cgefre's picture

I Am Retail Robin

The majority of my summer to date has not been spent on exciting trips to foreign lands, spontaneous adventures with a bunch of my closest friends, or even being as lazy as possible. I would absolutely love to do all of those things, of course, but the fact remains that life is a pretty expensive adventure by itself. It's the never ending cycle of financial responsibility--you need money to do stuff, and you must do stuff to get money. My "stuff," in this case, is spending my summer, once again, at Marshalls, the consummate Retail Robin.

There are tons of memes on the internet, but Retail Robin is a bit of a lesser known one. For those readers not caught up on their internet history, Retail Robin is one of the many offshoots of the Advice Dog meme, which started the craze of connecting random animals to various personality traits or common archetypes, pictures of them in the middle of multicolored triangles, accompanied by witty sayings related to what they're supposed to represent. Popular ones include Courage Wolf, Socially Awkward Penguin and Philosoraptor.

Although Retail Robins have been around for at least a year, they don't have the popularity of most other Advice Dog spinoffs. From what I can tell, the Robins originated on a Tumblr blog devoted to the discussion of the various issues retail workers face. Users submit Retail Robins from all walks of retail life, from the slightly petty and humorous situations (like the above picture on the blog post) to the serious and distressing (like racist customers, horrible bosses, etc.). Anyone who has worked retail for any stretch of time can relate to the stories every Robin tells, moreso if you've been in the field for as long as I have. When a coworker of mine posted some of her favorites on her Facebook page, I got hooked on them immediately.

It's easy to sympathize with all these Retail Robins because of how much time I've been spending at Marshalls this summer. Although we aren't going through a drastic remodel/move like last summer, I'm getting roughly the same amount of hours per week this time around. I rarely have two days off in a row, and many of my shifts range from 5 to 8 hours per day. Much of my time is spent at my register over at our service desk, where I help customers with their purchases, returns, questions and any other requests they can reasonably make. I didn't realize just how much time I've been spending up there until yesterday during an opening shift. My very first customer of the day apparently recognized me from previous times she had been in, and she commented "You must work here a lot. Every time I come in you're always at that register!"

When I started again at Marshalls this summer, it was almost like I had never left in the first place. This is my fourth summer in a row working this job, so going through our ringup sequence was pretty much like riding a bike for me. It's been shocking me almost daily just how I've internalized all our procedures and policies, including everything you'll ever want to know about our rewards program, even the stuff you probably didn't want to know. The job has become much easier with every summer I return--I get along with all of my coworkers and managers, I can work almost any department with confidence, and I can get at least one rewards card application processed every shift I work if I'm lucky. I know there's a lot to complain about when it comes to retail; all the Robins out there say it all. And there are times when I love to rant about some of the ridiculous customers I've had to wait upon, or whine about how trashed the store can be after a busy Saturday. But overall, the summer work hasn't been as painful as I've come to expect it.

Which brings me to the future. I'm going to be a junior next year, and by this time next year I'll be looking at the start of my senior undergraduate year, seeing the real world on the other side of graduation. Writing is my passion and one of my only useful, marketable talents, and it's my hope that I can make it a career through journalism. To do that, I know I'm going to need an internship, and not just because having one is a requirement of our journalism program. I didn't have an internship this year, which means no matter what, I'm going to find my way into one for next year. Internships are busy propositions, obviously, and even though not all of them are paid, some of them are. It's hard to tell right now what my future with Marshalls is--will I be back here next summer? Will I have the time? What about the holiday season? Am I going back for Christmas time?

The thought of leaving Marshalls after all these years feels strange, almost like how I felt when I graduated high school and started my freshman year at C of I. It's a big step, leaving behind something you've known for years to do something completely different. Maybe I'm just growing more mature. I don't know. I suppose that's the beauty of life.

But no matter where life takes me in the next 12 months, I'm always going to consider myself a Retail Robin.

-Clayton Gefre

Clayton is a junior creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.

P.S. Here's a link to the Retail Robin Tumblr I mentioned. Careful, some of the language isn't for the easily offended.