From Virginia — 07/10/2008
I've worked at several B&Ns over several years. Like most businesses with many units, LOCATION is important -- some stores are just poorly run, others are great. The management team and COWORKERS make or break the deal.
PAY: On the surface, not the best, although it's comparable to other retailers. The detail is, 40 hour work week. Yes, the hours can be stupid, and often I wish for a "normal" routine. But, for example, my brother makes 50% more on his paycheck than I do, yet because he works 60-65 hours a week, we're paid the same mean hourly wage. Money isn't everything.
RESPECT: From peers? Depends on store, like I said. Most coworkers always assume you are getting paid like a king and are doing half of their job, which isn't true. Unfortunately, at the moment, I'm working for a District Manager who thinks all of her employees are dirt, but this wasn't the case in other states. Respect from customers is nil. It's appalling how rude they are are about buying a book.
BENEFITS: Pretty good for singles, a bit expensive for families. Decent health, good dental, eye exams for $10 and discounts on glasses, 401K, paid vacations. Minimum input per week to get most of these is 20 hours. I've had fine experiences with all the benefits systems.
JOB SECURITY: The world will always need clerks. Enough said.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE: Okay, I sometimes want every weekend off, but having flexibility is best.
LOCATION: Is everything. Plenty of transfer possibilities, however, you have to be careful if moving because pay is based on the market and store rating, and of course, you might end up with a District or Store Manager who's an idiot.
CAREER POTENTIAL/GROWTH: Let's face it, retail will never be easy or highly paid. If you want to be a manager, you have to prove yourself. Sure there is a personal aspect -- if your Store Manager doesn't like you, good luck. But in my experience, good employees are often approached about promotions.
CO-WORKER COMPETENCE: As with Managers, it varies by store. The training program is passable for anyone with average intelligence, yet many struggle with the basics. Like ringing a register. These are the types who then complain they're not paid $50K for standing around and whining for eight hours. Generally, most of the B&N employees are smart, fun and have a good attitude, considering how much abuse they get from the customers. They respect each other, even if the District Manager and Joe/Jane Public treats them like stupid peons.
WORK ENVIRONMENT: The company sets up for success, but with customers behaving as if the employees are janitors, free babysitters and verbal punching bags, it's difficult. The structure is there, however the results aren't always good. Fortunately plenty of joking coworkers, books and half price coffee is available to help soothe the rough times.
Overall a decent company that tries hard and is tripped up by dirty, rude customers, employees who think they're worth $15 an hour and that getting hired means they can slack and moan while letting 50% of the staff do all the work, and a society which apparently believes anyone who is employed outside an office doesn't have a "real" job.