I never really gave mall employees enough credit until I actually became one. I mostly worked in restaurants and always came home smelling like food and with stains on my uniform every day. I’ve always dreamed of getting out of the food business and wanted to see what retail life was like. Now that I am working on the other side, my view of working in retail has changed drastically, and I definitely learned a few things.
1. There are such things as a mall community.
At an eatery, community is built from your coworkers and regular customers. In a mall, however, a community can form between separate retailers. Within my first few weeks of working at the mall, I have met so many new people who work for different stores and mall departments. It kind of reminds me of having neighbors. I think the best part about the mall community is that everyone can share their stories and struggles and everyone will know exactly what the other is talking about. Also, mall employee discounts ftw. 😀
2. Mall food is actually pretty gross.
As a shopper, I thought mall food was great. I’ve visited malls that served gourmet food, sushi, boba, burgers, and even cajun food. It seems almost impossible to grow tired of the food choices. However, after working at a mall and having lunch at the food court every day for only a week, I quickly grew tired of the choices. Depending on the type of mall you work at, the food court can either be really limited or have endless possibilities. Over time, the food choices start to become repetitive. In addition to having the same options every day, buying mall food can get expensive over time. I used to eat Chipotle bowls for lunch almost every day, and by the time the work week was over, I had spent almost $40 on food. Now, I have learned the art of meal prep and bringing lunch from home.
3. You will become the new directory
I worked in a kiosk at the mall, and the placement was unluckily plopped in the middle of a 4-way corridor. The most frequent question I would get would not be about the products I was selling, but where a certain store was located. Even worse, I would get asked for directions even when the guest services desk was located right next to me. I’ve learned that from getting asked for directions 90% of the time, I can say that I know where almost every store is located in the mall which is a great skill to have, you know… if you were a directory. But hey, at least you know where all the closest bathrooms are.
4. It is really sad when a fellow retailer leaves the mall.
This really only applies when you’ve become friends with the workers at other stores. It almost feels like your best friend moving away and you can’t do anything about it. This is probably one of the hardest realizations I had to face while working at the mall. Every store is on a lease and could be gone at any time.
5. Life at the mall moves really fast.
Almost every mall has its own standard, pace, and vibe. The mall that I worked at was a luxury destination mall, therefore, it had to look nice every day. Since I was working at a kiosk, there isn’t really a lot of places to hide things such as boxes, personal items, and back stock. One time, someone from mall management told me to throw away my empty boxes a few seconds after I did inventory. I was in disbelief on how “on it” the mall management was. To simply put it, if the mall wants something to change or get fixed, expect it to happen fairly quickly.
Working at a mall was definitely a unique experience in which I terribly underestimated. I didn’t see being a mall worker as a challenging nor interesting job. I was completely wrong. Retail definitely takes a lot of hard work, flexibility, and patience. I’ve learned so many new things about running a store and my customer service and networking skills were definitely challenged during my time at the mall. If you are in search of a [mostly] fun job with tons of perks and character building, I highly recommend working in retail. Just be careful not to spend your whole paycheck on your own store’s merchandise.