Tis’ the season for shady hiring policies.

CBS5’s Joe Vasquez recently ran an interesting story on how Banana Republic’s flagship store on Grant Avenue hired 39 international employees to fill seasonal retail positions at their Grant Ave. store. The segment inspired a flurry of indignation from their commenters, who seemed to see international hiring in a time of local need contradictory to Gap Inc’s stated commitment to local hiring.

In response, Louise Callagy, spokesperson for Gap Inc. told reporters that they did not receive enough qualified applications, and found the Grant store posts harder to fill. She continued that though they received hundreds of applicants, and even interviewed many of them, a recurring problem was that applicants were unwilling to work weekends and night shifts, which is where most of the seasonal needs must be met.

What does a 19 year old from New Zealand, with zero previous retail experience have to offer to the field of customer service that a local wouldn’t?This in the light of a recent AP story exploring how former skilled professionals (bankers, engineers, designers) are willing to weather enormous pay cuts to fill the demand for seasonal retail employment. On one hand, we have a former engineer willing to work for $8 at a call center, but in a city with a nearly 10% unemployment rate, no one was willing to work nights and weekends, even with the offer of the famous 50% Gap inc. clothing discount?

Somewhere in this cluster of bananas is an explanation. If BR hasn’t had any trouble filling the other 1,700-2,000 positions throughout the Bay (according to Callagy), why have these 39 jobs at their flagship store required international assistance?

It’s not like hiring the international applicants necessarily cost them less — as anyone who’s ever been a temp employee knows, your agency charges the company you’re toiling for fees far in excess of your hourly wages to keep you answering the phone/spreadsheeting/whatever. CCUSA, the organization which helped fill the positions, is basically an international temp agency which contracts with US employers to bring over and put up fresh-faced kids from overseas (the company did not respond to our calls by publication time). It’s hard not to wonder, given the expenses involved, what Gap, Inc is actually spending on these folks?

Some CBS5 commenters noted that the flagship store should be “careful” about who it hires because its image is representative of the chain on the West Coast. Here is a link to the blog from one of these international employees (sorry for picking on you Nate, wrong country, wrong time, I suppose) so that you can get a sense of the character of one of the international hires. What does a 19 year old from New Zealand, with zero previous retail experience have to offer to the field of customer service that a local wouldn’t? A local employee who would, incidentally, be circulating the money made back into our local economy. Can Banana Republic say the same for these employees here for the short run?

Perhaps Banana Republic is telling the truth. Perhaps every qualified applicant they interviewed was unable to work weekends and nights because those applicants are way too busy being unemployed. I believe that is for our readers to determine.

If you are currently unemployed, have ever been unemployed, or are employed but would like to offer your hypothetical opinion nonetheless, would you be willing to work weekends, nights, and even weekend nights if it meant making some money in these times?

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