Supermarket Worker

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Supermarket Worker

Education and Training On-the-job training minimum

Salary Median—varies by position from $7.90 per hour to $15.08 per hour

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Supermarkets employ workers in a variety of jobs. Many supermarkets are part of chain operations that include branch stores, several warehouses, and a central location for their business office. The business offices of supermarket chains employ workers such as accountants, bookkeepers, clerks, typists, and secretaries. Other supermarket workers hold jobs in warehouses or work as truckers. This job description focuses on those who work in the branch stores of chain supermarkets and in independent food stores.

Stock clerks receive and store merchandise and keep the shelves on the sales floor filled with goods. They typically use scanners to take merchandise counts so that they can reorder items that are in short supply. When stock clerks are not busy with these tasks, they perform general cleaning duties such as mopping and sweeping. They also may perform courtesy tasks that include locating specific items for customers and bagging groceries.

Produce clerks must keep fruits and vegetables in fresh condition. They date produce when it arrives and see that goods are sold in the order in which they are received. They also maintain the correct temperature and humidity in the stockroom. In some stores produce clerks wrap merchandise before putting it in display cases. On the sales floor produce clerks keep unwrapped fruits and vegetables wet so that they stay fresh. They may use sprinkling cans or hoses to wash produce. Most large grocery stores, however, have installed automatic sprinkler systems. When fruits and vegetables are no longer in satisfactory condition, produce clerks must remove and replace them.

Some workers are also employed as bakery and delicatessen clerks. They bake, ice, slice, weigh, or package prepared foods for customers. They are also responsible for keeping their work areas clean and safe.

The meat department employs butchers and meat wrappers to prepare meat for sale. Butchers take the large pieces of meat purchased by the supermarket and saw or cut them into small portions such as steaks and chops. The prepared meat is then packaged by meat wrappers, who use special machines to wrap, weigh, and label the meats.

On the sales floor, checkers operate scanners or cash registers to add up customer purchases. As customers' merchandise moves across the checkout counter on a conveyor belt, checkers scan the price of each item or, in the case of produce or large items, enter the proper amount into the cash register manually. They accept payment, make change, and cash checks; if the store does not employ baggers, the checker bags the merchandise as well. Checkers must also keep their counters clean and restock items sold at the checkout counter. Heavy cleaning tasks such as scrubbing and waxing floors and washing windows are typically handled by outside cleaning crews.

About one-fourth of all supermarket workers are store or department managers. They supervise workers and make sure operations run smoothly. They also deal with customer complaints and requests.

Education and Training Requirements

Requirements vary depending on the job. Cashiers, stock clerks, and other clerks receive their training on the job. Many stores hire high school students to work these jobs on a part-time basis. Applicants for the job of butcher should have a high school diploma and specialized training in the use of power tools. To become the manager of a store, candidates usually need a college education with emphasis on courses in business and marketing.

Getting the Job

Prospective supermarket workers should apply directly to the stores for which they would like to work. Many stores post want ads on their doors or in windows when openings occur. The want ads in newspapers and career sites on the Internet also list jobs for supermarket workers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Clerks may become checkers or department managers. With further education they may become assistant managers or store managers. In larger stores employees with promise may be assigned to many different jobs in preparation for an entry-level management position.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.4 million people were employed by grocery stores and supermarkets in 2004. Employment of grocery store workers was expected to increase slower than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. Widespread use of computerized inventory and checkout systems may result in a decrease in the number of some jobs; however, because of the high turnover rate in this field, some openings will always occur.

Working Conditions

Many supermarket workers are employed part time. Full-time workers usually put in a thirty-five- to forty-hour week. Many full-time workers are assigned to split shifts to accommodate rush hours. An increasing number of supermarkets are open twenty-four hours a day, but they usually employ only a few workers for late night and early morning hours.

Most supermarket workers have to stand and walk during most of their working day. Some, such as stock clerks and baggers, lift and carry objects weighing up to eighty pounds. Butchers also lift heavy objects and are subject to cuts from knife and saw blades. In addition, they spend many hours at a time in refrigerated rooms.

Employees who deal with customers are expected to remain pleasant and courteous at all times. Because they work with food, they must be clean and neat. Many supermarkets supply uniforms for their workers. Many supermarket employees belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

National Grocers Association
1005 N. Glebe Rd., Ste. 250
Arlington, VA 22201-5758
(703) 516-0700

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
1775 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 223-3111

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary with an individual's level of responsibility and experience. In general grocery store workers earned less in their jobs in 2004 than workers in comparable jobs in other industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, supermarket cashiers earned a median income of $7.90 per hour in 2004; managers made nearly double that amount. Full-time supermarket workers usually receive benefits that include paid holidays, sick leave, and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.