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  1.  

    Perfect temporary position for a college student, even if retail isn't your long-term goal

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    Former Employee - Electronics Sales Associate in Mesa, AZ
    Former Employee - Electronics Sales Associate in Mesa, AZ

    I worked at Walmart part-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    This job is a good opportunity for someone looking for something temporary.

    I was a college student when worked here, and although I was told there was a policy that you could not change your availability until you had been with the company until you had been there for 6 months, I was able to do so after 3 months as my school schedule changed. I wouldn't have been able to keep my job if I wasn't given this opportunity, but a lot of companies don't make exceptions like this for anyone, no matter what the situation was.

    Another thing that really benefited me was that I came in with no prior job experience and was hired on the spot by giving examples of my previous experiences being in leadership roles when I was in high school. Other companies wouldn't even offer me an interview because of my lack of job experience.

    Depending on which department you work in, the work itself isn't hard. The bulk of the work included setting up and maintaining sales displays, serving customers, and keeping things clean. If you are a quick learner, the extra stuff will come easily. During my time there I also learned the basics of the photo lab (printing and re-printing pictures) and the connection center, where you set up cell phone contracts with new and existing customers of the major wireless carriers (which depending on what store you work in, you may be missing one, but the setups are pretty much all the same anyway). This stuff all came pretty easily to me. It also helps if you have experience with electronics themselves and the way they work if you are going to be in this position, which I did, and it helped dramatically.

    I'm sure this probably varies based on the people you work with and work under, but my co-workers and managers were very sensitive to the fact that I was a college student who occasionally needed some time to study and do homework while on my breaks. I did a lot of reading and studying during my lunches and breaks. At the end of my last month with the company, and last semester in school, I had an online final exam scheduled on a day when I was working a full shift. The bulk of the window when I could take the exam landed during my work day. I asked if I could take a longer lunch in order to take it during that time, and make up for that time by leaving later. The response I received was, "No problem. You do what you need to do."

    One of the points I will touch on in the "Cons" section is the problem with under-staffing. However, that problem did work out in my favor on more than one occasion. Since I had learned how to do almost everything essential to the Electronics Sales Associate, Photo Lab Associate, and Wireless Sales Associate positions, whenever I had some extra time (spring break, summer break, etc.), I could usually volunteer to fill those positions where there were open shifts since I was only a part-time worker, and very rarely was scheduled for the maximum 40 hours/week that is offered to full-time associates, and even 32 hours/week that is supposed to be offered to part-time associates. It gave me the opportunity to make some extra money.

    Cons

    As I mentioned, the work itself wasn't difficult. What makes the job so frustrating is the people you encounter every day, both co-workers/management, and customers. I know that it is normal to not get along with some co-workers in pretty much any situation, but when they are unhappy with their jobs, that makes it harder, and the company can do a lot to fix that. Customers tend to be incredibly rude and demanding for no reason, particularly when you get closer to the holiday season. Unfortunately, the problem they have is usually with something that is beyond your control. If you are out of stock on something, they act like it's your fault, even if you didn't do the ordering of the product. Try not to do anything wrong, because if you do, then you are giving them ammunition. If you hear the words, "I want to speak to a manager," good luck finding one in an amount of time that satisfies that customer.

    Management is very disconnected with the people working under them. This usually doesn't apply to department managers, simply because they usually have all of the responsibilities of a regular sales associate on top of their managerial duties, and know what the problems are. But it seems like the higher up in management an employee is, the more entitled they seem to think they are. You can expect everything from bad attitudes to unreasonable demands with assistant managers. The worst part of it is, when you don't know how to do something, don't expect to be able to ask someone in upper management, because chances are, they won't know how to do it either. I actually trained a couple of assistant managers in Connection Center after having been given an informal training by another sales associate. I'm not sure either one of them absorbed any of what I tried to teach them either, because they were busy listening to the chatter in their headsets and keeping an eye out on the rest of the department.

    One of the things I really hated about this job was that I always felt like I was being watched. People were terminated for the dumbest reasons. There is no reasoning with these people either. They have the last word whether you like it or not.

    The sad part about such a high turnover rate is that certain departments are usually left understaffed. When someone is let go, you're lucky if a replacement is found within a reasonable amount of time. The people that are left have to pick up the slack when this happens. This means breaks are missed, lunches are taken late, and people are left by themselves on a large sales floor. When asked why so many open shifts are not filled, I got an explanation that the district managers are the ones who assign how many hours a department is allowed to have, and that is usually based on sales, not need, and that the store itself has no say in the matter. "The store can't afford more help," was basically what I was told. A multi-trillion dollar per year company can't afford more help? What kind of sense does this make? I can't tell you how many times I was left alone on a larger than normal sales floor that involved me being responsible for the electronics, photo, and connection center departments. For less that $10 an hour, no one should have to do that.

    According to law, you must take a one hour lunch break if you work any more than six hours in a single shift. Walmart enforces this by having what are called "meal exceptions". If you go even one minute longer than 6 hours without taking your lunch break, the penalty comes back on you in the form of a meal exception. Three of those equals a coaching, which is usually reserved for on-the-job mistakes, but they are also used to penalize you for not taking that lunch break on time. This one makes no sense to me, because if management does not want to leave a sales floor empty or understaffed, how is it your fault that by avoiding this, you didn't go to lunch on time? Why are you being penalized when the company was the one who broke the law by forcing you to stay on the sales floor longer because the department is understaffed? If you get coached, your opportunities for advancement are halted for 6 months, so why should something as small as this take your opportunities away?

    If you are looking for a job with a consistent schedule, look elsewhere. Unless you are a department manager working 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday, you will work when your availability allows you to work, and if that availability is a small window of time, don't expect to get your full 40 hours/week. Schedules are different every week, and sometimes it is incredibly inconvenient for anyone with a life. If you are an associate that works during the day and you don't think you'll ever have to work an overnight shift on Black Friday without losing your job, think again. That shift is brutal, and you will not get sympathy from anyone, even if you don't get to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family.

    Making an advancement in your position is possible, but only if you are willing to do absolutely everything your managers tell you to do without complaining, and do it perfect every time, plus do things that make their life easier. Sometimes it even involves throwing your co-workers under the bus. Coming up with your own solutions to problems usually doesn't work, and it occasionally gets you on management's bad side, even if it is a good solution. I know this doesn't sound like it makes sense, but believe me, this is just how things work in a store like this.

    Just because you are assigned to a department, don't think you won't be told to go somewhere else on occasion, particularly to the front end to be a cashier. That position can be a nightmare, and you won't get to leave when you were told you would. If you don't know how to do a certain transaction, good luck getting the attention of a Customer Service Manager in a reasonable amount of time, even with your light flashing, a page, or screaming at the top of your lungs, it will take some time for them to get to you unless it is a slow day. If you have a long line, good luck with those angry customers that will come after the one you are working with.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Just in case I missed anything with the Cons of this job, your lower-level staff can tell you everything else that is wrong with this company. Listen to them. If you can't solve their problem, bring it to someone who can. Don't ignore the situation. Don't assume they are just being whiny. You know this company has a bad reputation when it comes to its employees, and Assistant Managers, Co-Managers, Shift Managers, and Store Managers are the first people that should be doing things to try to change these problems. In the eyes of the average $9.00/hour employee, you don't care about these problems, and your turnover rate is going to continue to rise until you prove that you do.

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