A common lament I used to hear from clerks: “I don’t get enough hours.”

To which I always responded: “Then you’re not trying hard enough.”

That might sound cruel or harsh. I don’t think it is. When coming up through the ranks, part-time produce clerks (me included) covered every angle to fill an otherwise sparse time card (and wallet).

Here’s a short list of how we managed.

  • Come in early. Sure you’re taking a chance, but it works. Most times I showed up 30 minutes before my scheduled shift, the store was busy, and I was put right to work.
  • Be willing to stay late. Many times the department is still cranking at the end of a shift. It’s easy to pick up extra time by having “yes” as a part of your work vocabulary.
  • Be flexible. If you have limited availability, you won’t get many hours. If you’re serious about work, full availability (evenings, weekends and holidays) will serve you best.
  • Learn other skills. The typical high-hour scorer adapts well. Learn to stock the dairy, run a check stand, and use of all the store equipment. This will give you good crossover skills for all departments needing a hand, and the hours that are attached.
  • Communicate. Get a stack of sticky notes. I once got 30 extra hours in one week simply by leaving notes at night — on different schedules in the store asking to be called in if needed. When a manager answered a sick call the following morning, mine was the first number seen to help cover the shift.
  • Communicate further. Chances are good that nearby sister stores need help to cover vacations or other shortages. The trick is to call around early and get your schedule gaps filled.
  • Calling all closers. Closing the produce department up for the night? Before punching out, check with the grocery night foreman. Often, someone is late or sick and the foreman can use a hand for a few hours. One clerk I knew supplemented his income $200 a week this way, plus overtime.
  • Invest in a pickup truck. I admit this is a stretch, but doesn’t it seem the guy with the truck is called upon to run to the warehouse or nearby stores to shuttle product? The hours (and mileage money) add up.
  • Always hustle. This might go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Show a sense of urgency and upbeat attitude in your work that produce managers respect. You’ll be rewarded with more hours.
  • Be dependable. Another given, one might think. However, the clerks that are prompt, detail-oriented and require the least amount of direction are often given the most hours upfront.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail armandlobato@comcast.net.

What advice would you give part-time clerks on how to get enough hours? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

Part-time clerks have no excuse for not getting enough hours

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle