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Working for Banana Republic: My Experience
As a college kid who is always looking for more spending money, I’ve held several jobs in the service industry. For three months, from November 2010 through January 2011, I worked at a Banana Republic store in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a fun job, and rewarding too—but there are aspects of Banana Republic that mean it probably isn’t right for everyone. Here is a story of my experience and observations working for the store, for anyone thinking of applying for the job, or anyone who is curious.
Getting hired was surprisingly easy. I simply walked into the store one day, asked if they were hiring, and was handed an application. I filled it out with my basic history and contact information, and followed the link to submit the necessary online application. It’s mainly an hour-long questionnaire asking about style, work ethic and including a few get-to-know you questions. After you hit submit, all you need to do is wait to be contacted. Of course, if the store is hiring, and you’ve put a decent amount of time in your application, a reply from the store management is more or less a sure thing.
Two days later I got a call requesting an interview to be scheduled at the earliest convenient time for me. I wore khakis and a tie, answered the standard interview questions of why I wanted to work there and what my biggest weakness was, etc. The next day I got a call from the manager telling me I had the job of sales support.
Sales support in Banana Republic basically means running product from room to room, assisting customers as they make selections and managing the register on occasion. The starting salary is $8.25 an hour, which I was happy with because it was a full dollar above minimum wage. The job also comes with one great benefit: as an employee of the store you can get a 50% discount for any full price item. This makes everyday clothing prices a bargain, and nice $600 suits are suddenly only $300 with tax. The discount was actually one of my biggest incentives for working there; my wardrobe needed fixin’.
Decent pay for a part-time job, plus a great discount are the two main upsides to a job at Banana Republic. I was lucky enough to also be working with cool coworkers, though of course that’s by no means guaranteed. I should also mention another side benefit: if for some reason you’re not crazy about the styles at Banana, you have only to show your employee ID at any other clothing store owned by Gap for a 30% discount.
If all of this sounds like a sweetheart deal, just know that you don’t get nothing for nothing. Here are some downsides of working for the clothing store, that might give you some pause about applying.
1) Get ready to be evaluated by the Banana Card. The Banana Card is a credit card provided by the store that results in 15% discounts for all purchases when used. Theoretically it’s to reward loyal customers, but in practice it’s used to reel in more people through the promise of cheaper clothing for future return visits. As an employee you are expected to exhort customers to get this card every chance you get. What’s more, the store keeps track of how many people you persuade, and if it’s on the low end, management may want to have a talk with you.
2) Be prepared to deal with a corporate infrastructure that is rigid and overly centralized. Banana Republic is on three continents and nine countries, and their goal seems to be to have thousands of stores in various regions of the world that all operate exactly the same. It might not be a bad business strategy, but the inflexibilty can make things hard for employees sometimes. I remember once I asked to look over a style magazine to try to educate myself so I could give better answers to customers while on duty. Management said no, because me sifting through magazines for that purpose would technically count as work, and would have to be done on the clock, which wouldn’t be possible. Another time I showed up fifteen minutes before a shift began, fully prepared to work, in order to cover for a friend. The next day we were both treated to a stern lecture about the 24-hour substitution notice, even though everything had run smoothly. In short, the job is best for people who really believe in following the strict letter of the law.
3) Watch out for the crazy customers! Of course, this is good advice for any service job, but Banana Republic shoppers have their own unique brand of wacko. I was folding clothes once when a woman demanded that I find a medium purple cashmere sweater; she had just tried on a small. I quickly walked to the storage room and back, only to have to tell her that we were out of mediums. It was the typical careful response that we were expecting a shipment of mediums soon. Her response was to stare at me for a few seconds, then turn away sulkily, muttering “I guess this is a store for skinny people.” I’m actually glad she walked away, because I would have been at a loss over how to respond!
Reading this, I hope you have a better sense of what it’s like to work at BR, and whether or not it would be right for you. Personally, I enjoyed it, but from my experience I can understand both the positive and bitter reviews on Glassdoor.com. Getting the job isn’t hard—they’re hiring all the time—so just know what you’re in for.