What It's Like to Work at Macy's

You know their famous red star emblem. You probably shop there either regularly or at least from time to time, and it is practically impossible to not get swept up in the fever of the holidays (that start earlier and earlier each year) without wondering what it is like to work at a large department store like Macy's.

How do those big crazy sales work and what does it take to be a Macy's employee?

To find out the answer to these questions and more, we went behind the scenes and talked with Sherry McCamley, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based, "on-call" employee at her local Macy's store.

An entertainer by training, Sherry admits that while she loves the arts, they don't pay that much. Add in the dip in the economy and her husband getting laid off from his job, and Sherry decided it was time to take on a part-time job to make a little extra money to help pay the bills. "I had never worked in retail before, but I shopped at Macy's and there is one just 1.5 miles down the street from my house, so when I saw a sign in the store saying that they were hiring, I thought, 'why not?'"

The hiring process

After Sherry saw the sign, she went home and filled out an application online. A few days later she was contacted by the store and asked to come in for an interview. A few days after that she was called back into the store for a second interview and was offered a job.

Sherry was then sent for three days of in-store, paid training, the majority of which focused on getting familiar with the computer system, since registers are a thing of the past. You are also taught salesmanship strategies and how to troubleshoot.

For your first few shifts on the floor at Macy's you are assigned a shadow to work with, which means that you have an experienced Macy's employee watching you and answering your questions along the way until you become comfortable with the work.

Sherry says that for the first few months of work, you are never in a department by yourself. "I work a lot in the women's department and for my first couple of months at Macy's, there was always someone else there."

What type of employee are you?

Sherry is considered an "on call" employee. This means that she works part time and does not receive benefits of any kind, but she does get some more flexibility in terms of the shifts she chooses to work. Just like a doctor or nurse at a hospital, "on call" employees are on a short list and are the first ones contacted when someone else calls in sick or does not show up for work. In order to maintain your "on call" status you need to work a minimum of 40 hours per quarter, which Sherry says is not difficult at all, and there is no maximum on the number of hours you can work. "On call was a better fit for me because, as a performer, I work a lot of weekend hours, so I pick up more shifts during the week and daytime."

Macy's also offers full-time employment, which affords employees a more set schedule. They usually work from about 9AM to 6:30PM, says Sherry -- so in that respect it is more like a FT office job or corporate job you might have in another industry.

If you sign on to be a regular (instead of "on call") PT employee, you are also assigned a set schedule every week, but those schedules almost always include weekend work and night shifts.

Currently, Sherry works about two to three days per week on average, and her shifts tend to be about six hours long, like 12-6PM or 10AM-4PM. For her efforts, Sherry is paid $8.25 per hour. That's low because she has no prior retail experience, but she's been told a raise is in her future because Macy's is pleased with her work.

Macy's also likes to promote from within and even asked Sherry to go to regular part-time employment two months after being hired, but she passed on the opportunity. "Being a performer is my thing and I need to keep my schedule flexible," she says.

Pros and cons

Besides the awesome employee discounts that Sherry enjoys, she says that working at Macy's is the first job that she has had since college where she doesn't have to take the work home with her. "When I was a teacher I had to prepare for class or grade papers or something after work hours. At Macy's, I go in five minutes before my shift, clock in, do my work, then I leave and that's it."

"There is some baptism by fire in retail, though, because there are certain things that have to be learned by doing, and cannot be taught in a training class." The upshot, Sherry says is that: "I can usually figure it out and I have never had anybody be grouchy about it. All the other employees that I have come into contact with are really helpful and nice."

Sherry has also found the work to be physically demanding because she is frequently on her feet for six or eight hours at a time and she is often hauling around heavy loads of clothing.

For Sherry, Macy's has been the perfect fit for that part time job and that extra money she was looking for. "Typically the days are not ridiculous and I get what I need from it. I plan on keeping it as long as I can do it," she concludes.

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