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The Pros and Cons of Working in a Supermarket

I have been working part-time in one of the UK's major supermarkets for five years.

What is it like working in a supermarket?

What is it like working in a supermarket?

Are You Thinking of Taking a Job in a Supermarket?

I work part-time in one of the UK's major supermarkets. I initially intended it to be a fill-in job for a few months whilst I looked for something else. However, I'm still there five years later. In this article, read my pros and cons of working in a supermarket based on my personal experience.

The Pros of Working in a Supermarket

Here is a list of the top eight upsides of working in a supermarket.

1. People Need Supermarkets

Almost everyone uses a supermarket, whether they visit it in person or order online. Supermarkets are not going anywhere. And that means that working there is a relatively safe job. Even when jobs are lost, it isn't too hard to find a similar position elsewhere.

2. You Can Get a Lot of Exercise

If you work on the shop floor of a supermarket, you can definitely get your steps in! Many supermarkets are large, and you can be on your feet, walking about, for most of the day. I usually clock up around 12,000 steps for a six-hour shift - more if I work for longer. That's regular physical exercise without even trying!

3. You Can Make a Lot of Friends

The physical tasks required of you during your shift might not be interesting, but you can make up for that in other ways. Supermarkets usually have a lot of staff, and it is quite easy to establish friendships. Different shift patterns often mean you are working with different people on different days. On top of that, the work itself can be tedious and doesn't require a lot of thinking about - which leaves more time for interesting conversations on a plethora of subjects with your colleagues.

4. You Can Improve Your Social Skills

Everybody from all walks of life visits the supermarket, so you are likely to meet a diverse range of people that you might not engage with otherwise.

This means that you can learn an awful lot about humans in general, which can be really interesting. As a result, you can become more understanding and tolerant as a person. You will strengthen your interpersonal skills.

Not only that, but you will get used to talking to strangers, which can help increase your confidence.

5. You Can Learn New Skills

There are often opportunities to learn new skills in different departments. Variation can make the job more enjoyable. The more skills you learn, the more valuable you will become as an employee. You might even have the chance to apply for a managerial role after a while!

6. You Won't Take the Job Home

In a supermarket, you can have busy days that stretch you thin and can, at times, feel stressful. Much the same as a lot of jobs, in fact. However, you are unlikely to take the job home with you, particularly if you are not a manager. Work stays at work, and your home life is your own. As soon as you walk out the door, you probably won't think about it until your next shift.

7. It Can Prevent Loneliness

At the supermarket I work in, we have several older members of staff. A couple of them told me that they choose not to retire because they enjoy meeting people and the social interaction that comes with it. This was true even for one 80-year-old staff member who was married - he enjoyed the routine of getting up every morning and going to work to engage with customers and colleagues.

But you don't have to be old to be lonely. And at the supermarket, there are always plenty of people about, from familiar staff to regular shoppers.

8. There Is a High Chance of Being Offered Overtime

I don't know if this is true for all supermarkets, but it is definitely my experience! I have signed up for countless hours of overtime, which is great if you need some extra money.

Supermarkets have a lot of staff, but there are always people on holiday or off sick.

The downsides of working in a supermarket

The downsides of working in a supermarket

The Cons of Working in a Supermarket

Here is a list of the top eight downsides of working in a supermarket.

1. The Job Can Be Boring

My colleagues are very friendly, but the job is boring. All of the tasks are repetitive. This can only be made better by thinking about something else or having the chance to swap tasks fairly often. These tasks are also repetitive, but variety can help.

2. It Can Be Stressful

This disadvantage is in no way limited to supermarkets - it's a problem of the modern working world. Supermarkets are no exception in that they often don't have enough staff and expect too much work in too little time. Staff that leave are often not replaced. It can lead to feeling stressed too often.

3. The Money Isn't Good Enough

Supermarket pay is low. It's not the lowest - they are always careful to pay above the minimum wage. In fact, as far as general retail work goes, it can be one of the better-paid options. But unless you're the store manager, you're probably not going to feel well-off any time soon.

4. It Can Be Physically Tiring

Working all day in a supermarket can be tiring, particularly if you are on the shop floor. You will probably have to do a lot of lifting (not everything is especially heavy, but it is a very repetitive task) as well as a lot of walking if you are based in a large store.

The physical aspects of the job are something you will probably get used to - it might even make you fitter! But a full shift of lifting and moving things can still make you feel tired at the end of the day.

It can also strain your joints and back if you are not careful.

5. The Hours Can Be Unsociable

Supermarkets open early in the morning and close late at night, so it stands to reason that not everyone can work 9–5 all the time. Weekend or evening work is likely to be necessary, although that should be made clear during the interview.

On top of weekends, you might have to work bank holidays. The store I work in only closes for two days per year - Christmas Day and Easter Sunday (although recently it has been closing on Boxing Day as well). However, you will usually only be expected to work on a holiday day if your contracted hours fall on those days.

6. Some Managers Are More Understanding Than Others

Most of the managers I have worked with are lovely. However, some are more understanding and communicate better than others.

If you have a less-than-understanding manager, it can definitely affect your positivity. The good side is that, in a large store, there are usually a number of line managers that work at different times, meaning you are unlikely to have only one manager to turn to.

7. Supermarkets Favour Part-time Contracts

Certainly, in our store, new full-time positions are a thing of the past. We often take on new staff, but only on part-time hours. If you are looking for a full-time job, it may be difficult to find one in a supermarket these days.

Unfortunately, it benefits supermarkets to offer part-time contracts rather than full-time ones. Although on the face of it, they can appear very employee-friendly, they are a business and put their own interests first.

8. Overtime Isn't Guaranteed

The solution to low hours is to accept the frequent offers of overtime. Supermarkets often rely on this, which can be very useful for those needing to top up their pay. Sometimes you can double your monthly pay in this way. However, it isn't guaranteed, and there are often periods when no overtime is available at all, such as after Christmas.

Note, too, that labour hours are partly dictated by a force higher than the store manager.

9. It Can Be Too Sedentary

Whilst working in a supermarket can be good for general fitness, if you work solely on the checkout, it can be the opposite. Much like an office job, you will be sedentary for most of your day. This isn't healthy. You have the option to stand if desired, but you can't go anywhere except during scheduled breaks.

Sitting down all day is bad for your health. Doing a variety of different tasks throughout the day would be more beneficial.

All in all, my five years working at the supermarket have been largely positive. Although the job can be repetitive and tedious, I have made some lovely friends of all ages, and I have got on well with almost everyone I have worked with.

There are pros and cons to every job. Some people complain about the aspects they don't like, but I generally find it a low-stress job that I don't take home with me. I am also on part-time hours, so the frequent opportunity to take on overtime has been good.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.