The big box store variation of the crappy fast food McJob
or the low level office job.
The store is filled to brim with merchandise reaching up to the fluorescent light ceiling, annoying consumer crazed customers and of course, dozens of overworked, underpaid disgruntled employees. This is where dreams of a successful career go to die, right into the discount bin.
The New Job Episode
will often focus on one character working in such an environment (if he doesn't become a Burger Fool
) and then subsequently finding out being a grocery store or local Wal-Mart
employee is not as easy as it looks. Alternatively, the fiction will sometimes focus on those poor souls that have already been working there for years
(Such as in Clerks
or Employee of the Month
) and will give the viewer an inside look at life behind the counter.
Either way, as this is Truth in Television
, having this job is certainly no fun. Between the obnoxious customers, the horrible music and the tyrannical management, quitting or getting fired is sometimes the only way out.
If the store is making peoples lives miserable outside the store as well, it's a Predatory Business
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- Retail is all about the world of retail jobs. Namely, how much it sucks.
- Clerks was one of the first films to really explore life behind the counter and expose retail life as the godforsaken Crapsack World it's always been.
- A more comedic upbeat example is the Super Club store in Dane Cook's Employee of the Month where the employees are still very competitive and haven't completely had their spirits crushed. However the in universe rival chain Maxi-Mart plays this trope straighter than straight.
- In the movie The Wrestler, Randy the Ram is miserable working in the back room of a grocery store. However, when he's temporarily moved up to the deli counter, he starts having fun working with customers. Ultimately, he rejects this ordinary existence for his self-destructive but more glamorous wrestling persona.
- The main character of Funny People sees his day job in a supermarket deli as one of these. His co-worker, an ex-convict who feels lucky just to have a shot at an honest living, sees it in a much better light.
- Ted in Ted gets a job in one of these places, though the negative aspects are largely omitted in favor of Ted's Wacky Fratboy Hijinx.
- Shaun has one in Shaun of the Dead. He clearly doesn't enjoy his job. The biggest condemnation of it comes in the ending when the news reports that zombies make ideal retail workers.
- Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook was written by a poor soul who spent too long working at such places for poor souls who are working at such places. (and was written by the same person that does the Retail strip mentioned above)
- Are You Being Served? The Ur Example, full stop!
- Sam and his friends on Reaper spend as much time dealing with the incompetent management and obnoxious customers of The Work Bench as they do chasing down escaped damned souls. It's a toss-up which job is worse.
- Not a huge superstore, but just as soul-numbing to Granville would be Arkwright's little corner store in Open All Hours. The revival, Still Open All Hours reveal that he now owns and runs the store just like Arkwright.
- Where Eric and Red work for some time in That '70s Show.
- Used in one episode of Leverage, where the team tries to take down a Wal Mart ripoff (notably, the chain itself is too big even for them, so they settle for stopping this one branch from opening and destroying the town's economy). One elderly diabetic employee was continually forced to work through his breaks, with predictable consequences. Eliot snaps and nearly beats up his boss, calling him a bully.
- Lois's job at the Lucky Aide drugstore in Malcolm in the Middle is portrayed as this.
- Minotaur In A China Shop has the title's minotaur character trying to fetch breakable china for customers while contesting with clumsy awkward controls. When the minotaur has broken too much merchandise, he goes into an Unstoppable Rage.
- One of the main characters of Paul Southworth's Krazy Larry works at the superstore "Everything But Walnuts", a giant store that carries literally every imaginable product except walnuts, first as a clerk, and later, as their mascot "Nonuts The Ferret". Ironically, he finds this job after quitting his old Burger Fool job. He actually enjoys the mascot part of the job more because even though it involves him standing outside naked with only a censorbar over his crotch and getting pelted with rocks by passing cars, its still better than dealing with the soulcrushing drudgery inside the store.
- Shortpacked! takes place in one of these - granted, the employees are more a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, but their boss, Galasso, is a case of Small Name, Big Ego personified.
- Between Failures is about a bunch of twenty-somethings trying desperately to find some meaning and happiness in their lives while trapped in retail. Thomas is probably the most driven to do so, mostly as a way of fighting against a far deeper well of depression and anomie than probably anyone else in the store.
- The website Not Always Right has countless tales from retail workers who live this trope
- This trope is the basis of the "Retail Robin" meme.
- Domics' YouTube channel often has "Re-Tales" segments based on real life experiences he's had with belligerent and stupid customers when he worked at a department store.