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Examine the expectations and inferences underlying selected job positions. Consider timely topics in career preparation and the struggle for fulfilling employment. Analyze what could be improved in either situation. If this blog reminds you too much of work, then peruse my namesake blog for lighter fare.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

"JC Penney" Cashier: No Experience Necessary if a Happy Bot

"Job Title: Customer Assistant Job

Date: Jan 25, 2012

Location: Wauwatosa, WI, US

Job Description

- Wauwatosa, WI---11800 W Burleigh St, 02852

Job Title: Customer Assistant

The #1 priority of Customer Assistants is to provide the best customer service possible whether or not the customer chooses to make a purchase.

Training is provided on how to give effective customer service, how to operate our cash register, and how to maintain merchandise so it is appealing to customers.

Pay is based on a competitive rate based on what other similar employers in the local community are paying.

Successful associates are friendly, enthusiastic and like working with people.

Associates must read information and follow instructions, for example on labels of merchandise they sell.

New associates must learn how to operate our cash register and be able to work with money and numbers.

These positions offer flexible hours of work, which may include weekdays or weeknights, and weekend time (Saturday or Sunday). [If there are particular times you are unable to work, please tell your interviewer.]


Can You Do The Job and Do You Want To Do The Job?"

Uncharacteristically for a retail chain, JC Penney touts that it will train the successful applicant not only on how to operate a register but also on how to position merchandise and otherwise “provide excellent customer service.” This lets pretty much anyone without any major criminal convictions (or too many minor ones) truthfully certify himself/herself as qualified to do the job. The lack of prior customer service experience implies that gaps in employment are not disqualifiers because no employment history seems to be necessary to be seriously considered for an interview. However, I’m certain that JC Penney is aiming for a particular appearance (no gaps in the teeth or over-large eyeglasses), so unfortunately those with prior customer service and cash handling experience will not necessarily have an edge over the 15-year-old applicant.

Although the duties of this job are deceptively simple, the job poster attempts to psyche out the reader by questioning not only the applicant’s ability to meet such minimal qualifications (add and subtract coinage to give proper change, realistically greet customers with small talk and a smile without overdoing it) but also his/her motivation. An online assessment should eliminate most who doubt their own qualifications and desire to position merchandise and operate a cash register for minimum wage. That sounds less hectic than a typical food service job, so I can only infer that most of the turnover in this position is due to qualified applicants being hired for other retail jobs offering better compensation rather than due to people quitting out of frustration.

It could also be true that JC Penney fires associates for not being “enthusiastic” enough about customers and clothes, or perhaps some service assistants garnered complaints from customers for being too flaky. I bet many employers anticipate the day when they can just buy a bunch of “Happy Bots” to perform customer service, eh? These blasted humans don’t always feel enthusiastic or happy, and we can’t have that! I suppose the solution for customer assistants who are no longer enthusiastic is to get a different job which deemphasizes enthusiasm.

If the customer assistant job has been truly irritating to a substantial portion of new hires, then JC Penney should merely state, “Masochists are preferred.” There may be another connotation to the disbelief that the applicant wants to perform the job: A scarcity of promotion opportunities might make the job into a career, and so those who apply for it out of desperation must be prepared to grow into it as a career because they aren’t going anywhere within the company anytime soon. Again, JC Penney could easily dissolve this ambiguity by saying, “This is a career position which starts at minimum wage and permits cost-of-living raises. You must remain cheerful despite changing policies and business conditions.” That would immediately discourage many applicants and save HR a lot of time.

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