I was determined to get a “real” job – at a place that needed my social security number and gave me tax forms. I applied at fast food places and restaurants, retail stores and temp jobs. Basically anything that looked like it would hire a 16 year old girl.

I was hired at a discount store where everything was $5 or less. Sort of like a dollar store, but slilghtly more expensive. Our t-shirts said “EVERYTHING $5 or less”, so you can imagine the lewd comments a bunch of teenage girls received while wearing those. We received 20% off all merchandise which sounds pretty good, until you realize how fucking cheap everything is – not only was it virtually no discount at all, but the items in the store were the worst quality possible so it was a waste of money to buy anything there anyway. Every item I bought from the store ended up falling apart within a few months, meanwhile I still have some uniform shirts in great condition to wear to sleep at night. I guess their uniforms were better quality than their products…

I guess that’s inflation for you, I used to work there when it was only $5 or less, not $5.99!

My biggest pet peeve from the very start was not people throwing things onto the ground, or hooking the hanger backwards, or women trying to return the 99 cent panties we sold even after they had clearly been worn – my biggest teeth grinder was children playing in the middle of the clothing racks. I don’t know about other stores, but our metal clothing racks were really shitty and weren’t very stable. I had them collapse just from the weight of clothing a few times, so imagine children playing magical games running under them and hiding in the middle. The racks would sway to and fro while I tried to calmly inform them that there was no running and no playing in the racks. Meanwhile their parents were nearby throwing trash on the ground, messing up the racks and ignoring their precious darlings. Good thing I was so young or I might have had a stroke from the stress.

I already hated these awful parents, but the worst one was a boy that screamed and ran around through the racks so violently I was given permission by the supervisor to find the mother and talk to her, a rare feat. I found her and explained that if she could not keep her child under control, she would be asked to leave the store. After arguing with me that her child was a “free spirit” (to which I replied that most free spirits are happier outside and maybe she and her kid should go), she finally agreed to keep him in the changing stall with her when I overheard him telling her that he had to go to the bathroom. I was grabbing clothing from the changing room when she stuck her head out and asked if they could use the bathroom.

We had an area to store our personal items in the back and due to customers stealing those items in the past, they were banned from the back room and the bathroom. I told her we didn’t have bathrooms (for customers) and after another useless argument with me, so told the kid to “hold it”. This boy was around four years old, so he whined, and whined, and whined and then peed all over the floor. Guess who got to clean it up? I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t his idiotic mother.

At first my only task was to take clothing back from the changing room and make sure the racks were clean and things were in their place. Slowly I was trained on the cash register and that’s where shit really started. I can’t begin to describe how many people peeled discount stickers off of other items to try to fool us or claimed that they deserved a discount on an item because it wasn’t in perfect condition. I had to repeat that it was a discount store until I practically choked on the words.

Regardless, I persevered when I saw the girl hired right before me get a promotion to a (slightly) easier job…