December 7, 2017 / 1:00 PM / 10 months ago

Retail disruption is nothing compared to gnarly first jobs

 (The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
    By Chris Taylor
    NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - If any industry is in the throes
of total disruption right now, it is retail.
    Some brick-and-mortar retailers are dying, while some online
retailers are booming. But while the point of sale may change,
it is clear that over the holidays consumers are guaranteed to
spend, spend, spend.
    For the latest in Reuters' "First Jobs" series, we talked to
a few heads of the country's prominent retailers, to see how
they started out.
    Karen Katz
    President & CEO, Neiman Marcus
    First job: Gift wrapper
    Back when I was 15 or 16, in Dallas there was a department
store called Sanger-Harris. One holiday season I got a job as a
gift wrapper there. The others were all experts who did that job
every year, and I was by far the youngest person, who was
totally inexperienced. In those days, department stores around
Christmastime were a total frenzy.
    There were all sorts of rules and regulations, even down to
the specific way you were supposed to tape the gifts. I remember
I got tons of papercuts. I learned very quickly that my favorite
job was the classic shirt box, because it was by far the easiest
to wrap. After that job was over, by Christmas Day, I swore I
was never going to do any gift wrapping ever again. I think I
was scarred for life.
    Although 20 years later when I became store manager of the
Neiman Marcus in Dallas, sometimes I did go downstairs and do a
little gift wrapping just to clear my head. I found it to be a
peaceful moment.
    Bob Miller
    CEO, Albertsons Companies
    First job: Bottle sorter
    When I was 16 years old, I was in high school, playing
sports, and I needed a job that I could work nights after
practice. So I got a job as a bottle sorter in a local grocery
store. In those days, all the soda pop was sold in returnable
bottles, and there were thousands of bottles that came back
every day. Every night, I'd walk into the biggest mess you'd
ever seen in your life, and it was my job to clean it all up.
    That first night, I ruined my shirt, and the second night,
the same thing happened. So the third day I brought in a plaid
shirt and left it there. By the time I got promoted to box boy a
few months later, that plaid shirt could have stood up by itself
against a wall. The front of it was completely stiff from being
coated with soda syrup.
    As a bottle sorter and then a box boy, I learned that
working hard, telling the truth, treating people right, and
believing in others were the keys for success - no matter what
job I was doing. I still hold true to those principles today.
    Philip Krim
    Co-founder & CEO, Casper
    First job: Soda seller
    When I was growing up in the suburbs of Houston, a small
town called Sugarland, I lived near a golf course called the
Sugar Creek Country Club. I realized I could charge $1 for cans
of soda to all the golfers going by. I got the inventory for
free by stealing it from my parents, and then charged a premium
for the nice location.
    There were many days I was run off by the course marshal or
the cart lady. But I always came back. Sometimes they would
drain the pond on the course, and I would wade into the mud,
retrieve all the golf balls, and sell them back to the terrible
golfers. Obviously I was thinking very early about stuff like
product extension and expansion.
    Tony Spring
    CEO, Bloomingdale's
    First job: Burger King
    My first job was at the age of 16, working at a Burger King
in Port Chester, New York. The first day they had me clean the
parking lot, which I didn't enjoy at all. Over time I had the
opportunity to cook, to be a cashier, to run the drive-thru. 
    I started out at minimum wage, something like $3.35 an hour,
and put it all away so I could buy my first car. They wanted me
to stay on to help manage the place, but eventually I decided I
had to go to college.

 (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Richard Chang)
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