Savers Thrift Store: The Employee Experience
There was never a boring moment.
There are thousands of thrift stores in operation in the united states today, and many of them are quite successful. What a thrift store operates on are donations, which in many cases it will recondition and sell for half of the original price. One such company that has very successfully emulated this business model is Savers Thrift Store, a national chain that operates from America to Australia and everywhere in between. I spent the last year working for this company in between my bail career, and I was both surprised and appalled at how the retail thrift industry is ran.
The Employee Experience:
The difference with Savers thrift store compared to a lot of thrift operations is just how huge the company really is. The sheer volume of donated material that they get weekly is enormous, and most of this product is sent to the sales floor daily. Savers thrift store is essentially about numbers, and profit margins. When you are first hired you will watch inspirational videos about saving the world and making a difference, which the company actually does participate in, but at the end of the day it is a numbers game and they will do anything to achieve it.
Being a front end associate, you have quite a few different tasks. The main task being to sign customers up for the Savers Club Card, essentially doing data collection for the company. From my time working here, I could see that there was little room for advancement. The company prides itself on investing in team member success, yet they hire out for their shift and production management. There were ample opportunities that I would see that they had an exemplary employee who deserved a promotion, and instead they would hire an outside person who had less experience and hat not proven themselves.
The Production side aka the “back room” is even worse, you are essentially a sweat shop employee. There was not a single day that I remember leaving on time, ever. You do not have an option to leave either, they will make you work, and work like a dog. Never mind the fact that the company has horrible employee retention and is horribly understaffed on any given week. The management has not had proper training in employee relations or retention, and thus they way under hire. I would think that a company with this kind of a bottom line would be able to hold a hiring fair or something, but yet they are continually understaffed. The management is also quick to fire, even their very good employees can get cut without notice.
They also refuse to pay the vacation time, that you earned while working their. If they let you go, they are not paying those earned hours. I noticed that the company aims to cut whatever corners they can, even at the expense of loyal employees. One of the few perks working at Savers is the fact that they will host a pizza party on each sale day, which is much appreciated after working like a slave for a full day.
Obscene Pricing Structure:
One of the most obscene things that I found while working for Savers is the pricing system, there isn’t one. Items are valued by a pricer, who might or might not have any experience what so ever. The logical thing to do would be to either have a blanket pricing system, or the ability to look items up and check their value. Neither of which are allowed here, they frown upon the blanket system because they seek to keep a daily price average, which is around $3.24. Never mind the fact that a lot of times the item might come from the Dollar Tree, or just might only be worth a buck.
I remember when we got a donation of at least thirty old oil lamps, they were tiny, dirty, and in very bad shape. My manager didn’t want any less then $5.99 put on them, mind you the store manager came by a few days later and said that we priced them too high, and then the production manager was in the middle ground with his opinion. These oil lamps sat on the shelve for weeks until finally being deposed of, mind you if they had been priced affordable this wouldn’t have been an issue.
Other items which I knew were very rare were often far under priced, such as classic video game systems, Ipods, and even used laptops. The pricing structure was far backwards, whereas something like a dirty pan would be $3.99 when it should be $1.99. It got to where we were almost competing on a Wal-Mart level pricing system, but without brand new merchandise.
Living up to a Promise:
One part of the Savers pledge is honesty, and every employee must follow this. Sadly the company itself doesn’t seem to live by this. You can’t honestly sell a freely donated item for close to retail, this just isn’t being honest with your customers. The same goes for the employees who are mis-treated and fired with no real reason, many of whom have children and depend on this job. The sheer stupidity of many of the write ups that I and a lot of employees received was appalling. I felt like you would get written up for breathing wrong if they could.
This came back to a lack of managerial training as well, I don’t know if this was due to the fact that we were in Arkansas as opposed to California, or what the issue was. In the state of California most employers need to abide by an HR structure, otherwise the employee can sue the pants off of them. In Arkansas it seems that employee relations have gone out the window. If the company were to actively invest in their employees, they would indeed have a much better retention rate.
Would I Work Here Again?:
Yes I would give the company another chance, if they changed a lot of their practices. I quit because I was fed up with the entire structure, and being that I was over qualified for my position, I just didn’t see the point in staying with the company. Savers can be a great company to work for, they have an awesome vacation package, where you get a week of paid vacation after being with the company for six months. The employee discount is also exceptional, especially if you actually like shopping at this store as well.
The fact that there are so many Savers thrift stores around the country means that staying with the company if you have to relocate is very easy. If you are moving to another state, there is a good chance that there is a Savers thrift store somewhere around. And hey, there is the added benefit of saving the earth as well. No matter which way you look at it, the company does do a lot of recycling. I would love to have stayed with this company and worked my way up to a manager, the first six months it felt like very stable employment and just went downhill from there.
In the end though, the employee experience is something that the company very well needs to work on.