Working for the Weekend

Leo Quale, Op/Ed Editor

Have you ever felt you don’t know enough drug addicts or that you don’t get harassed by angry customers as often as you’d like? If you answer yes to either of these questions, working at a grocery store may be the perfect solution for your problem. 

As soon as school closed in March I decided I might as well put some use to my extra time, so I got a job. 

I started by updating my resume and began searching. I went to about four places, two grocery stores and two fast food restaurants, before I finally got a “Yes, we actually are hiring” from the HR manager at my local grocery store. This came as a relief after nervously waiting around the customer service desk as they called her down from her office. 

Once I gave her my resume and got the date for my interview, I asked what position she had in mind for me. 

“I can’t say for sure, but I imagine you’d make a good courtesy clerk,” she said. 

What I didn’t realize at the time was courtesy clerk was a more refined way of saying cart boy. 

After successfully fumbling my way through the interview, it was time for training to begin. My “training” consisted of sitting at a computer watching five hours worth of videos and a five minute tour of the store. 

Luckily, once I had finished that I was cleared to start work. My first day on the job was a closing shift, which meant I’d get off at 11. I figured this meant there wouldn’t be too much commotion for the last couple hours of my shift, I was sorely mistaken. For some reason that is still beyond my understanding, people love grocery shopping past 9 p.m. on weekdays. I originally thought it might be people stopping by the store after they got off a late shift, but I soon realized it was a mix of stoners, partiers and the occasional tweaker. 

After the realization that my night was not going to in fact “be a breeze,” I asked a coworker if things would ever slow down. Before he could even open his mouth, the door alarms screamed to life and both jerked around to see a couple running us down with a cart full of about $1,000 in stolen clothing and liquor. 

After the shock subsided, I quickly turned to my remarkably calm colleague and asked “What are we gonna do?” Being new I was not aware of the store policy on theft, so he quickly filled me in. Apparently, in order to keep associates safe, we are not allowed to try and stop thieves with anything other than verbal commands, although with the number of security cameras we have in the store and the parking lot, you’ll get caught sooner or later. With this new information I yelled at the couple to stop to which they replied with a smug look and an explicit hand gesture. That night, my very first shift, I had to stay until 12:30 explaining to the police what happened. 

A month passed and there weren’t many more noteworthy occurrences, it was smooth sailing, so I figured my first day was just a fluke. I was again sorely mistaken. After the month I would soon look back on with envy had passed, so came another of my grocery store tribulations. 

One of my many honorable duties at this store happened to be bathroom duty, and one day I came across something you might call peculiar. As I was walking into the handicap stall in the mens bathroom, I saw an empty syringe on the floor. I, trying to ignore the obvious possibility, assumed it was for insulin until I looked around and saw another full of brown liquid, a spoon and some blood on the floor. Because I didn’t realize how common of an occurrence this type of “thing” was, I asked my manager if we should call the police. They replied, “the police can’t really do anything if there was no one there on it, so just clean it up.” Not really knowing how to respond or how to hire a lawyer for the eventual destruction of evidence charges, I did what was asked and simply threw away what is likely the most illegal thing I’ll ever hold in my hands. 

Following that incident, it dawned on me that I was in for a strange summer. And it was. There were homeless people fighting outside our store, people slashing tires in our parking lot, businesses catching on fire, the apocalypse, the whole nine yards. But as fall approached, and school with it, I looked back on my summer job and I began to really think about what it taught me. I had learned so much about retail, about how business runs after hours, and how to talk to customers. Loads of new experiences and information gained. And if I had to choose the most important thing I learned, it would be to finish school and go to college so that I never have to work a job like that again.