Superstore reminded us why everyone should work in retail

SUPERSTORE -- "Hair Care Products" Episode 605 -- Pictured: (l-r) Ben Feldman as Jonah, Nico Santos as Mateo, Nichole Sakura as Cheyenne, Colton Dunn as Garrett -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)
SUPERSTORE -- "Hair Care Products" Episode 605 -- Pictured: (l-r) Ben Feldman as Jonah, Nico Santos as Mateo, Nichole Sakura as Cheyenne, Colton Dunn as Garrett -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC) /

Superstore is ending, and I’m sad. After a six-season run on NBC, the sitcom is coming to an end at exactly the wrong time. As union disputes with Amazon make front-page news, and an increase in the minimum wage is being hotly debated in Congress, Superstore’s depiction of a motley crew of amiable workers at a big box store has provided a vital contribution to the cultural conversation. It’s also funny as hell.

Working in retail is a thankless and tedious job, and the workers that do those jobs are absolutely essential. Superstore has always championed this fact by showing the gang at Cloud 9 as they weather literal tornados, blizzards, and all sorts of physical maladies in order to do the work and keep their jobs.

The recent pandemic underscored that the people that keep the world running are the very people who stock your groceries, deliver your packages, and ring up your toilet paper. These people are the literal heartbeat of America. Yet, unfortunately, they are often treated like absolute garbage.

Superstore knows that if everyone worked in retail at some point, the world would be a better place.

The fun customer interstitials are a hallmark of Superstore. However, even though they are hilarious and highlight customer common peccadilloes while shopping at any store, they also often illustrate how many people routinely disregard and even dehumanize people in lower-level service jobs.

In one, a woman changes her baby on the floor of a snack aisle and then casually shoves the dirty diaper into the shelving when she’s done. In another, customers wait impatiently at a checkout line as tornado winds whip violently outside and the staff frantically prepares to shelter in place.

SUPERSTORE — “Perfect Store” Episode 614 — Pictured: (l-r) Kaliko Kauahi as Sandra, Colton Dunn as Garrett, Nico Santos as Mateo — (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC)
SUPERSTORE — “Perfect Store” Episode 614 — Pictured: (l-r) Kaliko Kauahi as Sandra, Colton Dunn as Garrett, Nico Santos as Mateo — (Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC) /

Because it’s a comedy, Superstore goes relatively easy when it comes to the hate and vitriol that customers frequently spew upon front-line workers in the real world, but the sentiment is woven throughout the series.

However, by inviting viewers into the store and into the lives of the Cloud 9 employees, Superstore also supposes that if everyone worked retail at some point in their lives, the world would be a happier place. And I wholeheartedly agree.

I’ve worked in retail, but most of my customer service experience comes from waitressing at a Friendly’s restaurant for almost a decade. (Coneheads 4Lyfe!) There are common themes to working in customer-facing jobs at chain establishments so, for me, Superstore feels much like coming home.

Just as Superstore depicts, these types of environments are often populated by a variety of employees of different backgrounds and personalities, making up a wonderfully diverse staff.

In these workplaces, people who might have had nothing in common can create lasting bonds over the specifics of their job. Topics generally include discussion of how bonkers the customers are, how terrible corporate is, how the hours suck, and, of course, the most important question of all: who’s hooking uppppp?!

The hot hook up goss is plentiful on Superstore. The relationship between Jonah (Ben Feldman) and Amy (America Ferrera) is heartfelt and steamy to be sure, but it also serves to highlight why working in retail should be an essential experience for all humans.

Technically, Jonah could be considered a Trojan Horse for any viewers who haven’t actually worked in retail. Would he have met Amy if he hadn’t worked at Cloud 9? Would he have taken up worker’s rights and fought for unionization if he had just stayed in business school and chosen a different path? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no.

Superstore Season 5 Episode 19
SUPERSTORE — “Carol’s Back” Episode 519 — Pictured: (l-r) Affion Crockett as Tommy, Ben Feldman as Jonah, Nichole Bloom as Cheyenne — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC) /

There’s a world of difference between Amy and Jonah. Jonah has a safety net, courtesy of a rich family, and a healthy dose of naiveté about how the world works.

Amy, on the other hand, understands all too well what it’s like to be unappreciated, maligned, and ignored. She’s a minority. She’s a woman. She’s barely scraping by. But at Cloud 9, Jonah and Amy were afforded an opportunity to interact and get to know one another in a novel environment.

In fact, Jonah’s privilege as a white male of means stands in stark contrast to the vast remainder of his co-workers. He does have a good heart and a positive attitude, but it takes first-hand experience for him to realize some of the harsh truths that the working class live every day. They don’t have health insurance. They don’t get days off. They are abused from above (corporate) and below (customers), but they still show up to work every day and do the job.

What if everyone had to work retail at some point in their lives? This is a question that’s been bouncing around the internet for a while. A popular article from Forbes in 2014 posed the question, and the good people of Reddit discuss the issue all the time, with a recent post entitled EVERYONE ON THIS GOD GIVEN EARTH SHOULD WORK RETAIL ONCE IN THEIR LIVES. Yes. Totally.

The old adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is apt here. If all the members of Congress had had to work some thankless retail job at one point in their life, they just might be more likely to vote to raise the wage.

Perhaps if they’d worked alongside someone like Mateo (Nico Santos), they’d be more sympathetic to the plight of undocumented immigrants. Conversely, on a smaller scale, if every customer at a store or restaurant had once been on the other side of the interaction, they might approach the situation with a bit more kindness and understanding. They certainly wouldn’t shove dirty diapers into a shelf full of Doritos.

Superstore Season 6 Episode 11
SUPERSTORE — “Deep Cleaning” Episode 611 — Pictured: (l-r) Lauren Ash as Dina, Nichole Sakura as Cheyenne, Kaliko Kauahi as Sandra, Benjamin Norris as Tony — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC) /

It’s a testament to Superstore that the crew at Cloud 9 is often depicted doing actual work. Sure, that work is TV-friendly as characters can freely gab as they stock shelves or take inventory, but they’re doing the work nonetheless.

Retail and customer service jobs often involve a lot of stress. They are HARD and require a whole host of skills such as quick thinking, a willingness to nimbly deal with irrational customers, and an ability to work well with others.

Busy times can feel overwhelming and backbreaking. The Dunder Mifflinites on The Office are total slackers compared to Cloud 9. Things never got done at the Dunder Mifflin office because there were few people to hold them directly accountable for their work. But in a job where customers are involved, there is a constant stream of need, waves of demand, and a never-ending to-do list. The job is never truly done.

One of my besties from my waitressing days always says that when you work these types of jobs, you get to see the best and the worst of people, sometimes within mere minutes. It’s true. So it’s no wonder that many people forge close bonds with their co-workers on the front lines of retail and even find their soulmates.

Honestly, it’s better than a dating app. Jonah and Amy and Dina (Lauren Ash) and Garrett (Colton Dunn) can vouch for that. Actually, so can I. I met my partner while working a customer service job. Boom. Plot twist.

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Which is why I’m so very sad that Superstore is ending. It was a show that illustrated how amazing these jobs can be, despite the ever-looming presence of unfeeling capitalism. It highlighted that there’s magic in the connections we make with the people we work alongside, and, in doing so, the series championed the rich diversity of America itself.

While it’s unreasonable to think that everyone will work a retail job at some point in their lives, Superstore ends its stellar run as a cultural touchstone, reminding us that it is heavenly to treat frontline workers with care and respect.

The one-hour Superstore finale airs Thursday, March 25 at 8 p.m. EST on NBC. All episodes are currently available for streaming on Hulu.