A long-winded rant from an "insider."
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA -- Avoid the Clearwater Toys R Us/Kids R Us store on US 19 at all costs. Take it from someone who knows the inner workings of this corporate monster - it is absolutely NOT worth the hassle that they will give you there.
I worked at the 8728 store for nearly a year, and it was in no way, shape, or form an enjoyable experience. Training for new Sales Associates was essentially non-existent. A concept would be briefly explained, like "Piecing means pulling all of the items on the shelf to the front and straightening as necessary." The Associate would then be sent out into the store to figure things out for themselves - where things are located, how to point Guests in the right direction, whether or not a particular brand or item is carried.
Some things were never even explained at all. Even a year later, I'm still not entirely certain if there is a purpose to those obnoxious Key Items or how to program a Sapphire or an LRT for a registry (something I asked to be shown a number of times, but there was never actually anyone in the store who knew how to do it and explain the process to me).
Because of outrageously low wages for the competent employees (I made minimum wage the entire 11 months I worked there) and incredibly rude upper management, the turnover rate was embarrasssingly high. I could easily name 20 different associates who worked there during my time in that store. Although Associates are "not permitted to discuss wages amongst one another" lest they "be fired for doing so" (director quote from the Store Director), it was impossible to avoid seeing pay rates when we cashed one another out. There was absolutely no reason why the pay discrepancies were so huge. Associates who had only worked at the store for a week were being paid $9, $10, and $11 an hour in several instances, while some people who had been working for more than 6 or 8 months were STILL only being paid minimum wage.
Someone who is reliable, experienced, and trustworthy should NEVER be paid significantly less than someone who is unreliable, unexperienced, and still new to the environment when the two hold the exact same position.
And let's be honest, here - a company that has zero respect for their employees is bound to have just as much respect (if not a little less) for their customers. Toys R Us is no exception.
For starters, there's the heinous corporate-wide return policy that has certainly gained more enemies than friends since its implementation last year. Yes, I realize that the goal is to try to eliminate fraud and the phony returns for items not even purchased at a TRU store. But it's pretty asinine to sit there and argue with Guests about this return policy while making no efforts to eliminate shoplifting, which is like a plague at the Clearwater store, and probably at many other locations.
(Recently, a couple of guys managed to successfully walk out of the store with over a thousand dollars' worth of stolen electronics from the RZone - half a dozen television sets, DVD players, PlayStation games, etc. Neither the RZone Associate, the Customer Service Associate, nor the Cashier so much as batted an eyelash when the sensors beeped as these two pushed shopping carts loaded with stuff out of the store. It wasn't until later, after the store closed, that the security cam's tape was reviewed and everyone finally realized what had happened.)
On a personal level, it is extremely rare to find a Sales Associate in the store itself who is courteous and helpful, especially considering the turnover rate and the lack of legitimate training. Most workers in the store hate what should be, in theory, an interesting and fun job because of the way they are treated by their superiors.
The rule of thumb at the Clearwater TRU is that if you need a manager, he or she will be hiding in the office, which is in the corner of the apparel section. Typically, the manager(s) will be talking to the "favored" employees (and believe me, the quasi-nepotism/favoritism present in the store is disgustingly apparent) and ignoring requests of assistance from other Associates. Guests are always kept waiting 5 minutes or more, with no apology or explanation from the manager for whom they were waiting.
If you should happen to have a complaint or an issue at this store, my advice is this: avoid the Store Director, who is meddlesome at best and completely incompetent at worst (true story: when opening the store one morning, she asked to have the key to open the registers. First of all, she's the Director and if anyone should have a key, it's her. Secondly, it doesn't even NEED a key - the monitor screen says in bold, with nothing else listed below or above it: "PUSH F1 TO OPEN REGISTER". How someone with little common sense and no practical knowledge of how the store runs becomes a Director is something that I have yet to figure out). She is dismissive, cold, and downright rude to customers and employees alike.
Around St. Patrick's Day of this year, I caught some kind of nasty flu virus and was out of work for three days. I asked my mom to call the store for me on the second day and tell them that I was really, really sick and wouldn't be able to work that day or the following one. The Director proceeded to tell my mom that she absolutely would not accept a substitute caller on my behalf, and she proceeded to accuse my mom of being a liar, insisting that I wasn't as sick as I seemed. My mom was also informed that if I did not bring in a signed note from a doctor (hello, terrible flashback to grade school), I would not be permitted to work in that store again, "a report would be placed in [my] file," and I would be "reprimanded accordingly." As if that means anything.
At that time, I had been working there for 8 months and had only called out of work a total of three other days, all for legitimate reasons (when my best friend was rushed to the ER and had emergency surgery, because of a car accident, and one day because I had a nasty cold). And not to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm a good kid - good grades, showed up early for work everyday, always willing to stay late or come in on days when they needed an extra hand...and that was the treatment I received for being a more than halfway decent employee.
I know for a fact that Guests often receive similar treatment from managers and Associates alike, because I have witnessed it. Often times, when someone phones in a question, the Associate says they'll check on the status of an item for them; what really happens is that the person is put on hold, there's some chit-chat between employees, and then someone picks the line back up and makes up an answer for them (usually it's "No, we just sold out of [whatever you're looking for!] Sorry about that. Maybe you should try the store in St. Pete, or perhaps New Port Richey."
Sadly, the same often happens to people who come in the store and ask about an item. I was one of only two or three Associates who actually bothered to look in overhead storage for a toy, or to check the back bays and see if Maybe the item had not yet been put out on the shelf for some reason.
It probably doesn't seem like much, but I know that my honesty and willingness to help as much as I possibly could were appreciated by the Guests. It's a shame that the managerial staff disrespected me so much that I finally sought employment elsewhere because I did genuinely enjoy helping out the parents and working with the kids.
Anyway...I'm glad I got that off my chest. All in all, consumers are better off shopping elsewhere, and potential employees are better off applying elsewhere.