Not So Contained?

The Container Store has long been a valued company in my household, so the store was a go-to when I went to college. The store has a huge, invite-only sale for college students one night each year. At each of these events, I found employees to all be very friendly and helpful, extremely organized and efficient, and seemingly having fun. I distinctly recall admiring their ability to remain to upbeat on such as long and busy evening of work. However, this culture may have drastically declined in the last couple of years.

The Container Store (TCS) is ranked #27 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for 2015”. According to many recent reviews on Glassdoor, TCS has become much more about the bottom-line than about “employees-first” since going public in late 2013. Employees are being singled out and punished for small mistakes (such as tardiness) while any errors by management are continuously, and blatantly, overlooked. Management has placed much more concern on close time management and payroll control. One past-employee even notes how common it has become for tenured employees to be bullied into signing resignation forms if management no longer wants them employed. How is this ethical?

According to Business Insider, The Container Store founder and CEO Kip Tindell widely claims his employees make $50,000 annually. A Glassdoor reviewer notes this is far from reality. This current employee states the company has been aggressively pushing this number in a recent PR campaign. Is it ethical to broadcast this information to the public when only a very small percentage of employees possibly earn this salary? TCS has been named to Fortune’s list 15 years running, and its CEO Kip Tindell, was elected Chairman of the National Retail Federation (NRF) Board of Directors this past January. Tindell claims he hopes to carry over to all retail his emphasis on stakeholders, especially employees. Considering the influence NRF has on Capital Hill, it will be interesting to see what this entails if the reviews on Glassdoor hold true.

The following video alludes to Bloomberg’s own analysis of the balance of values at The Container Store. Perhaps Bloomsberg should read over the reviews on Glassdoor. 

Featured image credit: snapshot from NYSE’s YouTube video of The Container Store’s IPO

Author’s note: This post deviates from an analysis of The Container Store’s impact on the world, but I felt compelled to analyze the company more internally after reading many employee reviews. 

10 thoughts on “Not So Contained?”

  1. I frequently use glassdoor in order to get a feel for companies, their culture, learn more about their interview processes, but I am also curious to know how legitimate all the content on the website is. Could one very angry employee be posting a lot of negative comments from different accounts after being fired from the company? Or could company employees be forced to write very positive things about a company? I’m sure glassdoor has some kind of control to see who is posting what, but I’d be curious to know how and how effectively this control policy is being implemented.


    1. In its Community Guidelines, Glassdoor does claim it “moderate[s] every piece of content through a two-step moderation process” and removes content it believes “members were incentivized to leave”. However, it also strongly emphasizes a commitment to anonymity for users, so I have usually read individual reviews with some skepticism. Still, when there are close to 400 reviews available on The Container Store and more than 10% mention that the job is less flexible and desirable than interviewers initially led employees to believe, I think there is some weight to the claims. Not every review is negative, but those that are mention many of the same concerns, particularly in the past few years.


  2. I was really interested in the way that PR campaigns pushed the information of employee income. Was this PR to enlist new employees or was it for consumer benefit? Either way it seems like an odd statistic to be the focal point of a PR campaign and seems like information that would be more variable.


    1. The campaign seems to have coincided with the publication of CEO Kip Tindell’s book, Uncontainable. In the book, he mentions, and justifies, paying workers $50,000 on average. Employee compensation has made headlines in the past year, so Tindell may have been broadcasting the salary as an opportunity to plug his new book. Many articles, often containing interviews with the CEO, point out this statistic, yet websites advertising average company salaries have estimated numbers closer to $35,000 for The Container Store.


  3. Being placed at 27th on Forbes “100 Best Companies to Work for 2015,” is definitely not an easy thing to accomplish. Despite the bad press on Glassdoor, there must been many attributes to working at The Container store that must be further examined, before making judgment on the company’s workplace. As the earlier comments pointed out, the negative Glassdoor comments may have been from a unhappy ex-employee, but whether or not the Container is deserving of it, we can never really know. Perhaps it was the management at the particular store, or the behavior of the ex-employee during employment. But can we really make an assumption on the whole company because of it?


    1. I do agree that The Container Store may have more positive employee conditions than many other companies; their website boasts of extensive training, comprehensive benefits, pay raises, and a lower acceptance rate of applicants than other companies. In addition, many reviews on sites such as Glassdoor are very positive. Still, I think what I most wanted to convey was that the company has been strongly pressing their “employee-first” culture for years, and that, while it may have been true in the past, it could be slipping in more recent years.

      What should we place more emphasis on when devising our impression of a company? Business articles, the website, and the CEO’s comments? Or hundreds of reviews from employees?


  4. This is interesting to look at in the context of the shareholder vs stakeholder debate. Was going public in 2013 the start of all these problems? I wonder why going public had such a drastic change on the operations of the company.


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