There are only four Kmart stores left in the country, but there are three more in the metaverse—and they’re a hotly sought-after place of employment. Unfortunately for virtual job-seekers, though, they’re not hiring right now.
VRChat Kmart is a series of worlds in the social virtual reality game VRChat that perfectly replicate real-life Kmart stores of yore. It’s a labor of love by a man named Eric, who goes by Ericirno online, and worked at a real-life Kmart in 2015 as an electronics manager, according to the project’s website. He opened the first Kmart world in 2019, and now there are three: Super VRChat Kmart Center, the VRChat Kmart, which is a scale recreation of Eric’s real-life store, and the smaller Kmart Express. (There’s also a corporate office that’s “permanently closed and undergoing investigation.”)
The Kmarts went viral on Twitter this week after @CoachDorntastic posted a video from inside one of the stores, and there are currently 149 associates, according to the official Discord server.
Sadly, all of the worlds are set to private as of writing; Lumanare, a member of security and head of the electronics department, told me that they’re down due to a severe bug. Job applications for the stores’ many roles—including checkout, cart attendant, working in the Little Caesars, or in various departments like sporting goods, jewelry, or the pharmacy—are also on hold for now, while the associates hold an open house event where no one is working or on the clock. But Lumanare couldn’t say when they’d open back up.
In the meantime, with the new virality of the project, people are trying to get their resumes in the door through the Discord chat and are met with a closed Human Resources office. “I always regretted not working at Kmart when I was a teenager because it looked like it was a super chill job,” someone wrote in the Discord chat. “Can I get on the schedule here?” The answer was no.
Someone else offered to “take control of the store” and “maximize profits at all cost, cut benefits and overtime on day one.” He, obviously, was also shut down. “Please don’t ping HR for frivolous reasons,” a department manager replied.
A disclaimer for applying is posted in the Discord: You must be at least 16 to work at the virtual Kmart, and if you’re found out to be younger, they’ll probably fire you.
“VRChat Kmart Corporation is not a real company and does not have payroll, provide health benefits, etc. This is simply for roleplay to keep the shopping experience alive for players,” the disclaimer says. “This application is just that, an application. It is not a promise or contract of employment. All of our associates are ‘at will’ associates, which means both the associate and VRChat Kmart can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any or no reason.”
Before the worlds went private, a PCgamer reporter was able to wander around the aisles and noted the extreme level of photorealistic detail of things like the video games on shelves. According to the site—which is a time capsule in itself, a replica of endearingly janky early-2000’s websites—Eric achieved this level of realism by going to the Kmart near his house and getting permission to scan merchandise and fixtures to then recreate as elements in the game.
But it’s not idle window shopping that keeps people coming back to these virtual nostalgia bombs; there’s only so much looking at the Little Caesars menu one can do, even in the novelty of VR. It’s the LARPing as employees of the stores themselves.
The VRChat Kmart workers I spoke to told me that, like in real-life workplaces, their work friends make the jobs worth it.
“My favorite part of my experience has to be the people I've met here,” Lumanare said. “My department is not as active as I like, and I'm actively working with others to spark life in it, but it's a nice chill place to be,” they said. “It's had its ups and downs, but it's been a major dream for Eric to preserve Kmart for the future to see.”
“My favorite part about my experience with VRChat Kmart is just being able to interact with the community,” another security member and department head Kano_1 told me. “People are so awesome and without this awesome community this whole project wouldn’t be possible.”