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Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: Job Titles

Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: Job Titles

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Nothing is ever simple in the world of retail, at least not the way that you think that it should be. To those on the outside world; those people who come into the store, purchase their items, and go back home again, everyone inside the store is either an employee or a manager, it’s that simple. However, in reality it is much more complicated than that.

When I worked inside a Kmart almost 30 years ago now, it was much more than employees and managers, there were stages and levels and positions and titles. Why this was done, I am not sure; I can imagine that it was done in the days when seniority mattered, to reward someone for their time served instead of actually paying them what they were worth. Here you go; you can have the title and all the privileges and perks that go along with it. Cost to the store, nothing.

For example, anyone who touched a register was a cashier, but there also had to be a head cashier, usually the person with the most tenure, a title that they could wear with pride, a title that only meant that they had given more of their life to the ringing up of donuts and dog treats than anyone else had in the building. But you would also need a checkout supervisor, which was the person in charge of the front registers. Now this person was either someone who had worked their way up through the ranks of being a cashier and then a head cashier, or it was someone who wanted a position of power and this was the only one that was available at that particular moment in time. This person was in charge of making sure there were no issues at the register and that the drawers were all counted and put away correctly at night.

Each department of course had employees, but there was also a head of that department or a manager to it, which meant that there were a handful of managers that needed to talk and report and do all the things that managers do each day, along with running their departments.

Then there was the next level of managers, who were soft line managers or hard line managers who were above the department heads but beneath the next level of managers, meaning that people reported to them but then they reported to those above them.

Then there were the handful of managers who walked around to answer those questions in lieu of the store manager; these were men and women who hoped one day to have their name on a door or their picture on the wall for all to see and to admire and to throw darts at if that may be the case for some of them.

Then there was the store manager, the head honcho, the big cheese, the man with the plan. This was the person who ran things, if you consider sitting in an office or a break room half asleep after watching Matlock or a round of golf on an outdated poorly colored television set.

rachalvoorhees via Flickr

Which brings us to Target, which had much of the same levels and titles, only the low level managers were called MODS (managers on duty) These were the ones who made the rules, who decided where you would work that day and when you would go home if and when they decided that your shift was indeed over for the day. I am not sure that there was a store manager at the Target that I worked at, for in the 13 months that I was incarcerated there. I do not remember seeing him or her not even once.

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Finally, we have my current employer, who again, has or should I say had, some of the same titles, before either doing away with them or changing the name of them completely, without changing the pay or the benefits or the duties. There are no longer any cashiers or cosmeticians or photo specialists, titles which told what you did and set your apart from your co-workers; you are all now CSA’s (not Confederate States of America, but rather customer service associates) which really says little about what it is that you do, but then again, its easier that way for the company, because now all duties fall on your shoulders, no need to spread it to specialists or people who are trained in an area, when everyone can and will do and must do everything, multitasking most of the time.

Managers cannot simply be managers, there have to be levels of managers, and yet 90% of what the lowest manager does is the same as what the top managers do. When I was a manager, my title was MGT or an assistant manager, who reported to an upper manager who was under the store manager, making for a small and efficient chain of command. When they changed the MGT position, they changed the name, the pay (taking away at least $7 an hour and a lot of the specialized duties that MGTs used to possess.) The chain of command was also changed, so that the lowest manager reports to the store manager who happens to be their boss while the employees report either to them or the almost-store-manager-trainee or the almost-store-manager or the store manager themselves, depending on the weather, the phases of the moon, the frequency Kenneth, and a whole list of other factors that decide who it is you should talk to about an issue, without guarantee that they will indeed listen to what it is that you have to say.

Retail, where nothing can ever be simple, and things like awards and titles are handed out instead of money to show how valued you are, because calling you the keeper of the keys or the man with the plan is so much cheaper than adding a nickel to your pay-check.

Cover image courtesy of jakerome via Flickr

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