4

Quit Teasing Me!

Our weather has been pretty lousy this winter (yeah, I know, it’s been a lot worse other places). Friday it was sunny and close to 50 degrees. Yesterday it was overcast and in the low 30s. The next couple of days it’s supposed to be sunny and in the 40’s. Then on Wednesday we expect accumulating snow.

As the days get longer, cats’ fur is supposed to shed and the cooler (?) summer fur grows in. We’ve had plenty of shedding, but the cats have replaced the old fur with electric blankets (ours) and heating pads (ours).

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning and not being able to move because one cat is on one side and the second cat is on the other side, pressed tightly to you for warmth. Generally speaking, you wake up because sleeping between two cats is so warm that you feel like you’re melting.

Regardless of snow and cats, you can always rely on retail to tell you when the warm weather is/was supposed to arrive. The first thing out was the Easter candy. It had to be expected since it had been sitting in the back room since the week after Christmas. Besides, holiday things always have to be out early enough for the customers to be tired of them by the time the holiday actually arrives.

Next were the grills. I know people who start to grill as soon as they can run outside to check the meat without getting frostbite (it’s a northern thing – like wearing shorts as soon as it gets above 40 degrees). So the grills weren’t too depressing.

Same with the golf supplies. I once knew a guy who bought orange golf balls so he could practice putting in the snow. I also know people in golfing leagues who schedule their first matches at the beginning of April. They generally end up rescheduling that match. Golfers must be the most optimistic (or stubborn) people around.

I started to get depressed when I saw the first army of garden gnomes. Generally speaking, they do not like the snow. Besides, I really dislike garden gnomes. I think they’re creepy looking. I will admit that they are an improvement over the previous fad. There were (too) many houses with wooden cutouts of fat women bending over so you could see their underwear. I never understood why those replaced the concrete animals and dress-up geese. I admit to a reflecting ball and several concrete animals (the best is a large bear).

My son asked me to buy him a shirt in early February. He wanted green, some type of forest green. It seems forest green is not a spring/summer color. Spring and summer are when forests are green. He also prefers soft cotton. Apparently soft cotton only comes in heavier weights. Much heavier weights. Like flannel. We certainly didn’t have anything like that left (no discount, rats). So I looked around. The only thing I could find was cream and green. Soft medium-weight cotton. Worked out OK. Shortly after that, the temperature went below zero. Guess I could have bought close-out flannel – of course, the green was gone.

Next thing out were the tiki torches and citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes. By the way, I’m told that the hard winter means fewer mosquitoes. I’m not sure I believe that. The Upper Peninsula gets lots of snow and cold every year. Not only do they have huge mosquitoes, they also have biting black flies. I can see it now – everyone spends extra time outside this summer to make up for the winter but has to go in before dusk to avoid being eaten alive.

The worst for me was when they put out the seeds and small bags of potting soil (with starter pots, of course). There are several things they recommend you don’t plant in Michigan until after Memorial Day.  I used to spend hours in the late winter looking at seed and plant catalogs. We had a very nice garden when we lived in the city. I expected great things when I moved out here. I forgot that most of the cute animals that live around us are herbivores or vegetarians.

We knew to put up a fence. We didn’t know that deer jump fences. We knew that woodchucks and bunnies would burrow under. We didn’t know that woodchucks can climb small trees. Taller fences. Deeper posts. Finer wire. Increasingly innovative animals. Food motivates.

We were going to put in decorative trees. Apparently very tasty. Put a fence around the bottom. Deer eat the top. Tree grows big enough to defend itself. Deer rubs itself against the bark and destroys it. Put in bushes. Bunnies eat bark during tough winter. We have oaks and pine trees. And a lilac bush that is probably older than any of us.

The final straw came last week. They put out the kayaks (the life jackets had been out for several weeks). I do not know anyone who kayaks before the risk of hypothermia disappears. Unlike a boat, there’s a fair chance you will tip over a kayak. Particularly if you don’t know what you are doing. If you do know what you are doing, you should not be buying a kayak at a big-box store.

There is one thing still sitting in the back room. It’s a display of starter bushes (roses, etc.). The display says “Plant Now”. At the rate we’re going, they will probably be able to put then out with the back-to-school supplies.

