Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grunt Retail: My Morning Is Your Night

For about thirty years (mid 70's through early 2001) I used to work what I like to call, "grunt retail". Grunt retail is defined (in my humble opinion) as working in jobs for low pay, requires no brain cells and there's at least a 98% chance of no advancement. Actually, the same definition can be applied to government work, but I digress.

My version of grunt retail basically covered the following industries: Newspapers (paper boy), Groceries (supermarket cashier), Restaurant (pizza delivery) and Retail (gas station/convenience stores, or c-stores for short). Although I have quite a few stories to tell about the first three (most notably, meeting up with a hooker while delivering pizzas), today's post will kick off a new work series entitled 3rd Shift Grunt, which will cover my third stint (1992-94) working the overnight in the gas station/c-store industry. The first two were back in the mid-80's which totaled about six months. They weren't really noteworthy (was in my early 20's), so this will be the only mention those two stints will get.

I originally didn't start out to work the overnight. Being a diabetic (and a very stupid one at that) it would require really screwing up my meds in order to work the shift. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed working 1st and 2nd shift, because it gave me some decent flexibility throughout the week.

But as luck would have it, the one time I brought a book into work to read, it basically cost me my sanity for the next year and a half. I had a customer come in one night and after he'd made his purchase, I returned to my book. I eventually saw him leave about ten minutes later. The next day I was called into work and got reamed out by the owner. Seems that the customer opened an entire box of expensive baseball cards looking for a special insert, thus making the box unsaleable.

Suffice to say, after being reamed and spending the day sweeping up the sand around the parking lot (thing was about a quarter mile circle) I was given the option of either losing my job (fired) or moving over to 3rd shift.

Well, since my wife was pregnant with my son at the time, and that there weren't no other opportunities on the horizon, there really wasn't any other option for me.

I said yes.
Up next: Mentally and physically preparing myself for the overnight.


  1. I worked 3rd shift for a few months. I'll be interested to see what your experience was. The worst thing was that people thought nothing of calling me to chat when I was sleeping during the day. I ended up having to turn the phones off.

  2. I only worked the night shift a couple of summers at a manufacturing plant. I didn't mind. I was young. But I wouldn't want to do it now, unless I was home writing during the night.

  3. I look forward to reading this series of posts. Sweeping up sand must not have been fun. The overnight shift would be tough for me.

  4. Ok, now I have Diet Coke on my screen. lol Sorry, but I probably would have brought a book too, probably wouldn't have even noticed the guy going throught the cards and would have been working on my tan in the parking lot, too.
    lolololsnort. You're just lucky he didn't decide to hold you up just for some loose change. :)Bea

  5. Oh man, that sucks!

    (My word verification is barbat, LOL!)

  6. Well it may have been hard working the night shift but at least it's given you some stories to tell!

    I hope the book was worth it!

  7. Lynn: I had that problem at two of my other earlier stints. I also had that problem with this one, in which I had to do daycare for the son while my parents were still on vacation and the wife was at work.

    Charles: I agree. I think that the only way I would do it now would be pretty much the same way.

    Septembermom: Oh I got lots of stories from working the graveyard shift. Some of the stuff is truly out of this world.

    Bea: There were actually a few dead periods there during second shift, mostly on Sunday, which is when this little incident occured.

    Natasha: "barbat"?

    LL Cool Joe: As I look back, I have very mixed feelings about doing what I did. Sometimes, the book was worth it, but the majority of the time, it certainly wasn't worth it.

  8. Georgie, that sounds like difficult and unsatisfying work for sure.

    Having worked my share of similar jobs myself, I am always extra nice to people working them now.

  9. I was working the graveyard in a c-store right after high school and this dude kept calling to ask if we carried nude pantyhose. I finally got sick of the calls so I told him I'd check, put the phone down, and then just left him waiting while I went back to mopping or something. I finally quit because A) the job really sucked, and B) because the day person was a stinking drunk who wouldn't show up in the morning.


  10. RK: Same here. I spent so many years working retail that I can totally sympathize with the person behind the counter, so I know how to act like a proper customer.

    T: I never had that happen, but I do have some whoppers in the upcoming months.

  11. I hear you. It's hard, thankless work and it pays awful. It was misery and I'm glad I'm out.

  12. I'm looking forward to reading your experiences, G.

    I haven't ever worked a graveyard shift, but I can imagine it presents all sorts of unique situations. I've just about managed to forgot the joy (heavy sarcasm) of the grunt jobs I had growing up. Now I'll get to relive it ;-)

  13. Alan: Absolutely the pay was awful. I think at that time I wa making the spiffy rate of $6.25 an hour. A forty hour week with no overtime, I was grossing about $265 or so.

    Talon: Oh the joy, the joy, the joy of doing grunt retail. I still think about doing it again, with the way the economy and the househould finances are today.

  14. Oh, I worked graveyard in a convenience store when I was in my 20s. When the freaks come out to play, they all stop by to get gas!

  15. Mama Z: Oh man, just wait until I really start getting into this series.

    You will be amazed at the colorful freakazoids that made my place a second home.

  16. I've never worked a night shift, but my dad did for many years. I'm sure he wouldn't recommend it to anybody.

    I'm glad you moved past it.

    I might like sweeping a driveway tho, kind of like shovelling snow. Meditative work?

  17. No, more like punishment work.

    Misbehave and you get to sweep up all the leftover sand from the winter.

  18. That's how my job is lately- Management punishes those who call in or piss them off by cutting more hours off your schedule the following week.
    A guy got cut to 2 days last week n then quit- but had made a snide remark about the boss's green card to him- It takes brains... in a job market where there's 150 applicants just waiting to fill your spot...

  19. Snaggle: Absolutely. You really have to watch what you say, when you say it.

    And if you think you got it bad, I work in state government, where you can get into trouble for comment you made to someone in a lunch line that someone else happened to overhear.

  20. Could I take the sand for my sandbox? Nah, guess it might be a bit nasty.


  21. Awwwh. Why not?

    It's got all those natural chemicals in it: sodium chloride, oil, antifreeze, cigarette butts, and other assorted yechhh...

  22. Hmm..I never had to work nights. But since I don't sleep much which is why I'm commentating at nearly 2am I think I would have been okay:)

  23. It's funny, but I still have residual side effects from doing the overnight.

    I don't go to bed until 11p and I'm usually up by 4:30-5a.


Go on, give me your best shot. I can take it. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have created this wonderful little blog that you decided to grace with your presence today.

About that comment moderation thingy: While yes, it does say up above I can take it, I only use it to prevent the occasional miscreant from leaving thoughtless and/or clueless comments.

So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at georgebjr2006@gmail.com