-- The Unofficial Guide to Working at Staples --
Update 7 October 2005 by Amazing Ben
As some of you may already know, I took on a second job recently working at Staples in order to make some extra cash because I'm broke as hell. While I'm certain that all of you are painfully envious of my twelve-hour days and the tons of money an extra seven dollars an hour helps me rake in, you are no doubt wondering, "how's that job going? Is it something that I would be able to hack, or should I just boil myself in acid instead?" Well honestly, it's not that bad. I'm sure it has the potential to be one of the shittiest jobs ever performed by humans, but I've found that pretty much anyone (even you) can sleepwalk their way through a six-hour shift at Staples if they know all the ins and outs of the business. Well this week I plan on sharing with you some of the exciting and interesting things I've learned in the last month so that in the rare event you end up getting a job at Staples you'll be completely prepared for anything that might come your way. I'm just good like that.
Indiana Jones and the Break Room of Death
The first thing you'll inevitably notice when you arrive at my Staples is that the Indiana Jones theme is constantly emanating from the employee break room. This is because for some strange reason Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is playing on a continuous loop on the break room TV, and has been for the entire month that I've worked there (with no sign of stopping). I'm not sure whether this is a technical malfunction where the tape has permanently grafted itself inside the VCR or if Staples employees just can't get enough of Harrison Ford, but I promise you that at any given point in time somebody is sitting in a darkened break room intently watching a grizzled guy in a hat and leather jacket beat Nazi officers up with a whip. It's uncanny. I half expect to show up one morning at 4am and find the overnight stock guys sitting back there laughing at Sean Connery's jokes and eating nachos.
While this may prove to be irritating for some, I find that whenever the job starts to get the better of me I can just go into the back for about five minutes before I hear the Indiana Jones theme and get all pumped up to go back out onto the sales floor, outrun giant boulders, somersault over spiked pits and show our esteemed customers the difference between their face and a box of Tic-Tacs.
Indy whips the ass of low prices.
Know the Best Places to Hide from Customers
A true key to success and happiness as a retail employee is knowing where the best places are to hide from the customers. Working the late shift at Staples can be a refreshing and enjoyable experience, but it can easily be ruined by one meathead customer incapable of looking at the giant red sign hanging from the ceiling that says, "Pencils Are Here, Fucktard" and comprehending what it says. Dealing with customers, while in theory is our "#1 Priority", is also the #1 cause of employee resignation/termination and subsequent customer strangulation death. In order to get through a shift with your sanity intact, it's important to know the best places to station yourself to avoid dealing with the general populace.
The Middle Aisles
Positioning yourself in the middle aisles is a good tactic because you remain visible to members of management
but can also avoid talking to many people. This is because the middle part of the store has all the aisles that nobody would want to go down unless they were lost or really really intent on getting enough bubble wrap to put the entire city of Medford inside a protective casing. All kinds of useless crap can be found on the "dead aisles", from cash register tape and restroom signs to ten year old boxes of pretzels and thermonuclear warheads. Basically, it's all the shit that you probably didn't even know you could buy at Staples, and as long as you hang out there nobody will accidentally bump into you and ask you where something is. In fact, you'll be pretty much set as long as you manage to avoid the pencil, pen, notebook and binder aisles.
The Back of the Store
A lot of people think that they're the most important people in the world and they've got a busy schedule of "sitting on their asses doing nothing" to get back to, so the second they sprint into the building they'll yell at you and try to find out where the Day Planners are, and you better answer or they'll give you a running clothesline on their way past and email the manager about how much you suck the next time they're dicking off at work. The best way to shield yourself from these pretentious self-important cockmeisters is to avoid spending time at the front of the store. Let them hassle the cashiers; I've got better shit to do, like watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
It's important to note that by "back of the store", I actually mean "the stock room". You can disappear back by the cardboard box baler or slip into the secret passages of the neighboring mall and nobody will think the better of it. Even better, the in-store PA doesn't work back there, so when the manager comes over the intercom saying shit like, "Don Quixote, get your fucking ass to the front of the store so you can help this old lady pack fifteen full-size bookcases into her Mini Coop", you can always just be like, "oh, I was in the stock room. I didn't hear the announcement." If you can manage to slip into the manager's office and close the door, you don't have to worry about anyone other than the manager being able to get in there and find your hiding spot. You can even monitor the closed-circuit TV to find out what the manager is doing and make sure you get out of there before he comes back and finds out what's going on. It's all a delicate tapestry of teamwork.
