Confessions of a Former Victoria’s Secret Employee

What it’s really like to work at the lingerie retailer

Caitlin Otos
Sep 10 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Uliana Kopanytsia on Unsplash

Victoria’s Secret has a glamorous air about it. You can faintly smell the iconic Bombshell fragrance as you walk past the store. The dimmed lighting with strategic spotlights casting down onto the mannequins that show off the newest arrivals gives the store a luxurious and sexy vibe. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work there?

As soon I was old enough to start working I imagined what a dream it must be to work at Victoria’s Secret. I wanted to feel like a personal shopper and help women feel beautiful and confident in their undergarments. When I was 19 years old, I decided to submit an application. Before I knew it, I was wearing all black, adorned in a headset, and helping women choose the right bra to fulfill their needs.

Sales goal pressure

The pressure for all sales associates to meet their sales goal is huge. Essentially, their job security depends on it. Victoria’s Secret employees work with their SPAH in mind. SPAH or “Sales Per Hour” is the sales goal that is set by the company. At the store I worked at, I had to sell an average of $300 in merchandise for every hour that I worked. If I was working a five-hour shift that day, I would be expected to have $1500 in sales under my name by the time I clocked out. If you didn’t meet your SPAH for two months in a row, you’d be fired. That’s what happened to me six months later. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have worked there much longer.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Trust me, we don’t like telling you our name five million times either, but we have to.

The SPAH goal was very difficult to consistently meet in a mall with very low foot traffic. There was a much bigger and newer mall about an hour north that people preferred, as well as an outlet shop at the beach about an hour south. Those two Victoria’s Secret stores drew in most of the customers, especially during the summer and holiday seasons. As a result, the mall I worked at was slow most of the time. Any customer that did walk into our store was bombarded by all of the sales associates practically begging to be needed. So, if you were wondering why the same sales associate will tell you their name five million times, that’s why. Yes, it’s annoying, and we don’t like shoving it down your throat either, but our job performance depends on it.

Stealing sales

Since the SPAH goal was set so high, foot traffic was often low, and there were too many sales associates working at once, some girls would steal sales to try to compensate. This was the most frustrating part of working there. Cashiers who were friends with a sales associate might credit the sale to their friend instead of who actually earned it. This happened a lot and it quickly became very discouraging. I felt like every day that I showed up to work, I was thrown into a bullfight.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Maëliss Demaison on Unsplash

Are the perks worth it?

The new hire gratis feels like a shopping spree. After a new sales associate completes the training period, from what I can remember, they receive one full-size perfume, one sports bra, one standard bra, and ten panties all for free. Sales associates can use a 30% discount on all full-price merchandise and receive a monthly gratis. Whenever a new collection is released, we either receive a free item, or we can purchase an item at a generously discounted price. We may only pay $15–20 for a bra that costs nearly $50. Corporate incentivizes us this way so we have first-hand experience, opinions, and knowledge of the products to better assist customers.

Recovery standards

There were some days where my entire shift was spent just standing at the panty bar folding underwear, which gets destroyed the second a customer touches it. And yes, I still had to reach my SPAH while I was assigned to this task. Next time you go into a Victoria’s Secret, you’ll see all of the bras should be striped in the ROYGBIV sequence which means bras are lined from light pink, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and then to black, nude, and white. I will admit — my wardrobe is still organized in the ROYGBIV sequence!

The customer is not always right

You’d be surprised by some of the things people try to get away with, especially when returning merchandise. Customers have tried to return very tattered bras that look like they’ve been run over by a bus. I mean, some of the bras were so old that we no longer carried the same style anymore. I remember one return so vividly: a woman came in with a hoodie and sweatpant loungewear set. It had clearly been worn and washed many, many times. There was so much pilling all over it that it felt really rough to the touch. She had no tags and no receipt. The loungewear set was so old that I had never seen it in all my time working there. I refused her return and — you guessed it — she wanted to speak with the manager. The manager refused the return as well. You can threaten to call Human Resources all you want, but we can still deny your return.

We have to hassle you to open a store credit card

Our managers would hover over us at checkout to make sure we asked every single person, ‘Are you shopping with your Angel Card today?’ If the customer says ‘no,’ we are trained to push for it three more times.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

We have extensive lingerie collections

It’s very easy to window-shop while you work. Before I knew it, my arsenal of lingerie and undergarments quickly took over an entire five-drawer dresser. To this day, I am still a loyal Victoria’s Secret customer (although, I do want to try Rihanna‘s Savage X Fenty collection!).

Shop the semi-annual sale multiple times

Don’t blow your entire budget on the first day of the sale. There are bins of hundreds of bras that you can’t see in bins underneath the tables and in the storage room. Come back in a few days. New stuff is always being brought out!

Helping men shop is either really easy, or it goes nowhere

Men come in all the time and have no idea what size their wife or girlfriend is. They’ll show us a picture of her, zoom in on her breasts, and look at us with big puppy-dog eyes waiting to hear our suggestion. While I can guess what size she might be, there’s no way to know for sure just from a picture. If that resonates with you, it’s best you get her a gift card instead. Other times, men will come in, rattle-off her sizes, and give me full reign to pick out whatever I want for her. Easy-peasy.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Overall, my time at Victoria’s Secret wasn’t terrible, but it was one of the most high-pressure retail jobs I’ve ever had. However, it was also one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. Getting a first-hand look at all of the new collections that launch was thrilling. Helping women find items that made them feel beautiful and confident was fulfilling. Strolling through the store wearing my headset, dressed in all black, and wearing my best push-up bra was invigorating. I felt like a certified bra ninja, if only for six months.

The Innovation

A place for variety of stories from different backgrounds

Sign up for The Innovation Digest

By The Innovation

Official newsletter of The Innovation Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Caitlin Otos

Written by

Bachelor of Science in Applied Nutrition. Lover of all things travel, food, health, and fitness related. Let’s build wellness rather than treating disease.

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store