Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle I caught a late-night rerun of a “Wayne’s World” movie the other night.
While that isn’t a common way to start a retail-produce column, let’s pick up the conversation just as Wayne is hamming it up for the camera:
“Let me bring you up to speed. My name is Wayne Campbell. I live in Aurora, Ill., which is a suburb of Chicago — excellent. I’ve had plenty of jobs; nothing I’d call a career. Let me put it this way: I have an extensive collection of name tags and hairnets.”
The angle of course, is when he poses in front of his bulletin boards displaying all those name badges, we can assume some are from foodservice or retail. The dig is that so many of the name badge-related jobs are limited to teens, who bounce around until they eventually find a “real” job.
As we were working to fill the ranks of a new store opening some years ago, my store manager pointed out that there are mostly two kinds of grocery-store employees: The person (usually in the 25 and under group) who is temporary and using the job as a stepping stone, and the person who sees retail as a career. He estimated it was split fairly even between the two groups.
The average produce crew’s makeup is no exception.
Treat everyone equally
A produce manager has no choice but to treat everyone equally. The produce manager has to provide training to the older and younger clerks alike, for example. Yes, even some of the seasoned veterans need a little training refresher from time to time. Processes change, systems and technology change.
But an interesting thing sometimes happens to those clerks who are only in the produce retail game for the short haul. Sometimes the summer job turns into more. The next thing you know they are on the full-time roster with 10 or more years under their belt.
It works out this way for many reasons. I once had a moonlighting teacher from a local community college on a crew. He confided that he earned more stocking produce part-time than he did running a classroom. Eventually he opted for more hours at the store and fewer courses at the college.
Other times? The choice is made (for whatever crazy reason) that a clerk just happens to enjoy working in produce and continues to do so even after their impressionable years have faded. In retrospect, that’s my story. Even as field supervisors, minutes before opening a new store to the public we made sure of one last detail: We put on our name tags, and never for a second were we ashamed to do so.
Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.
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