I worked at K-Mart the summer before I went to college. Looking back on it, it was a very good learning experience for me. I stocked the shelves in the toy, paper goods and snack departments. I've never done anything so easy. All I had to do was look around for blank spots and write down a stock number on my little notepad. I would get a bunch of numbers on the pad and then go to the backroom and pull cartons of stock. I bring the stuff back on a cart and put in on the shelves where it was supposed to go. Pretty easy. My manager thought I was genius because I learned how to do this in a day.
Well, I guess this was not easy for a lot of people. First of all, you had to write down the numbers and then you had to find the stuff in the back. All the stuff in the back was numbered to match the stock numbers, some people were thrown by this. Also, you had to open up boxes without a knife. I hated this, but I guess other people who worked at the DesPlaines K-Mart couldn't be be trusted with knives. They must have been stressed trying to write down the numbers or find the stuff in the back or something. Here was lesson #1 --People who can't count probably shouldn't have knifes. I also learned lesson #2 -- You can open boxes with Bic Pens.
The other things I learned were mainly about the people who shopped at K-mart. They didn't like their children, or at least didn't care if anyone stole them. A lot of people would just drop their kids in the toy department and let them make a mess. They didn't worry because someone like me would probably catch the kids who climbed the shelves and put back all the toys they took out. I guess I should have learned that it's okay to let other people watch my kids -- most other people are nice.
I also learned that some people do really weird stuff in public and aren't even ashamed. A woman pooped on the floor in the towel section one day. She wasn't happy that she couldn't bargin on the prices. She just squatted there in her sari and walked away when she was done. I guess she figured that the stupid college-bound kid who told her that $3.97 was the price deserved to pick up after her.
I also saw a very drunken couple ride bikes around the store at night. They humilated their little boy by acting so weird, but they didn't care. The manager controlled this craziness, while I talked to the little boy who was so ashamed and angry that his parents were weird and had forgotten his birthday. I wonder how that kid turned out, maybe I should have stolen that one.
I'm glad I only worked there one summer. They offered me a college deal, because I was so good at my job and because I showed up everyday and left without stealing stuff. I turned them down, the whole place depressed me, mostly the K-mart shoppers and the guys you could trust with knives.
I read a neat essay on K-mart that made me think about this today. Check it out on Core77. The author, Kate Bingaman has her own blog, Obsessive Consumption which is worth reading.