Toys "R" Us

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hello there :-) 

Before I start, just a quick note: this post is going to contain randomly inserted shots of my friend & work buddy May and myself having fun in Toys "R" Us when we returned to visit because there aren't really any other nice photographs I have of myself working there. Alright, so - 

This holidays have been extremely fulfilling and refreshing for me and it's by far the best break from school I've taken in a long, long time. Part of the reason why this was the case for me was because of my little work stint at Toys "R" Us for about a month! It's actually my first job ever and I must say, it was quite an amazing one. Amazing not that it was completely enjoyable by any means because it definitely wasn't easy but I've learnt a lot about being in the service/ retail line and it was incredibly eye-opening. 

Even though there are times where I felt like I should have dedicated more of my time this holidays to serve the community in terms of volunteering opportunities, just like many of my close friends did, working here has never been a regret at all. The entire experience has been something I'd gladly go through again just because of the people I met - both colleagues and customers. 

Before I started working, many of my friends asked me "Why did you choose to work at Toys "R" Us? I thought you hated kids?" and well, that's true. It was quite strange that the only job I applied for was at this toy store and I even kept pestering the Human Resource department with emails when they didn't reply me as fast as I would have liked (yes I'm quite irritating). But honestly, I absolutely love toys and I guess, I kind of miss being around toys so much - the childlike wonder and imagination I used to have when I was young. This particular toy shop has been a part of me growing up and my Christmas presents every year used to be from here every year without fail. I can't imagine working in some other place selling things catered to adults. It just... scares me quite a bit. I guess the idea of working and its connotations are something really grown-up and I'd like to stay as young as I could forever, or at least as close as I could to that by working in a shop meant for kids. 

Surprise, surprise, but work has actually changed my perception of kids. In the past, I used to really dislike them quite a bit because I found them irritating and annoying. However, it seems as if the kids who come to Toys "R" Us are the most angelic ones - well, probably because they are in a good mood because their parents are buying them toys. But, compared to their parents who can be really demanding customers, kids are utterly innocent beings, always waiting patiently and innocently for you to gift wrap their newly brought presents and I feel really strange saying this but they actually make my day when they smile at me, especially when I'm extremely fatigued. 

Apart from the shop itself and the fabulous toys, I love the people. Let's start with the people whom I called colleagues for the past couple of weeks. I now call them my friends and really interesting ones at that. Truth be told, growing up, I've never really been exposed to people of various backgrounds and I was rather sheltered, with my circle of friends mainly consisting of those from my own school and I guess, I always feel like everything we talk about or do relates to academic work, bouncing off the same few topics again and again and I never got to see the world enough. It's not that I didn't know what was beyond the little bubble I was trapped in but I was given few opportunities to properly interact with those who have been through so much more than myself. 

I admit that at the start, it was insanely difficult to adjust to the work culture there. It seemed as if everyone already knew what they were supposed to do and I was to, too. The first day, especially, was a horror because I was the only one on a weekend and I struggled to open my mouth to ask for help and at times it felt like I was at the mercy of the store. However, slowly I realized that the people there are really kind and helpful despite certain preconceptions - now misconceptions - I may have had due to the way they carried themselves, their exterior and their language at times. I learnt that there was really nothing to be afraid of, really because that's just how they are and they have nothing against me either. In fact, I look up to them so much for their ability to manage stress thrown onto them by the customers and that they are all masters at what they do there. Honestly, even though most of them don't really have that high an education level, they are amazing and talented people in their own ways and I wouldn't have survived working there without them. 

When interacting with them during work and during break times in the lunchroom, they're all really chill, funny and friendly people. However, I sometimes feel like it must be extremely hard on them to have to work in the retail industry full-time because it's actually quite a back breaking and laborious job. They are all incredibly hardworking people and are assets to the company though. On a sidenote, I made it a point to avoid telling them my school because it doesn't pay to be a "nerd" in environments like this. Sarah and I were talking about it once (she had a work experience at Uniqlo too this holidays) and we found it so incredibly ironic how in school, we try to hard to prove our worth and how smart we are but when we're outside, we constantly try to undermine our background. It's such a strange, strange world we live in. 

