Tales of Wage Slavery

By: Wanda Waif

Working in retail can be challenging. Like anything else, some places are better, or worse than others. I have, during my employment history, experienced both.

Most recently, I held a part time position at the Binghamton K-Mart. From the very first day, it was a negative experience. Foolishly optimistic, I hoped it would improve over time. That didn’t turn out to be the case.

With the exception of one or two employees, no one was helpful to the new person, no one wanted to be bothered with questions. Luckily, the cash registers guide you through most transactions.
I noticed each week there were new faces. The turnover rate is very high. I soon understood why.

You get paid minimum wage but are expected to get a great deal accomplished during your shift. Many times an associate is expected to cover many departments. You may be scheduled to be in jewelry, but also have to cover ladies apparel and hosiery. And you better have those areas all straightened by the end of your shift.

I have always been both responsible and reliable. I work hard and take pride in my work. I have been at my current job for almost 20 years. This part-time job was a second job to help make ends meet, as many are forced to do these days. I was not used to being treated so poorly. I was yelled at during the week of Christmas last year for not having an area perfectly done. I was spoken to because my shirt wasn’t the right shade of blue. They do not supply the shirts but expect their associates to all wear the same color. I was never late and I never called in sick. Despite my feelings, I was always helpful and pleasant to our customers.

Morale there is at an all-time low. The good people don’t stay, just to be unappreciated. You never hear a kind word or praise for the hard work you do, only criticism.

As a cashier, you are required to ask for donations to various charities; St. Jude’s Hospital and March of Dimes to name a few. You are told at the beginning of your shift what your quota is. While, these are very worthwhile charities-many cannot afford to give during this economy. We were also told that we had to personally donate because our store was down in donations compared to other stores. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the store’s donations are down. It is located in a depressed area on Binghamton’s North Side! I am not comfortable asking customers who are paying for their items with a benefit card or food stamps if they would like to donate!

Obviously, I am no longer employed there. It wasn’t worth the stress. Maybe you notice if you shop there, some of the associates are less than friendly, many don’t smile and greet the customers. But cut them some slack-I now know why they are so miserable!
A word of advice, if you do shop there, just like the weatherman who advises you to allow extra travel time in bad weather, be sure and allow yourself extra “waiting “ time to stand in line. You’re going to need it!

In closing, I leave you with the most eloquent words of Dustin Hoffman from the movie, “Rainman” – “K-Mart Sucks!”





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