Introducing “A Day in the Life of…” a new series on the Paradise Writing blog. In this monthly offering, people from all walks of life, across the United States, graciously pull back the curtain to give readers an insider look at their professions, hobbies, and lifestyles. Whether you are looking to change jobs or are just curious, this series is for you!
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
If you want to contribute to the series, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.
Our debut post comes from Rai M. in New Jersey, who shares:
A Day in the Life of...a Sex Shop Worker
1. What is your job title or the title of your hobby/volunteer work? R: Unofficially I am the assistant manager of Love Stuff & More. I say unofficially because we don’t actually have that title. You could call me a Sale Clerk, but if you want to get fancy about it (which our General Manager does, lol) I’m a ‘Sexual Wellness and Health Counselor.’ It’s all about the title, though, right?
2. How long have you been doing this work? R: It feels like forever! But seriously, it’s been just over two years now. February 1st will be 25 months.
3. Why did you choose this work? R: To be honest, I was driving by the store one day, and saw the ‘Now Hiring’ sign. I’d applied there years ago, when it was still Video XXXpress (when we were an ‘Adult Bookstore’—or what we refer to jokingly as a ‘Whack Shack.’ And yes, that means exactly what that implies. *shudders*) I needed a part time job for some spending money, and figured that it would be easy work while I finished up my MFA. I also figured it would give me plenty of time to write. (Oh, how I naïve I had been!) I stayed after I graduated with my MFA because it’s a really interesting and rewarding job—but I’ll get into that more in a bit.
4. What, if any, skills or training are required or sought out? R: Starting out, you don’t have to really have any specialized skills. You really only have to be an adult, and be open-minded. Certainly an interest in sex and sex toys helps! Having open availability and living down the street is certainly the reason I was hired, and the store manager and I clicked pretty quickly while we chatted as I was filling out my application. But after I was hired, I received a TON of training. We have certification courses through our distributor—Williams Trading University. Most of the courses focus on different manufacturer’s hottest new items, but there are more general courses that cover general things we need to know—lubricants, dildos, strap on harnesses…things like that. Recently, they’ve added several courses by a sexologist that address topics regarding the sex act, and some issues people might be having. It’s a cumulative process, and we all have our own methods of taking in info. We also do a lot of outside research on our own; I am constantly reading our industry trade magazines, checking out blogs about sex, and reading product reviews. It’s an ongoing process.
5. What does a typical day (shift, etc.) entail? R: Oh boy—can I say that no day is really typical? Lol. But in all seriousness, in the course of a normal day, our focus is on helping customers find the right product for them. We don’t push for big sales, but we do have a daily goal to reach. Personally, I’d rather take the time to get to know a little about a customer and what they’re looking for, and suggest products. Sometimes people come in and are looking for advice, and walk out without buying anything. Personally, I’m happy if they walk out feeling good about themselves, and know that they can always come to us with questions.
The nature of this business is personal to each and every person who walks in the door, and I want to make sure that they leave a little bit more educated than when they come in. Outside of customer service, we merchandise the store and make displays that are attractive and tell a story. Once a week we get our shipment from our distributor, and we are always getting new items in. It’s our job to price them and put them out. We’re not a big store, square-footage-wise, so it’s always a challenge finding a place for everything.
We change out our displays every month during our busy times, and that includes decorations. And because we generally only have single coverage per shift, sometimes merchandizing can be challenging. We pride ourselves on the cleanliness of our store, and customers are always pleasantly surprised when they walk in. We didn’t have the best reputation for the longest time—former whack shack, remember—so people come in expecting the store to look dark and scary. Other than the intimate nature of what we sell, and our business being about sex and intimacy, we’re no different than any other retail establishment.
6. What do you feel are the pros of this work? R: Definitely getting to help people with their sex lives!
7. What do you feel are the cons of this work? R: Sometimes we get a difficult customer, or one who is creepy. The latter isn’t too common anymore, and most times these are just socially awkward guys who don’t know how to talk to a woman appropriately. I grew up in a retail environment, so I’m really good at giving ‘retail face,’ but there are times I just want to lock the door and hope everyone goes away. I work long hours, and I’m there by myself a lot. As an introvert, I leave every night feeling drained from dealing with people every day. And to be honest, there are definitely days when I question why I am still working there. Talking about sex so much has definitely led to me NOT wanting to have a sex life of my own.
8. Would you recommend this work to others? Why or why not? R: Yes and no. Yes, because it can be very rewarding, especially if you like sex and helping people. But it’s not for everyone. For a while there, we had a pretty high employee turnover; people would think how cool it would be to work in the store, but then they wound up discovering it involves a certain mindset that not everyone shares. You really have to be open minded, and not judge people for what they’re into. Also, some people didn’t realize how much training is involved. When you’re dealing with certain products, you HAVE to know what you’re talking about. Especially when it comes to fetish and kink. People can get hurt if they don’t know what they’re doing, and you can’t be giving out bad advice just to make a sale. But between the two stores, we have a great staff now. We all click together, and everyone likes what they do.
9. If someone was interested in this work, what are the first steps they should take? R: Check out local stores. Read sex blogs. Find out who the major manufacturers are, and familiarize themselves with their products. Really, anyone can theoretically do this job. The only issue that someone might run into is what types of stores are nearby. There are some awesome ones, but there are even more whack shack types stores out there. The industry is changing for the better, but it’s an ongoing process, and it all depends on the people running the stores, and how the customers are being educated. I think there will be an increase in the number of stores that focus more on good products and teaching its customer base in the future, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, so the saying goes. The best advice I can give is to educate yourself and see what jobs are available in the field. The sex industry is huge, and not just limited to adult stores.
10. Finally, which experience from this work stands out the most to you? (A learning opportunity? Specific training? A crazy event?) R: I love when vendors come to the store for training sessions with our staff. But I think the most fun I had was when me and my coworker arranged to have off the weekend of the Sexual Health Expo in Brooklyn and went. We got a hotel room (and that was an adventure in itself!) and spent the weekend there. We talked to vendors, got to see all the new toys coming out, made industry connections, and just generally had a blast. We plan on going back this year, only this time we’ll go up the day before, get a room for two nights, and hit the workshops that are offered as well. We plan on documenting the event this time too, in pictures and maybe an article about the experience.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to add that wasn’t addressed above? R: I could talk shop all day long, lol. But I think I covered the basics here. If anyone is in the Central Jersey area, feel free to stop in! We have two locations, one in Hamilton, which is right outside of Trenton, and one in Burlington. (Yeah, had to put that plug in there, lol.) We have a website as well…which reminds me: DON’T BUY TOYS OFF THE INTERNET!!!
Unless you’re familiar with this industry and the manufacturers and distributors, you don’t know if the item you’re purchasing is real or a counterfeit—or even body safe. Plus, you should always check out a toy in person before you buy it. You can get a better idea of what you’re looking for if you can actually hold the product in your hands.
And please, please, please, do your research! Not every adult store has well-informed and well-educated employees. These are toy and sexual aids that are going in your body; you want to make sure that you aren’t being pressured into buying something that you’ll hate, just because the store in question is trying to meet sales goals.
It was a real pleasure getting to talk about my job; it’s kinda out there, but as I’m kind of an out-there person myself, it really suits me to a ‘T.’ Now if I could only figure out how to make time to write, lol, I’ll be all set. Thank you, Amira, for this opportunity! It was a lot of fun, and I hope that your readers enjoyed this glimpse into my world.