Seasonal Workers Can Enjoy Great Perks

By Carol Tice

seasonal jobsWinter holiday work has often come with perks, from cheap software to clothing discounts. This year, with the economy tough, many employers are playing it coy about their perks and not advertising them in their job listings, says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of the temp-job portal FlexJobs.

"I think employers are getting so many applicants for any job posting, they're not playing up their benefits as much as they typically would," she says.

But perks are still out there. Smart job-hunters will have to tease out information about perks in their job interviews to find out what extra goodies an employer may offer aside from a quick seasonal paycheck.

Companies of any size may have some perks on offer – a scan of the available seasonal work shows it's not just mega-retailers offering fringe benefits right now. Local, small business may give some, too. Here's a selection of the types of perks being offered this year:

Flexibility. Fell says many seasonal jobs this winter offer flexible hours, a help to applicants who want to fit in a side job in between full-time work or juggling child-care responsibilities. Increasingly, jobs for employers such as call centers are offering telecommuting as well as flexible hours, making it even easier to pick up extra cash.

Free classes. Portland, Ore.-based yoga-sportswear chain lululemon offers its seasonal help free yoga lessons right along with the full-time workers, Fell notes. They're among the few employers mentioning their freebies in their job ads this season.

Free software. Anyone hiring on for seasonal accounting jobs as tax season approaches should be on the lookout for software deals, says Fell. Intuit, for example, is hiring for seasonal positions including tax advisor, technical support agent, and quality assurance analyst. Company spokeswoman Allison Green says seasonal employees receive a free download of both TurboTax and Quicken, and can purchase additional copies of Quicken at 75% off, or QuickBooks at up to 65% off.

Merchandise discounts. Many retailers offer merchandise to workers at reduced prices, and while they may be keeping quieter about them in their ads, there's no sign that they've stopped handing them out. For instance, gourmet food company Harry and David, which ships from locations in Medford, Ore., and outside of Columbus, Ohio, offers seasonal workers the same 30% discount all their workers get, says executive vice president of corporate relations Bill Ihle. The company is hiring seasonally for telephone operators, call-center operators, gift packers, assembly-line workers, forklift operators and more.

Many clotheshorses try to get on at Nordstrom for the holidays to score the employee merchandise discount, which is available from the first day of employment.

"We will be hiring for the upcoming holiday season," says Nordstrom PR director Colin Johnson.

Also hiring is national department store Macy's. Northwest regional spokeswoman Laura Gardner Smith says their seasonal help get a 20% discount off everything in the store from day one. They're hiring for a wide variety of positions throughout the store.

Other chains that are advertising for workers and hint at generous employee discounts in their ads include Boscov's, Tiffany & Co., Paper Source and Things Remembered. The latter says it offers warehouse workers discounts of up to 40% on personalized gifts.

Sometimes small, local companies can offer discounts and other perks that are even better than those provided by big chains. Take a look in your area to see what you can find.

At Santa Barbara, Calif.-based gourmet olive oil producer/retailer Global Gardens, owner Theodora Stephan says she offers seasonal hires a hefty 50% discount on food items and 30% off non-food merchandise. She's also offering a 10% bonus to workers who sell corporate gift packages. Stephan says she's planning at least eight holiday hires, including shippers, product labelers and in-store sales help.

"We're very busy!" she says.

A permanent job. In this slow economy, this may be the very best perk of all, notes Fell. Increasingly, employers are using the temporary-hiring route to try out workers they're considering for full-time posts. Do your best work during the holidays and you may find yourself a permanent part of the staff – qualifying you for more perks than you got as a seasonal employee.

Five Big Retailers and What They Offer:

1. Macy's: Offers 20 percent discount off of everything in the store from day one

2. Nordstrom: Offers a seasonal discount, which can vary depending on store promotions and employee's performance.

3. Walmart: Offers a 10 percent holiday discount on all food items in addition to the 10 percent general merchandise discount. The holiday food discount will run from Nov. 20, 2009, through Jan. 3, 2010, and excludes alcohol, tobacco, fuel and prescription drugs.

4. Walgreens: Retail employees and their immediate family are entitled to a 15 percent discount on purchases at any Walgreens store.

5. JCPenney: Offers a 20 percent discount on the first day of employment.

Next: Tis' the Season for Winter Temp Jobs >>

Business writer Carol Tice is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times and other major publications. She can be reached at
Read Full Story