This story of a job interview gone weird turned out to be a long one, so I’ll only tell half the story today. I’ll make tomorrow a blog post bonus day and tell the rest of the story then.
After a couple months in town, I needed a job. I applied online at a dozen chain supermarkets, drug stores, and low-end department stores. I also handed my resume to a half dozen locally-owned businesses. Most of the local places weren’t even hiring, but took my resume anyway.
My resume was not very impressive. In the last ten years, I’d only worked seasonal jobs for two companies. Sometimes I included my house and pet sitting experience on applications, but it’s not like I have a business; even my self-employment is casual. I worried my resume wouldn’t get my foot in the door, but didn’t know how to better my chances of getting an interview.
I got an email form a corporate supermarket. I was instructed to call a phone number, which I did. I had a pre-screening phone interview with a very friendly woman from the corporate human resources department. She told me the only job available at the local store was in the fuel center (aka gas station). I told her I’d take the job. I figured working in a gas station couldn’t be much different from working inside the main store. My conversation with the human resources lady went well, and she approved me for an interview in the local store.
An assistant manager conducted the in-person interview while the local human resources lady sat in. He told me the job would be part-time with no guaranteed number of hours each week. It was the only job offer I’d had, so I took it.
I got four days of training; other workers told me that was a lot more than most people got. My first five days of work started at 5:45 in the morning, which meant I had to get out of bed around 4am so I’d have time to dress, eat, and brush my teeth (all at my early morning snail’s pace) and then make the 40 minute drive to my workplace. It was not an easy work week.
The job turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. By the third day, I wanted out of there.
One of the places where I’d applied during my job search was a souvenir shop in the historic district. A friend of mine worked nearby and told me the manager was always hiring because of high employee turnover. My friend chalked it up to the fact that employees had to pass a drug test, but I wondered what else might be going on. Maybe the shop wasn’t such a great place to work. Despite my mild misgivings, when I decided I didn’t like working at the gas station, I called the manager of the souvenir shop to check in.
Can you come in Friday morning for an interview? the manager asked me right away.
I told her I had to work Friday morning but got off at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Can you come in at one? she asked.
I laughed a little and told her it would take me some time to get from my job to her shop. I wondered if she thought I’d teleport to her place, but kept my little joke to myself. I told her I could be there at 1:30.
On Friday my replacement was late, so I was late starting my task of getting merchandise from the main store to replace the items we’d sold at the fuel center. It was my first time doing the task alone, so it took longer than expected. Instead of getting off at 1pm, I didn’t punch out until 1:15. I hurried to my truck and changed out of my work clothes and into a skirt, nice shirt, and my red cowgirl boots. I looked nice but a bit frazzled.
The interview was conducted not in an office or a break room, but out in the open in the store. There was an old-fashioned lunch counter in the store, where I perched on a little turquoise-colored stool while the manager stood on the other side of the counter. While the manager talked to me, a worker served hotdogs and Frito pies and milkshakes to customers sitting a few feet away.
It wasn’t an interview in the traditional sense. The manager didn’t ask me questions about my goals or my work experience or my strengths and weaknesses or what I could contribute to the team. Instead, she listed the things I needed to know about working in the store.
- Wear comfortable shoes because there was no sitting down.
- My significant other was not allowed to hang out in the store for hours at a time.
- The store was open 365 days a year. It did not close for Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving.
- Workers did not get a lunch break. Workers were paid for the entire time they were at work, but no one took an hour or half an hour off for lunch. No one was allowed to leave the store for lunch. All eating was done in the store, between helping customers.
- I’d have to be able to count money. I don’t know what they’re teaching at the high school, the manager said, but kids these days couldn’t count money.
- There was always something to do at the store. If there were no customers, there was something to clean or t-shirts to fold.
- The door to the store was open during business hours, even in the heat and even in a blizzard. I should dress accordingly.
- If my cash register was short, I had to replace the missing money. If two people were on the register and the drawer came up short, each person put in half of the missing money.
Some of the policies were par for the course (most businesses don’t allow employees to sit during a shift and of course I’d have to know how to count money when working in a store), but others really surprised me. No lunch break and no leaving the store? Was I signing up for indentured servitude?
The short drawer policy really stopped me in my tracks. I’d never worked anywhere that required drawer shortages to be covered from the workers’ pockets. If drawer shortages got to be a recurring problem, a worker might get reprimanded or even fired, but no employer had ever stated replacement of missing money as a policy. Actually, I could understand being held accountable for my own cash register mistakes, but I wasn’t too keen on having to pay half of someone else’s mistakes (or thievery). Other places where I’ve worked had cashiers sign on and off the register so if someone was careless or stealing there was a hope of figuring out who was the responsible party. This pay-out-of-pocket policy was a huge red flag to me, but I disliked my current job enough to sit there and continue to listen to what the manager had to say.
Stay tuned. The story will continue tomorrow with the strangest drug test circumstances I’ve ever encountered.
I took the photo in this post.