6

Chicken-Induced Flashback

Every once in awhile, I get something for the deli mixed in with my boxes. I put it in their refrigerator, which is usually full of chickens. If I’m lucky, it’s pieces that have been fried and will be put out for sale cold. They always smell wonderful (but not as good as the stuff over in the bakery). On my less lucky days, it’s the chickens that have been spitted for the rotisserie. These chickens are generally covered by a plastic sheet, but still smell like raw chicken (go figure).

Today it was different. It smelled like greasy fried chicken. It smelled just like my first job. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood just outside Detroit. Nobody had parents who could get them a job, so most of us ended up in fast food. McDonald’s was at the top of the heap. I had a friend who worked for McDonald’s her first summer. It was so bad, she took a kitchen job at a nursing home as a step up.

I ended up at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was kind of a weird building for fast food; rectangular with the short end facing the road. Lots of parking for the employees. Too bad most of us didn’t have cars. The front end had the counter and cash register. And a cooler with salads in it. The customers had to pick out their own side dishes – we were the epitome of customer service.

The back end was where the friers were. I guess the Health Department must have come around once in awhile, but it was really disgusting back there. Around the time I worked at KFC, there were rumors that one of the stores had mistakenly fried a rat and sent it home with a customer. It didn’t help that a little while later, someone shot a video of a KFC with rats running around behind the closed glass doors. If we served rats, no one complained.

Back then, the uniforms were orange stretch polyester. Ugly, hot and ill-fitting. And they retained the smell of chicken fat. It didn’t matter that I worked in the front of the store, I smelled like old frying fat. It was really a nauseating odor. As soon as I got off, I took a shower. My mother was really good about washing my uniform every day I worked. I think it was better than letting the smell have a chance of spreading through the house.

I had planned on working there during my senior year at high school. Unfortunately, teen tragedy struck. A bunch of my friends were going to a football game, and I had to work. I couldn’t get my mother to understand the trauma of missing a night out with boys. The boss was the same way.

One of the cooks was in a band. The band played at one of our school dances. Seeing him there was kinda cool. Except for the brown paper bag with whatever he was drinking. And the fact that he was so stoned that he could barely put two words together. Luckily he was playing drums, so he was at the back of the group. What a disappointment. And before I really had a chance to decide whether or not I thought he was cute.

The end was quick and painful. One night I was closing, and a drunk guy kept giving me trouble. This was before sexual harassment was an issue (for men). I went in the back, asking the manager to handle the guy. He kept sending me back out. I was too shy to really say anything to the manager, but, boy, if I saw him today…. (assuming I could remember what he looked like).

The next night I worked, the manager had some friends in while we closed. They all sat around talking and laughing while I worked. Finally I got fed up and told him I was leaving. He said I couldn’t do that. Guess what?

Afterwards I was so embarrassed I asked my dad to return my uniform and get my check.

A couple of years later, they moved to a much bigger building with an open cooking area. Much cleaner and the customers couldn’t get their hands on the food until they paid. Didn’t smell at all. The girls working there were much larger than I was/am. I’m guessing that’s how they dealt with the drunks.

I’m going to avoid the deli for a few days. The memory of those orange uniforms is giving me nightmares, and I haven’t been to bed yet.

4

Please Stop the Music

Disclaimer: I have always been unable to study with music on if it had lyrics; I wanted to listen to the words. I may be genetically incapable of ignoring background music. 

The eighties are alive and well at Ralph’s (the pseudonym for the store where I work). Sometimes the music they play sounds like a Top 40’s list from 1984. (I guess that ages me since I don’t remember the last time I heard the phrase Top 40.) As hard as I have tried, I cannot find any type of research that says a constant stream of Billy Joel and Huey Lewis induces people to buy more lettuce and canned corn.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like some of the music. But I remember a business trip I took to Toledo one time. I only lived a couple of hours away, so I drove. I made the mistake of taking more than one album (age alert!) by the same artist with me. It was months before I could listen to some of the songs.

The first year I was there, I only noticed the Christmas music. There really are a limited number of songs a retail store can play at Christmas without offending someone. When you’re open 24/7 and start playing the music right after Thanksgiving, everyone’s teeth are on edge by December 24. So they decide to extend the “mood” by continuing to play it until January 1.

Then I noticed that we also have patriotic music on Independence Day (July 4th). There is a seriously limited supply of patriotic music. Once you get past the anthems for each branch of the military, the Sousa marches, and America the Beautiful, the pickings get slim. Stars and Stripes Forever and the Washington Post March start to sound an awful lot alike by the fourth or fifth repetition.