Aside from the full-timers, there were many other people working there who are like me, in the midst of school holidays and May, the girl you see here in the photographs with me is one of them, waiting for her O level results and she's been such a blessing to have. It's been thoroughly enjoyable working with her and I'm not sure why, but both of us can click quite well and it seems as though we have been friends a lot longer than a month. 

Moving on, another group of people who have been such a joy to meet during my work stint would be the customers. Yes - believe it or not! The customers. So, there have been really nasty and mean customers sometimes but those are forgettable. On the other hand, I'll always remember the fact that there are angels within our midst and I never knew people, especially Singaporeans would go to such great lengths to thank service/ retail staff that they barely even know. Besides, we're really just helping them wrap their gifts for the season - it blows my mind how much they appreciate us. We've had people buy an entire box of macarons, drinks and even fruits to thank us. Oh, and they sometimes tip us but I donate everything I receive. I've had people compliment me for the way I gift-wrapped and for my pretty nails. I've never done that for anyone who's served me before and I suppose it's time that changed. Today, I tried and I complimented a retail staff - I could tell her day was made, just like how mine was. It's truly a wonderful feeling for both parties. 

Surprisingly, I've also had so many meaningful conversations with customers and it's amazing the amount of insight I was able to get through talking to them. Perhaps it's the beauty of my job - gift-wrapping - that I am able to enjoy quality time with strangers because apart from staring at me wrap their toys, they really have nothing else to do so they end up having a chat with me, which I'm most glad to have. Usually, they'd ask me things like if I was still schooling (to which I'll reply yes, of course) and although I absolutely detest telling them my school if they happened to ask, most of the time it leads to them being really interested in my life and our conversation would be taken to the next level and they'd genuinely offer me great pieces of advice. Although I don't exactly like the impression people form of me when they learn of where I'm from because it doesn't exactly apply to me, sometimes it's a blessing because it makes them think that I'm able to handle topics of more depth, which is always fun. I have this love-hate relationship with how people view me just by knowing my school. Although it's weird when they ask me for study tips and why I was so smart (which in any case is not true at all - they are simply making assumptions based off my school). 

Can I just say that this bear is a pain to wrap? It take three pieces of wrapping paper! But I love it so much - it's so huge and cuddly :-) 

It's been such an experience working at Toys "R" Us and honestly, after I left, I started missing the store like mad and I felt so empty. Part of the reason why I had such a feeling was probably because I didn't really put a close my work stint properly. Visiting the shop on Saturday (4th Jan 2014) made me so happy, I don't even know why. I never knew I could become so attached to something within just one month but it happened and I feel so blessed just to have been able to land a job that I really enjoyed (despite all the back aches and numbness of the feet). It gave me a new perspective of people in the service and retail industry and I really admire them - especially my colleagues, they are all super! Thank you for everything you guys have taught me and I shall now go into separate, proper dedications for some of them, even though there is a 0.001% that they'd actually chance upon my blog and read this. It would really just give me a sense of closure to this chapter of my life. Also, I'm not going to mention their full names because I'm not exactly close to all of them and they might not have known that they actually made an impact to my experience and well - it could potentially be awkward. Here goes nothing though! 

In alphabetical order; 

A: Thanks for always being my superhero when I needed you from the very beginning when I was struggling to handle a weekend crowd alone on my first day. I still remember how you would keep chanting "不要紧张" (don't panic) when you wrapped alongside me. You never fail to help me when the crowd got crazy even though you weren't in charge of gift-wrapping. Oh, and thanks for saving me from the nasty customer on my first day as well. It's hilarious how you keep calling me "ang moh" and questioning if I was Chinese and trying to converse in English with me because somehow you can't comprehend the Mandarin I speak. I remember how you stood behind me in the lunchroom trying to read the English book I was reading and you gave up - don't ever give up in any other things you embark on though because I have a feeling you'll be able to be promoted in this company, especially since you're still young and have a whole load of potential! 

