[AMA] I Work for One of The Two Big Supermarket Chains. Ask Me Anything!

Hi all,

I have worked in one of the two big chains (not saying which but its either Coles or Woolworths) for over 8 years now. I've worked in grocery/long life, dairy/freezer, customer service, meat and in fresh produce, so there's not much about the "behind the scenes" in supermarkets I don't know about :P

I'm currently studying at uni so I work part time atm.

AMA!

Comments

  • +39 votes

    Which supermarket chain do you work at? Coles or Woolies? Hey, it's an AMA!

  • +1 vote

    The box crusher blew my mind the first time i saw it.

    Have you been to any online fulfillment centers? I gather they're moving away from "staff do shopping for you" to dedicated warehouses… wondering how sophisticated they are

    •  

      I hate our box crusher. Most other stores have a shute where you throw the cardboard in and it gets crushed and a truck takes it away.. ours has to be manually cycled and tied up. It's time consuming.

      Online orders and click n collect are usually done in-store. I haven't heard anything about moving that to a warehouse, that sounds less efficient imho.

  • +1 vote

    what's your staff discount?

  • +1 vote

    Are you the down down gang(DDG) or the fresh food peeps(FFP)?

    IMHO the quality of any supermarket comes down to the individual management and less to do with the chain. I've seen the same store do extremely well and then be run down in a matter of a couple of years.

    • +4 votes

      hahaah that down down jingle is really annoying, though the time they heavily advertised one direction and played their songs continually for 3 months straight probably takes the cake.

      But yeah I find store standards can even change on a weekly basis, if you have a lot of sickies and no one available to cover those hours, then waiting times at the checkouts can balloon out and out of stocks can soar..

    •  

      All comes down to if there making there sales target if not pretty much they start cutting on staff witch then they have to start to cut corners to get the job done.

  • +1 vote

    Whats the craziest bust/theft/scandal you've seen or dealt with in a work day?

    • +10 votes

      Theft is a daily/hourly occurrence. People used to copy the markdown stickers, print them out at home and try and stick them on random items (eg. cosmetics/meat), one that sticks in my mind was a lady who had $200 worth it items she was about to pay $10 for. I find it funny when people think they're being clever by pulling the sale sticker off other marked down items but forgetting to grab the barcode. We've also had people walk straight out with loaded trolleys before too.

      I was filling a while ago and one of the local druggies was standing at my cage stashing all this random stuff into his bag so I grabbed my manager. They nabbed him before he left the store.

      • +2 votes

        i worked at a servo owned by one of the big two. i had a group of punk kids, we called them 'D12', come and steal meat pies and sausage rolls, go into the bathroom, and stick them down their pants. one kid, the eminem looking one, clearly burned himself. I would always call them out in front of other customers, but they knew they would get away with it easily.
        True crime

  •  

    The ad about the choosy online order chooser choosing the best produce is bunkum, yeah. What are their instructions?

  • +8 votes

    Red or Green?

    • +5 votes

      I prefer red capsicum but I like my apples green. Red apples always taste mushy to me.

      •  

        Try a red Apple from the country / side of the road vendor when in season.

        Crispy and beautiful - a WORLD of difference, nothing like the 6-12 month old frozen stock (or whatever they do to the supermarket ones).

      • +1 vote

        Pink Lady are okay.

  • +2 votes
    1. About 2 hours before evening closing time, I've noticed that the vegetables would be covered under a big tarpaulin. Why is that? 2. How often do the self-checkouts crash?
  • +4 votes

    Why are all my favourite quality products slowly being replaced with 'home branded' crap?

    • +5 votes

      That isn't up to us, that's done by people in head office. There's some good stuff we no longer sell and the store home brand isn't as good sadly.

    • +2 votes

      It's because of margin on own brands sometimes being better than branded products which is achieved at a lower sell price which a majority of customers start to buy. It then doesn't make sense to stock equivalent branded products and maintain vendor relationships etc which leads to the line being deleted.

    •  

      It's "essential" brands now or "private labels" RIP homebrand

  •  

    Do you believe self-checkouts are a good thing?

    • +7 votes

      Depends. I don't think they're costing many jobs at all (.. We still need people to monitor self serve!) and they're good for people who like their bags packed in a particular way or need to fuss around with multiple payments etc.

      • +7 votes

        I really do not agree. I see at my local supermarkets they keep increasing the number of self check outs, some have 10 stations, and of course decreasing the cashiers. If all those people had to go though the traditional check out people would have to be employed to operate them. I think it mostly affects women who want to work part time and students like yourself. I never use self checkouts to save their jobs.

        •  

          that makes 2 of us not using the self checkouts :)

        • +2 votes

          I find most of the public are too dumb to use them and require assistance anyway.

