What It's Like to Work at Kmart
My name is Megan Snider and I worked for a Super Kmart in Centre, Alabama for three years. The experience advanced my career in retail sales and was a crucial part of my work background. It helped me relate to customers, co-workers and managers in a more effective style. I performed dual duties, working both inside the Little Caesar's Pizza Station and on the Kmart retail sales floor on occasion.
I began working at the pizza station in 2005, at the age of 20. I completed my work at Kmart in 2008 and moved on to other retail opportunities.
While at Kmart I was responsible for preparing special orders for the staff, as well as regular orders for customers, counting the register, cleaning parts of the store, running a register, dealing with employees and customers, handling large sums of money, disposing of trash and occasionally helping other Kmart employees with their duties in other areas of the store if staff was short-handed.
The area where I worked was usually slow, punctuated by short periods of rapid effort. I would receive a call for an order from an employee or customer and would be expected to dispatch the food within 15 to 30 minutes.
In between orders, I was expected to clean the dining area as well as the food preparation areas. I could also clean inside the store by wiping down surfaces, sweeping, and hauling large pieces of garbage to the back room of the store. I was also expected to make announcements over the Kmart intercoms alerting customers to specials in the dining area and promoting sales of certain food items. Frequently I would set up special food displays in the store meant to entice customers to stop by the dining area and spend money on food.
Working shifts for Kmart employees who worked at the pizza station were usually five to six hours long. A common schedule for me from Monday through Friday would be 3 to 8PM. On weekends I worked longer shifts, usually from 11AM to 8PM. I served breakfast from 6AM until 2PM as well, but this only occurred rarely.
The Kmart family
The atmosphere was extremely social and intertwined. This may have been because the Kmart was located in a small town, with a handful of regular workers, and because it was in the South. It was best not to talk about other employees or employers unless you wanted that gossip to get back to them.
A large part of my day was spent making sure customers and other employees were expertly taken care of and that their orders were carried out with perfect detail. I remember once a supervisor, Deborah, had a complaint because her pizza had been sprinkled with two packages of red pepper instead of one. Refusing to comply with special orders, especially orders from staff, could get you into hot water. Like me, the employees and managers were working long days and expected well-prepared, hot meals. I was a representative of Kmart as an employee and expected to act professionally and cater to special requests.
A great portion of my fellow Kmart associates ate at the dining area, making it a regular area for company gossip and drama. The dining area was spacious, with tables and booths located close to the restrooms. Many employees would take their breaks together and fill up the tables to have social time to break up their work days. Plastic utensils, salt and pepper, straws, cups, carry-out boxes and fountainwere all made available to employees and customers in the dining area. This made the dining area the ideal place to spend a break. There was a small break room located in the rear of the store, but it did not offer any of the amenities of the dining area. Usually only people who had brought their own lunches would utilize the break room.
The Kmart pizza station team was officially employed by Kmart, despite the Little Caesar's branding, and so we wore the same type of attire as the rest of the store's employees. This included large name tags with the Kmart logo, a red Kmart shirt and black or tan dress slacks with black shoes. No jeans were allowed and we could only wear special Kmart visors if we wished to wear a hat. Other clothing included plastic gloves for food handling, hair nets for women and men alike, and if you had long hair you were required to wear it in a ponytail or an up-do.
The store was divided into retail sections, with large squares of merchandise spread across the sales floor. There were sections such as the dining area, customer service (which had a large counter), checkout areas with one to two open cashier lanes, clothing, sporting goods, paper goods and electronics. The back rooms of the store, accessible through "employees only" doors, consisted of three small offices: one for accounting and personnel, one for the store manager and one containing cleaning supplies. Another area in the back room held merchandise that was overflow or not ready to be stocked yet and a large box crusher.
Benefits and drawbacks
Perks of the job consisted of employee discounts via Kmart associates' discount cards. Associates were paid twice a month through a Star credit-card system or by direct deposit. Other perks included access to food and drinks. Food that was not made specifically to fit an order or was refused by the customer could be eaten by dining-area employees (or it was thrown away). Drink refills were also made available to employees, especially ones working in the pizza station.
However, keeping a sales-floor job was always iffy: Every year the staff would be cut. Those of us on the pizza station team were routinely shielded from layoffs, as no one else really wanted to work in the pizza station because of the hassle of preparing food and taking extra time for cleanup after a long shift. Sales associates, however, were fired by the dozens each year as the store buckled down due to loss of profit and slow sales. I can recall employees who had long track records with Kmart -- some stretching as long as 20 years -- being fired because their salaries could no longer be afforded. Despite this, there was always a handful of consistent pizza station and sales floor associates that would remain on staff because of their experience. Kmart would never fire all the people in one area. The people who survived the job cuts would have to juggle working in more than one department because of the loss of staff.
Management at Kmart was interesting. It consisted mainly of middle-aged women in high positions of power. You were always expected to be polite and courteous to supervisors. Despite that, gossip and slander were common among the higher-and some members of the pizza station and sales floor had long-standing grudges against management for hurtful remarks or perceived slights. No one was openly hostile to anyone else in the company, but tensions were high and rumors circulated through the store like wildfire.
The bottom line
Despite the challenges of working for this particular Kmart, I would certainly recommend working there. Many of the long-time employees are very precise when on the job and very open and friendly. However, it is best not to dwell on grievances or take things too personally within the company.
The staff is outwardly fun, friendly and helpful even if they do engage in regular office gossip. It is a great job where new employees can easily "cut their new teeth" and get a feel for the ups and downs of the retail world. No job is perfect, but Kmart certainly seasoned my workday and made it fun to be an employee there.
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