Review of Working at Frys (It sucked)
A Review of Working At Fry’s Electronics
I have worked at many places over the years: fast food, electronics retail, construction/labor, restaurants, and in offices, just to name the biggest ones. Most places are fine, but one place stuck out as being the most vile of places to work at, and that is Fry’s Electronics. I have wanted to write about this for a long time, ever since I quit, and I guess I am finally getting around to it.
As it goes, I had moved to Chicago in the year of 2008 to go to University at DeVry University (which was another terrible experience, but that is best saved for another time). I was going to university, I had an apartment, and I needed money in order to pay for my apartment, food, etc.
I found a job at a Fry’s Electronics in Downer’s Grove, which wasn’t far away from my house, which was pretty convenient. It was also an electronics store, which I had worked at before, so I was well suited for the job. I remember the first odd thing about working there was before I even started, and I had to go get a drug test. I have never needed a drug test for any other job in my life before. Lucking I wasn’t doing heroine at the time (I mean, I still don’t, but I wasn’t then either), so my drug test came back clean. It was weird though because I had an interview with another person with the same time, and we both went together to the clinic for the drug test. She was joking that my drug test came back positive though because my results took 2 weeks longer than hers did, but it worked out in the end.
I finally started working at Fry’s, and there was immediately some odd things about working there. For starters, it’s an electronics store, so you would think they would have modern computers, but no, the store ran on some terrible point of sales system that looked like you were working with MS DOS. OK, maybe they just don’t want employees surfing the internet or playing solitaire, fair enough. But wait, what are all these screeching sounds I am always hearing? Oh, it’s dot matrix printers. I was born in 1990, so I was 18 at the time, and while I grew up with Windows 95, I had never even seen a dot matrix printer before in my life because everyone else was at least up to the 90s in their technology/printers, but apparently not a giant electronics store…
We were also all forced to wear button up shirts and ties, which was totally overkill for being a simple electronics store. They demanded white button-up shirts, and since I was a poor college student, I could only really afford one. Since I had to face product (i.e. pulling boxes forward after customers removed the most front ones so the shelves looked nice), and since there was a lot of dust on the shelves, the cuffs of my sleeves ended up turning gray from collecting so much dust, even after washing the shirt. C’est la vie.
The clock-in and clock-out system was really annoying too. I will admit that I should have just come earlier, and I was just kind of “meh” about the whole situation since I was a college student. Regardless, the way the clock-in system worked was that everyone had a card you had to swipe (or maybe it was a PIN on the card, I can’t quite recall) when you wanted to clock in and out, but you only had a +-5 minute window to clock in. I typically started work at noon, so I could clock in between 11:55 or 12:05. I usually aimed to get to work at noon exactly, but if there was any sort of traffic for any reason, and it pushed me to more than 5 minutes late, I would have to get a manager to approve my clock-in. I would understand if someone was drastically late, but having to get a manager just because I was 6 or 7 minutes late shouldn’t have been necessary every time. At one point I did try to come much earlier, but they absolutely would not let you clock in early, so I was just sitting around for 15 minutes, wasting my day and not even getting paid for it, before I could finally clock in at 11:55. That prompted me to aim for being “on time”, which sometimes didn’t work out right. There were also clocking out issues, but I will come back to that later. First I would like to mention some other questionable things about Fry’s.
One thing that always struck me as odd was that none of the model numbers from the laptops seemed to exist. I don’t have any actual examples on me, but I always liked to compare the laptops they sold just for my own enjoyment. Sometimes one caught my eye, and I would want to look it up online (not that I would be able to afford it, being a college student and all). I could never find any laptop I looked up though. As somewhat of an example, my current laptop is an Aspire v5-591g-70s6. If I look that up, I can see some actual websites with it.