It was last fall that I started to realize that some of the songs were on heavy rotation (yes, another phrase from the 80’s). I know that stores pay a service to get a certain package of music, so I wasn’t really surprised by the repetition. I just started started wondering why they would choose what they did. Maybe it’s cheaper to get older music? I guess the 80’s were when music started splintering into so many genres, so maybe they were looking for something generic. I just wonder if they really know what they got.

For example, fairly regularly we get to hear Ballroom Blitz by Sweet (1973). I’ve loved the song since the first time I heard it, but as music to shop by?

What about My Sharona by The Knack (1979)? Has anyone listened to the lyrics? They’re a little suggestive.

Or Rock the Casbah by The Clash (1982)? For one thing, people really don’t hear that first word well. More than one has thought it was F*** the Casbah, which would really be in poor taste. But the rest of the lyrics are pretty iffy too, if you actually listen to them. And the video is worse:

I’m going to end with another song that we hear a lot, although it’s from the 60’s. I really like it, but right now it hits a little close to home.

On the other hand, any of it is better than the Muzak stores played in the 80’s.

2

Dude, You’re Harshing My Mellow

A few thoughts after recent people-watching:

Guy sees a car skidding ahead of him. Car then slows down to continue. Guy gets irritated because first driver is so slow, starts to tail-gate. First car slows more (probably because truck is so close behind him).

Guy A hates job. Spends numerous hours trashing it on Facebook and with co-workers. Comes to work one Saturday. After 15 minutes, tells his boss he quits. Goes home and trashes job on Facebook. Guy B has to do both his job and Guy A’s job on Saturday. Gets on Facebook and sees Guy A’s post about how he got even at work and walked out. Guy B flames Guy A. Guy A bans Guy B. Guy A surprised because Guy B always had his back at work.

When I had a job with real responsibilities, I was always a little nervous about returning after a vacation. There was usually some crisis waiting for me. I was reminded of that yesterday when the Health Department made a surprise visit to the deli on the day my team leader was off. Apparently it’s a health hazard to have chickens’ bodily fluids on the floor of a cooler where you store food.

Woman stands in front of a food display talking to someone about buying an object. Gets frustrated when another customer wants what she is blocking. More irritated when employee tries to put something on the shelf. Finishes phone call, grabs what she wants, and leaves.

Man shopping with small child in cart. Child starts crying. Man snaps his fingers in the child’s face to get him to stop crying. Surprised when it doesn’t work. Reprimands the child.

Man says he can’t find hand warmers (inserts for his gloves). Employee explains that they are seasonal, and that the winter stuff is gone and has been replaced by spring merchandise. Man explains that it is not yet spring.

Woman yells at man to come to where shes looking at something. Then woman snaps at man that he is getting the wrong thing. Proceeds to tell man that what he is looking at is not healthy enough for her. Woman seems surprised when man steps aside and lets woman choose the rest of what they are buying.

Driver proceeding along dry road at 20 mph slower than posted speed. Slows further every once in a while. Driver behind appears to be following patiently. First driver suddenly comes to an almost complete stop to make a right turn (onto a road). Second driver honks and swerves around first driver making turn.

Workers arrive to find a snowplow has blocked the entire section by the door while it removes snow from the lot. They are forced to park at the far end of the lot and walk through the new snow. At actual start time, the snow plow moves to a new section, opening up the employee parking.

Employees are allowed 12 unscheduled days off before they are terminated. The days drop off after a rolling 12-month period. Employee keeps track of when a day falls off so he can call in again. Since it is unscheduled, other employees have to pick up the slack.

Employee tells manager that he cannot come to work before 3a because of family obligations. Department is short-staffed. Management schedules him to start at midnight. Tells management he cannot start at midnight. Management does not change schedule. Employee gets marked as late.

Customer leaves cart in middle of aisle while she looks at merchandise. Gets irritated when other customer moves her cart a little while trying to get around.

Kraft tells everyone there is a Velveeta shortage. We do not have a shortage. Kraft sends large quantity of Velveeta after the “shortage”. Extra Velveeta sits on the shelves.

Trash compacter is full one night, so all trash needs to be held until the next morning. When deli trash is taken over, the deli team leader brings the used grease. Management tells her she can’t put that in the compacter, it will leak out. Team leader gets frustrated and pulls cart with grease quickly through the swinging door back onto the floor by the meat department. Jerks cart and grease containers fall over, spilling grease all over the floor behind the meat department. It smells horrendous. Team leader tells employee she has to help clean it up. While employee is working, team leader gets a phone call. Team leader walks away to talk on phone. Employee finishes cleaning up grease for next hour.

