Nightmare jobs from hell

You start on Monday, OK?

We've all had to go through the indignity of the crappy job, especially as teenangers and students. Until you get the stage where you can fend for yourself in a proper job, you have to suffer all sorts of horrendous low-paid nightmares in a bid to bring in a bit of beer money...

My first attempt at a teenage Saturday job was distributing cleaning products catalogues to round our estate. It worked a bit like Avon, in that I would deliver the catalogues, return a few days later to pick them up with completed orders, then take the orders round when they arrived a few days later.

That was the plan. I think I stuck it out for about a week, and didn't get a single order.

Then there was selling double glazing in a DIY store on the edge of town. I was told to lurk behind the checkouts and dive on people as they walked out. The idea was to get their name and address so a proper salesman could go round and see them another day.

This one lasted all of three hours. I was tormented by the hideous boredom and the fact that I felt plain silly standing there trying to collar people who clearly were not interested in getting any double glazing.

After three hours I said to the guy who was supposed to be training me: "Sorry, I just can't stand this" and walked out. Sadly I hadn't signed out of the store's official guest book, so I had to go back 30 minutes later, walk past the same guy, red-faced and mumbling "Oops, forgot to sign out". I didn't set foot in that store again for years afterwards.

My first regular paid job was in the Folkestone branch of Boots, upstairs in the bit selling stereos, music and computer games. As Saturday jobs in Folkestone went, this was a pretty good one and was quite well-paid, considering. My mum loved it because the whole family qualified for a discount on Boots shopping.

My companion was a school friend called Chris Po-Ba; the two of us started at the same time and we really enjoyed ourselves. Chris was a great laugh and we took pleasure in making life difficult for the little kids who would bring back their Spectrum games and try to swap them for different ones.

This was the time when games for Spectrums and Commodore 64s were sold on tapes, so people would usually try to tape them at home and get several for the price of one.

The atmosphere upstairs at Boots was usually quite relaxed. There was a guy called Dave on the photos counter who let me and Chris use the stereos to make recordings from CDs, which at the time were relatively new things. We found out a lot about computer games and played some of them in store on the demonstration machines, but never got round to buying our own ones. Which might explain why I didn't get into programming.

We made some great pals at Boots and I introduced Chris to a girl who had started working on the pharmacy counter downstairs - they fell for eachother and went out together for years afterwards. Wonder what happened to them?

Of course good things tend to come to an end so shortly before our A-levels, Chris and I quit and two more boys were recruited from our school to take over, a long-standing tradition in the store, I think.

When I went to college in Cambridge I once worked in the Boots store there as a Christmas temp for a few weeks. I hated it. The people were very unfriendly, especially to Christmas temps, but the money came in handy so I stuck it out to the end with gritted teeth.

After college I returned to Folkestone and could not get a job at Boots - I needed to work for a few months before going to journalism training college. So I got a job just up the road from Boots, this time in Debenhams, in the housewares department.

I sold saucepans, crockery, glassware, cutlery, and knick-nacks. Instead of a young lad my own age, all the other staff in that department were middle-aged ladies and we got on surprisingly well.

The supervisor was a gentle lady called Rhona who loved gardening when she wasn't in Debenhams, and was utterly dedicated to her job. She never complained (I did, frequently) but just got on with it.

I complained because of the sheer lunacy of the system there. The store had been fitted out with the latest stock control and till system, which meant that every item was barcoded and labelled. However, the price of every item still had to be written on the label, and changed every time there was a sale.

So come sale time, which was about once every two months, I would have to sit down and re-price, with a pencil, every single plate and cup on display. It took me hours, it was so inefficient, it drove me nuts.

Finally I quit part-time work and went to get properly trained for a Proper Job. But that's another story...

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