Fry’s always had …some other model number though, and while there would be similar model numbers, a lot of the ones I was looking up that we had just simply didn’t seem to exist. I even looked at driver pages from manufacturers, and they usually wouldn’t have the model family listed, which was really odd. The best that I could figure was that these were all experimental models of some sort, and the manufacturers were testing new waters, or these were all failed models, which is why they went to Fry’s. I say this because I remember my manager getting all excited a few times about a bunch of computer peripherals like mice or webcams that we were going to get in that the manufacturers were selling for pennies on the dollar, obviously just to unload some product that didn’t sell well at all anywhere else.
An actual terrible things they did was reselling broken/defective products. They have an actual shrink wrapping machine behind the returns area, so when a customer returns something that could be shrink wrapped to look new (like if it came in a box), 95% of the time they would do just that and put it back on the shelf. If didn’t matter if it was actually broken or not. I worked in the computer peripherals department, where mice, keyboard, and components like graphics and sound cards were sold. I once saw the exact same graphics card go through returns at least 3 times. I knew it was the same one because it had a crease on one of the corners, and I even saw them shrink wrapping it up once. It was obviously defective, but they wouldn’t send it back to the manufacturer, they just kept boxing it up, hoping to sell it to another customer (presumably with hopes that one of them simply wouldn’t return it). I saw this happen with lots of things, so even if something looks new and unopened at Fry’s, it may very well have already passed through several hands, so buyers beware.
I really disliked my supervisor. He was weaselly, and he was buddies with the store owner, so any complaint against him fell on deaf ears. I was the pest person in my department (computer peripherals), and I know this because the place looked like a tornado came through before I started working there, and I organized and faced everything like nobody’s business. I worked very closely with the guys in the laptop department (since we were right next to each other, which is also why I was always looking up laptop models), and they all lamented on how things looked so much better since I worked there and they needed me because it was easier to up-sell peripherals for laptops they sold when they could easily find what they wanted to sell the customers. Our supervisor (the weaselly guy supervised both departments) obviously saw that, and heard praises about me, but never thanked me, but he wanted me to be there as much as possible.
Before I can explain what he did when I say “wanted me there,” I first need to explain how they organize the store, which brings me to the “clocking out” issue I mentioned at the beginning. I didn’t have many days to work due to school, so I worked Fridays and Saturday for 11 hours each. I worked from noon until 5, had an hour lunch, and then worked from 6 to 11, which is when my shift got out. Did I ever get out at 11 though? Absolutely not. It would range, and sometimes, if we were lucky/fast, we could get out at midnight, but sometimes we wouldn’t get out till 3 in the morning. I would average it at 1 in the morning. The reason for this is that every single item in the store had a sticker with the price on it. Most electronics stores have all the product lined up in the correct spot, with only 1 price tag on the shelf in front of everything, but not Fry’s. Theoretically, that wouldn’t be a problem it we just had to put a sticker on everything once when it came in. But Fry’s had to change the prices on hundreds of products every single night though. That meant that once the store closed, we would all be given sheets and sheets of new product stickers (printed with the lovely dot matrix printers), and we all had to walk around, finding each and every single product and putting stickers on it. The price changes wouldn’t even be anything amazing, like half-off or anything. Most times, prices would shift from $10.98 to $10.89 or some asinine change like that, sometimes a little up, sometimes a little down. I don’t even understand why they did that. Economics is about supply vs demand, and while I could see a noticeable change in prices encouraging people to buy more or less of an item, I hardly doubt the 10 cent differences made much of a difference in buying behavior. Coupled with all the hours it took the dozens of employees to do this, and I bet that any potential gains due to price changes would be dwarfed by the labor costs. The only thing that I could see it making sense with was for doing inventory, because we always had 1 sticker for each item (according to our MS DOS like system’s inventory), so any leftover stickers meant something was misplaced or stolen. I don’t see why they had to do it every night though, and this was really annoying because nobody was allowed to leave the store until everyone was finished. Yes, we were literally locked inside the store until this was done, every night. Once the store closed at 11, the main door would of course be locked, and the only way out of the building was through a fire escape door, which would naturally set off alarms if you opened it. The entire store needed to be done first, and then we would all clock out at the machine, and then assemble by one of the fire escapes near the front door. A supervisor would then override the alarm for a few minutes so we could leave. We would then have to step outside, and wait by the door for a few minutes until the alarm armed itself again, which meant that we all had to stand by the door in sub-zero temperatures a few times in the winter. So yes, there were issues clocking out due to literally being locked inside the store until a completely stupid and time-consuming task was done every night.
