Pros: positive work environment, wonderful co-workers, great atmosphere, fun job, employee discount
Cons: no benefits for part time, little to no job security, minimal pay and hours, frequent poor communication
Barnes & Noble is, without a doubt, a really upbeat, positive environment to be in whether it be as a customer or employee. It's always clean and pristine and low-volume, light music is playing in the background. The staff is usually always pleasant and very knowledgeable about its products.
A little known fact about employment at Barnes & Noble are the job titles; essentially, everyone is either a bookseller or barista, for those locations with a Starbucks cafe within. The term they use, bookseller, is a wide one; your roles can vary between the front lines or support for the cash registers, the information desk, shipping and receiving or simple floor assistance (walking around, straightening, interacting with customers.) It's hardly ever dull if you're a bookworm or just like the idea of working in a book store. There are moments of boredom and all you can really do is try and look busy or involved in something, but those periods hardly lasted long. The ultimate downside is that if you're a cashier, don't expect to be able to leave the area and help a customer locate a book. You're practically glued to your register.
Barnes & Noble is one of those employers that has a "push this" concept and that comes by way of the Barnes & Noble Membership and often around the holidays, gift cards. There is no commission or bonus compensation, but everyone, primarily when on cashier duty, has a quota for getting customers to sign up for the membership or renew any pending ones. Management won't usually reprimand you for not meeting a quota as long as you make a continuous effort, but aside – more... from the Nook, memberships are a big thing for them.
The customers that tend to frequent the store are some of the most friendly and peaceful people I've met, especially in a retail environment. The regulars tend to know what they want, usually know about any promotions and don't have to be convinced to renew their membership. The once-and-awhile customers tend to have an idea what they want, but will usually need guidance or recommendations. The "I'm only here during the holidays" customers are some of the most difficult, as they're in a rush, usually unfriendly or easily pestered, so pushing the store promotions with these characters is often a difficult and headache-earning task.
Management, in my experience, was overall pleasant but also an enigma. I sensed some heavy tension between two management employees and getting to know them as co-workers and just to get a feel for their personality was tough. I almost felt shunned in a sense due to little interaction, while interaction with fellow booksellers was abundant. Maybe it was just because I was a seasonal hire and they didn't want to bother getting to know me in the event that I didn't stay post-holiday, or it was just their nature to be slightly abrasive toward new employees. They were friendly, for the most part, but really kept you at arms length and any conversations one managed to start didn't last long. The two other management employees as well as my fellow booksellers were some of the friendliest people I'd ever met and really made me feel welcome and it felt like a second family, really. It was a really positive environment and there wasn't a day that I said, "I really don't want to go to work today." It was always pleasant.
The hardest part of the job was basically lack of communication. There were times where I exercised common sense and good judgement when making last-minute decisions that couldn't be paused for advisement and the efforts weren't acknowledged. The two, more "abrasive" managers often had me do something and then sort of reprimand me because the outcome wasn't what they expected. For example, there was a time during the Christmas week where my register needed to be counted. The store manager told me to keep ringing out customers as there was a line and later reprimanded me for letting the register collect so much money over the limit. It was a simple case of poor communication and contradiction, but it really left me with a sour experience.
Job security doesn't really exist anymore, especially in retail environments. With 99% of the United States being "at-will" employment, the only time you'll ever have job security is if your position has some sort of contract or policy that states that at will employment will not be regarded. At will employment basically means you can be fired/terminated/discharged/laid off what-have-you for any or no reason at all. With Barnes & Noble being such a difficult place to get into for employment, the people who are fortunate enough to be hired are avid readers and bookworms and don't wish to leave, but will often pick up a second job to make ends meet.
The only chance new employees have is to start off seasonally during the holidays and hope there's an open position afterward. Even then, you'll still be working for minimum wage pay with minimal hours. There's no such thing as full-time in retail, really, unless you're part of management and even then, sometimes full-time is only reserved for the store manager and the assistant manager. Which means you get zero benefits as a part-time employee aside from the employee discount.
The downside to working seasonally is that unlike most stores who just ask you if you would like to stay, Barnes & Noble has seasonal hires re-apply for permanent positions. I was given inaccurate instructions on how to apply internally and as such, my application was not received and missed my opportunity to continue my employment.
Overall, though, the job was really enjoyable. My fellow booksellers were absolutely fabulous and I really cherished my time working with them, management included even if some of them weren't always pleasant. They're really good people regardless and really work hard to ensure that Barnes & Noble maintains the standards it always has in providing the ultimate experience for readers. – less