September 2014 - I Hate Working In Retail


The downside of being a retail ‘manager’

Most days, the manager arrives at a Stop-n-Go convenience store in Madison, Wis., at 7 a.m. But at previous locations — and even now, if his opener calls in sick – he has to be there at 4:30 a.m. to unlock the glass door, put the coffee on, make sure the cups and creamers are stocked and arrange the doughnuts in their case. He sets up the roller grill with breakfast foods, wipes down the windows and the soda machines, scans in the newspapers and makes sure the bathrooms are clean.

The store opens at 5 a.m., and the manager starts ringing the cash register and setting up pre-pays at the gas pumps. His actual managerial duties don’t begin until mid-morning, when he starts filling in spreadsheets on a computer, making sure all the transactions and cash drops balance out.

Vendors arrive to be checked in. Job applicants arrive for interviews, to replace the employees who leave when they find jobs that pay more than $8 an hour. Then there’s the Book, where the manager takes down all his employees’ discounts and voids, temperature checks on the freezers, and everything else having to do with the running of a retail establishment that stays open 18 hours a day.

All the while, though, he’s on call for help with cashiering, stocking shelves, changing prices, or mopping floors. On paper, he leaves at about 4 p.m., but that often extends until 6 p.m., with only an occasional day completely free.

“For the last few months, I’ve been getting Sundays off. That’s like a reward or something,” says the manager, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation by his employer (he dislikes the job but fears he couldn’t get a better one if he lost it).

 Stop-n-Go, a family-owned, 50-year-old, 36-store chain in Wisconsin and Illinois, did not respond to multiple calls or e-mails for comment.

“You start out with two weeks of vacation, but they can’t staff for it,” the manager says. “Actually, when I’m not here, I’m managing the store. If there’s a question, five in the morning to 10 at night, I’m here.” That comes out to about 55 hours a week, and sometimes more on short notice, for which the manager — a single dad — has missed all manner of family events.

After several years on the job, the manager makes around $700 a week, which comes to the mid-$30,000s a year before taxes, plus the occasional bonus for high sales or low waste (that’s lower than the mean annual wage for retail managers,which is $41,450). And never, not once, has he been paid overtime — usually considered a low-wage employee’s due for working more than 40 hours a week.

That can’t be right, the manager thought. He took the matter to a local law firm, Hawks Quindel. They were initially interested in taking the case — but after reviewing all the facts, they concluded that it probably wouldn’t stand up in court. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “executive” exemption, which depends on a number of factors, salaried workers who supervise two or more employees usually aren’t eligible for time and a half.

“This is a pay practice that everybody uses,” says attorney David Zoeller, who looked at the manager’s situation. “They’ve all taken advantage of what the regulations are. They set low salaries, and they don’t pay overtime.”

That wasn’t always how things worked. As originally written in the 1940s, the Fair Labor Standards Act limited the percentage of the day that an employee could spend on non-managerial duties and still be exempt from overtime, which over the years came to be understood as no more than 50 percent.

But in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Department of Labor overhauled the rules, which accomplished two things: First, it raised the salary threshold below which all workers are entitled to overtime, from $250 per week to $455 per week. And second, it reorganized all the exemptions in such a way that more employees wouldn’t qualify because of what they did on the job. Under the new rules, people could be defined as managers exempt from overtime, for example, while doing grunt work and supervisory work simultaneously.

Labor groups denounced the changes, and employers cheered. Over the past decade, the executive exemption has been extensively litigated — often in casesagainst discount retail empires such as  Dollar General and Family Dollar — andusually decided in favor of the employer. (Some plaintiffs have been more successful; Starbucks has settled a number of overtime cases out of court.)

“That was a project to relieve as many employers as possible of their obligation to pay overtime,” says Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, which receives some funding from unions. “So they started out with something that was worse than where it ended up, but they did a lot of damage.”

Halfway through his second term, President Obama decided to swing the pendulum back toward workers. In March, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez signaled that he planned to raise that salary threshold much higher, and over the summer held listening sessions with both workers and employers. He didn’t give an estimate of where it should end up, but labor advocates have some ideas.

According to an analysis by EPI, 65 percent of all salaried workers fell under the threshold in 1975, and were thus entitled to overtime. By 2013, just 11 percent of salaried workers were automatically due overtime pay, leaving the rest subject to a host of exemptions. EPI proposes raising the cutoff to $984 a week, or about $50,000 a year, which is simply what it was back in 1975, adjusted for inflation.

