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A lot of teenagers end up working at grocery stores to pay out-of-pocket expenses like gas money and women, and I'll wager a lot of them think that it isn't that bad. After all, they could be working in coal mines or harvesting cotton or being beaten by harsh Communist workmasters. What's so bad about a grocery store?

This was my line of thinking too; but I nonetheless applied at every place of employment in my town before I gave up and tried to get a job at the grocery store. First of all, I pretty much had to beg on my knees for the job. I had bright red hair the first time I applied, and was turned away with a look of horror by the manager. As it faded back to brown, I showed up again and again until they finally caved to my persistence and gave me a job.

Since I reside in the great state of Massachusetts, the store was forced to pay me at least $6.75 per hour. And believe me, that's exactly what they did. Even though I was told $7.05 at the interview, when I got my first paycheck, it read $17.71. Three hours of orientation at ... $6.75. But I sucked it up. Nobody else was making any more than that anyway. I bagged groceries, dealt with cruel managers and angry old people. I worked awful night shifts and made under $60 a week. It was technically enough; I kept trying to save some money, but I never managed more than about $20 each month.

I watched as everyone who had gone to orientation at the same time as me became a cashier. Not me, though. Apparently something about my attitude had discouraged them from letting me ascend to a job that a trained monkey could do. After three months and harassing four different supervisors, I finally managed to beg training from a part-time manager who liked me.

More great facts about grocery stores:

  • Management shifts. Every day you're responsible for listening to a new manager, all of whom have different arbitrary policies which you are invariably expected to have memorized.

  • Service standards. Grocery store employees are required to be painstakingly nice to every customer. The customers know it, too. If you walk past a customer without making eye contact, the manager will hear about it. At one point, I informed a rather bitter old woman that an item was not, in fact, on sale, since there was no posted sale on it. She went over my head to the manager, who reprimanded me sternly but nonspecifically for not satisfying her.

  • No work week. Employment law states that nobody can be set to work seven days in a row, but supermarkets do the next best thing. If you work full time, hope to God you don't have any significant personal relationships. The store will schedule you from 6:45 AM to 9 PM on a Saturday, and work you through the rest of the weekend. If you have a significant other who works at a real job, you will never see them.

I could go on. I could point out the huge pay scale difference between managers and lowly employees. I could point out the dubious profit margins of the business which ensure that nobody ever gets a raise. But I won't. I'll leave you to try this horrific job for yourself.

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Thanks to strawberry for corrections.

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