I remember when I first became a Target employee and how exciting and new it all was. It was August, 2002, and I found myself in a room with hordes of other young and middle-aged people, filling out paperwork and going through successive interviews. They herded us all together once the drug tests were over and showed us a bright, shiny video on the history of Target and what would be expected of us if we were hired. All I remember of the video was the Target dog and the fact that the people in the video weren’t actors, they were all actual Target employees (just like I hoped to be). I was inspired to think that some day I might be asked, as a representative of Target, to be involved in one of the trainee videos just like the one I had just seen. I smiled at that thought.
Once I was finally hired (all us hirees had a celebratory party), we were told that it would be a mad dash until the finished line, which was, in our case, the official opening of the store, to take place in October. At first I wondered why it would take so long, and why everyone seemed to be in a rush, but once I saw the store space and realized the massive undertaking it would involve to fill that empty space with product, with signs, to get the backroom together. Then I began to worry too, but the leadership was solid. They told us it would get done if we just worked together, and I never forgot that.
Each of us was given a task every day until opening, rotating tasks that had us working with different individuals every day, or in large groups when called for. It was soon evident to me that the work we did then was like putting together a small country, with base levels to build upon. First, the fixtures were sent on trucks that seemed to arrive every hour on the hour. Every fixture had its place, from the base decks, to the clothing racks (each rack had its own position), to the waco boxes that had to be put together (where items would be stored in the backroom). Once that was all done, we got the assembly line up, because then the actual merchandise began to arrive, and boy did it arrive! I never knew how much merchandise a store needed to fully stock it, and to stock its backroom, but I learned pretty soon.
That’s when we began to work in shifts. It seemed like we worked around the clock. One week I would be working at 6am every morning, and the next I would work at noon. Every shift was an 8-hour one, and for some lucky ones they worked split shifts that totaled 12-14 hours in a single day. You’d think it would have been chaos, but with planograms efficiently outlined, it was all a matter of matching the merchandise to aisles and to plano positions (planograms are like mini-blueprints for each aisle and endcap). Every day we would be handed planos, two people to an aisle, and we would be expected to set the plano (hanging product and shelved product), clean the shelves, pull the product from the backroom (or sometimes straight off the assembly line), and completely stock the aisle, by the end of our shifts. Sometimes, like in the sporting goods aisle with the large camping gear items, it was easy, and we could set more than one plano in a day, but in the makeup aisles, with so many tiny items, it sometimes took two days for a single aisle.
Then there was the brand team. Truth be told, I loved the brand team. They were the rock stars of each day because they were in charge of taking care of the trash. Two lucky souls would be picked for the brand team every day, and they would grab an open-top cage, travel around the store in shifts, and pick up the mounds of garbage we left behind from each aisle. The brand team would often have a radio with them, so we would get some music, as well as a good break in the action when they would come around, a chance for some conversation. Of course throughout each day it was filled with conversation and bonding. It was one of the single biggest bonding experiences of my life, with team-building exercises built right in.
And wouldn’t you know it, we were ready for opening day.