Job hopper finds retail outfits have a lot to teach

On the surface, it might look as if Alex Frankel didn’t really want a steady job. The truth is that the Brown University grad was writing a book about the retail experience. His quest was not that easy. Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Best Buy wouldn’t hire him. He writes about those that did.

At UPS, he found high spirits and a place he wanted to work. He felt like one of the chosen few, but he thinks not all drivers have the same attitude.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car was almost cult-like, he reports, and was demanding. The customer-service section of the training binder was 73 pages long. It made him feel like they were supposed to be insurance sales people.

Starbucks looked like it would have an easy job for him. Not so. He was surprised by the tremendous amount of learning it took in the early weeks and how taxing the job was.

At the Gap, Frankel said all he was expected to do was fold clothes. He folded a lot of clothes.

The Apple Store was something else. There was not much learning to do because Apple only hired people who were experienced with their products. Quoted in USA Today, Frankel said workers didn’t seem to be working or selling, just hanging out and dispensing information. As much information was being shared as products being sold.

In his book, Frankel skillfully imparts the feeling of what it’s like to be an invisible person looking for a job. He thinks the reason he was turned down by Best Buy and Whole Foods was because he failed the online test.

Both companies have applications that include 100-question multiple-choice questions. The software company Unicru has such systems for hiring and tracking employees. It flags those who appear to be the best choices.

The system was right in not choosing Frankel.