Retail Hell

Retail Hell

It’s all hell. All of it.

In retail, all of it is the same. Everything happens once, and then happens again. The jokes, the customers, the experiences, the challenges, they all repeat on an endless cycle of misery and vexation. The good, the bad, all of it blends together into a blur. When I look back on it, that’s all the remains, lingering like scars. And my experiences were not nearly as hellish as those of many of my comrades.

The thought exists, though, that maybe this extends beyond the metaphorical hell of which I have been speaking. What if hell actually breaks loose in a retail environment? That’s the basis of author Tanya K. Maxwell’s new upcoming series, Retail Hell, set to be released October 13, 2020. Think of the worst monsters, even worse than Karens, plaguing you as you stock your shelves and fill orders. I can’t think of much scarier than that. From the excerpts I’ve read, I am so incredibly excited to read this new series, and I just wanted to spread the word.

So, if you’re a fan of horror, keep your eyes peeled next year for Retail Hell!

-The Retail Explorer

Short Story: IFR Conditions

“Crap,” Pete said as he checked the weather app on his phone. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.”

He knew it would be a bad day, or a slow day, at the very least. He trudged to the window. Gray. Everywhere he looked was gray. His shoulders slumped as he turned to resume dressing.

When he started this job three years ago, he had the impression that if you couldn’t do much flying on days like these, it only made sense to go buy things in preparation for when you could fly. Time showed him, however, that the opposite was more often the case than not.

Pete found rainy days generally enjoyable. He really couldn’t quite put his finger on why though. The sound was definitely nice. And so was the darkness. But rainy days in a shop were boring. They were slow. They were quiet. In a word, it was painful.

There are only so many things an employee can do to keep himself occupied before he runs out of tasks. He quickly ran through the to-do list in his head. If he drug his feet, he could probably stretch those tasks to about an hour. A sigh escaped his lips as he buttoned his pants and fastened his belt. Quietly, he poured hot coffee into his travel mug over two packets of sweetener and screwed on the lid. He then grabbed his keys and headed out the door.

In the parking lot, a fog had set in, blanketing the tops of the apartment buildings in the complex. Pete was overwhelmed by the grayness surrounding him. At least the roads were clear, not like that would make any difference. No one knew how to drive in any kind of weather anyway, so it would still be agonizingly slow and congested anyway.

All around the store was eerily quiet, with the exception of the jingling of his keys as he unlocked the various doors of the business. Normally, he enjoyed the quiet, but on days like today, it was more of a harbinger of doom than a fleeting joy. Lamentably, he flipped on the lights, then jiggled the mouse of a sleeping Dell.

“Ugh, morning, Pete,” he said amidst a prolonged yawn. “What’s happening?”

“Gonna be a long one today?”

“Why’s that?”

“IFR conditions.”

“Aw, crap! I hate IFR conditions!” His monitor flashed red and vibrated.

“I know, Dell. We all do.”

A shadow swooped quickly over Pete’s head. “What do we all hate?” Poe said, coming to a landing atop Dell’s monitor. “I mean, aside from customers, that is.”

“IFR conditions,” Pete said.


“Yeah, pretty much. Looks like it’s going to be that way for most of the day, too. I better call Ash and let her know not to come in until this afternoon.” He pulled out his cellphone, scrolled through the contacts to Ash’s name, and called. “Hey, Ash. What’s going on?”

“Until five seconds ago, sleep. What’s up?”

“Oh, yeah, sorry. I was trying to catch you before you started heading this way. Don’t worry about coming in until after lunch.”


“IFR conditions.”

“Crap.” She paused for a moment. “Oh, well. Thanks for the heads up. Back to sleep. Later, Pete.”

He envied her, able to roll over, close her eyes, and find a few more hours of sleep. But then he remembered the schedule she usually kept, home by three, up again by eight or nine, and the jealousy quickly receded. If he kept that kind of a schedule, he couldn’t imagine how poorly he’d fare. Probably wind up curled into the fetal position, muttering nonsense. He slid his phone back in his pocket and sighed.

“Well, let’s get to it.”

“Must we?” Dell said, as he did most mornings.

“That’s what they pay us for, so yeah.”

“No, that’s what they pay you for. We don’t make squat.”

“That’s a problem? What the hell would you need money for?”


“What things?” Poe squawked.

“Ya know. Things.”

Pete rolled his eyes. “You don’t need anything! You’re a computer. As long as you have power, wi-fi, and anti-virus software, you’re fine.”

“Pfft, you’re no fun.”

Pete rounded the corner of the counter, turned the lock, and flipped the sign around to read, “Open”. “No, I’m not, and it’s an IFR day, which means it won’t be fun for anyone.” He then returned to his seat and wrote out the list he’d made in his head earlier that morning.

