My husband has worked in the retail industry for just over 15 years, now. At this time of year I often joking call myself a "retail widow", because of the absolutely insane hours my husband has to work. Those of you who know me personally know where he works; for the rest of you I'll just say that he is the manager of a very popular, 'big-box' type store.
I'm a veteran retail spouse I guess, after all these years. I still think the retail schedule s*cks, but somehow we have made it work, in terms of remaining married and having children despite the fact that B is very often not home. It's a very mixed bag, earning an income via a retail job. For those of you who may not fully understand what I mean by the term "retail" - people who work in grocery stores, chain discount stores, department stores - basically anywhere that goods are sold/purchased - that's retail. In terms of all those employees you see when you go to those retail places, consider the crazy hours they have to work, just to bring home a paycheck. If your local WalMart is open 24/7, well, obviously the people who are staffing that store lead lives which look very different from all those out there working a 7-5, M-F schedule.
Consider the just recently-passed Black Friday. In order to be at his store in plenty of time to manage the onslaught of customers, my husband had to get to work by 2 A.M. Friday morning, November 26. Which meant he went to bed at 8:30 p.m. Thanksgiving day; I hadn't even gone to bed yet, and he was getting up and eating his breakfast, at midnight. He's not alone with the crazy schedule, either - heck, the ToysRUs chain had stores which opened at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving day, so people could go shopping. Personally, the very LAST place I ever want to be, at any point during the Christmas season, is that particular store; I did it last year (not on Black Friday), and it was a pain.
Now, I'm a good capitalist, like everyone else who lives here in the U.S. I have no complaints, really, about our economic system. And certainly, I am more than a little grateful that a) my husband has a decently-paying job and b) the company he's currently working for is not likely to go out of business. I don't take either of those things lightly! Nor am I in any way suggesting that any of us should stop shopping. What I am saying is, when you are shopping, give a thought to the humans who help that giant retail machine run, day after day after day. Maybe they love their job, maybe they don't. Maybe they are trying to take their job at Target, or WalMart, or Publix, seriously enough that they can make a career out of it.- or maybe they are working just to pay the bills. Either way, treat them with the same respect you would ask for in your own work atmosphere. Just because they wear a uniform, or work a register, doesn't mean they should be the pound of flesh on which you take out your daily aggravations. They are there, working, to pay their bills and in so doing are keeping our country running. It sounds like simple logic, like "well, of course!", but it is so very easy to rush about and not REALLY see that person behind the counter...and then the least thing goes a-wry and that person gets the wrath.
Let me tell ya, folks, I also have been on the employee-side of that counter....understanding, and common courtesy, and some patience go a very long way in having that employee go the extra mile for you. Keep that in mind, as we all try to survive this extremely busy shopping season!