Realistic Character Occupations: My Experience as a Mall Retail Store Keyholder

To win readers over we need to write characters so authentic they feel like real people. How do we do this? By brainstorming a character’s backstory, personality, needs, desires, and their day-to-day world. Lucky for us, one aspect of their daily life is a goldmine of characterization: the type of work they do. 

Think about it: a job can reveal personality, skills, beliefs, fears, desires, and more, which is why Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi created The Occupation Thesaurus, a writing guide that profiles 124 possible careers and the story-worthy information that goes with each. To help with this project, I’m sharing my experience as a Mall Retail Store Keyholder below, in case this career is a perfect fit for your character!

You can find the full list of Contributed Occupation Profiles and check out The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers at Writers Helping Writers.

OCCUPATION: Mall Retail Store Keyholder at a Candy Store

OVERVIEW

As a mall retail store keyholder at a candy store, I was responsible for opening and closing the store, greeting customers, operating Point of Sale (POS) registers, keeping storefront staff tasked and busy, training staff, creating custom orders, receiving shipments of new merchandise, ordering inventory, assembling and creating displays, and completing all opening and closing responsibilities per our checklist (restocking candy, bins, shelves, bags, fixtures, and displays; cleaning candy bins and scoopers; rotating candy; counting registers before and after every shift; and sweeping and mopping floors).

NECESSARY TRAINING

I didn’t need any formal training or education for this job. I did have a background check, since I was responsible for opening and closing the store and counting the registers before and after every shift. As I was given more responsibility, I was trained in hiring employees and receiving shipments.

USEFUL SKILLS, TALENTS, OR ABILITIES

CREATIVITY, DETAIL-ORIENTED, LEADERSHIP, MULTITASKING, ORGANIZATION, PATIENCE, READING PEOPLE, SALES, STRATEGIC THINKING

SOURCES OF FRICTION

Making little money and rarely getting 35+ hours a week (hourly wages)
Stealing by both customers and employees
Employees calling in sick or not showing up for their shift (having to work alone until the next employee’s shift starts)
Dealing with difficult customers & unreasonable specialty orders
People wanting free candy, including other mall employees
Sore back after lifting heavy boxes of candy and being on your feet all day
Suggesting items and actively selling to all customers on the floor
Working through lunch/dinner breaks during holidays and other busy times
Asking every customer to sign up for the loyalty card to meet daily, weekly, and monthly quotas
Feeling unsafe while being one of the last people to leave the mall at night

WRITERS SHOULD KNOW…

This is definitely a fun job, but not something you could choose as your career. It is a great job for a college student (I worked summers and holidays during college), a retiree, or someone wanting to work just a few days a week. You are on your feet all of the time and have to be able to lift 50 lbs., because those boxes of candy are heavier than you think. While being a keyholder affords you more responsibility than a sales clerk, it doesn’t put you 100% in charge. You still report to the assistant or store manager. Employees are encouraged to try all of the candy, even the gross stuff, so that you can explain the flavor/texture of the candy to the customer. I remember having to try a tequila lollipop with a worm in it!  You also get a discount from working in the mall that usually applies to stores and the food court.

Have any questions about this job? I’d be happy to answer. Visit my contact page to learn how you can contact me.