Revisiting what I said about the supervisor wanting me to be there: at some point the store obviously got in trouble for making people stay so late in the evening. It seemed to be based on the fact that Illinois has labor laws where you can’t work for 5 or 6 hours straight without a break, or something to that effect. I was getting really fed up with being locked in after 11 every evening, but things got much better when Fry’s started monitoring it severely after getting in trouble somehow. My manager would get a notice that I had been working since 6, and since I would have to legally take a break, I was actually sent home at exactly 11. It was amazing, and all the other flaws about working there didn’t bother me very much anymore. All good things must come to an end though, and that only lasted a week or two until my supervisor (without asking me beforehand) just decided to, quite smugly, tell me that he had change my schedule. My new schedule went something like noon until 4, with an hour break, and then 5 until 9, again then an hour break, and then from 10 to “11,” or something to that effect. Basically, he ensured that I had 2 breaks instead of one, so that I would still be able to “legally” be locked in the store without breaking the consecutive-hour law. I was legitimately the best employee in the computer peripherals department, and I was now pissed.
I went on the first of my now 2 breaks for the day, and brooded on my couch at my house (since I lived close enough, I usually just went home for lunch). I recall sitting there, debating whether or not to go back to that hell. I pulled out a quarter and decided to flip it. Heads, I go back, tails, I just don’t go back. I flipped the coin.
Damn. But I mean, it was pretty bad working there, being stuck in there. Let’s try it another time. I flipped the coin again.
Really?! No way! That place sucks! And I want to just punch the supervisor in his smug face. Let’s try this one more time, one last flip.
Argh! It sucks there, working till around 1 in the morning is just terrible. I don’t want to show him that he can push me around like that. One more flip!
Ha! See Bridger? It was destiny that you don’t go back!
At least that’s what I tried to tell myself. I simply just didn’t go back. I didn’t even feel like they deserved a phone call or anything, I just didn’t go back. I didn’t feel too good about that because I always try to leave bridges intact and not burn them. I have always left previous jobs on good terms, always with plenty of notice, and so on. In fact, the only times I usually have ever quit a job was because I was moving, or going back to high school or something. Fry’s Electronics was just terrible, they did some shady things with returns, and their lock-ins at the end of the night were total bullshit.
I quit my job, and started looking for another one. I had never got my previous check, because just hadn’t been able to come by and grab it (you had to come in and get it from the counter). I also needed my last paycheck, which would have been a little smaller since I quit. In any case though, I needed 2 paychecks from them still. I went back after the second/last one should have been available, but they didn’t seem to have it. They also didn’t seem to have the previous one. The lady handing out the checks, who I had seen on a very regular basis to get my checks, seemed to have no file or information on me, and conveniently didn’t seem to recognize me. That was frustrating. Fry’s skimped out on paying me for the past 2 weeks, and while I should have pursued it, it wasn’t really that much money (they didn’t pay well, just about minimum wage, and I only finally got a very small token raise a couple weeks before quitting, and I only worked 20+ hours a week), and more importantly, I just wanted nothing more to do with Fry’s. Good job Fry’s, your company sucks, and you swindled me out of 2 weeks of pay, and I was so annoyed with your company that it was worth it to more me to just not pursue it and not have to do anything more with you.
I never did end up finding another job, I had quit school, and I had run out of money, so I did have to move back home to my dad’s place in Wyoming. Maybe the 3 heads I got should have been a sign, but I just couldn’t take working there anymore. I did end up moving to Chicago again after a few months at home, so it all worked out in the end for me personally. Fry’s was the worst place I have ever worked, and I would never recommend working there, let alone even purchasing stuff from them.