On a Ladder
At Staples we have these bitchin' ladders on wheels the we use to throw boxes in the overhead. This is a very useful contraption, but usually not for the reasons management feels that it's necessary. First off, people are complete fucking idiots and are almost never able to find you when you climb the ladder. All you have to do is roll it onto one of the middle aisles, climb up and start opening the boxes on the top shelf. Nobody really has any idea what you're doing, but you sure as hell look busy. As an extra bonus, if you carry a piece of paper with stuff written on it nearby nobody will be able to tell that you're looking down low-cut women's shirts and not actually taking inventory! Everyone wins!
The most useful piece of equipment ever.
The Midstock Is Your Friend
As a Staples Office Supply Type Person, I am sometimes tasked with putting items back where they belong. Now for many this is an arduous and time-consuming task, since there are probably about eight jillion different types of pens and you can stand in the pen aisle for eight years and still not find the exact rack the pack in your hand belongs on. Well, there's a way to half-ass that as well.
You see, at Staples we have this great thing called "midstock". It was originally conceived back in 1849 by Reginald R. Midstock as a place to put things that had already been pulled out of their boxes but didn't fit on the shelf. He created a special place just above the racks that acted as sort of a dump-bin for this sort of thing. While it was a noble idea, it is also the sort of thing that a lazy bastard like myself can use to their advantage. Imagine the time you would save by just throwing the afore-mentioned pack of pens into the midstock on the pen aisle! Now multiply that by a hundred and you've got the amount of time I save when I empty out the returns cart. I basically just take the thing I'm trying to put back, go to where I think it may as well be, count to about ten and if I haven't found it by then I just toss it up into the midstock. Problem solved! It's just that simple!
The Customer Is Always an Idiot
When people ask you for help finding something, it's important to remember that they are all idiots and even Plato himself wouldn't be able to explain to them that the aisles are numbered left to right with Aisle 1 being on the far left-hand side of the store. If you (for some reason) want to show the customer where something is, you'd better be prepared to walk them to the item, take the item off the shelf, hand it to them and repeat to them what it is they asked you to find. Anything short of this will confuse the customer and cause them to become angry at you or possibly someone else around you for reasons that are impossible to understand.
Also, you will find that customers have no idea what the hell we even sell at Staples Office Supply Store. They will ask for aluminum molding, condoms, copper wire, vehicle-mounted global positioning systems, automatic weapons... you name it. I have found that it's important that you NEVER EVER tell the customer that you don't carry something, because they will become mad at you personally for the shortcomings of the company you work for. They'll get all pissed off and blame you, the fifteen-hour-a-week minimum wage slacker employee, for Staples management's decision to not carry hatchets or giant bottles of Hydrochloric Acid in their stores. Then they'll bitch about it like you have some way of changing the company policy. No, fuckstick, I don't think they're going to listen to me. But as you may have guessed, it's pointless to try and reason with with these belligerent asshats. I've instead found that the best way to deal with the irrational jackasses is to just tell them that whatever they're looking for is on the mysterious "Aisle Thirteen" and then quickly head back to the stock room and/or climb a ladder. Wait there for about ten minutes until the customer discovers there's no such thing as aisle thirteen and leaves the store. Whatever you have to do to avoid them, because being confronted by a customer you've just jerked around is even worse than telling them that your store is completely out of paperclips.
"What do you mean you don't carry firewood?"
Understanding Customers Based on Their Question Words
Unfortunately, sometimes you will have to deal with customers. They'll catch you as you're heading to the time clock to punch out for lunch or as you're looking for the rolling ladder or even as you're sprinting to the back room for a much-needed Indy fix. It's important to properly prepare yourself for dealing with the customer, and the best way to get a feel for what this person is all about is by listening to their opening question word. In my time at Staples so far, I have discovered that there are really only four ways people address you when they need help from you, and each one is used by a distinct type of person. Here they are:
Oh boy. This person doesn't know what the fuck they're looking for, and you'd better just shut your brain off now because they aren't going to say anything of substance for the next thirty seconds. They'll most likely find the most complex and convoluted way of asking you, "where are the staplers?" you've ever heard.
