My First Job: Whatever They Said It Was

Like any enterprising young individual, I hustled and made a little spending money here and there before I turned 16. However, when I turned 16, I got a job at the grocery store. Safe to say, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t my idea of fun. But…it was a steady paycheck. I could work there until I found something better to do, or until I finished high school. I wasn’t stuck there.

The grocery store was an Albertson’s (location long since closed). They didn’t refer to my job as a sacker or a bag boy. I was a “Courtesy Clerk”. But safe to say, I was still a bag boy. So I took my schedule each week, thankful for the hours I was getting, and thankful it wasn’t any more than that. However, at one point, an opportunity came along to do some work in another part of the store. A big shipment of some items had come in that they needed on the shelves faster than they could do it with normal staffing. So several of the “Courtesy Clerks” were asked if they wanted some extra hours. I was quick to volunteer. Of course I would take an opportunity at additional wages since they were giving me an opportunity to break the monotony.

Here’s where my sense of not bucking the authority got me what I was not expecting. Now days, I would ask what was appropriate dress for this switch in responsibility. But I didn’t at this point. Us courtesy clerks had a very distinctive uniform compared to everyone else that worked for the store. But that was the work uniform, so that’s what I wore to do this stocking job. Everyone else? They showed up in t-shirt, jeans, and name tags.

Of course, the inevitable rush at the front of the store came while we were all there. Because I was a good little employee and wore my work uniform, I was drafted to go help up front. If I had known that was a possibility, I would have never volunteered for this extra duty. However, I at least thought they would let me go back to stocking after the rush was over.

Yes, I hear all of you laughing right now.

I was stuck on the front end for the rest of my volunteered shift. I was also miserable the whole time because I chose to be. Yes, there was some give and take the front end manager that evening could have worked with, but it was also within her rights in that position to not mess with it.

I learned three things from this job and this specific incident.

  1. Always make sure you know all the possibilities of what you will be asked to do. If you don’t want to do even one thing on that list, don’t volunteer in the first place. Sure, they have man power. However, you will be miserable, and that will make your managers, colleagues, and employees miserable. Best to head this problem off at the pass.
  2. Always check on every possibility of every detail as it pertains to yourself. If I had asked about what to wear that day, and I was told my regular uniform, then at least I asked. But if I had been told I could wear something else, I wouldn’t have been asked to the front end.
  3. The customer is important over and above anything happening in the business. Put the petty stuff aside and make sure you accomplish what’s needed for the business to stay in business.

I’ve still been guilty of not being thorough with number 1 and number 2. However, I will put number 3 first and foremost to this day. It is better to have regular loyal customers than a one-time deluge. If your customers are happy with you, then you will always have work to do.

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