The weird and wonderful things you learn from working at Waitrose

‘What do you mean you’ve run out of red berry coulis?’

As part time jobs go, working at Waitrose was a pretty sought-after Saturday job. You’d undoubtably be paid more than your mates working in your local pub and you’d receive company bonuses despite only working there two days a week.

It taught you to be resilient, thick-skinned and to always expect the unexpected.

People would ask you for food you had no idea existed

“Excuse me Madam, where is the Samphire?” Am I really expected to know what that is?

Old people would spend half an hour chatting to your because they literally had no one else to talk to

Little old women with their wheelie tartan shopping bag will ask you awkward questions like, “Do you have any smaller bags of baby leaf salad, I can’t manage a whole one anymore after my husband passed away last year.” To which you’ll reply “I’m so sorry Madam – no we don’t,” whilst desperately searching for something to make the situation better. You’ll then spend the next 20 minutes discussing the weekend’s weather because you know this is probably the only proper conversation she’ll have for the rest of the day.

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photo: Flickr

You’d feel awkward on the checkouts asking for people for their ID when you weren’t even 18 yourself

You never really understood why you were put on the checkout when you legally couldn’t sell alcohol to anyone without getting the manager over to approve it.

The majority of the staff you worked with were really good looking

You’d often wonder if they actually were fit or if it was just the prestige of working at Waitrose. Would Alan on the fish counter scrub up as well if he worked at Lidl? Probably not.

You’d realised that middle class kids are really quite spoilt

“Mummy, mummy, please can you buy some more Manchego – we’ve run out and need some more for our packed lunches this week.”

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photo: Flickr

Getting locked in the fruit and veg chiller is inevitable 

You never quite understood why they didn’t have an door handle on the inside of the chiller. On numerous occasions people would close it from the outside thinking someone had left it open. If you were lucky someone would find you in there after 5 minutes. However on some occasions you’d be in there so long you contemplated crawling in with the crate of baby corn for extra warmth.

The positive, negative, positive technique for breaking break bad news to customers didn’t really work

Your typical Waitrose customer wouldn’t be very impressed if you don’t have the 2% fat halloumi they were after. Trying to offer them regular halloumi as a compromise would not be up to their standard.

Some customers weren’t just fussy, they were damn right unreasonable

“What do you mean you’ve run out of red berry coulis? This is unacceptable. Where is your manager? I’ve got six people coming round to my house for a dinner party tonight. What am I going to drizzle on my pavlova?”

Working on Sundays was the dream

You’d get paid time and a half, the store opened later and closed earlier and was usually pretty empty. What’s not to love?

It was an absolute nightmare if you ran out of ‘temporarily unavailable’ stickers

Customers never quite seemed to believe you unless there was evidential proof of a little green rectangle on the shelf.

Your mum absolutely loved you for the staff discount card

You’d ask her to come in at the end of your shift to do her weekly shop just so you could bag a lift home.

The red Christmas aprons were the best thing ever

It made a nice change from your mundane grey one.

Working in the wine department as a 17 year old taught you how to bullshit

Despite having to do lots of online training about wine regions and the different types of whisky, making someone a part-time wine expert despite them being underage, was a bold decision. At 17, are we really expected to know what bottle of wine goes well with your salmon en croute? Is it really going to ruin your Sunday roast by suggesting a Pinot Noir rather than a Cabernet Sauvignon? If you assertively said a certain wine in a dodgy French accent, even your most red-chino wearing customer was likely to buy it.

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photo: Flickr

Pretending to go out the back to look for something you knew was out of stock just to kill five minutes

You’re certain you don’t have any organic Medjool dates left but you kind of want to go and have a chat with Daniel out the back. At least it’ll look like you tried.

The highlight of the year was the staff bonus

Instead of being employees, Waitrose staff are referred to as partners. Whilst this may sound hideously pretentious, it means everyone has a stake in the company, and every February each partner receives a percentage of their annual earnings as a bonus. 

Getting a cooked breakfast on your break was the highlight of your shift

£1 for a full english in the cafeteria was an absolute bargain. On the days you didn’t fancy a full English you’d take your pick in the rotating vending machines stocked full of Waitrose ready meals at a fraction of the retail price.

There was always one horrendously strict manager who everyone was scared of

At the end of the day, he’d skulk around the store making sure every single box of Duchies Original shortbread was facing the same direction. God forbid if you accidentally placed the saffron where the nutmeg should be. You may as well not even turn up for your next shift.

Whipping out the D2 and D10 whenever there was a spillage

It was rare you’d get through a shift without someone spilling some Tropicana or organic milk.

Customers will be incredibly patronising and you’d just have to politely accept

“You need to reduce this for me now, it’s today’s date.”

“Sorry Madam, I’m afraid I’m not allowed to do that.”

“Oh, you’re new here aren’t you? Don’t worry I know you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll ask someone else.”

“Actually Madam I’ve been working in this branch for over a year.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I come in here every week and have never seen you.”

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photo: Flickr

No-one looked good in the uniform

The combination of a starchy grey striped shirt and luminous green clip-on tie, never suited anyone.

Some customers were just really stupid but you had to remain polite through gritted teeth

“Excuse me, where’s the clothes section?”

It’s not fucking Sainsbury’s, what a ridiculous question to ask.

Working a shift on fresh foods left you unable to feel your fingertips

Your thermal fleece and gloves helped but stacking yoghurts for two hours would be incredibly difficult with shaking hands.

Going to your first Waitrose Christmas party and realising your manager is incredibly loose

Just a few beers in and general manager David is already slut-dropping on the dancefloor. Best not bring it up with him on Monday just incase he gives puts you on for overtime.

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