- Jim Campbell illustration
Working at Victoria's Secret wasn't the worst minimum-wage job I've ever had. In fact, if the managers at my former store asked me to come back for a shift or two during the holiday season, I'd probably take them up on it. But in eight years off and on at one of the largest women's undergarments brands in the world, you do see a lot. Including things that a sweet employee discount can't make up for.
And yet, several of the company's policies have changed for the better since my time spent slinging panties and bras. In response to one of the more controversial practices that's made headlines this year, Victoria's Secret has stopped scheduling workers on-call. For way too many weekends, especially during summers home from college, I couldn't ever make firm plans with friends or family because of these on-call shifts. The tentative shifts require employees to call in an hour or two before they're maybe scheduled to work, to see if the store is busy enough that they're needed. Other retail giants have followed Victoria's Secret's move earlier this year to end on-call shifts, much to the relief of countless employees with outside responsibilities: school, a second or third job, families and, you know, just having a life.
But beyond unfavorable company practices like that, the absolute worst part of a job that required employees to dress in all black and to spend hours measuring the size of women's breasts was undoubtedly dealing with jerk customers — people with no restraint in treating all minimum-wage employees like garbage.
These types of customers saw no issue with returning an item they'd obviously worn (including panties that were a serious biohazard) and lying about why. These are the customers who'd watch you tidy up a table full of product and, the minute you'd turn around to help someone else, would swoop in like a tornado, leaving your carefully color-sorted stacks of thongs in a hopeless heap. The worst of the worst couldn't even be called customers at all, since they didn't pay for the stuff they tore security sensors from, leaving the plastic tags in a neat pile under a stack of sweatshirts for the closing shift to conveniently find. Not to overlook all the unsupervised preteens whose parents would drop them off at the great free babysitter/entertainer of all urban centers — the mall — where they'd huddle behind fixtures pretending to try out beauty products while swiping lip-gloss tubes. We even used a special code on our employee headsets to alert each other of possible shoplifters.
Yep — retail really sucks in moments like these. But if anything positive has come out of all those years with Victoria (besides being outfitted for life), it's that I will forever be conscious of the retail workers' often soul-crushing plight.♦