        •  

          Aldi doesn't have serve checkouts, so you don't get silly long queues to be served by a human!

        • +20 votes

          @This Guy: Aldi always have silly long queues to be served by a human, which is exacty why I like going to Coles/Woolies and using the quick self checkouts…

          If you're worried about jobs, it really makes very little sense to be using the supermarket at all. Use the small independent stores.

        •  

          @callum9999:

          Smaller lines than my local Coles/Woolies self serve at my local Aldi. My local opens a register if the queue is bigger than the convener belt. I imagine it's different in your suburb.

          My local small, independent stores tend to pay their employees cash in hand. You can't buy a house if you're paid cash in hand.

        • +1 vote

          @This Guy: tbh unless you're working lots of penalty rates or have a second full time job and work here on the side, no entry level supermarket worker can afford a house either 😂

        • -3 votes

          @Levathian: I am not sure, I bought my first house while working 30 hours a week as a supermarket casual. Depends on what you do with your money I suppose.

        •  

          @Levathian:

          Probably not in a capital city, but in many regional areas with a partner it is possible. It has become far harder over the last decade.

      • +2 votes

        Knew someone who worked serice when the self serve were installed. Smallish store 6 new self serve. First week 10 staffing hours (for each week) were lost.

      • +3 votes

        Very true about multiple payment methods, often go through self serve when I need to pay with gift cards because I don't want to hold things up.

    • +4 votes

      They should give you a 5% discount for using self checkout. It’s the staff discount that you get for working there

  •  

    What's being done about the theft from self checkout?

    • +15 votes

      I'm sure every customer is paying for theft out of every product that the supermarkets sell.

      • -11 votes

        Incorrect, it's expensed as part of doing business, it doesn't get charged to customers, not even in standard pricing.

        • +8 votes

          It's both expensed (as a loss in financial reports) and incorporated in pricing (higher margins to account for loss).

        • +1 vote

          Margins are set for a store budget. Shrinkage is part of that budget.

        • +1 vote

          @This Guy:

          Also, if the theft losses outweighed the savings made from having self checkouts they’d be removed in an instant.

        • -1 vote

          @973728: as a Pricing Analyst, I know your higher margin comment is not accurate when it comes to theft / stock losses, might just be my particular department. I guess fresh produce etc might have the above applied.

          Expensed through the P&L is correct, that's what I said, as part of doing business (to keep it simple).

        •  

          @RainDrop:

          My experience is different.

          I have no idea how your side works. Most retail stores have targets/budgets based on complex stuff above my pay grade. My experience is that shrinkage comes off that target for bonuses. If you're chain is not costing shrinkage directly against each store how do you combat it?

    •  

      Most of that I'm not allowed to disclose but the 'rules' are a lot more 'strict' these days (eg. Weights turned back on, item limits in self serve etc.)

  •  

    What are the markup ranges of shelf products?

    • +2 votes

      I can't see that data on the maxx, I'd love to know too!

    • +3 votes

      Unfortunately items get loads attached. You normally need to be store manager or above to be able to see prices before loads. Delivery costs to the store are a load. An administration charge could be another load.

      It is a way to reduce discounting and reduce bonuses payable as well as make the company look altruistic to junior employees (Oh, my company is the best, they lose money on milk and only make 3c per loaf on cheap bread).

      Purchase price needs to be below ~20-30% of the final price for most fast-moving consumer goods retailers to turn a profit. There are 'loss leaders'. Major retail should not be loosing money on 'loss leaders' as they either get a kick back from the manufacturer/wholesaler or they have full control of their supply chain so they manipulate their loads.

      My best example is a $50 item had a 35% margin due to loads. If sourced externally it could cost the company ~$40. This retailer had full control of the supply chain and was a volume customer so the internal purchase price of the item was $1.29.

    • +1 vote

      Generally speaking you are looking at 50%-60% (100-150% mark up) or more margin on fresh short shelf life products (cheese, meats and so on), 30% on dry (tuna, pasta). It varies a lot though, even within the same category

  • +1 vote

    Who decides what fresh fruits are sourced for a particular store? I see some stores have more tropical fruits than others.

  •  

    Does your store inject iodine into the fresh meat to make it look redder therefore fresher when it goes brownish after being on the shelf for too long? I know a butcher at one of the big two who has told me that they do this and he is not too happy about it.

    • +9 votes

      I'm not too sure about that one, if we did it wouldn't be at a store level. Our butcher isn't the guy who'd enjoy ripping people off, he takes great pride in his product.

      •  

        I didn't think many stores still had a butcher on site and that all the meat was packed off site and delivered ready to sell with prices already on them.

    •  

      If you know said person, then you have your answer? Lol.

      •  

        I was asking if it is a widespread practice. "lol"

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