Kmart Employee: Confirming The Retail Horror Stories

I’ll begin this with some background to help you see things through my eyes. I am a twenty year old college student attending a four-year state school after graduating from a community college with an A.A. My course of study is in the physical sciences and after completion of my B.Sc., I am engineering plans for grad school. I have a bit of an inflated ego for a retail worker because of my education and aspirations (and my coworkers’ lack thereof)- I’ll be honest.

I work at a Kmart ten minutes from home and have since my senior year of high school. I started there as a cashier, but was put in the garden shop after 2-3 months without notice or training. Nearing four years later, I have the same job. I am also charged with working in receiving and doing a bit of everything as collateral duties.

Now that my intro is over: I hate my job. Why? Retail horror stories are all true. The job sucks balls because of the terms of employment, customer issues, and management.

The terms that ANY retail worker will be familiar with are low pay, inconsistent scheduling, and general drudgery on the job. Kmart has not offered any raises for over 2 years as part of a “pay freeze.” This means that my wages increased only with the minimum wage, and yes, after almost 4 years I still make minimum wage. After all the experience and know-how I have at Kmart, I make $7.25/hr. Now, some of my coworkers have been smiled upon by management. Loopholes exist and they have had wage increases by “qualifying” in departments I cannot qualify in while doing garden. New employees are also hired at a higher rate of pay than I make now. Shady processes seem to go down behind closed doors because the managers are too shrewd to abstain.

Customers are no escape from the pains of the office and breakroom. I live in a Florida suburb where the shoppers are typically lower middle class whites with strong feelings as to how they should be treated. They’re the type who will fly off the handle over a few dollars or some wasted minutes and come right back the next day. It’s a bit pathetic. Luckily, I am spared the worst and have a few kind regulars in my garden shop. With all the variety, though, it’s easy to find something new to hate about people every day. My job drains my social patience completely.

The largely incompetent management is your standard array of world-weary failed business majors looking for a way out or burnt-out lifers settling down for the long-haul. Silly policies are being implemented as this stagnant and maladaptive company struggles to hold on, but this only serves to frustrate employees who aren’t paid enough to care. The leadership can be rude, crass, kind, funny, and keep you forty minutes late to clean all in the same day. Sometimes I feel bad for our store managers because they are pawns, too, but then I remember that this is their JOB. For life. They ended up where they are, and their example reminds me to keep moving forward.

The positives of my job are few, and they honestly don’t compare to the magnitude of the negatives. However there are some. I have flexible scheduling. As a student, I know I can hand in almost any reasonable hours and be scheduled. It’s very low-pressure. Yeah, it blows, but I really don’t have to do all that much on any given day. And finally, it’s close to home.

I do this because I need the money. I’ve been looking for a new job everywhere since about my fifth or sixth month, but to no avail. I often feel that my job causes a lot of sadness in my life and one of my greatest motivations in life is to find a new job. Kmart sucks.