Next time, the deli cleans out fryer Monday morning and puts old grease in container in receiving department. It is considered hazardous waste. It is not going to be picked up for several days. It smells horrendous. Back end of store continues to smell like rotting chicken.

Company wants to cut staffing costs. Cuts hours. Complains that floor doesn’t look as good as it used to. Brings in vendors to stock during the day. Vendors are responsible for stocking, not customer service. Company wonders why customers are not giving them the same outstanding customer service reviews they have received in the past.

Can you believe it? I managed to get through without one situation that directly impacted me.

0

Not Your Father’s Union

I belong to a union for retail workers. I had never heard of it before going to work at the store. That should have been a clue right off the bat. I have been around unions my entire life and thought I pretty much had them down. Silly me.

I grew up just outside Detroit (as in one mile from the border). Detroit was the ultimate union town. Every company associated with making a car (manufacturers, suppliers, transport) was closed shop. If you didn’t belong to a union and were blue-collar, you probably didn’t have a very good job. The United Auto Workers (UAW) was king, but there were teamsters, electricians, plumbers, metallurgy workers, and an alphabet soup of others. Every fall would see one or more school district closed by teachers’ strikes. Unfortunately our district always signed.

Every three years, the automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) would “pattern-bargain”, so workers at all three companies would get the same pay and benefits. The unions were extremely successful and the workers enjoyed high wages and some of the best healthcare benefits in the country. Unfortunately, it also meant that other companies couldn’t afford to move here. (cue ominous music)

But car sales slumped with oil crises and foreign competition. Did you know that UAW membership is slightly more than one third of what it was in the heyday of the 1970’s? And as Charles Wilson, President of GM said (more or less) in 1953, “As goes GM, so goes the nation.” (the music gets louder)

When I was hired, the company was semi-open. I guess that’s what you call it. It was a stupid system. Even if you didn’t sign up, you had to pay the dues. Since you were paying the dues, the union had to represent you.

Representation is kind of a strong word for what we get from our union. The wages start at minimum wage in each state. They increase by 25 cents for every 700 hours we work to a maximum hourly rate somewhere in the neighborhood of $10. There are a few specialized jobs in the company that earn $1/hour more.

The pay scale has been the same since the union “negotiated” a second tier for new employees several contracts ago. The new tier pays approximately half of what the more senior employees make. I don’t think the company would have been allowed to pay people less than the minimum wage even if we didn’t have the union. Note: our starting pay is less than the big-box store across the street.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, the company was allowed to put in more stringent requirements for part-time employees to be eligible for health-care. Guess the union was too busy to even comment on that.

We are not allowed to strike. I have no idea how the union got the store to agree to that.

The store is closed on Christmas Day. Every other holiday is treated like a regular workday. I work every Thanksgiving because Thursday is part of my schedule. Full-time or part-time is irrelevant. I bet the union had a hard time getting that through too.

The union was nowhere around when the company changed its discipline system to allow all absences and tardies to stay on our record for a year instead of dropping off after 30 days. Discipline issues and absence issues can now be combined to determine whether an employee can be terminated.

Usually a union will get some kind of concession for that type of change. Here’s ours: if we go four months with no absences, our manager stops by and congratulates us (if they remember).

Last year, Michigan became a right-to-work state. Which means we can all opt out of the union if we choose to. In what can only be described as interesting timing, the union raised our dues this week. They are now 2 hours pay + $16 per month with a minimum of $30.08.

Since the dues are taken out weekly, it was almost impossible for some of the people to figure out how much the raise was actually going to be. The calculation [(2 hours +16) x12/52] is a bit complex, particularly since the store is good about hiring mentally challenged employees for many of the rote tasks.

Of course, we can’t get out of the union until the next contract is negotiated in May 2015. The union may not be doing much for us, but it seems to be taking care of itself just fine.

