or at the very least tolerate) the work that I'm doing. I think that's why so many of us pursue careers that we're passionate about, because we spend so much of our lives working; working at jobs that we like can and will make us happier.

  11. YaY for you! Huzzah! Enjoy this extra time.

    Retail is hard. How customers can be abusive, I have no idea. Yet they do it.

    I left the car insurance company with a questionnaire. Since I knew was leaving the state and never going back, I did give recommendations for improvements. Hopefully they didn't consider it a gripefest.

  12. Yay, you quit! I'm so happy for you! Of course you did the right thing in giving 2 weeks notice & writing a proper business letter. This'll earn you a good reference.

    It's a lot more fun to vent on your blog. A lot safer, no1 gets hurt & your readers sure get entertained. I mean stamping his feet because he couldn't get cash??? Was he in preschool? Getting blamed for the high prices of clothing? Epic.

    But all you went through did help your writing & will continue to do so.

  13. Hi Theresa,
    I think it's good that you filled out the questionnaire. You should have the opportunity to voice your concerns and give suggestions for improvement, because as an insider you would know what needs to be addressed. I wish that my former retail employers would let us fill out a questionnaire too, because I would have had a lot to say.

    Hi notesfromnadir,
    The guy who threw a tantrum over not getting cash also made some really offensive comments to the cashiers. It really bothered me that he would say stuff like that just because he didn't bother to read the fine print on the gift card.
    Now that I have more time to write, I'm not struggling with writer's block as much anymore. I went to a cafe today and filled up more pages in my notebook than I thought I would; something in me just made me keep writing.

  14. I am so happy you're writing again. Maybe you hit the lowest of the low, and now you'll sort out the rest.

  15. I just quit my retail job too. Though I will say, the hardest part of quitting was loosing my discounts... Beyond that, I've been really excited to have more free time (it was my 2nd job). Unfortunately I seem to just keep filling my time up anyway. I can't even think of where it all goes... :p

  16. Hi Theresa,
    I'm happy to be writing again too. When I'm not writing very often or at all, I always feel like something's missing. Writing can be very therapeutic.

    Hi Mei,
    The employee discount can definitely be hard to give up. In my case, though, I didn't really buy much from the tourist trap. Since I'm a local, I didn't really want any of the souvenirs the store was selling. But when I worked at the bookstore, I used my discount a lot.