Pro/Con: Should people be required to work in retail?

Pro: by Peter Villafane

The backbone of the most profitable companies in the world is not their CEO or their investors.

It is their customer service workers.

Customer service jobs are imperative to the success of most businesses.

Everyone eligible to work should be required to work a retail or customer service job at least once in their life to develop useful life skills, gain experience and improve the economy.

People joining the workforce often undergo job paradox. To get a job you must gain experience but to gain experience you need a job.

If people were required to work a customer service job, they would gain the experience needed for future jobs.

It would make their resumes more appealing to potential employers, providing them with more job opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, customer service skills are important in 70% of jobs employing the most workers in the economy.

Employees develop transferable skills when working in retail jobs. These skills can include the ability to work a cash register, stock merchandise and wait tables.

Service jobs also help to improve communication skills.

Jobs in retail or food service require daily interaction, which teaches people to be effective communicators, combat shyness and boost self-confidence. 

Interactions with customers also teach employees patience because they need to learn how to manage their emotions when dealing with a line of people who aren’t as considerate.

Team building is a part of many customer service jobs as well.

Employees benefit from team building because they learn to cooperate with others and interact with people from different backgrounds and lifestyles.

Businesses would benefit from employees having these skills too. According to a Gartner survey, “89% of companies expect to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience.”

Profits would increase and the economy would eventually benefit from companies having better customer service. 

The day-to-day demands of a retail job teach problem-solving. Employees learn to think on the spot and address issues in an effective and timely manner. They learn to de-escalate tense situations and work under pressure.

Customer service also teaches practical math skills like mental math for employees who work at cash registers.

People who have had a previous customer service job develop respect for other employees. They learn to be kind to retail workers and know to tip their servers a fair amount because they’ve had prior experience with working that position.

Shared experiences foster kindness.

Customer service jobs teach employees commercial awareness. They learn how a business operates and remains functional. They learn what makes a company profitable and how to satisfy consumers.

Nothing strengthens a person like a customer service job.


Con: by Aaron Estrada

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, it is estimated that more than three million college students will earn a degree after the 2019-2020 academic year.

Working at a retail or customer service job should not be a requirement for students or people in general.

While working in those fields can offer one of a kind lessons and moments, any job can.

 There are many other jobs or experiences that can benefit a person for a fulfilling future. Any “requirements” set on someone’s life journey serves as a deterrent.

Internships give the most accurate example of on the job experience for future career goals.

When human resources or talent acquisition teams say “we are looking for someone with more experience” for an entry-level position, they mean internships.

While yes, experience at any job is better than nothing and a well-worded resume can turn “replaced customer’s wrong order” to “problem-solving customer inquiries alongside management in order to ensure continued business and satisfaction,” it cannot beat “worked on business propositions” when the job requirement states “someone who has worked on business propositions.”

Internships have the stigma as being only for students or grunt work when the truth is many internships offer monetary compensation and or require a college degree to even apply.

Furthermore, making a retail or customer service job a requirement does not automatically ensure they get a job in that field. 

In many ways, it creates another barrier or hurdle for them to get passed.

Taking a look at it from a college perspective, students are required to take certain classes, called prerequisites, before they can take others.

An inability to take the required course as a result of no space, no time and or no availability for the semester prevents progress. The same goes for any other requirements in life.

Even if everyone were to be given a job in retail or customer service at the time they sought for it, the situation would still pose some serious issues.

Mainly, there is the chance of a deep dive in the quality of work.

Using the college example, a class is sometimes dependent on group assignments because students need to learn how to work with others. 

There is often that one person in the group who is only taking the class to meet the requirement, just trying to get the C and only working for the passing credit.

This in turn either brings down overall group performance and quality of work for said projects or demands the other group members to pick up the slack left behind by the student who strives to “just get by.”

The scenario will also be repeated in the workplace setting if not exacerbated by the fact that, at this point, many things are on the line than just a grade, often rent, food and general financial well-being.

While retail jobs may give students an opportunity to interact with customers and deal with high-pressure situations, any job can give that kind of experience if a person allows themselves to acknowledge the opportunity.

At the end of the day, there is no experience, training or skill that can be learned or honed solely from retail or customer service or one job.

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The Roundup is the student-run news outlet at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.