“If you raise the salary threshold high enough, then you catch everybody whose financial situation you really worry about,” Eisenbrey explains. That could includemillions of white-collar workers in clerical and administrative roles, as well as low-level managers.


To employers, entitling millions more employees to overtime is terrifying.

“The concern of this community, retail and restaurants in particular, is how high is that going to go,” says Tammy McCutchen, the Bush-era Labor Department official who oversaw the changes in 2004 and now represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the global law firm Littler Mendelson. “Managers at restaurants and retail do not make $50,000 per year. Hardly anyone in the country does. There will be a substantial number of retailers or restaurants who will have to reclassify people as hourly.”

The Obama administration has also said it plans to reexamine the executive exemption. McCutchen thinks that could mean putting it back to how it was before 2004 — which is still the case in California — making it more difficult to deny overtime to managers. That has irked the National Retail Federation, which put its members on high alert in early September, anticipating that proposed changes would come out sometime in November.

“Having a manager who is only supervising takes away from the customer service goal,” says NRF’s senior vice president for government relations, David French. “You need a manger who has flexibility. That’s the reality of the way the retail workspace is. We look at that, and we’re very concerned, because that amount of change might force some of our members to rethink their business model.”

The manager in Madison, though, thinks a new business model might be just what’s needed. Doing a regular employee’s work and a supervisor’s work can get stressful.

“I think a 911 operator would be a walk in the park, to be honest with you,” he says. “Because no one task is that difficult. But when you roll them all together, and have me wash the toilets and stock the shelves in addition, it’s overwhelming.”

Especially, of course, without earning any more for all the extra time.

“Ringing the register is so part of my job that I have to work more than my salaried 48 to finish my job for free,” the manager says. “We are the rainmakers for the company, because no matter what happens, the manager has to work.”


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8 Types Of Cashiers To Avoid. Which One Are You??

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When I go shopping I’m usually in a hurry to pay for my crap and get going onto my next errand. All I ask is for a cashier to be competent, friendly and efficient, and thankfully most are. Yet sometimes I’ll find myself standing in a checkout line in which the cashier is lacking in one or all of these qualities. If you ever see that you are dealing with one of these types, do yourself a favor and change lines!

1. Roboclerk

“Cash, check or charge? You have ten seconds to reply!” This cashier has become a cog in the big retail machine, so much so that he functions slowly and methodically like a mindless, mechanized part, with the personality of a fried circuit board. His robotic manner would be tolerable if he was an entertaining and flamboyant robosexual like C3PO or drunkenly outrageous like Futurama’s Bender. Instead, with his blank expression, emotionless interaction and monotone delivery of “hihowareyou?” and “thankyoucomeagain,” he’s more like the Terminator. He must have heard that he’s going to be replaced by a robot in the near future, so to avoid the inevitable he’s already turned himself into a one.

2. Bad Bagger

Watermelon on top of the eggs? Check. Apples and yogurt with the bleach? You bet. Clothing yanked off the hangers, wadded up and crammed into too small of a bag? Definitely. While you’re at it, why not put everything in one bag so I dislocate my shoulder on the way up to my apartment, just before it splits open and sends my $50 worth of groceries cascading down the stairway and into the grease-stained parking lot? Or go the anal opposite and bag each of my 47 items separately, making me look like a homeless person on my way to the bus. By the way, nice job increasing your carbon footprint by wasting all that plastic. You just killed a polar bear.

3. Company Spokesperson

I always get this gung-ho gal when I’m dashing in for a gallon of milk. She’s chugged the company Kool-aid and is onboard with every last ditch sales tactic and marketing ploy they have to offer. So before I get my change I have to listen to her brainwashed blathering about rewards cards, bonus buys, weekly promos, donation drives, online surveys (where I can win a $5000 gift card!), and did you know how much SpendMart gives back to the community? Oh, and can I have your zip code? It’s strictly for our own in-store demographic purposes. We don’t sell your personal info. Honest. At this point, the milk has gone sour and so have I.

4. Psyched Up Psycho

Opposite of the Roboclerks are these super-happy, mega-hyper balls of giddy energy. Apparently they had three Redbulls and a bag of meth for breakfast. All amped like a lonely puppy when his owner gets home. So overly upbeat with an enthusiasm that goes to 11, I don’t know if they’re trying to convince me, or themselves that this crappy, minimum wage dead-end trench work is the Best. Job. Ever. If they were anymore excited about ringing up my groceries they’d be humping the register. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate people enjoying what they do, but I’ve done my time in retail and it ain’t no Disneyland. Heck, being a cashier at Disneyland probably ain’t no Disneyland.