2

Everybody Talks Too Much

 

 

I once worked for the Wicked Witch of the Great Lakes. She had hired me to work at one of those nationally-known human resources consulting firms. After I was hired, I realized that my job really was to sell people very expensive consulting they didn’t really need and leave before the results actually became apparent. And to suck my soul out of me. Luckily I escaped before I became too bitter. 🙂

Back to my point. One day, we both came to the conclusion that I did not belong there. At the exit interview, Ms. Witch kept asking me if there was anything I wanted to say. There really was no way to explain what was wrong without becoming equally vile, so I kept quiet. For some reason, my silence totally enraged her. I didn’t realize that following the adage “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all,” could have that type of positive karmic repercussions.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people seem to follow the practice. Perhaps “Better to be silent and seem a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” is more appropriate for the present times. I have been trying to think of the last time I heard someone say something nice about someone else at work. I know I’ve complimented people to their face and to the managers (because I’m perfect, remember?), but from the shocked looks I get, I’m guessing it’s not just my perception that it’s a rare thing.

I unload the pallets first thing in the morning with people from another department. Our stuff is all mixed together. so it makes sense to work together. Most of the time, I enjoy working with them. One day last week, things got a little ugly. There are three of us who regularly work together. We were working when a manager came by and asked where a fourth person (Employee X) was. Apparently the load comes in at his “lunch time,” so I had never seen him there. The manager paged him and told him he needed to get to Receiving.

Needless to say, when X returned he was not happy. He told the other two guys that they were not to touch the stock for the week’s sale. They were only allowed to touch the non-sale boxes. The guys were not happy and commenced to complain about X and his need to control everything. Later X complained about the guys’ inability to do their work in an organized manner. I’m never quite sure what to do in these situations. I let them vent, but no one seemed any happier for the opportunity. So the day began.

Then the chickens arrived. I think I’ve talked about the chickens before. Large quantities of them appear (seemingly) at random and take up space in my cooler. I had room for them (more or less) so they stayed. Later, the team leader was complaining to one of the deli stockers (Stocker A) that no on ever told her when there was deli stock in the cheese cooler. It started as a complaint that she had found three ham dinners from Thanksgiving still in the deli cooler. That is the cooler physically in the deli where they keep their meat.

From there, the team leader complained about how the other stocker (Stocker B) wasn’t doing his job. She might have to hire a third stocker. (Or get B to do his job?) The general consensus is that B is lazy. However, one of the deli people (Employee Y) doesn’t like A because he got to come back after quitting with no notice, when one of her friends didn’t. It seems that the friend had also broken down and tried to hurt someone. Y’s friend also doesn’t like A because she thought he was lazy when he was employed previously.

B was not scheduled this day. Earlier in the week he had posted on Facebook that he was scheduled for Friday which would make a long week for him, Friday through Wednesday. He was really unhappy about it and would have to look for another job. When he had found out about working Friday, he refused to talk to anyone. He has been complaining about how hard he has to work and how it isn’t fair.  I think it’s his first job.

Near the end of the day, someone told me that the late shift at the deli has finally been busted for not working. As long as I have worked there, the day shift and the night shift have argued about who is doing less. Recently it has become apparent that we had a winner. Leadership was receiving complaints during the evening shift about not finding anyone in the deli or waiting in line while one person worked and the others talked or used cell phones.

It seems somewhat appropriate that the end came for them when someone took pictures on a cell phone to show what was going on. Of course, there was much talking and wringing of hands. There wasn’t a lot that could actually be done. No manager was there to document the situation. The team leader decided she should work more evenings, which traumatized the entire second shift. She told one employee, and within five minutes everyone knew.

So what does any of this have to do with me? Absolutely nothing. I may have wasted more time that day than I have the entire time I’ve been at the store. The funny customer stories are good for dinner conversation. Who wants to listen to me recount the employees crabbing about each other?

I have looked everywhere on Amazon for a negative energy neutralizer or maybe a black box that would suck it out of the air. So far, no luck. I wonder if spraying the air with ginger or peppermint or lavender or something would work in a space that big?

6

Who Needs Tryptophan?

I was intending to send this post yesterday, but I fell asleep.

I would like to think that it had something to do with the Thanksgiving turkey the day before, but napping has been an issue with me as long as I can remember. My family swears I am part cat. Someone even had the foresight to give me the name when I was born.

I have always been a morning person, which means that I have never been a night person. It was a little embarrassing in high school and college. There was no point in staying up all night after graduation; even if I had  been able to stay awake, I would have been incoherent and grumpy well before sunrise. I later learned that more than a few people were incoherent and grumpy that night, so I guess I might have fit in anyway.

