With the exception of a brief work experience stint, my first job was working at Debenhams. It wasn't what I'd done a degree for, but mid recession I'd struggled to find the job I wanted and was bored of sitting at home.I started as a Christmas temp but lasted for 15 months.
I did about 20 hours a week, taking any overtime I could, at (I think) £3.60 an hour. Maybe I'd worked up to that grand amount. I worked in the soft furnishings department selling towels and bed linen. I learned early on that you weren't supposed to sit down on shift, so if your legs were killing you or you wanted a gossip you'd find a corner where the security cameras couldn't see you. I spent a lot of time folding towels, particularly mid week when the store was quiet. I soon learned I wasn't going get to much in the way of supervision, so very much did my own thing, finding junk in the stockroom to mark down and sell in the bargain bin and making up the beds with whatever we had a surfeit of in the hope of selling it.
My favourite days were Megadays, as they were called, or 12 Hour Spectaculars to the hoards of people who streamed into the store. With 20% off everything they were the only two properly busy days of the year. Some members of staff would go and hide as they found it all too stressful, whereas I loved my time on the till, seeing how quickly I could get through the queue, smiling all the time.
It's fair to say though that the experience put me off retail work and the general public for life. We had grubby people lounging in the beds or fiddling with towels, leaving them marked. A particular place in hell is saved for the people who take their ill children shopping and leave shop workers to clean up the contents of their stomach when discarded. Luckily I always made myself scarce for that task.
I stayed at Debenhams much longer than I had ever intended, only a threatened move to childrenswear gave me the push I needed. I resigned, saying I was going to be an accountant. For the look they have me, I may as well have said brain surgeon.
I did it though. I've been a qualified accountant for about twelve years. Even now, if I go back to the store I see people I worked with. It's nice to catch up with them but I definitely made the right move.