5. Unmotivated Public Sector Drone

In the private sector, businesses strive to stay profitable and avoid losing customers to the competition. Workers are expected to be fast-paced and productive. Not so with places like the DMV or the county courthouse. They have no competition. You can’t say, “Well, this clerk sucks. I’ll just go pay my license fee at the DMV across the street.” That must be why so many of these office drones work at an excruciatingly slow pace that would make a snail cringe. Actually, to call this clerk a drone is an insult to all the diligent worker bees out there. Their pay raises aren’t tied to performance (or worse, their pay has been frozen), so they have no motivation to go above and beyond. Ever been so late on your gas or electric bill that you had to pay it in person? Or had to go downtown to pay a parking ticket? You better ask Siri to block out a big chunk of your daily schedule. But look on the bright side, now you’ve got an excuse to play Candy Crush Saga for 3 or 4 hours while you wait.

6. Cashier Creeper

I’m sure all you ladies out there have run into this dirty old clerk. I’ve seen him in action. When he’s not making some poorly conceived double entendre about your purchase of Sweet and Low, he’s staring down your scoop neck as you unload your cart. He doesn’t even try to be sly about it! Don’t get too distracted by the debit machine or you’ll miss him ogling your teenage daughter as well. There are also young creepers manning the registers. These 20-something dudes think that every female customer is a speed-dating opportunity, trying out pick-up lines as stale and cheesy as the popcorn balls in aisle 32. In either case, now you’re wishing you’d picked up some Dove, because you feel like you need a shower when you get home.

7. The Occasional Cashier

This situation occurs when a parking lot attendant, fitting room associate or some other employee who seldom runs a register is “volun-told” to help with cashiering during a rush (because management cut payroll to the bone and won’t schedule enough full-timers). After a bunch of people move to her lane, sure enough the first transaction goes horribly awry. Instead of a simple single item paid with cash, this one involves rain checks, coupons, some sort of complex rebate voucher and payment in Canadian money orders. She knows just enough about the checkout process to foul the whole thing up, pecking hesitantly at the keys, as if one wrong button press will cause the register to explode. All the while craning her neck frantically left and right like a panicked, lost ostrich, looking for a supervisor to bail her out. It’s not her fault and I feel her pain, but do I want to be stuck in her lane? Not so much.

8. Skeptical Scanner

This cashier missed the memo about employee empowerment and believes that the old adage says, “The Customer is Always Wrong.” He questions every price discrepancy and creates unnecessary delays as he calls to confirm if an item ringing at $29.99 is advertised for $27.99, constantly making a big deal about it, as if his personal paycheck will be garnished to cover the two bucks. He scrutinizes each coupon for several minutes, fearful that he might redeem one for Crest Fresh Mint Gel rather than Fresh Mint Paste and cost the company 25 cents. I get it. You don’t want to give away the store. Sure, lost profits do affect the employees. But unless I’m claiming that a 60” LCD TV is on sale for $13.99, just honor the price difference and move on to the hapless sap in line behind me.

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The 15 Types Of Customers All Retail Staff Hate

1. The “My mother never taught me to clean up after myself”

The "My mother never taught me to clean up after myself"

This is a common occurrence if you work retail. Even the smartest and most professional of people somehow forget how to take the clothes they don’t want, fold them or put them on a hanger and bring them to the nearest employee. We aren’t your mothers and it isn’t our job to pick up after you!!! It is frustrating and yes we judge you!!!

2. The “That poopy diaper smell is not coming from my baby”

The "That poopy diaper smell is not coming from my baby"

We all love mothers and we all love babies. When you work retail this combination can be interesting. You see a mother pushing a stroller, you go over to tell her how cute her perfect child is and then it hits you….that smell that is like nothing you have ever smelt before. You try your hardest to not react or gag, you let her know to call you over if she needs any assistance and then you run towards the fresh air!!

3. The “I don’t have my receipt but I would like a full refund”

The "I don't have my receipt but I would like a full refund"

Ok so here’s a not so secret secret…if you look directly on your receipt it will tell you exactly what the refund policy is. If for some reason your receipt is the ONLY one in the world that doesn’t have it then all you need to do is ask as we are all well versed in our policies. If you do NOT have a receipt, you will NOT get a full refund. You may get an exchange or a store credit. You can argue as much as you want and even try to blame us for not giving you a receipt in the first place which we all know is a lie. Our hands are tied when it comes to this policy so please keep your receipts!!!