I only stayed up all night one time in college. I was finishing a paper. It was in the days when we wrote it down on paper (stuff made by pulverizing trees) and typed it later (no spell-check or backspace/delete). It was sometimes a painful process and could not be done during a boring lecture. The clicking of the typewriter keys would have kept everyone else awake.

What was funny was that I felt too guilty to miss class the next morning. My notes consist of a few works followed by a number in superscript, repeated multiple times. Too bad there weren’t actual citations associated with the numbers. Later I might have had some clue what he had talked about.

I worked at a weight loss clinic for a couple of years. Aside from the truly appalling practices they condoned (I found out later that I got my job because I looked better – weighed less – than my competition), the hours were noon til whenever we finished recording and calling in sales to the home office. A lot of people thought those were great hours. I got off early enough to go to the bar and then could sleep in. Unfortunately, I was usually too tired to do anything but go home to bed.

Dating was a little strange at times. Some guys had trouble understanding that when I said I wanted to go to bed, I literally wanted to go to bed, as in to sleep. Coupled with a real paranoia about eating in front of people I didn’t know well, I was probably a memorable date. Luckily movies were really loud, so I rarely had a problem with falling asleep there.

A couple of times I have tried to work two jobs at the same time. Not really a good idea. The first time I tried it, I lasted two days at the second job. While it seemed reasonable to work Thanksgiving weekend when I was interviewing, by the end of the second day I was too tired to even function through the day. The second time I tried it, I ended up with pneumonia.

After starting on afternoons at Ralph’s, I have been working first shift for quite awhile. That shift is 6a – 2;30p. Since I like to spend some time with my family, I usually came home, ate dinner, napped, and watched TV with my husband. Yes, we still eat as a family during the week (scary, huh?) Last week, they changed my hours to 4a – 12:30p. I saw it as an improvement – now I can nap before everyone else gets home. Just as soon as my body adapts to getting up at 2:30a.

I would go on, but Kommando Kitty is meowing. It’s time for a nap.

 

8

The De-Snarkification of Cat

I received some feedback that I may have been a little hard on the (lack of) thought process employed by some of our customers. While I would like to remind everyone that my thoughts are not expressed to the customer (that’s why they’re thoughts not words), I do understand that some people are concerned with the lack of civility in today’s world. Ensuring that I don’t inadvertently insult someone is a valid concern. We never know when the filter between my brain and my mouth might become clogged and not work anymore. (I have met several people with this unfortunate condition.) So I am trying to come up with some more polite ways to address some issues.

Current: Why on earth do you keep ordering chickens when we have forty cases in my cooler? It’s the cheese cooler not the “I still don’t understand how to order” cooler. Improved: I know it’s really hard to gauge how much food to order, being fairly new in the position. Maybe you should see how much was used last year and increase it by 10% rather than 200%.

Current: It’s called a cheese cooler because it’s supposed to be used for cheese, not whatever you can’t find room for. Improved: If you are going to keep getting too much stock, we should probably find someplace to hide it so your boss will quit yelling at you about it. Or maybe you could arrange to clean out your own space so it looks like you have the correct amount.

Current: Stop being so lazy and clean up the messes you make in my cooler. If you spill boxes all over the place moving a cart, pick them up. Improved: It would really make things a lot easier for me if I didn’t walk into the cooler to find it full of boxes that have fallen off one of the carts. I try very hard to load them safely and would really appreciate you helping me with this. You know you can get hurt tripping on things you don’t see.

Current: Why do you think it’s OK to step in front of me to use the time-clock? Is your time more important than mine? Improved: Excuse me. I guess you didn’t see that I was in line to punch in. Just so you know, you would have clocked in at the same time if you had waited for me.

Current: Why do you think I should come to your department and help you? It’s not like you ever do anything to help me. I’m tired of hearing about how important what you do is. I assume you have no idea how much money my area actually makes. Improved: I’m sorry. I really don’t have time to help. I’m the only one in my section and don’t have anyone I can ask to help.

Current: I know it’s a load of ‘whatever’ when you don’t put a cart in my cooler because you don’t do it as well as I do. It’s insulting how stupid you think I am. Improved: Actually, the way I got to be this good was by practicing. If you spend a little time today working on it, it will be easier the next time you try to put something in.

Current: I know you’re the one who made the mess although you’re playing innocent so I have to clean it up. I’m not working with anything that could spill. Improved: I hate the way those containers of olives sometimes spill over when you take off the top. It looks like that one got some olive oil on the floor.

