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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  • bloomsm

    Respectfully towards the writer, this post says nothing informative. The writer links the hiring of foreign employees to another organizations story about qualified professionals working retail. The rest of the post is supposition, guesswork and the vague assertion that BR has done something wrong (when, in fact, there is no evidence of anything illegal or improper). The hiring policy is “sketchy” but it is never explained in the post. So, rather than describe BR as “sketchy”, maybe additional reporting is needed.

  • lacadaz

    Shea,

    I run a retail store in San Francisco and work with the other 17 stores my company has in The City. We always have positions. While it’s true that there are more applicants than in years past it’s still by no means a deluge. On top of that finding people that can make their way through an interview and hiring process weeds it down to a real trickle.

    We’re looking to expand next year and have a large number of positions both floor and management. If you are right and Banana Republic is trying to pull a fast one on your readers I welcome anyone to drop me an email with a request for information or a resume. I’ll be happy to report back later to let you know what the responses were like.

  • sfboogie

    I don’t necessarily think giving a job to a non-local is better than an unemployed local, but the non-locals in this case are also tourists. This means a modest bump to the economy (okay very modest given only 39 such non-locals- at BR anyway). Not only are they providing a service, but they have money to spend on the local economy that doesn’t just include catching up on past due bills. I would imagine that each non-local also gets a visitor or two during their stay and subsequent travels so there’s more money for the local economy.

    In addition, for anyone who has been on unemployment you know working a couple shifts at BR could mean no unemployment check if BR pays you even a cent more than what you’re making on unemployment. And I’ve worked retail in Union Square during the holidays and I’m here to say I’d rather give up the extra cent than deal with all those non-local tourists helping our local economy.

    But what do I know?!?!

  • Eve Batey

    Fair points, all. But many of the un or underemployed aren’t getting unemployment benefits. It is true! Oh so many!

    So, sure, if you were getting EDD money (or other city/state benefits) I’d probably advise you against taking a low-paying retail gig, but for the folks who have had their benefits run out or never had them in the first place, a job like this could be a godsend.

    I know people my age and demographic who are babysitting or cleaning houses to get by. Having done those things, and having worked retail, I can tell you where I’d rather be! But that’s just me.

  • Trev

    I recently worked near the Gap’s corporate office building in San Bruno and went there almost daily for lunch at their cafe. I was astounded by the great numbers of foreign workers from India eating there. At any given time during the lunch period, they constituted at least one-third of the people dining at the cafe, which seats perhaps 200-300 persons. As an American citizen who has experienced periods of unemployment, and who knows many other Americans who have suffered unemployment, I was appalled that the Gap had hired so many foreign nationals, presumably to do work Americans can’t or won’t do. Yeah, right. As a result, I would not be at all surprised to learn that the Gap hires foreigners to work in its stores as well. This practice may be perfectly legal, but that doesn’t make it right, and I wish something would be done to rectify the situation. It is unfair. It is wrong.

  • Trev

    CORRECTED VERSION. I meant to say (see words in caps):

    I recently worked near the Gap’s corporate office building in San Bruno and went there almost daily for lunch at their cafe. I was astounded by the great numbers of foreign workers from India eating there. At any given time during the lunch period, they constituted at least one-third of the people dining at the cafe, which seats perhaps 200-300 persons. As an American citizen who has experienced periods of unemployment, and who knows many other Americans who have suffered unemployment, I was appalled that the Gap had hired so many foreign nationals, presumably to do work Americans can’t or won’t do. Yeah, right. As a result, I would not be at all surprised to learn that the Gap PREFERS TO HIRE foreigners to work in its stores as well. This practice may be perfectly legal, but that doesn’t make it right, and I wish something would be done to rectify the situation. It is unfair. It is wrong.

  • sfboogie

    You do live in the bay area- right? Have for more than a week? Then you should know that there is a very large and diverse population of American citizens who are of varying ethnicity. To presume that all (or even a majority) of these Gap employees (though not sure you can confirm they are Gap employees if you yourself were there and not a Gap employee) are not citizens is a bit short-sighted. I don’t know either way, but I do know that it is very costly for employers to sponsor employees from other countries. I can’t imagine that a company like Gap who is continually accused of child labor infractions in other countries would think sponsoring 66-100 employees by your estimation in one HQ location makes good financial sense.

  • sfboogie

    Very good point. I was only thinking about it from the standpoint of someone who is receiving unemployment benefits- but also playing devil’s advocate a bit. My gut tells me that they want to hire Europeans to appeal to the European tourists and “elevate” the BR brand. I’m sure plenty of out-of-work locals were hired at Stonestown so the unqualified pool of applicants couldn’t have been too bad.

  • Trev

    Oh, my, aren’t we sooooo politically correct. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for almost 30 years and, trust me, I know foreigners when I see them — and hear them.

    If you don’t believe me, you’re free to go to the Gap cafe and check it out for yourself.

  • Gap’s San Bruno location is the hub of its IT offices. If you visit their locations at 1 Harrison and 2 Folsom, you won’t find the same population of Indians. There’s a handful of Brits and Aussies running around, but the vast majority of Gap’s HQ employees are American citizens. Not that people with foreign accents can’t be citizens, of course.