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Powell's Books Reviews

Updated April 10, 2017
35 reviews

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3.4
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Emily Powell
13 Ratings

35 Employee Reviews

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  1. "Paid in books"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Bookseller in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Bookseller in Portland, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Powell's Books part-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Amazing discount
    Great co-workers
    Relatively flexible scheduling options

    Cons

    Low pay until you are very senior
    Not a lot of opportunity to advance
    High turnover of part time and entry level staff


  2. Helpful (5)

    "Buyer"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Powell's Books full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The people are the best. Skilled, hard working, friendly.

    The books. Its wonderful getting to be around the books.

    The union will do everything in there power to have your back.

    Cons

    Management is disconnected with actual operations and the managers that do care or advocated for their teams get punished or forced out.

    HR actively watches and jumps on any and all opportunities to add notes in your files about misconduct of any variety, so if the opportunity arises they can discipline you enough times to fire you eventually. They have a bad habit of firing people or disciplining people for small infractions. Anyone who has been there the longest can now tell you of the fallen coworker who were driven out to make way for new part time employees.

    Cameras watch your every move.

    Advice to Management

    Start caring about the amazing people you hire. Don't drive out the people who know the company the best and can best serve your customers. Create a work environment where when people ask what its like to work at the best book store in the world, your employees can honestly say is wonderful to work for you instead of lying through their teeth as they look at the cameras.


  3. Helpful (3)

    "Books and coworkers who love books!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Generalist in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Generalist in Portland, OR
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Powell's Books (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Books, books, books... Banned books... Coworkers who love books... Customers who love books. Local!

    Cons

    I really enjoyed working for Powell's Books. It is unfortunate that new staff are hired mostly for part-time and are limited to 20 hours. I would have loved to stay at Powell's but who can afford to live on 20 hours per week...


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  5. "Great Place to Work For"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Warehouse Associate in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Warehouse Associate in Portland, OR
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great people, competetive pay, Union, Benefits

    Cons

    typical large company problems...communication and training problems, no raises at yearly review

    Advice to Management

    work on retaining employees


  6. Helpful (3)

    "Remember when Powell's was great?"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Generalist II in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Generalist II in Portland, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Intelligent staff that cares about book culture.

    Cons

    Incompetent Management and no respect for experience.

    Advice to Management

    I think most of the good employees are gone (or have been driven out) so hold on tight to the ones that are left. The last few times I have asked for information from employees, they have had no idea how to find answers. Not the awesome book shopping experience it used to be.


  7. Helpful (2)

    "Fantastic place to work, wonderful coworkers"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Inventory Generalist in Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Inventory Generalist in Portland, OR
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Powell's Books full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Extensive, inspiring training that empowers employees to talk up books, connect with customers, and recommend titles without pressure to upsell or adhere to strict policy. Difficult, escalating, odangerous situations can get handed off to managers. Ok communication from upper level to staff, all around great bunch of people working at the store, and management trusts you to make the right decision. Consistent schedules. If you work hard and have a great attitude you can move up in the company easily. Discount on merchandise, huge discount on used books, education benefit, free streetcar, book borrowing privileges, bragging rights. Benefits were substantial.

    Cons

    Retail, with all the bells and whistles. Don't let the "indie" fool you - you'll work an open (mostly empty) store on Christmas Day. Management is for the most part very human and understanding, but make one wrong move at the wrong time (on camera at all times) and you could be out of your job - great attitude or not. Low pay rate won't get you far in Portland.

    Advice to Management

    "Simba, Remember who you are." Powell's is not a big box store and never should be. Keep rewarding the employees who love working there, and promoting opportunities to move up, but don't let the mopey loafers stick around. It's bad customer service and terrible for team morale.


  8. Helpful (3)

    "Comfortable but increasingly corporate"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Bookseller in Portland, OR
    Current Employee - Bookseller in Portland, OR
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    There are a lot of great things about working for Powell's. The union is very strong and active and works tirelessly for all employees, including part-time and occasional employees who often don't have a voice in other companies. All employees receive paid time off, sick time and everyone has a bank of unscheduled absences. You're allowed lunches of 30-59 minutes, and you can easily schedule a long lunch if you need to. I work part-time by choice, but if you are a part-time employee and you're good at your job, your chances of moving into a full-time position are decent. Just keep up the good work and make sure to get noticed for your diligence. There are scheduled raises and your job rank moves up as you gain more experience. The internal job postings are also really useful if you want to move around within the company or if you get tired of your current department or duties in the company.

