Free food and fussy customers: What it’s like to work in an M&S Foodhall

This is not just any article, this is an M&S article

There’s a certain type of person who frequents the M&S Foodhall: Tories mainly and that subsection of society made up almost exclusively of Karens and Brians. Getting a job in one is like being given a window into the very soul of the middle class.

Working in an M&S Foodhall is not just stacking shelves and scanning products through the till: Deliveroo, till bells, “Are you collecting the Little Shop Collectibles?” are just some of the everyday tasks you will encounter working in M&S. Here are some of the best and worst parts of the job:

The Deliveroo sound will make you go crazy

Due the coronavirus pandemic thousands of vulnerable people had to shield so M&S partnered with Deliveroo to deliver people’s shopping straight to their door. Everyone in the Foodhall was eager to learn how to work the fancy new Deliveroo tablet we were given and people would literally race to do a Deliveroo order.

But the noise the tablet makes when you get an order will haunt you and it keeps going until you accept the order. Sometimes you can still hear the annoying noise in your head when you come home after a particularly busy day on Deliveroo.

People trying to take trolleys down self-service

Some M&S Foodhalls do actually allow trolleys to be taken into self-service (or SCOTs as they are known to M&S employees), however smaller Foodhalls and Simply Food stores often don’t have enough space for trolleys to come down the self-service isles. If this is the case, there are signs put up saying “Baskets only”, however, I am pretty sure customers see these signs and decide they are not for them.

Sometimes when you say to a customer, “I’m so sorry but you’ll have to take your trolley to a belted till” they understand and apologise for not seeing the signs. Other times, normally when you have been having a bad day already, customers will have a go at you as if you have just made up the rule to prevent them, and only them, from using self-service.

Brawls over reduced lobsters and all the other ridiculous things ...

People will tell you their most personal secrets

Working on the tills can be great fun, you get to talk to all sorts of people and it’s relatively easy and does not require much physical effort. However, sometimes there will be customers who take the question “How are you doing today?” way too literally. Customers have told me about their financial troubles, their health scares and even their very dramatic and personal divorce stories. I work in M&S, I really do not have the qualifications to be your therapist.

ID’ing people who are literally over 30 because you have no concept of age anymore

We all get trained about age-restricted products and Challenge 25 and you might think you are really good at judging people’s ages but let me tell you, you’re probably not. Sometimes you’ll ID someone because you think they look maybe 19 or 20 and then you check their ID and see they were born in 1987. Luckily this is almost always taken as a compliment and customers love you for it.

Having to go into the downstairs freezer is awful

Rarely we will have to go into the big downstairs freezer when stock is kept and it is awful. Now if you were like me and think it’s only minus two degrees or so in the big freezer, you are very wrong. The people that go in the freezer normally wear big padded trousers, jackets and gloves to keep them warm however the first time I went into the freezer I went in in my normal M&S uniform – the freezer is kept at around minus 18 degrees. I was literally freezing for the rest of my shift.

The staff discount

Obviously one of the best parts about working in M&S is the 20 per cent discount that you can use on M&S food, clothes, beauty, homeware, shoes, and lingerie.

My most prized possession

Getting followed by customers as you’re doing second or third reductions

Now, we understand that everyone likes a good deal and M&S really isn’t the cheapest place to do your food shop but when we’re trying to go round the whole shop and do second and third reductions of products you don’t need a crowd of customers following you.

The worst times for this are around Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Easter. Once I had two grown women fighting over a leg of lamb that had been reduced to £3 – yeah it’s a great deal but I think you will live if you don’t get it.

Sometimes customers will even come up to you and ask if a random item that still has five days before its best before is going to be reduced and you have to politely tell them you are only reducing items that are going out of date today.

If you’re young, customers will never believe you

I’ve worked in the same M&S for about two years, granted I don’t work there full time only during uni holidays, but I pretty much know the answer to 90 per cent of questions a customer could ask. But, customers just love to think young people are constantly wrong, so often we have to go get someone older to say the exact same thing we just said.

Name badge even comes on nights out

Hearing the BGT judges voices on self-service

Britan’s Got Talent is sponsored by M&S which is great, but apparently that means the self-service till voices have to be changed to Amanda, David, Simon, Alesha and Ant and Dec’s voices. “Hi I’m Amanda!” just doesn’t need to be blasted in your ear whilst you’re trying to pay for your shopping.

Getting free food

Often at M&S if we have any food that has been reduced that we haven’t sold we give it to charity, however sometimes there may be loads of products reduced that haven’t sold (such as strawberries in the summer) so we get to take them home for free. It is defo a nice feeling when you get a free dinner or lunch for the next day.

Having to go to the cafe was every Foodhall employee’s nightmare

Whilst most M&S cafes are closed at the moment due to corona, normally we dread it when our manager tells us the cafe has called and asked for some help.

Firstly, the cafes are normally boiling and going up there in your foods jacket and gloves means you’ll overheat if you spend more than a minute in there. None of us would mind if we could go up to the cafe and work the fancy coffee machines and ovens but no, instead we are asked to clean tables and put uneaten food in the bin. The worst part? The drinks bucket in which any left drinks are poured into, just try and imagine a bucket filled with a mix of teas, coffees, milkshakes, water, and juices.

However, the worst part of the cafe is when a customer complains at you about how their order is completely wrong. I don’t work up here okay, I have no idea what the difference between what your ordered and what you got is.

“But I bought this from you three years ago”

Nothing is more annoying than when you tell customers a really obscure product has been discounted and they proceed to tell you “I bought it from this exact store three years ago, what do you mean you don’t have it?” I’m sorry Sandra but I think you can live without quail eggs or dried porcini mushrooms.

When people ask if we sell milk, or bread, or eggs

Honestly, if I had a pound for every time a customer asked me if we sell milk, bread, eggs, or any other common food product I would probably not have to work at M&S. Like honestly, any type of food store sells these three things, why would an actual M&S Foodhall not sell them? The only customers that are worse are those that ask if we sell water.

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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons (Tony Monblat)