A(2): To be honest, I'm still not too sure what the exact role in the store is but thanks for always being there and for teaching me the basics of gift-wrapping right from Day Zero! You are quite a funny dude and it has been quite an honour to have met someone like you. It's always nice to see you walking past sometimes, asking about how we're doing. Thanks so much for believing in me as well and thinking I can wrap really well, constantly giving me the most difficult things to wrap like really huge Despicable Me Talking Dave minion toys. I guess it was really good training because I ended up having to wrap even more crazy items like playground slides when the customers actually bought them. You asked me during the interview if I could handle stress and I told you I was confident I could - I might have been very wrong at that point in time but right now, I can safely say that I've grown and I now can handle the type of stress you were referring to - nothing like academic stress. 

E: Thanks for being the most approachable one around out of all five of you - your morning briefings are quite nice, even though I can't seem to understand half the things you're saying. Thanks for actually smiling at me when you see me (actually most of the time you just seem to be staring at me in an amused manner, with your eyes opened really wide as if you're judging me and trying to be funny/ make me smile) and I think you're one of the few who got to know me and my laughter properly (and never fail to make me remember it). Thanks for always making me feel uncomfortable when I remove my retainers in the lunchroom and occasionally telling me about your 16 year old daughter and asking if I was shocked to know that you had a daughter as old as I was (yes I am actually - you don't look very old at all). Thanks for always understanding how your staff feel and treating us as equals, having no airs at all. 

H: Thanks for making me laugh while you still did, you seemed to enjoy teasing me - asking me if I was gay because you heard me laugh, fitting your entire head in my duck bag, candidly saying goodbye, taking the Pooh I bought as yours, saying I bought it for you - and making me actually feel good about myself - praising the way I gift wrapped, saying it was professional and liking my necklace. I'm not sure what really went down afterwards and it still boggles my mind to no end. I'm not sure if I was imagining things but somehow you seemed to distance yourself from me - indirectly almost getting me stranded in Little India, pushing a trolley of wrapping paper to me without a word, I honestly don't know. But thank you nonetheless for everything before that and for giving the most bearable and actually funny morning briefings. 

K: The staff in the shop all affectionately call you "mama" and I can see why they do. Thanks for being this incredibly motherly figure to all of us there - actually not all, it's funny how you enjoy picking favorites and I can safely say I'm one of yours because you told me before! You're always so concerned about me - whether I've eaten, getting me to go home when it got really late and really just helping me in every way possible, taking over my responsibilities just to allow me to go and have my lunch. However, it's so lovely how you don't show it (just like me- I don't like showing affection), always trying to hit my butt with rolls of wrapping paper and making me laugh non-stop. The customers might have trouble communicating with you and it's amusing how you always turn them to me to answer their questions in English but you're such a wonderful person! It really scared and worried me when you coughed out blood once and honestly, I wish that the company could give their staff more healthcare benefits. Please do take care of yourself because none of us would want anything to happen to you. Thank you for always knowing what's right. 

Z: Thanks for planning our schedules every week without fail. Even though sometimes it's difficult and confusing to try to please everyone, I can tell that you are trying your very best. It's quite funny how socially awkward you are at times and you never seem to be able to look at people in the eye and we can never hear what you say clearly, even during morning briefings but I still respect you a lot. It's incredibly rare when you smile but it's a really nice smile - you should try to do so more because you look a lot better! That being said, (no) thanks for always sending me MMSes containing text that I can't read on my phone and end up having to go onto the Internet to open the message. It makes me laugh every time you do that though, and I still can't fathom why anyone would send text MMSes. There is no end to the eccentric things you do like creating Whatsapp groups with a lot of staff in it but not saying a word in them before leaving the group. Thank you though, you're secretly quite funny despite your quiet nature. 

Of course, thank you to all my gift-wrapper girls as well! You guys have been such lovely company to be with, it's always fun working with every single one of you - thanks for the Whatsapp group which made everything easier and much more convenient. I'm so glad all of you are as responsible as you are, and good luck to those who are going to receive your O level results soon :-) All the best to wherever you guys are heading to and it's been quite a wonderful time. 

To end off, as played throughout the store all the time to the point it gets on our nerves (although now I miss hearing the little jingle), 
"I don't wanna grow up, I wanna be a Toys "R" Us kid!"

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