How to survive retail hell?
August 28, 2010 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm working a 17 hour shift today. What can I do to make this suck less?

Relavent info:

- I got 3 hours of sleep last night after working until 9:30PM.
- I'm the only one here.
- I can take 10-15 minute breaks every couple of hours, but must remain standing otherwise.

Are there stretches I can do so that my feet hurt less? Should I take a ten minute nap? Would taking my shoes off on my breaks help?

Anything else that I'm missing?
posted by youcancallmeal to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Water. Drink more water. And if you can get some fruits/vegetables into yourself, do.

As for stretches, when I worked long retail shifts I found it helpful to walk around a bit with my hands up in the air, to stretch my ribs and spine up. (my thought was, I'm defying gravity, getting more lung capacity, and reaching for something higher. I won't let the world/job drag me down.)
posted by bilabial at 5:46 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, yes. I'm drinking about 20 ounces of water /hour.
posted by youcancallmeal at 5:49 AM on August 28, 2010

Comfortable, supportive shoes are a life saver. Think nurse shoes like Dansko brand. You can do a short-term fix with those sole inserts (I like the gel kind) and comfy socks but really well-fitting, supportive, properly constructed shoes are totally worth the money in the long term.

Also make sure you're well-fed and properly hydrated. Little snacks throughout your hell shift will keep you going more steadily than a hearty lunch in the middle (although lunch is important too.) Try your hardest to resist the siren song of the sugary beverage. It will only make you grumpier and more tired in the long run. I like those small "energy" bars that are really just nuts and dried fruit pressured together with a little bit of extra flavoring for protein-filled pocket snacks.

When you're on break, be sure to stretch your back, shoulders, and arms as well as resting your feet. When you're standing all day, your back can really tense up without you realizing it until the next day. Also, don't try to accomplish anything during most of your breaks. Just let your mind wander where it wants to go. I find that a break is useless to me if I don't give my brain a little break, too.
posted by Mizu at 5:50 AM on August 28, 2010

If you can get it, celery was my last-ditch wake-me-up on long car rides. I know that sounds crazy, but it is not possible to remain sleepy while crunching down celery.
posted by Ys at 5:52 AM on August 28, 2010

Ah, yes. I'm drinking about 20 ounces of water /hour.

That sounds like too much water. If you drink 20 ounces of water per hour, for a 17 hour shift, you'll have consumed 340 ounces of water, almost 3 gallons!
posted by amyms at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2010

Taking off your shoes on your breaks might not help as much as having two or three different pairs of shoes to change around throughout your shift. That was my secret key to a better mood for when I worked retail - if my feet weren't happy, I wasn't happy. Lots of water is good, but if you have any salty snacks and get bloaty, your feet won't be happy, as they tend to swell at then end of the day anyway.

And, instead of resting on some breaks, do something energetic - jumping jacks, or dance like crazy. Sometimes revving up is better than letting yourself wind down. And get whatever fresh air you can.
posted by peagood at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2010

Think about zen monks - work is meditation or art, even the most mundane tasks. Be in the moment instead of watching the clock.
posted by belau at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Instead of a ten minute nap, what about a ten minute dance party? Especially if you work somewhere with a soundtrack.

Can you take off your shoes for a bit on the sales floor, or is there management there waiting to give you the stink-eye about such things?

For me, though, the real killer on long retail shifts was boredom. There is only so many times you can refold a turtleneck.
posted by Sara C. at 10:11 AM on August 28, 2010

I can't speak for 17 hour shifts, but I've had some 17+ hour work sessions before. Staying hydrated is the biggest one, which has already been covered. Stretching out is good too. If the second half of the shift overlaps with night, I've found just going outside and walking around for 5 minutes without anyone to talk to or do can be really nice.. just as a little reset.

I personally disagree with pumping yourself up on breaks.. when I go back to work after that I feel distracted and annoyed that I have to work instead of continuing to have fun. Calming myself down from inevitably getting frustrated and pissy after doing the same thing for 12+ hours is usually a better use of my time. YMMV.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:54 AM on August 28, 2010

Uh... can you go to the bathroom frequently there if you drink that much water?!?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2010

This won't help for this shift but for future use, a quality pair of support stockings are almost miraculous with keeping your feet and legs happy for longs periods of standing.
posted by InkaLomax at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2010

I'm going to have to agree with the other posters in saying that drinking water is the #1 big help. Whenever I have to work shifts that long (although I'm in a kitchen instead of a retail store) drinking enough water always makes me more comfortable and tolerable.

While on break too, something you may want to try is curling your toes. If you take off your shoes (with your socks still on) and curl your toes under you feet it will make them feel ten times better. No joke.

As for just keeping yourself sane, whenever I'm standing in the same place doing nothing for a long time I try to keep myself busy with random tasks. Just whatever they are, I do them really slowly and thoroughly. This could be anything from making an extensive to-do list, thinking about where I'm going to go out the next night, or re-lacing my shoes.

Good luck!
posted by Isos at 5:30 AM on August 29, 2010

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