I've worked in retail for 20 years, here in the UK and in the US. Seven of the places I worked at have gone bankrupt... well, make that eight now (I kinda have a curse) - I was a 'seasonal employee' at HMV for two Christmases. I'm still friends with many of the people I worked with at HMV and I see their frustration, anger, and sadness expressed on Facebook.
I understand what they are going through because I've been through it too. I was working at Borders bookshop in the UK when it went into administration four years ago, right before Christmas - my last day of work was Christmas Eve.
Here's some tips to help them try and survive this horrible experience with some of their sanity intact.
1. If a customer starts yelling at you, tell them that it's not you fault and you don't deserve the abuse and then walk away. Don't get into arguments with customers, you'll only get more wound up. Let the administrators deal with the customers, that's what they're there for.
2. If they complain about gift cards or ask when the clearance sale starts, just remind them that
4,500 people are losing their jobs.
3. Hug your co-workers.
4. Make sure there's plenty of chocolate in the break room.
5. Go have a cigarette.
For the managers:
1. If someone needs a break from the floor for say an hour or maybe the rest of the day... let them.
2. Let them have as many cigarette breaks as they want/need.
3. If they are talking to one of the nice customers for 20 minutes on the sales floor... let them. Nice customers get few and far between and it's make us feel better to talk to them.
4. Let the employees wear their own clothes and not the HMV t-shirt. It's demoralizing being forced to wear it.
5. Don't say anything if they turn up late for their shift or if they want to leave early... you're lucky they've turned up at all.
6. Play whatever music the employees want to hear and not the lastest chart fodder.
Customers will ask stupid and insensitive questions, without realising it, like, "Do you know when you're closing?", "What's taking over this store?", "Do you get a redundency?", "Did you know what was happening?", "Is this store being saved?" etc. If you want to answer their questions, fine but I would say "I don't know. I don't really want to talk about because I'm probably losing my job in the worst job market in decades."
There will also be people that will come in just to gloat and tell you how they're happy that you are closing. I know you want to punch them but ignore them! Walk away!
And most importantly, if you need to cry... cry. Let it all out. It sucks.
Follow Alison E. Wise on Twitter: www.twitter.com/djalicat