retail articles Archives - I Hate Working In Retail


US Malls prep for attacks after jihadi call to arms

Managers of giant shopping malls from New Jersey to San Diego are on alert for terrorist threats and say they are coordinating with law enforcement after release of a Somali extremist group video encouraging deadly attacks.

Westfield Corp., manager of 38 flagship malls across the United States and more internationally, said Monday that it sees “no evidence of an imminent threat” to its centers but “will take every available step to keep our shopping centers safe.”

While declining to discuss specific security measures, the company said its top security executives are coordinating with local police and government agencies.

It said its malls — which include the giant Garden State Plaza outside New York City, Montgomery Mall outside Washington, D.C., Horton Plaza in San Diego, Century City in Los Angeles and the Westfield San Francisco Centre​ near Union Square — are operating as normal despite “significant resources” devoted to security.

The video threatening a terror attack was released by al-Shabaab, a southern Somalia-based group that took responsibility for an attack in 2013 at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that left more than 60 people dead.

“If just a handful of mujahedin fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, imagine what a dedicated mujahedin in the West could do to the American or Jewish-owned shopping centers across the world,” an unidentified man says on the video. “What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota?”

The International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York-based trade association, said many other smaller centers and malls across the country are updating security planning with local authorities.

“The shopping center industry will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that shopping centers are safe and comfortable environments in which to shop,” the council said. “Consumers can be assured that their safety and the safety of shopping center employees are the industry’s number one priority.”

The Mall of America, the large center at Bloomington, Minn., took immediate steps. Bloomington police released a statement on behalf of the mall law-enforcement agencies saying it sees “no credible threat” to the mall as a result of the video. It said the mall has “implemented extra security precautions.”

Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said mall security has been constantly upgraded since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but that there was no “one size fits all” security plan for shopping centers.

“There won’t be any mad dash or scramble to improve security because security is constantly evolving and improving,” Trontold USA TODAY. “Security officials are not reactionary because they have been doing this all along.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be additional security measures. The Mall of America issued a statement saying it had “implemented extra security precautions.”

But mall safety continues to mean uniformed and non-uniformed officers, video cameras and other measures seen and unseen, Tron said. It also means an online terrorism awareness program that teaches officers what to watch for, what to report and how to stay alert to threats 24/7.

Communication is the key, Tron said. Security works closely with local law enforcement. Any SWAT team sent to a mall likely has been there before in training. Plans are in place. And when a threat surfaces, information is shared with police and other officials.

“It’s not just mall security staff, it’s local PD, the FBI — they are all working on these things every day,” said Jim Fernandez, who overseas the online Shopping Center Security Terrorism Awareness Training Program and other terrorism awareness programs at LSU’s Stephenson National Center for Security Research and Training.

Fernandez said a couple thousand security officers take the center’s online training program every year.

“It can look at everything from taking notice if someone wears a long winter coat into the mall on a hot summer day to handling an active shooter situation,” Fernandez said.

The Mall of America, among the largest shopping malls in the world, employs more than 12,000 people at more than 500 stores and 50 restaurants. It is the world’s busiest mall, bringing in more than 40 million visitors annually.

Mall officials issued a statement saying they take any potential threat seriously. It added that some precautions will be noticeable, others won’t.

Bloomington Police said there is no credible threat associated with the video. The police statement jointly issued with the FBI, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, Metro Transit Police and Mall of America Security, called the Mall of America a “very safe place.”

Still, the secretary of Homeland Security warned shoppers at malls across the nation to be vigilant in the wake of new terrorist threats.

“I’m not telling people to not go to the mall,” Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think that there needs to be an awareness.”

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a statement Sunday saying they have been working closely with state and local authorities in recent months to “prevent and mitigate these types of threats.”

“We are in constant communication with federal officials,” Tron said. “Safety is always the number one priority.”


Sourced from




No Rest for the Working, Why Retail Hours Suck

Andy Iversen, a produce stocker at a Minneapolis grocery store, riding to work at 4 a.m. He often used to have an eight-hour break between shifts. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times


On the nights when she has just seven hours between shifts at a Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla., Shetara Brown drops off her three young children with her mother. After work, she catches a bus to her apartment, takes a shower to wash off the grease and sleeps three and a half hours before getting back on the bus to return to her job.

At Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, Ramsey Montanez struggles to stay alert on the mornings that he returns to his security guard station at 7 a.m., after wrapping up a 16-hour double shift at 11 p.m. the night before.

And on many Friday nights, Jeremy Little waits tables at a Perkins Restaurant & Bakery near Minneapolis and doesn’t climb into bed until 3 a.m. He returns by 10 a.m. for the breakfast rush, and sometimes feels so weary that he forgets to take rolls to some tables or to tell the chef whether customers wanted their steak medium rare.

“It makes me feel really tired,” Mr. Little said. “My body just aches.”

Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: “clopening.”


Ramsey Montanez commuting to his job as a security guard at a community college in Jersey City, where sometimes his night shift ends at 11 p.m. and his day shift starts at 7 a.m. Credit Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

“It’s very difficult for people to work these schedules, especially if they have other responsibilities,” said Susan J. Lambert, an expert on work-life issues and a professor of organizational theory at the University of Chicago. “This particular form of scheduling — not enough rest time between shifts — is particularly harmful.”

