Thinking of caving into the allure of a steady gig stocking other people’s produce?
You’re not alone.
You’re stepping into a longstanding, largely unionized tradition amongst some of the all-time great grocery store workers. You’ve got a long road ahead before you’ll be counted as legend. But in the mean time, you do get to look forward to being the person putting new milk into the back of the fridge—while wide-eyed children sit and stare at what they have to assume is the abominable snowman.
But besides walking around a giant freezer, there are some real responsibilities that you have to consider when you’re stepping into the job. For some, it’s an absolute pleasure and the kind of job they’re ready to take on for years. For others, it might be the sort of thing that can barely last a summer.
Start by considering some of these major factors, and the pros and cons of each, and see how you view the half a glass of water. If you’re still psyched by the end of this post, then you better take that application straight to the grocer yourself.
Pro: There are both day and night stockers, which means that you really do have a broad range of flexibility in your schedule. These can cater to just about every personality type. If you’re someone who prefers to put in the more traditional 9-5 grind, then you can stock during the day. If you’re someone who’s up for an irregular schedule, then you can try your hand at working the graveyard shift.
Think of it like Night At The Museum. You get to see the magic of what happens once the store closes down and all the shrimp in the seafood section come to life. Too poetic? At least you won’t have to fight all the crowds while you put everything back into tip-top shape.
Con: You won’t always get to decide your hours. Understanding that there are shifts at virtually all times of the day can be intimidating. You’re going to have some late nights and some early mornings. That kind of work can be grueling for someone who’s used to a consistent 8 hours a night and totally free weekends.
If you’re not ready to take on a night shift of two from time to time, or even permanently, then this may not end of being the job of your dreams. It’s something that’s at the very least worth asking about when you go to turn in your application.
Pro: Grocery money ain’t bad. The truth of the matter is, if you’re working at a major grocery store chain, then a stocking job is most likely going to have been unionized. That means that you’ll be protected by an outside group, have designated breaks, and get paid a fairly handsome hourly wage—certainly better than the minimum.
Especially if you’re on the night shift, stocking can pay extremely well, and give you some semblance of steadiness in your life. Sometimes, though, that can come with a price of its own.
Con: For instance, it also means you’ll likely become a part of a workers union. Some unions have dues, membership responsibilities, and can even mandate strikes—which may at times get messy. That doesn’t mean that you should go into a union job expecting to strike and break all the time, but it’s a possibility that you’ll be frustrated by some of the bureaucracy.
And at times, that will also mean that you don’t have very long breaks at all. Some unions have “cushy” agreements, while others will feel extremely stringent. At the end of the day, your responsibilities under a union will be extremely rigid.
And if you’re not at a unionized grocery story, then you’re probably going to deal with lower pay and fewer breaks.
Pro: Aforementioned magical fridge aside, stocking is good work. You’ll learn about a whole array of products, including pricing, placement, and customer behavior. You’ll also learn a lot about the relationship between suppliers, distributers and retailers. That’s certainly the stuff of true businessmen, and tools that you can take with you to any job in the future.
In the mean time, it can also be nice to have a certain work routine. You get to know your products, the most efficient way to pack them, and it can become the sort of game that makes an 8 hour shift seem like a few blinks. A lot of stockers simply enjoy what they do.
Con: For others, the monotony can be a little overwhelming. You’re doing a lot of lifting and kneeling and physical labor, oftentimes at weird hours, and it really doesn’t change a whole lot. If you’re just looking for a job to get by, it’s very possible that this job will get in your head.
This isn’t a job for everyone. But when the right person finds it, stocking can be the perfect fit. Ask yourself whether the pros outweigh the cons, take a hard look at your long-term plan, and evaluate. Then roll up your sleeves, fill out an application, and get to work!