Customer: "Um... I was looking for this thing, because I have a report due on Tuesday of next week for my boss who is a real jerk but I think it's just because he's going through a tough time right now... he's got complicated family issues. But I'm trying to find one of those things that you can use... well, some people use... to make the papers all, y'know, attachie-like. It's metal? You know what I'm talking about? Like... a metal thing that sticks the report together?".
Me: A stapler?
Customer: No... I don't think that's what it's called. It's metal. It's an office supply. Attachie-like. Do you know what I mean?
Me: I think you're talking about a stapler.
Customer: Hm. (Stands there with a blank expression and mouth hanging open)
Me: Let me show you. (Walks to the staplers) This?
Customer: Oh, perfect! Thanks!
This guy's a cock. He's fucking mocking you by calling you "Sir" because in his mind you're about fifteen steps below him on the Phylogenetic Scale. He's only pretending to be polite to you so that you'll give him the information he wants and he can go on with his life of crushing insignificant insects like you under his heel. He's probably going to be a middle-aged rich white man trying to grab a pack of refills for his three hundred dollar fountain pen and doesn't have the time to sift through eight hundred packages of pens to find it when he can just get "the help" to do it for him. You'd better do it too, or you're the asshole, and this guy will make sure you (and your managers) know it.
- "Excuse me..."
Wait and see. This can go one of three ways. It's either an obnoxious asshole teenage bitch getting ready to ask you where the Dickfors are, a cocky pretentious foreign national or a very timid middle aged woman with little to no social skills. Whatever the case may be, you should be on your guard and prepared to listen very intently to what they have to say because they're going to be very difficult to understand. They'll either talk very quietly or unintelligibly and then look expectantly at you to take some sort of action. Be on your guard either way.
Oh shit. This is going to be a mean-ass bitch with no time for your bullshit. If it's a sharp, commanding "hi", you better believe that this lady knows exactly what she's looking for and won't be satisfied with anything less than something absolutely identical to the image she has in her head. If she's looking for something like a backpack or a filing cabinet - watch out. You're in for a long couple of minutes where you're going to get used to hearing, "No... not like this one. This one has a strap to the front-right. I wanted it to the front-left and about an inch below where this zipper here is. Do you have anything like that?" Ugh. I can feel my testicles shrinking just thinking about it. Let's move on.
Getting the Most Out of Your "Employee Discount"
Staples doesn't give an employee price discount. That's right. You bust your ass there and they're still intent on charging you an 800% mark-up on a pad of paper that cost the company two one-hundredths of a cent to produce. It's the only place I've ever worked (and I've worked a lot of places) that hasn't given me some sort of bonus or benefit for working there. But no matter. There are ways of making your own discount, and I'm going to let the weasel out of the bag and tell you how to get a discount on things that you may or may not actually want.
You see, at Staples we have two types of items. "Floor" items are the ones that stay on the shelves pretty much permanently. "Promo" items are only out there for the short-term, and are generally seasonal-type stuff. Well after the promotional time runs out, the promo items go to a clearance price of about ninety cents. This is generally pretty useless to the standard employee since most promo items sell out before they reach that point, and the only things that are survive to make it to the clearance dump bin are shitty anyways. However, here's a tip to getting good promo items cheap, provided you've got a little bit of patience and even less of a conscience.
Promo items last until clearance in the event that nobody buys them. The best way to prevent people from buying good stuff is to put it somewhere that they can't see it. So take the eight-piece protractor kit or the scientific calculator and throw it into the bubblewrap overstock or slide it underneath the vending machine in the break room and when all that shit goes on clearance you'll be able to save a shitload of money by buying a cool thing for about 10% of what it would cost otherwise. Employee discount!
Here's something interesting: As I was writing this, my manager called me and asked me if I could come in tonight. When he told me who he was I actually minimized the window I was writing in like I was worried he could see it or something. I'm a loser.
Seriously though, Staples isn't too bad. It's better than food service (which I hated), and if you follow my guidelines you don't really deal with the customers enough for it too overly taxing. I mostly just like to complain about shit that doesn't even really bother me, but you already probably figured that one out for yourself.
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