The United States decades ago moved away from the standard 9-to-5 job as the manufacturing economy gave way to one dominated by the service sector. And as businesses strive to serve consumers better by staying open late or round the clock, they are demanding more flexibility from employees in scheduling their hours, often assigning them to ever-changing shifts.

Workers and labor advocates are increasingly protesting these scheduling practices, which often include giving workers as little as two days’ advance notice for their weekly work schedule. These concerns have gained traction and translated into legislative proposals in several states, with proponents enviously pointing to the standard adopted for workers in the 28-nation European Union. It establishes “a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.”

Britain, Germany and several other countries interpret that to require that workers be given at least 11 hours between shifts, although waivers are permitted. “If a retail shop closes at midnight, the night-shift employees are not allowed to start before 11 o’clock the next morning,” said Gerhard Bosch, a sociology professor and expert on labor practices at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

In the United States, no such national or state labor law or regulation governs the intervals between shifts, except for some particular jobs like airline pilots, although some unions have negotiated a minimum time for workers to be off, sometimes eight, 10 or 12 hours.

But at the state level this year, bills have been introduced in Maryland and Massachusetts and will be introduced in Minnesota on Monday, each of them calling on employers to give workers at least 11 hours between shifts and three weeks’ advance notice for schedules. Those proposals would require businesses to pay some time and a half whenever employees are called in before 11 hours have passed between shifts.

Paul Thissen, the Democratic leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, supports the legislation. “When it comes to scheduling, the playing field is tilted very dramatically in favor of the employer,” Mr. Thissen said. “What we’re proposing is just trying to rebalance the playing field.”

Anthony Newby, executive director at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a Minneapolis-based group that advocates for worker rights, among other issues, said that clopenings have become a big issue in his region. “Clopenings are hurting many of our members; many are in the restaurant field and some in construction and nursing,” he said. “We worry it has an effect on safety — workers feel they’re on autopilot. It also has a big impact on families, on mothers trying to manage a family and arrange child care.”

Ms. Brown, who works as a cashier at Taco Bell, said her children — ages 5, 4 and 2 — don’t like it when she has just seven hours between shifts. That usually means they hardly see her for two nights in a row; they sleep at their grandmother’s both nights. On the second night, after just three and a half hours’ sleep the previous day, Ms. Brown says she stops by her mother’s for an hour or two to see her children, and then heads home to sleep.

“My kids say, ‘Mommy, I miss you,’ ” she said. “I get so tired it’s hard to function. I feel so exhausted. I don’t want my kids suffering not seeing me. I try to push to go see them.”

Although Ms. Brown dislikes clopenings, she doesn’t turn them down because she needs as many hours as she can get. She makes $8.10 an hour and works about 25 hours a week.

Brandon Wagner, who works for a Zara apparel store in Manhattan, often works from 1 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m., getting back to his apartment in Brooklyn around midnight. He often must be back at work at 8 the next morning, and as a result he sleeps just five hours.

“When you question this, they give a shrug of the shoulder,” Mr. Wagner said. “They say, ‘Everybody does this. You have to put up with it or go somewhere else.’ ”

Last summer, Starbucks announced that it would curb clopenings on the same day that The New York Times published an article profiling a barista, Jannette Navarro, mother of a 4-year-old, who worked a scheduled shift that ended at 11 p.m. and began a new shift at 4 a.m.

At the time, Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’s group president for the United States, said: “Partners should never be required to work an opening and a closing shift back-to-back. District managers must help store managers problem-solve issues specific to individual stores to make this happen.” (“Partners” is the term Starbucks uses for its employees.)

Neil Trautwein, a vice president with the National Retail Federation, acknowledged that some instances of scheduling were egregious, but he pointed to Starbucks’s voluntary response to argue that states should not enact any laws to address the issue.

“Advocates have it wrong to think you can legislate and just outlaw the process,” Mr. Trautwein said. “The market adjusts to the needs of workers.” He added that what Starbucks did “demonstrates that businesses listen to their employees and adjust.” (In response to complaints about schedules changing week to week, Walmart said on Thursday that it would give workers more predictable schedules.)

But several people who identified themselves as Starbucks employees complained on a Facebook private group page that they still were scheduled for clopenings, despite the company’s pronouncement. One worker in Texas wrote on Jan. 30, “I work every other Sunday as a closer, which is at 10:30 or really 11-ish, then scheduled at 6 a.m. the next morning.” Another worker in Southern California wrote, “As a matter of fact I clopen this weekend.”

Laurel Harper, a Starbucks spokeswoman, questioned the authenticity of the Facebook posts. She said company officials had held conversations nationwide “to make sure we are giving our partners the hours they want” and to prevent clopenings.

Some managers say there are workers who don’t mind clopenings — like students who have classes Monday through Friday and want to cram in a lot of weekend work hours to maximize their pay.