4. The “Well the store is already messy so they wont notice if I just throw these shoes on the floor”

The "Well the store is already messy so they wont notice if I just throw these shoes on the floor"

Part of a retail associates job is to maintain the store as well as provide superior customer service and to run back and forth from the fitting room getting you sizes. We understand that it is not the customers job to do anything whilst in the store HOWEVER this also means that we would appreciate it if you DIDN’T add to the mess. Most likely everyone is busy providing that superior customer service I previously mentioned and we will eventually get to the mess so do us a favour and just put the item back where it belongs. Thank you!

5. The “Well this public fitting room seems like a perfect place to have sex”

The "Well this public fitting room seems like a perfect place to have sex"

Yes you read that right. There are actually people out there that think this is an awesome idea. I mean I’m all for being adventurous BUT I don’t want to see it. If we notice this we are meant to approach the room (pretending we have no idea what is happening) and ask if you need any assistance or if we can get you a different size. We are of course referring to clothing when we ask these questions so my advice is to realize you have been caught stop what you are doing and do the walk of shame right out of the store. Oh and we will tell everyone we know about this!!

6. The ” All the stores are closing but I’m not done yet”

The " All the stores are closing but I'm not done yet"

Yeah we hate these people. Once the store is closed we still have another hour where we have to clean the store and restock so when you walk in as we are closing you are making our already long and tiring day worse. Please don’t be this person!!!

7. The “I’m the customer and I’m always right”

The "I'm the customer and I'm always right"

The majority of sales associates know the policies and procedures quite well and will try their best to assist you with all of your questions. We are not against you, we do not make the rules so if we do everything we can to help you and you are still not satisfied then we are sorry but yelling at us and asking for our manager is not gonna make you any happier!!

8. The “Why are you playing Christmas music in October”

The "Why are you playing Christmas music in October"

TRUST ME we are as unhappy as you are about this. The difference is we have to hear these songs everyday for 3 months. We don’t control what music is played or how annoying the songs are. So in this situation please have some pity for us and be an awesome customer!

9. The ” It’s Christmas eve and I don’t understand why you don’t have the size I want”

The " It's Christmas eve and I don't understand why you don't have the size I want"

Besides back to school this is the worst time of year. The store most likely looks like a bulldozer has driven right through it and basically our job is crowd control. You will not find what you are looking for because most likely someone has already purchased it weeks before. Here is my advice… don’t wait until the day before ANY holiday to go shopping because you will not find exactly what you want!!!

10. The “Its Boxing day: why are the lines so long and why isn’t everything 90% off?”

The "Its Boxing day: why are the lines so long and why isn't everything 90% off?"

We don’t have the answer to this. We don’t make the prices or the rules. Boxing day sales last a full week so you don’t need to be waiting outside the door before the store even opens. Again our job during this crazy week is basically crowd control so please be patient!!!

11. The “What do you mean I have to pay for the more expensive one and get the cheaper one for free?”

The "What do you mean I have to pay for the more expensive one and get the cheaper one for free?"

We weren’t born yesterday and we do posses common sense so you will not win this argument however listening to you justify your crazy idea is super entertaining so we will listen to everything you have to say!

12. The “No I haven’t worn these items and I would like to return them”

The "No I haven't worn these items and I would like to return them"

Ummmm unless you think I am blind we BOTH know that you wore the item. Avoiding eye contact with me when you tell me you never wore them doesn’t make me believe you more!!! You aren’t going to get your money back but at least be honest!

13. The “I would like to return this item that I bought at another store”

The "I would like to return this item that I bought at another store"

Most of the time this is just a common mistake and is really funny but there are actually people out there that will argue with you even though the name of the store on the tag or receipt is very different from the store you are trying to return it to!!

14. The “Do you have this in a size 2?”

The "Do you have this in a size 2?"

Ok it’s very awkward when this happens. We do have a size 2 but it wont fit you but I now have to find a polite way to let you know this. I would rather deal with fitting room sexers then deal with this. Please know your size and be realistic!!!

15. The “Do you have anything smaller than a size zero?”

The "Do you have anything smaller than a size zero?"

No we don’t! We have kids sizes if you would like to wear a t-shirt with a unicorn holding balloons on it.

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