It was a short list, but he was determined to stretch it out as far as he could. Despite his best efforts, restocking took only a few minutes, and the cleaning lasted not much beyond a half an hour. As his list dwindled, and his boredom rose, he considered what items he could add to it. When he came up empty, he trudged back over to his chair behind the counter and slumped into it, heaving a sigh as he did so.

Throughout the morning, the store sat silently. The music, usually drowned out by the hum of customers, blared and echoed through the empty aisles. Pete sighed again, wondering if he’d hear from the owner, complaining about the lack of warm bodies through the door that day.

The owner never seemed to understand why these kinds of days went the way they did. No amount of explanation could enlighten him either. He just held firm to the belief that if you build it, they will come. That’s true of some places, like McDonald’s, but pilot supplies were not on the same level of excitement as a thousand calorie cheeseburger, especially when the weather was a drab and foreboding as it was.

So much of flight is contingent on the weather, and for a man who had his many fingers in a number of areas of aviation, Pete thought that was self-explanatory. I mean, bad conditions, while promising for instrument-rated pilots, were bad for private pilots, which included the majority of the pilot population.

Still, Pete saw some kind of point in his logic. If the weather was bad to fly, it was probably good to shop and prepare to fly later. Unfortunately, experience had taught him that this was far from the case. The more apt axiom was something along the lines of “when the weather’s bad to fly, it’s good to stay home.” Pete couldn’t disagree much with that, as he didn’t want to be there either.

After an hour of staring at nothing but his phone, he sighed heavily.

“Ugh, what?” Dell said.

“Nothing. This whole day just sucks, and it’s just going to keep on sucking.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to remind me.”

“We could do inventory.”

“Oh, god, why in the hell would you ever suggest that?!”

“I don’t know! I’m bored!”


Silence resumed. There was still another hour or so before he could break for lunch, and then four more hours to kill after that. He could’ve kicked himself for having left his book at home. Why the hell did he have to finish that chapter last night? Why didn’t he just leave it in his bag like he had every other day.

He checked his email, in the hopes that someone had sent in some kind of question or request. Luckily, there was one unread message in the inbox, a submission from the store website. His eyes read slowly.

Do you sell airplane seats? If so, could ship to Philippines?

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. What the hell kind of request is that? I mean, seriously, who the hell looks through our website, sees nothing even remotely close to airplane seats, and wonders if we’re just hiding them?”

“Oh, what are you on about now?” Dell said.

“Morons. And if you had gone through the website and seen the message that says we don’t offer international shipping, what makes you think that we’ll make an exception for you on an item we can’t get? It’s fucking stupid.”

“Preaching to the choir, buddy.”

Pete penned as polite of a response as he could muster and then fired it off across the sea. He then leaned back and stared at the ceiling. At least Ash would be in here after lunch so at least he’d have someone to talk to. He kept that thought bottled up because Dell would surely take offense, and Pete really wasn’t looking to pick a fight, especially this early in the morning.  There was also Poe there, and while he wasn’t nearly as sensitive as Dell, Pete really didn’t feel like chit-chatting with a raven then.

Finally, after an entire morning of nothingness, the phone rang, causing all three of them to jump with mild surprise. Pete snatched the phone off the base and answered.

“Aviation Supply Company. This is Peter speaking. How may I help you?”

“Hey, Pete!” Ash said. “How’s the store?”

“Dead. Deader than dead, actually.”

“Ah. Figured as much. You want lunch?”

“Yes, love some. Club sandwich?”

“You got it. See you in twenty.”

Pete hung up the phone and stared at the silent, deserted shop. Over the speakers, Cat Stevens opined that it was a wild world, to which Pete scoffed. He scowled as he stared down at his phone. He didn’t really want to spend the next six hours aimlessly cruising the internet, but if that was what got him through the rest of the day, then he was more than prepared to do it.

Soon, Ash arrived triumphantly with their sandwiches. As they unwrapped them and ate, they made small talk, while trying to avoid the touchy subject of weather. When it finally rolled around to that, Ash adopted the positive side of the fence.

“Well, maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe the skies will clear and we’ll get a late rush,” she said as she pinched off a piece of the end of her sandwich bun and tossed it to Poe. “Maybe it’ll all be okay.”

They looked between one another and tried to smile. Maybe, just maybe, it would find up okay. Maybe it would actually work out the way Ash hoped it would.

“Let’s get a positive attitude and make the best of this day!”

They then proceeded to do nothing but stare at an empty shop for the rest of the afternoon.

-The Retail Explorer