Tightly scheduled shifts seem to have become more common for a number of reasons. Many fast-food restaurants and other service businesses have high employee turnover, and as a result they are often left with only a few trusted workers who have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning. Professor Lambert said no studies had been done on the prevalence of clopenings nationwide.

Carrie Gleason, director of the fair workweek initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal advocacy group, said one reason for the increasing prevalence of clopenings was that many companies had shifted scheduling responsibilities away from managers and to sophisticated software that she said was not programmed to prevent such short windows between shifts.

But David Ossip, chief executive of Ceridian, a human resources and payroll company, said that when his company provided scheduling software to companies, it generally recommended programming a mandated rest period. The software would then warn managers when an added shift violated that rest period.

“You would make sure you have a minimum rest period between shifts,” he said. “We would set up fairness results that call for regular working hours — not one day work at night, the next day work in the morning.” He added, “You have to be home for eight, 10 or 12 hours.”

Andy Iversen, a stocker at Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, said the grocery store’s managers used to schedule him two or three times a week to work until 9 p.m., and then be back at 5 a.m.

“I was beyond exhausted,” he said, noting that he was getting to bed at midnight and waking around 3:45 a.m. At the time, he was pursuing a master’s degree and taking a course in neuroscience. “I couldn’t concentrate because I was so tired,” he said. “I had to drop out of class.”

Mr. Iversen praised his store’s managers for no longer giving him clopenings. Marshall Wright, the store’s produce manager, said, “We think it’s the right thing to do. We don’t feel people should work shifts like that.”

Mr. Iversen couldn’t agree more: “It doesn’t take that much empathy or reasoning to see that clopenings stink, and people don’t want to do it.”

Sourced from


Working in Retail, Where have all the jobs gone?

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

When it comes to the business of stocking stuff in rooms with roofs, this has been a nightmare week. Three decades after selling its first personal laptop in 1983, Radio Shack is finally done. The company announced it is filing for bankruptcy just hours after Staples announced its intention to buy the beleaguered Office Depot, which itself merged with OfficeMax. The office-supply chain business is wilting, just as the electronics triumvirate of Circuit City, Radio Shack, and Best Buy has been reduced to one.

The mournful reaction to Radio Shack’s demise is steep with empty nostalgia, and unless you’re a small business owner, the news that there will soon be a solitary brick-and-mortar brand to fulfill your orders for 20,000 Bic pens and 2,000 manila file-folders will not incite much tender weeping. But the incredible shrinking retail chain story is a part of a greater demise that deserves some measure of grief.

It’s not just about the fall of the once mighty paper-pens-and-paper-clips business. It’s not just the national vigil for Radio Shack, summarized lovingly in grainy this-whole-store-fits-in-your-pocket memes:


It’s also the utter collapse of JC Penney. And the trend stories about malls becoming ghost towns. And six consecutive quarters of same-store sales declines at Walmart through 2014. And a deepfreeze among home furnishings companies, and permafrost in dollar-store land.

Retail was the most significant economic industry in the second half of the 1900s. We filled out homes with stuff, and we bought the stuff in stores, made with bricks, filled with people, who were paid to facilitate the transaction.

Since the turn of the century, however, retail employment has been frozen in Carbonite. Real personal consumption expenditures have grown by $1 billion since the recession, and the private sector has added 2.4 million new jobs. But the retail sector has lost 60,000 jobs in that time. Today the stuff that fills our lives is increasingly intangible (college and insurance) or invisible (the Internet and apps).

Upon closer examination, though, retail is not suffering an across-the-board chill. Employment at supercenters like Costco and Sam’s Club have grown by 25 percent since the Great Recession started at the end of 2007. But discount stores (like Dollar Tree), clothing-only stores (like Gap), and department stores (like JC Penney) are more than 400,000 jobs lighter than they were when the recession struck. That is the equivalent of about ten weeks of national job creation.

Since 2000, the performance of supercenters and supermarkets has lived up to their first two syllables. But electronics stores and office-supply stores are bleeding red. Job cuts have not been enough to spare Radio Shack and Office Depot.

Costco Up, JC Penney Down: The Retail Jobs Landscape


You don’t need a long explication to see what’s going on here. Walmart brought ruthless efficiency to the business of selling stuff in stores, and Amazon brought more ruthless efficiency to the business of selling stuff anywhere, so that today, to be a retail salesperson or cashier—still the two most common jobs in America—is to compete with the convenience of a laptop and a couch (or, even worse, a smartphone search filling a spare moment of boredom). As Radio Shack’s story shows, when companies go to war against price and convenience, they tend to lose—first go the jobs, then goes the company.

Retail employment is not “dead,” even in the media’s liberal interpretation of the word. Many people love shopping—as an experience—and take more psychic glee from an afternoon out browsing, touching, and bagging merchandise than just about anything in their lives. (And that’s okay!) But as Amazon, eBay, Instacart, and the websites of brick-and-mortar stores primp their digital storefronts, price and convenience will triumph, again and again. There is little reason to think that the most important employment engine of the 20th century will continue to pump through the 21st. The future will be cheap, and it will be convenient, but much of it will lose the personal touch of, well, people.


Sourced from