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I recently finished working for Somerfield, after spending 2 years there working while studying. I mostly worked part-time as a basic checkout operator, but also spent 10 weeks working there full-time. In this full-time period, I worked as a Supervisor, but the actual nature of this role was not as glamorous as it sounds. I only worked as a supervisor because they literally had no one else and I was willing to help. I never received any recognition or thanks for stepping into the role, was lied to about getting paid the extra 50p an hour, a good £250 lost, and was frequently undermined by a duty manager who was mostly oblivious to what was actually going on in the store.
But enough about me! The store I worked in(north of Bristol) generally was very understaffed, with departing staff not being replaced for seemingly irrelevant financial reasons. This lead to the young, part-time staff, such as myself, being given alot of responsibility. This was a bad move for two reasons. Firstly, it put an undue amount of pressure on younger people with other worries in their lives, and placed them in situations that they had not been trained for with little support. Secondly, it allowed these younger staff to get away with just about anything they wanted, which could include anything from warehouse cricket or prank calls on the tanoy to simply not turning up without any consequence. While this was great for me, having a friend as head of the ambient department who would frequently amuse me with his increasingly inventive methods of slacking, from a professional or consumer point-of-view, I could see this how his could be shocking. As regards to the staffing problem, the managment seemed largely unconcerned, leaving the bulk of the pressure on the young, low-level workers.
Experience of the management varied as different people came and went. At first, I was well supported, with there always being a full time supervisor on duty, a manager, a deputy manager, a human resources department, and several experienced line managers. However, as most of the line managers and supervisors left, they were not replaced, shifting responsibility on to the part-timers. Also, the human resources department was dismantled and the deputy manager was made redundant, leaving the store in the hands of a patronising, ignorant and incompetent manager. As management changed, new problems arose, namely the inability of the store to pay it's staff properly, with disinterested duty managers neglecting to write down overtime worked, and then making out that this was naturally the employees responsibility. Of course, we were never told that. At present, I am still owed at least £400, despite having taken the time to write exactly what hours I'd worked and what I was owed. Generally speaking, the employer showed little awareness of the reponsibility it owed to it's staff. Training is inadequate, the work pushed onto you does not match the pay(£5.35 basic at time of writing) if you are in a position where you are the last resort, and the management is totally out of touch with what is going on in the store. Incredibly amatuerish.
Assuming the viewpoint of the customer, there was rarely anybody official to sort out problems that arose in the course of a customer's shopping experience. Long queues were frequent due to staffing problems. The aging equipment occasionally broke, leading to difficulties for both customers and staff. On numerous occasions, stock on shelves was either out of date or gone off. Promotions were often left on from previous periods, resulting in confusion, irritation and distress at the checkout where the innocent checkout operator got the blame. On the plus side though, I have to say that my store was pretty well stocked, surprising considering the rather low work ethic of the majority of the store's members.
In terms of career, I doubt a spell at Somerfield would reward your commitment. It seems that it is difficuly for low-level employees to work their way up past duty-manager level. The only hope is if you go straight into store management. The skills I gained were useful, and the nature of the work gives you confidence, people skills, and the ability to cope with idiot managers, doubtless an essential quality for the wider world of work.
Despite all my complaining though, I am hesitant to say that you definitely should steer clear of employment of Somerfield. The ordinary people who work there are generally quite friendly, and there is a laid back atmosphere mostly that contrasts sharply with that of Tesco, or so I've heard. Plus it is fairly easy to make friends there, as there is ample opportunity to leave your work and gripe about the management with other members of staff. Of course, mine is a unique experience, like anyones, so this is in no way a definitive guide. However, I think these points are universal. Somerfield can be an exploitative, inconsiderate employer, and the potential for favouratism is there. But there are redeeming features in the friendly, laid-back nature of the place. Ultimately, potentially great for young part-timers and those heading for retirement, i.e people with no ambition for retail and no long term future with Somerfield. If you are more career minded though I would not recommend it. I am not saying that retail is a lowly profession, just that I am certain that there are more worthwhile and rewarding places to work than Somerfield Stores Plc.
N.B. It should be said that overall, working on checkouts and stacking sheves is mostly a very boring line of work.