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I Spent a Year Working at an Outdoor Garden Center

And This Is What Happened

By Ashlyn HarperPublished 5 years ago 7 min read
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Photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash

This past year I had decided to get a part-time job. While I absolutely love writing, I was turning into a severe homebody who had poor social skills. It was as if the more time I spent alone, the more my conversation skills started to deplete. I was also suffering from severe cabin fever and getting aches and pains associated with sitting at a desk all day long. I could have just went for a run each day and forced myself to talk with a local barista, but a job seemed to be the right fit for me.

A little part-time position would force me to leave my house, interact with others, and potentially make new friends. My cat was sad that she no longer had her crazy mom to talk to her, but it was necessary for my sanity. So I went on a job hunt. What I didn't realize was how hard it was to find a job that kept me on my feet, would allow me to pick my hours, and not be in the form of serving (you can read my past article for that reasoning). It wasn't until a few weeks of searching that I came across a job posting for my local garden center.

It was the position that I had been looking for all along. We will call it Flower Place to keep the actual company out of this story, but it was an extremely reputable shop in my state that I had gone to for my pumpkin and flower needs before. The position was seasonal (March – October), was in need of part-time help, and was outdoors. All of this seemed too good to be true. I immediately applied and waited a good month before being contacted for an interview.

The interview process was short and sweet. The two women interviewing me asked a few generic questions like what hours I was wanting and my previous experience. Being open to the fact that I had absolutely no experience, they were surprisingly happy with this. It meant that I would be easy to train the proper way. They let me know that the job would pay little to nothing, would be hard work, and the weather could potentially be a problem. None of this bothered me, though. I wasn't looking for a job to pay the bills, and I needed something to get my heart rate up.

So, I accepted the position. The store wasn't opening for another month, so that gave me a chance to get my writing priorities in order as well as figure out a schedule that would work best for me. By the time the job was starting, I was desperately ready for the work. The first week was excruciating. It was the beginning of March, and the temperature was in the negative numbers. We spent the early few days setting up tables, putting a border around the perimeter (since the store was just a shed in a large parking lot), and getting everything ready for the flowers to arrive.

By the end of the first week, I was sore in places I never knew existed, and the hottest of showers could not warm my body back to life. I was starting to see why it was so hard for them to get help. While they told me it would be laborious, they sugar-coated just how much work went into it. By the time the flowers came in, I was already tired and in need of a chiropractor.

The flowers came on carts larger than my 5-foot 9-inch body, filled to the brim with various pots and plants. Each truck usually had about 20-30 carts, and they all had to be put away as fast as possible. The owner of the Flower Place would come in periodically to yell at the manager and give us new things to do. He was a man I soon found out was not that great to his employees. While the town loved him, he treated us less than civil. I would watch as our manager, a woman who was genuinely kind and hard working, cry after each visit.

Despite the owner being treacherous, I did find a love for the job. It was relatively easy most days, only requiring us to attend to customers and water the plants. Only one employee out of the group got on my nerves, but I usually just scheduled myself around her shifts. It was like any other job in that sense. You had a few employees you didn't like, and days that made you want to quit altogether. What I wasn't expecting was the attitude of some of the customers.

I just assumed everyone would be relatively laid back. I mean, they were buying plants. However, a lot of the people shopping were rude, short, and acted like we were mere peasants who didn't know anything. While I was used to taking criticism, this was a new type of rude that I had never seen. If we didn't have a particular plant in the shop they would throw the biggest fit and, if we had run out, it was like the world had ended. It was also expected of us to follow each customer around and try our hardest to get them to leave with something in their hands. This was easier said than done.

Most days, this ran relatively smoothly. It wasn't until summer that I noticed how hard this genuinely was. On the hot days, we were expected to water the plants (which was a day-long chore with the heat) as well as talk with each customer, keep the plants in perfect order, and not die of heat exhaustion. I can personally tell you that this is no simple matter. Most people might view this as easy, but when you are running around in the 105-degree heat, you start to hate your life severely. I would go home drenched in sweat and have no motivation to write.

Once the cold fall weather came around, I was ready for everything to be over. Almost all employees had another job at this point (most of them were teachers), so I was the only one who could help the manager with all the tedious chores. I would stay later than I was scheduled to help unload the truck and would have to keep the doors open even when it was raining and freezing. We started getting pumpkins by the box load, and those were a hellish ordeal. They would weigh up to 50 pounds, would come in boxes of a hundred, and had to be taken out by the end of the day.

I would start sweating by the first hour of work but have to remain bundled from the freezing temperatures. Once my shift was over, I would take a shower to warm up my body and crawl into bed feeling sick and exhausted. My writing was taking a bigger back seat and my days would be spent trying to keep myself from actually becoming ill. It took all of my energy to get up each day and do it all over again. This was not something they did not mention in the interview process.

By the time it was over, I was more than ready. I had worked more hours than I had signed up for and was doing the work of three people. Who would have known that a flower shop could bring this much pain? While this might not be how all garden centers are, this was the experience I had from this particular company.

Overall, I will probably do it again for the next season. What I learned in my year of working at the Flower Place was that you have to put in more work than you ever thought possible, customers will treat you like dirt, and the pay is little to nothing. I did make a couple of new friends, however, and learned a lot about the care of plants that have been extremely beneficial to my little garden. The only change I would probably make is only working a couple of days a week.

If you are thinking of working in an outdoor garden center, I will encourage you to only put in a few days out of the week. Most all places don't pay that well (there isn't much money in the flower business) and be stubborn with how much work you can do. With this being my first year, I let people walk over me and force me to do more than I should have. Despite the bad, it can be a fun job. Just make sure you don't overwork yourself (the pay is not worth breaking your back for).

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About the Creator

Ashlyn Harper

A chaotic room of stories. My curiosities lead me in all types of directions, creating a chaotic writing pathway. I want this place to be for experimenting, improving my craft, and sharing new ideas with anyone willing to read them.

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