Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2007.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

A new job

Posted 13 September 2007

I've been working at a toy store recently: it's a family-owned business, and the store is very close to where I live. Retail is significantly different from computer work, and although I have the potential to be making more elsewhere, right now I'm pulling down toy store employee money.

It has been difficult on me because the Northwestern University library hours and the hours during which I work have almost completely prohibited me from accessing the internet. Being unable to check my email, read my feeds, or blog has been frustrating. School will start soon, however, at which point the university library will have extended hours.

One of the things I've learned from this job is that, when I say "No" to my future kids, it will mean "no". The parents who come into the store are laughably inept at getting their kids to obey. Most parents don't even try. We had a mom come into the store with her 14-month-old; the child was running around pulling merchandise off of the shelves and knocking things down, so another employee politely but firmly told the mother that we have toys out for children to play with, but the merchandise on the shelves is for purchasing. The mother told the child "Do you want to go see the toys on the table? Do you want to go play with the toys on the table?"

Receiving no response from the child, the mother promptly gave up, turned to the employee, and started asking questions about (and walking towards) toys on the other side of the store, leaving the child unsupervised and obviously doing what was expressly disallowed.

Later, I noted that the child's left foot was bare. Alarmed, I informed the mother that the child had lost her sock and shoe. The mother replied "Oh, no, she didn't have those on when she came in. I was trying to put them on before we left the house, but she didn't want to put on the left sock and shoe, so I just loaded her up in the stroller." My immediate thought was "Ah, well that makes sense. 14-month-old knows best, don't worry about putting on your socks and shoes, go ahead, touch the cornballer..."

Another time we had a mother and her 3-year-old daughter come in. The child kept running around the store, finding something, and bringing it to her mother. She would announce "Mommy, I want this!" to which the mother would reply, "We're here for a gift for Susie, sweetheart." The child would immediately throw the product on the floor and announce "I can't carry this anymore, it's too heavy!"

The mother never corrected the child's passive-aggressive rebellion.

The point is, I'm glad to be exposed to this now so I can remember what to avoid in the future.

I'm not content with my current salary, as I'm accustomed to making anywhere from three to six dollars more per hour. I'm also concerned about my ability to thrive in a retail environment; I simply have no experience in this area, and I experience a lot of stress when a large number of children are running around and being unruly. Finally, having a job at Northwestern would provide several financial incentives (such as a decreased tuition), academic opportunities (such as a more forgiving environment when I need to duck out for classes) as well as social advantages (a full hour for lunch, and I would be on-campus to spend that time with friends).

Whether or not I could get a job at Northwestern remains to be seen, but I need to get this figured out quickly; the holiday season hasn't started yet, and I know it will multiply my stress a hundred fold.