    The pay is low for starting positions, but still much better than most retail positions. The discounts are great and they allow employees to check books out (like a library). Plus you get all the Advance Readers you want.

    Cons

    There is some really awkward and disheartening bureaucracy that can make certain aspects of working at Powell's kind of strange and burdensome. The constant battles between the union and the company make you feel like a child watching your parents fight, and it often seems like the company itself cares less and less about the employees who work there and make money for them. But the union works hard for you, so you still feel like you're in good hands. Scheduling can be weird, and there isn't much in terms of merit-based rewards.

    While I did mention that there is a lot of opportunity to move around in the company, most of these are lateral career moves. There isn't much room to grow within the company, so if you are ambitious, you will quickly feel restless. You won't make a great living at Powell's, but it's a strong, stable stomping ground where you will get some good experience.

    Advice to Management

    Make sure to empower new employees and low-level staff, because they often get discouraged when they're overlooked by management. Don't be so critical and make sure to invest in your staff. Hire more full-time staff and stop relying on disposable, temporary and part-time staff.


  9. Helpful (7)

    "Fired With Lies"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Used Book Buyer in Beaverton, OR
    Former Employee - Used Book Buyer in Beaverton, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Powell's Books full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Union, decent pay, great discount.

    Cons

    As soon as Emily Powell took over the family business, this amazing bookstore went downhill. HR put their fingers into everything from signage to section work, micro managing all aspects of the stores. Then we started losing great employees. Employees that had been with the company for 10+ years. This was either through systematically finding ways to fire them or they left voluntarily. I was fired based on one employee's list of lies about me from a training meeting. HR has basically made it their goal to fire anyone that was making good wages and getting good benefits to only replace them with temp/part timers so as not to pay as much or offer as many good benefits. Also, based on the employee discount, I learned the company was (and still is) shafting it's customers with the prices on used books vs. what Powell's offers in cash or store credit.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "An initial thrill, but fades quickly"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Powell's Books part-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    The initial experience when being hired by Powell's is simply exciting. The employee perks are often what catch people's attention when you describe to them the "Powell's experience" (Amazing discounts on books and merchandise, as well as the coveted employee book borrowing program). Additionally, the culture within both the RDC and the stores is more relaxed than your average retail employer.

    Cons

    The biggest issue is the inability to find positions within the stores if you work in one of the non-branch locations. They tend to hire a large amount of part-time and temporary employees in the stores, then promote them over the other employees who work in the contact center or RDC. This is particularly troubling because the company has shifted to hiring more part-time positions, which makes the competition for full-time spots even more difficult. In terms of pay, if you're starting out as Bookseller or RDC staff it is simply very difficult to get by on the pay scale they offer for those positions. And because of the shrinking number of full-time spots, it's almost impossible to get one of the positions which pay a living wage unless you've been at the company for 5 or more years. I've seen a number of employees go through 8 or more interviews before they can find a position in a different department.

    Advice to Management

    The best advice I could offer would be to halt the enlargement of part-time hiring, and allow for more opportunities for staff who are already employed as permanent employees to transfer to the in-store positions.


  11. Helpful (2)

    "Great place to work -- Could be even better..."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Portland, OR
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Powell's Books full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Books are the best. Powell's employees get a great discount and the benefits package is pretty amazing. Some wonderful creative people work here and the ratio of life:work is ideal. Super flexible schedules (up to a point).

    Cons

    Due to the union, there are no performance based raises. It creates an environment in which high performers are not compensated appropriately and in general tend to make the same, or even less, than slackers. It could be much less, depending on how long the slacker has been there as there are equal-annual-across the board raises.

    The technology is WAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY out of date.

    Advice to Management

    Spend the money to upgrade your technology. Reward your high performers.


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