With its perennially low prices and runway inspired clothing, Primark has become one of the most popular stores on the UK high street.
But while it may be loved by bargain-hunters across the country, it seems the same can’t always be said for the staff who work there.
FEMAIL spoke to a former worker from a Birmingham branch who gave a fascinating insight into life on the shop floor – including some shocking revelations about day to day goings-on.
Rachel, who did not reveal her surname, recalled how she would field as many as 50 complaints a day from ‘aggressive’ shoppers who were angry with her for not giving them ‘special deals’, or making them wait to enter the changing room when it was full.
Meanwhile, shifts could get so stressful that employees would regularly hide in the stock room – their ‘safe space’ far removed from irate customers.
Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, a former Primark employee has revealed what it’s really like to work in one of the busiest stores on the high street (file photo)
FIELDING COMPLAINTS FROM ‘AGGRESSIVE’ SHOPPERS
Rachel was just 16 years old when she landed a part-time job in a Birmingham branch of Primark, but her young age didn’t stop customers from being rude to her and she would often receive complaints ’50 times a day’.
She said: ‘Customers would get very aggressive with me on busy days when all the changing rooms were full and I couldn’t let them in until other people had left.
‘I never understand why waiting in line for ten minutes would [give] grown men with their families the right to think they can yell at a 16-year-old girl with a part-time weekend job.’
STOCK ROOM SANCTUARY
Staff would often find themselves retreating to the stock room in a bid to escape rude customers – enabling them to build strong friendships with their colleagues.
Rachel, who didn’t want to use her surname. said customers will mess up displays and not attempt to tidy them up
Rachel explained: ‘Clothes are cheap in Primark but still customers think they can get better deals, so you’d get a lot of people who’d yell at you if something wasn’t on sale.
‘The best part was that everyday Primark staff there was a camaraderie there, and the stock room was seen as a kind of “safe space”.
‘You can go in there to catch your breath for a minute or so and that’s where you have some of the best chats with other employees.’
Rachel revealed that some customers weren’t very respectful of the store environment, and had some rather unsavoury shopping habits.
Often, shoppers would open multi-packs of knickers and pull out individual pairs, leaving many packs incomplete or containing the wrong sizes.
She explained: ‘People do take individual underwear items from packs of five or more and either try and buy it or they fling it from the pack because it’s not what they want, ie. onto the floor.
She revealed that grown men would often be ‘aggressive’ towards her if she didn’t let them in the changing rooms
‘It’s then the staff’s responsibility to pick the underwear from the floor and match it up to the pack it belongs to. Finding an unopened pack of underwear at Primark is very rare, and reflects the respect customers have for Primark.’
MAKING A MESS
Primark employees would spend much of their shifts creating stock displays and stacking shelves, which they will then have to reorganise when they get knocked down by a careless customer that won’t pick them up.
Rachel said workers had a distinctive facial expression when they were forced to put one of the displays back together.
‘Still now going into Primark I can recognise that look. It’s a mixture of devastation and fury,’ she revealed.
‘I’d go on a walk when that happened to me because I’m a perfectionist and I can’t just watch people destroy something I’ve spent hours on.
Rachel would often find herself looking after other people’s children or working as a personal shopper for people’s boyfriends
‘I was on the pyjama tables on Christmas eve and it was an absolute nightmare.’
She added: ‘I think before people get mad at retail workers, they should spend three hours folding knickers, next to customers who are undoing your work faster than you’re folding.’
Despite being hired to work as a sales assistant, Rachel found herself taking on extra roles more suited to a babysitter or a personal shopper.
Rachel said: ‘I had to babysit people’s kids a few times, which you don’t expect when you go into work. Parents would always lose track of their kids and so a lot of the time I’d be the one who’d stay with them until they were collected on the shop floor.
‘I had a lot of boyfriends who would come up to me and say “you’re a girl, what would my girlfriend want for her birthday?” and then I’d have to go round the store with them and be a personal shopper.’
A spokesperson for Primark said: ‘Primark aims to deliver an enjoyable shopping experience for our customers. We are proud of all our employees who work hard to achieve this.’