Op-Ed

IT’S NO SECRET that we live in a fast-paced society. “Go go go!” seems to be the
personal mantra of every citizen of downtown Ottawa, and local businesses have picked up on that.

During the holiday shopping season, store hours city-wide were lengthened considerably. Small shops opened earlier and chain stores kept their doors unlocked until the wee hours of the morning. Bayshore Shopping Centre, one of the largest malls in the city, carried on its annual tradition of staying open until midnight for the week before Christmas, and outlets at College Square and Trainyards held midnight madness Boxing Day sales, refusing to close up shop until sales ceased.

We live in a world where convenience is key and the retail business is capitalizing on our need to have what we want, when we want it. But at what cost?

The majority of retail workers are employed part time and paid minimum wage, which sits at a meagre $10.25 per hour in Ontario. Often forced to work long hours with breaks so short and infrequent they border on illegality, retail workers experience an extremely unforgiving work environment. And what do they get for enduring all that with a smile glued to their face? More hours and fewer breaks because, hey, ‘tis the season to be buying.

Maybe it’s because I’m a former retail worker myself that I’m so empathetic to their plight, but I am sick and tired of seeing store employees worked to the bone. Whenever I enter a store, I witness exhaustion and frustration plastered across the faces of almost every employee, and I will not stand for it.

Tired, hungry, overworked, and underappreciated, retail employees are some of the hardest workers I have ever encountered. Selling their soul for sales targets and barely bringing home enough dough to make rent, these people deserve our admiration and a heck of a lot more respect from employers and customers alike.

Next time you see a sign that reads “Open until Midnight” or “Hours: 24/7,” I beg you, walk away. Or, if you do enter that store, tell management exactly what you think of their blatant exploitation of their employees.

As for me, I have a long list of stores that can kiss my business goodbye. I’d rather sacrifice convenience for principles any day.

—Jaclyn Lytle