Exploring this Job
The best way to find out about what it's like to be a supermarket worker is to become one. Openings for high school students are usually available, and it's a great way to find out about the industry.
Take a class relating to a supermarket specialty. For example, if interested in the bakery, take a cake-decorating class to find out if this work is a good fit.
Help out with inventory. Many grocery and retail stores offer limited short-term employment (a day or two a week) for people who can help with inventory during key times of the year. This is a good opportunity to learn more about the work without making a greater commitment.
Talk to your friends or even your parents. Chances are that at some time, they have worked in a grocery store. Find out what they liked and didn't like about the work. Another source for information is your local grocery store. Talk with the people there about their jobs.
There are so many different types of work to do in a grocery that each job can be very different from the next. One of the first positions most people think of in a grocery is the cashier. Cashiers are a store's front line for customer service, since they interact with customers all day and ensure order accuracy. Cashiers greet customers, scan merchandise, record coupons, present totals, take payments, and help bag groceries. It is each cashier's responsibility to keep his or her work area clean and to ensure that the cash drawer balances at the end of his or her shift. If merchandise is marked incorrectly or damaged, the cashier calls the appropriate department to assist the customer.
Along with the cashiers, clerks help to bag the groceries, and, if necessary, they help the customers transport the grocery bags to their vehicles. Courtesy clerks, sometimes called bag boys or baggers, also collect carts from the parking lots and help provide maintenance for those carts.
Stock personnel, or stock clerks, play an important behind-the-scenes role in supermarkets. They help unload trucks, inspect merchandise, stock shelves, and track inventory. Late at night, these workers prepare for the next day's customers.
Specialization is an important trend in the grocery industry. Since the industry is very competitive, stores are adding more services and conveniences to attract and keep customers. Some of the specialized departments have historically been part of grocery stores, such as bakeries and meat markets, while others, such as restaurants and baby-sitting services, are new.
Each area requires workers with specialized knowledge and training as well as experience in the grocery industry. Butchers, bakers, and deli workers are generally dedicated to their individual departments in the store, while other workers may "float" to the areas where they are needed.
Other supermarket workers are responsible for certain areas such as produce or dairy. While there is no preparation work involved such as there is in the bakery or deli departments, these workers regularly inspect merchandise, check expiration dates, and maintain displays.
Many supermarkets now include restaurants or food courts that require food preparers, servers, wait staff, and chefs.
Many larger chain supermarkets have a pharmacy on-site. Pharmacists fill prescriptions for customers and offer counseling on both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Pharmacy technicians assist the pharmacist by filling prescriptions, taking inventory, and handling the cash register.
There are also specialized support positions in supermarkets. Store detectives assist with security measures and loss prevention. Human resource workers handle personnel-related issues, such as recruiting and training, benefits administration, labor relations, and salary administration. These are important members of the supermarket team, since the average large grocery store employs 250 people. Supermarkets also require qualified accounting and finance workers, advertising workers, marketing workers, information technology professionals, and community and public relations professionals.
Supermarket workers report to either a department or store manager. Supermarket managers have to attend weekly departmental meetings and must communicate well with their management, which is usually at the district level. Because many supermarket workers deal directly with the customers, their managers depend on them to relay information about customer needs, wants, and dissatisfactions.
Many supermarket workers work part time. For workers with school, family, or other employment, hours are scheduled at the time they are available, such as evenings and weekends. Employees may work during the day or evening hours since many grocery stores are open 24 hours a day. Weekend hours are also important, and most grocery stores are open on holidays as well.
All supermarket jobs are customer-driven. Grocery sales nationwide continue to climb, and customer service is highly important in the grocery business as in all retail businesses. The primary responsibility of all supermarket workers is to serve the customer. Secondary duties, such as keeping work areas clean, collecting carts from the parking lot, and checking produce for freshness, are also driven by this main priority.