10 Struggles of Working at Square One

If you've ever worked in retail in Mississauga (or are currently toiling in a store to amass some shekels), you know the environment exposes you to the semi-best and ultimate worst of humanity. Retail can be tough, but also rewarding. There are many lessons -- about life -- be learned on the floor.

In the days of my youth, I spent some time working at a popular and upscale coffee chain (which I loved and remember fondly every time I start up the Breville espresso machine I got from Santa a couple years ago) and a now defunct discount ink refill chain (which I also loved). I also know many people who got through their high school and college/university years (and beyond) with gainful employment at Square One.

Here are 10 things every Square One (and retail) employee should understand.

10) Taxes Are For Peasants
While working at a discount chain, I was asked -- more than once -- to just, you know, not add the tax. This person, he said, was a good costumer. I mean, he knew I'd never seen him before. But he would be a good customer. He would tell all of his family and friends about me and "my store." All I had to do was take off that HST.

9) Discounts Are For Pilots
Certain demographics are more likely to receive discounts and/or tax breaks: seniors, students, Aboriginal Canadians, etc. This is well known and understood. Other groups of people not entitled to discounts (but who insisted they were)? Air Canada Pilots, MiWay users and "repeat" customers (who I had never seen before). The man who insisted Air Canada pilots get retail discounts was so convincing that I had to call my manager to confirm. He'd never heard of any such policy. The guy was smooth though.

8) Strange Customers
I once had a random mall patron insist I babysit his pet snake while he went out for a smoke. I did it. I'm not sure why.

7) People Who Think You're a Mall Expert
I once had a very sweet lady ask me where she could find "the honey in the bear container." I suggested Walmart and she said she checked and didn't find it. I told her I wasn't sure, she might have to go to a more traditional grocery store. She wouldn't accept my genuine lack of knowledge. She showed me a picture of the product on a coupon. She said she had to buy it for her grandchildren. She said she had a bus to take and couldn't go to a grocery store. It took her 15 minutes to accept that I couldn't conjure up the magical honey bear.

6) Cheap People
A good friend of mine worked at a popular clothing store. One customer would often show the cashiers dresses with snags and insist on a discount. The staff would refuse and insist she get an undamaged product. Once, they caught her purposely snagging dresses near the change rooms. Busted!

5) People Who Think You're a Bag Sitting Service
Another friend of mine had a regular who would ask that he watch her bags while she shopped. She would simply drop them at his kiosk and say she'd be back for them when she was done. Harmless, but strange.

4) Strange Occurrences
A homeless man asked me if we could meet up after my shift so I could teach him how to use chopsticks. Another couple once insisted I let them into the kiosk to use my computer because they needed to pay some bills. My co-worker mentioned that there's a library very, very close to Square One, but they insisted they didn't know where it was and had to be home in 1.5 seconds to care for their baby.

3) People Who Want to Pay With No Money
I once completed an order for someone, only to be handled a broken debit card (it was cracked in half and taped together). When it didn't work (obviously), he told me that it didn't matter anyways because it "had no money on it." Oh. Okay. He counted out some dirty pennies and nickels and asked if they would do.

2) Hearing About Strangers’ Political Paranoia
A man once came up to me with a print out of the Charter and said I needed to keep a copy on me at all times. Why? Because of Obama. He was spying on Canadians and our government needed to be reminded that we're NOT America!

1) Delicious Food
I was significantly more concerned with mild fluctuations in my weight at the time (I was younger and probably more beautiful), so the wealth of delicious food court options sabotaged my starvation efforts. I couldn't resist the since-discontinued vanilla yogurt smoothies from Second Cup, Thai Express, sushi, Chinese food or oat fudge bars from Starbucks. Food, glorious food!

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