Current: It’s really stupid to order extra sandwich turkey less than a week before Thanksgiving. That’s the same stuff that’s in those big birds they keep selling across the aisle. Improved: Perhaps it would have been better to wait until some of the stuffed feeling from Thanksgiving goes away before asking people to buy a less substantial version of the same meat.

Current: Yes I am using the hand-held inventory controller. That’s why it’s in my hand and I’m putting numbers into it. You can quit standing there trying to intimidate me into giving it to you. Improved: I’m probably going to need this for another few minutes. I can let you know when I’m finished so you don’t have to keep standing there letting your other work pile up. I’m sure there’s time for both of us to do what we need to do.

I could go on, but there’s really no point. I just hope the brain/mouth filter stays functional.

 

 

0

We Don’t Care; It’s Your Fault

I may have mentioned that safety is one of our “Core Principles” at Ralph’s. We all have to sign an oath that we are  committed to 200% safety, own own and the other person’s. As far as I can see, the only flaw in the plan is that the store itself isn’t a party to the agreement.

The most recent innovation is the introduction of “safety shoes”. These are not real shoes. My mother’s elderly uncle (and most other people) would have called these things “rubbers” in the days before every word had some relationship to sex. They are black pseudo-rubber and pull up over your own shoes, more or less covering the bottom and sides. The idea is to keep people from sliding on the floors in all areas working with fresh food.

You may recall that I am technically part of the deli, although I spend 10 minutes or less each day in the deli itself. Nonetheless, I must wear safety shoes. I’ve heard that these items were chosen specifically for their ability to walk on wet and oily surfaces.

I can assure you they were not chosen for climbing on ladders. The first day I had them on, I climbed a step-ladder to get an item for a customer from the back of a top shelf. I have done this same thing many times. Make sure the ladder is anchored correctly, step to the proper level, reach forward, grab the item, and give it to the customer (yes, we have procedures for everything).

The first three steps went fine. I turned to face the customer and slid off the ladder. Too bad my kids are too old to appreciate the amazing bruise I got from the shelf that my arm caught on the way off the ladder. I did not make the connection that tight hold would not translate to flexible footwear.

Even more embarrassing was when the shoe caught on the floor of the cooler while I was opening the door. The door moved, I did not, and my face met the door. Management had told me that the one place I worked that absolutely required the shoes was the cooler. I am guessing that no one considered that a room full of cardboard boxes would not be particularly slippery. Luckily no one saw me that time.

After the ladder incident, my team leader asked if I wanted to file an incident report. I assured her it wasn’t necessary. In the first place, I wasn’t really injured. In the second place, it would have triggered the much dreaded “safety violation”. The stores all aim to be accident-free; it looks bad on the company’s public record if employees are continually being injured at work.

A year or so ago, I sprained my bicepal tendon. It was caused by a sudden impact to a repetitive motion injury (RMI). I had tried to pull a cart out of an overcrowded cooler (not my own) and twisted wrong. The amount of paperwork was overwhelming, and I had to watch a 45-minute safety video before I could go to urgent care (hopefully the order would have been different if there had been blood or protruding bones).

I was supposed to be written up for a safety violation. I had pulled the cart rather than pushed it and jerked it to get it free (it was wedged in such a way that I had no choice).The only thing that saved me was that it aggravated an RMI. I had to wear a sling and go to physical therapy for several weeks.

My manager didn’t talk to me for a week. The only reason he forgave me was because I didn’t miss any time. Lost-time accidents accidents are many times worse than regular accidents; apparently they go on the store director’s permanent record (like some high school behavior). I guess he was somehow responsible for the warehouse sending too much stuff and the planners somehow putting in too few coolers. The same as I was responsible for trying to work quickly in that environment.

For some odd reason, they put the beer and wine sections right outside the doors to the back room. And my cooler immediately inside those doors. And a major food-stocking vendor across from me. And the baler and receiving in the same section. And aisles barely wide enough to let two carts go by each other. I guess no one realized that a lot people would need to go in and out the swinging doors at approximately the same time.

I don’t know whether you are familiar with that type of door. They have a small (2′ x 3′??) plexiglass window that somehow becomes almost immediately scarred. I have never seen anyone actually touch the window. They swing in both directions. Our informal rule is that whoever has the heaviest load gets to go through first.

The rule would work well if you could actually see whether someone was on the other side of the door. From my front-row seat seat (which usually puts me in the way while loading and unloading carts), I have seen that we all find a way to avoid a major collision. Fear of paperwork and disciplinary suspension are as much to credit as 200% safety.

