The worst job I ever had was for Kmart.
Even though I was 19 and my previous jobs were fast food, I learned what not to do far more than what to do at that job. While, clearly, it took another 30 years to dwindle to three stores out of a high of over 2000 remaining, if the Kmart in St. George, Utah, was like the other ones, the writing was on the wall even back then. Your business will go the same way as Kmart if you're making these mistakes.
They lied to get me on board.
I needed money for school, so I wanted as many hours as possible. Kmart advertised and offered me 20-24 hours a week. Great! I turned down an offer at Walmart for more hours at Kmart.
But then, they rarely scheduled me for more than 16. I asked why. The HR manager told me she "never promises hours," and Kmart policy prohibited part-time people from working more than 24 hours a week, so they deliberately kept the hours below that so you wouldn't take an extra shift and go over 24.
Lesson for today: Are you lying to get people on board? Promising them to work from home, or flexibility, or raises, and then yanking those promises back once they've started? Be honest and upfront.
They were sloppy about prices.
I was a cashier, which meant I scanned thousands of items over my time there. Some of them came up with the wrong price.
This, of course, is to be expected in any retail environment with thousands of SKUs. As a cashier, I dutifully noted every wrong price and (as instructed) turned it in to the shift manager at the end of my shift. I assumed they would fix the prices.
Then I started noticing that the same items came through repeatedly with the wrong -- always higher -- price on it. (Granted, customers don't complain when something rings up less than expected.) No one was actually changing those pricing errors the cashiers so diligently reported.
Lesson for today. Are your employees telling you things that you need to fix? If so, listen to them. Front-line workers know more about your products and customers than you think they do. Listen and fix.
Managers didn't care about staff or customer needs
One memorable day the computers went down. This meant that we had to go throughout the store gathering prices for every item. Customers were angry, lines snaked through the store, and the front-end manager told the cashiers we would not get breaks because things moved so slowly.
At 12:00, the entire management team stepped away from the mess of angry customers and long lines, went over to the in-store cafe, and ate lunch together.
We could see them from the cash registers, laughing and talking.
Lesson for today. If you start to think, "Well, I'm a founder, I get this privilege," or "I've worked my way to the top, so my employees can suffer too," you're acting like my Kmart managers. The working culture today is very different from what it was in 1992. If you pull this type of behavior now, you'd likely see your employees stage a mass walkout.
Think about how you can help your employees help your customers. Don't focus on making your own life better. You don't get a break if your employees don't get breaks. Perks? Your employees better get them before you do.
They made rules because they could, and not because they should.
How can I say this? I'll answer in one word: Shoes.
Retail means standing on your feet all day. No sitting! We had to wear hard-soled dress shoes at work.
That might make sense if we were trying to sell high fashion and we needed to look the part, but this was Kmart. We had customers coming in wearing tube tops. No one cared about our feet.
But, the policy came from corporate. Dress shoes for everyone! Even for the cashiers who stood behind a register. No one saw my feet, but rules were rules.
Lessons for today. What is your hard-soled shoe rule? Something that makes no sense but you still have in place. What about requiring everyone to come into the office? What about heavy monitoring of exempt employees' hours? Question the whys behind your rules and regulations. If there isn't a good why, it's time to end it.
I'm not arguing that all Kmarts were this poorly run. But clearly, this store wasn't the only one with problems. Learn from their mistakes before you face the same fate.
I reached out to Kmart for a comment. If they respond, I'll update.