- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

It's not too early for businesses to start rounding up holiday helpers.

Companies such as Macy's and United Parcel Service are already aggressively searching for temporary employees to handle the holiday rush. And they are tacking on loads of incentives to make the jobs more enticing.

Macy's Pentagon City and Tysons Corner department stores are giving seasonal employees $200 discounts on merchandise if they stay through the end of the holiday period.

Macy's holiday helpers also get a 20 percent discount on merchandise every day plus special discount shopping days, when workers can save an extra 15 percent to 20 percent.

Macy's, which usually doubles its staff during the peak season, began running ads for holiday help during the first weekend in October.

"We started a week earlier to try to get a jump on the competition," said Linda Martin, a Macy's vice president for human resources. "Every market is saturated with a lot of different retailers so there has to be a reason to come to Macy's versus anywhere else."

"Retailers will do anything they can just to get bodies in their store," said Pamela Rucker, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "This was unheard of 10 years ago. Retailers didn't have to actively recruit for front-line staff."

Now it's not unusual for businesses to start recruiting for the holidays before Halloween.

UPS is already aggressively recruiting college students by paying weekly visits to area campuses, including the University of Maryland and George Mason University.

The company is looking for 1,600 workers in the Washington area to work from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Most of those jobs are for package handlers, who move packages and load trucks at warehouses, and driver helpers, who ride along with experienced drivers and help deliver and pick up packages. These jobs pay between $8.50 to $9.50 an hour.

During the holidays, drivers have to handle about twice the volume they usually have on their routes. UPS said it will hire some part-time drivers to handle the increased volume.

If employees have a tough time getting to work, UPS provides bus transportation to its warehouses. The company also offers workers free donuts in the morning and pizza in the evenings.

The delivery service is giving $100 bonuses to temporary workers who stay through the peak season. They also have an opportunity to apply for permanent jobs at UPS.

Despite a tight job market, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers plans to remain selective about its holiday help.

"We're not looking for a body that will ring up a sale," said Bob Hensley, executive vice president of operations at the Hampstead, Md., men's retailer. "We want someone who knows men's fashion … and can provide consistent customer service."

L.L. Bean, which opened in Tysons Corner Center in July, has more than 300 applicants for its 50 to 60 seasonal jobs. Store officials are sifting through the applications now, but they, too, are being very selective, said General Manager Rich Hiegel.

It's a good sign that so many people are applying, but they might not be qualified to work there, he said.

"Interpersonal skills [from applicants] have not been as strong as we want," Mr. Hiegel said. "But we do have a pretty good base to choose from."

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