We had an update meeting recently. Management was excited to tell us that the company has decided that some accidents may not actually be the employees’ fault. They did not explain what such a circumstance would be.

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Can You Keep a Secret?

On Monday, I went into work to discover that a major cheese producer had recalled a large number of products. Something to do with shelf life (yes, that means the possibility of moldy cheese). As a result, there were gaping holes in spots. Additionally we had ended a sale for products made by that same company over the weekend. Normally we get the replacement stock on Monday, but not this week. So – more holes.

As I was bringing out a cart full of cheese, a woman stopped me by calling out from a few feet away, “There’s the person I’m looking for!” (It’s funny how those same words can make you feel appreciated or make you want to run.) She came up and asked me what the deal is with the recall. I told her that it was an issue with the shelf life. She wanted to know if the manufacturer had recalled the products or Ralph’s. I assured her that it came from the company. She leaned in and asked me if I was telling the truth about how much I knew.

She wanted a product that was not on recall, but was out of stock. She told me how “interesting” it was that we happened to be out of stock for the product we had given her a coupon for a few days earlier. It was “obvious” what we were up to. We just wanted to get her (personally) into the store with the promise of something she wanted so we could sell her what we wanted to sell. I was grateful that she explained what we were up to. It was actually a lot more comforting than the thought that the manufacturer was causing us to lose thousands of dollars in revenue by not providing some of our best-selling products.

As I was trying to figure out how Ralph’s could have planned to be out of exactly what she wanted on the one day she was in the store, I wondered if other people go from point A to point B via point Q. I decided that I need to check the Internet. I love the Internet – it’s like statistics: you can prove anything you want by knowing what to do with the data. Unfortunately, unlike statistics people’s thoughts are not always as rational as numbers. I should have known better than to type “cheese conspiracy” into the search engine.

The majority of the early responses were about something called “The Great Cheese Conspiracy” by Jean Van Leeuwen. It’s a very cute story about some mice who try to steal cheese. All of those stories were pretty straight-forward. When I got to the humans, it was a different story (of course). Some (very few) were factual, some were tongue-in-cheek, and a few people should meet my customer.

My favorite was the man who said that Roger Federer lost his edge as a tennis player because of cheese. Apparently after Federer won Wimbledon, someone sent him some cheese as a gift. Being human, he ate the cheese. Because of the high fat content, Federer was unable to perform at his highest level and lost at the Olympics. The cheese gift was an attempt to ruin Federer’s game, and it worked. If you are interested, you can watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3x0921YzOY.

Apparently more well-known (from the number of citations), is the Subway Vast Isosceles Cheese Conspiracy from 2007. It seems that Subway was trying to use the triangles to charge more for cheese. If you lay the triangles in a rhombus, you only need one layer of cheese. But if you lay the cheese in a razorback you need two layers of cheese to fully cover the sandwich. So Subway can charge for double cheese.  I’m not sure how well this conspiracy is working. I don’t know how my cheese has been laid out, but when it’s melted it all runs together anyway.

There is a man who feels the British government is forcing restaurants to favor British cheeses over Continental cheeses by having farmers and industries create a wide variety of cheeses that are inferior to those across the Channel. People can then feel they are supporting their own farmers. There are also a fair number of people who humorously claim that large companies have intentionally stopped creating their favorite products (e.g., blue cheese dressing) to cause them emotional distress.

Of course, someone always has to ruin the fun. In 2007 (apparently a big year for cheese theories), a Chicago grand jury indicted four people for trying to ship more than 110,000 pounds of contaminated Mexican-style cheese. They took cheese customers had returned, scraped off the mold and fungus, and resold it wholesale. They were caught creating false documentation after lying to federal agents. I think they might have gotten away with it if they’d used bleu cheese or limburger – it’s really hard to tell whether or not they have spoiled.

I was unable to pin down one final theory. It’s called “The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Conspiracy – the Truth Revealed”. It’s tagged with “think about the animals”. I could get to the video but couldn’t get it to run (maybe the Philadelphia people have blocked it). You can look for it on 30 Bananas a Day – The High Carb Raw Vegan Lifestyle website. It shows 24 views so you can probably still be the first to rate it.

In the meantime, I am going to look for the people responsible for replacing all the chocolate chip ice cream with cookie dough ice cream. I’m sure someone had to be paid off.