I'm not ashamed to say that I've worked in retail(books) for around 14 years (except last year, when I was pretty much writing full-time) and the thing about Retail (and, in fact, any ostensibly service based industry*) is it tends to knock the edges off you a bit (in a good way). If you can't deal with people, then you really can't cut it over any length of time. You've got to love people or the job just won't work for you, because you see people at their best and worst.
I reckon most** people should work in a shop for a while. It's a very Zen like activity, and if it doesn't increase your sense of empathy, I'm not sure what will. Impatience, judgement, intolerance, even ego, all of it have to be put aside, or you're just going to be miserable. Over the years, I've seen people crumble because of these things. But, if you can let them go, without letting go of your dignity, it can be a very satisfying job.
There's this perception that shop assistants are just idiots, or bored teens. In, books at least, let me say, this just isn't true. I count myself very lucky to have worked with some of the most wonderful people in the book trade. Passionate, personable and patient. They're the best people to pass the time of day with, and they read, and they care about books, and they're bloody funny, and, if they didn't think that bookselling was worthwhile, well, there would be even less of a publishing industry than there is.
So, anyway, as I disappear into the madness that is a retail Christmas, I hope you all have a very wonderful, safe and happy holiday. And, if you work in a shop, well, there's only four more days (and nights) to go.
*and, who, ultimately, doesn't?ok, maybe some CEOs
**Though there are some people who just shouldn't.