Monday, December 09, 2013

“It’s the most wonderful job, of the year…”

Over on CareerCast, there was a completely idiotic article  – and, thus, right up Pink Slip’s alley – on the best seasonal jobs out there.

I couldn’t really see what made this list so special.

Santa Claus. Retail worker. Online order material handler. Package deliverer. Photographer. Personal shopper. Chef.

If I check this list twice, the only thing I can think of that was missed was Salvation Army bell-ringer and snow-shoveler. And Santa’s elf. (Although thanks to David Sedaris, we know that elf is not all that wonderful a gig.)

So these may not just be the best seasonal jobs. They may well be among the only seasonal jobs.

I can see that, if you were the jolly-holly type, being a Santa might be fun – especially if you were one of the high-end guys who can command $100 an hour.  But when it comes to being Santa, all may not be merry and bright.

As Pink Slip learned a few years back, there can be a lot of acrimony hiding behind those twinkly eyes, big tummies, and real or fake beards.

But whether the beards are real or fake, you no longer have to haul to the mall to get your kiddies to commune with the S-Man. Kids can now sit on Santa’s virtual lap by Skyping with him. (Dial “S” for Santa.)

Other than the fact that it’s a job, and it’s generally available, how can retail be considered one of the “best” holiday jobs?

Having worked retail for a couple of joyous shopping seasons, I can report that Christmas shopping does not bring out the best in mankind. It brings out the frantic, the crazy, the nasty, and the shoplifter.

In one of my favorite customer encounters when I was a salesgirl – as we were thus and then called – was talking with a man who was buying a box of letter paper for his wife.

I pointed out to him that, while the letter paper he had chosen was pretty, the box was shopworn: smudgy and just generally crappy looking.

He took it anyway, assuring me, “It’s okay. It’s just for my wife.”

I suppose he was in a hurry to get over to lingerie and do his more thoughtful and meaningful shopping for his girlfriend.

At least in retail, you got to encounter (for better or worse, I suppose) actual human shoppers. But a material recording clerk, trudging – or more likely golf-carting – around the warehouse with his clipboard – or more likely hand-held -  checking off and boxing up packages would only encounter fellow material recording clerks. I suppose they could have a few laughs about the crap that folks were ordering. And I suppose the malicious ones – those who were only intending to do a one and done as a seasonal recording clerk – would not be above mixing up orders: let’s put an XXS Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt in here, rather than an XXL; and ha-ha, this Barbie’s decapitated!, causing agita on the home fronts, and more work for the customer support reps.

I would think that being an adjunct UPS driver would be pretty darned stressful, especially if one wasn’t all that familiar with the routes. I wouldn’t want to be GPS-ing – or GPS’d – at all hours of the day or night, only to get to the delivery point and find that no one was in. I actually hate getting UPS deliveries to the house, as it’s just a colossal pain in the butt: we’re on a main street; the outside door to the lobby is locked; the buzzers don’t always work. I was sending my UPS packages to one or the other of my sisters’ homes, when I came upon the UPS service that lets you divert packages to a local UPS store. Far more convenient! Even though you have to pay – the similar FedEx setup is free – it’s still far easier to order online if I don’t have to worry about taking delivery.

While UPS and FedEx are doable if I pick up at the store, my favorite delivery mode is good old US Mail. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor locked foyer nor broken buzzer stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Yeah, USPS! (I hope those meanies in Congress are never able to stamp you guys out!)

Personal shopper is one of those things that sounds like a “dream job”. And probably would be if you were a great shopper. I’m not. I mean, I do okay for the people I know and love. And I could shop for pretty much anybody at Staples. But I end up with so many dog clothing purchases on my own, I don’t think I’d be doing anybody a favor going out and clothing shopping for anyone else. I would definitely not be the personal shopper who’d be able to command the top dollar of $100-200/hour. (I would know enough, however, to avoid the dog-eared boxes of stationery.)

It might be kind of fun to be a mall Santa photographer, although you’d have to put up with cranky, squirming kids and plenty of parents demanding do-overs to get their little darlings’ right sides. Then there was the recent local hoo-hah over the young photographer who claimed that the not-so-young mall Santa pinched her in the rear…

Chef was a rather odd job on the holiday job list, but there is a lot of going out around the holidays, and catered parties. Do restaurants staff up with temps? Not that anyone would ever pay me to cook. (On the contrary…)

The final entry on the holiday job list was volunteer, with the article noting that “food banks always need extra volunteers at holiday time, particularly those that serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners to the homeless.” Before anyone gets all warm and fuzzy about volunteering to serve turkey to the homeless on Christmas, make sure to check and see if you’re really needed. Many organizations are overwhelmed with volunteers for the actual holiday. It’s the days before and after when they tend to fall short, as regular volunteers may be away. This is especially the case for organizations that have a lot of college kids volunteering. So, by all means volunteer, but ask if they’d rather not have you in on December 26th. It’s a lot less “glamorous,” and you’re not apt to get on local TV. But those who have no place to go have no place to go before and after Christmas, too.

Anyway, I’m just thankful that the days of looking for seasonal employment are well behind me. (Other than volunteering. Note to self: volunteer. Maybe not this year, exactly, but soon…)

But I do enjoy hearing my niece talk about her brilliant retail career at the Gap, where she’ll no doubt be folding jeans right up until closing on Christmas Eve.

I always say, everyone should work at least one retail and one food service job.

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