12

The Hedgehogs’ Smart Home – Part 2

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Where we are: Harry and Vivian Hedgehog have decided to invest in a smart home. They are extremely happy with Venus, their personal assistant from Euphrates, until merchandise starts arriving at their house that they haven’t ordered. They think that Venus must be ordering things on her own.

In the morning, Vivian called Euphrates about Venus. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Vivian finally reached a representative who spoke hedgehog. She was pretty sure the work was outsourced; the hedgehog was heavily accented with meerkat. Hopefully, they could understand each other.

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Voice: Thank you for calling Euphrates. My name is Eugenia. How may I help you?

Vivian: We purchased a Venus a few weeks ago, and we think she’s ordering things on her own.

Eugenia: That’s not possible. Our technology has been extensively tested to prevent that problem. Perhaps someone in your family ordered the items and didn’t tell you.

Vivian: The only other hedgehog around is my husband.

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Eugenia: He probably ordered the items and didn’t tell you.

Vivian: No, he did not.

Eugenia: Perhaps one of you just forgot what you ordered.

Vivian: We did not forget. Are you going to help me or not?

Eugenia: I am trying to help you. There’s no need to get angry. What is your customer ID?

Vivian: 100-672-437-925-107-688-04692

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Eugenia: Am I speaking with Vivian or Harry Hedgehog?

Vivian: I’m Vivian Hedgehog.

Eugenia: Please give me your mother’s maiden name to verify your identity.

Vivian: We’re hedgehogs! We all have the same last name.

Eugenia: And what is that name?

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Vivian: Hedgehog! This is ridiculous!

Eugenia: Please calm down Mrs. Hedgehog. You’re not helping the situation. It shows that you ordered a Katsu television and 4 boxes of Comco Badger-be-Gone in the last month.

Vivian: That’s what I’m trying to tell you. We didn’t order those things. I’m returning them both.

Eugenia: I see that there is a refund in process for the television. I’m sorry it didn’t meet your expectations.

Vivian: I didn’t have expectations. I. Did. Not. Order. A. Television.

Eugenia: I don’t see anything here about a return on the Badger-b-Gone.

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Vivian: That’s because we just got it yesterday.

Eugenia: You don’t have to be ashamed about wanting to keep the badgers away. I hear they are quite dangerous to hedgehogs. In fact, I’ve read…

Vivian didn’t get to hear what Eugenia had read because she hung up the phone before Eugenia had a chance to tell her.

Vivian was so upset that she needed to spend 45 minutes on the treadmill to calm down. She made herself a cup of marsh-grass tea and tried to decide on her next step.

She went to the contact information on the Euphrates website and discovered that she could chat online with a technical support representative. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone telling her to calm down.

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“Thank you for contacting Euphrates. My name is Tim. How may I help you?

Vivian: We bought a Venus and she is ordering things on Euphrates that we didn’t tell her to.

Tim: That’s extremely unusual. Let me check your account.

Vivian: Thank you.

She waited while he accessing her information.

Tim: Thank you for waiting. Your account shows that you purchased a television and some Badger-b-Gone. Are these the items in question?

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Vivian: Yes. We didn’t order them. Venus ordered them.

Tim: It also shows that you ordered a Venus Ultra X62957. Is that correct?

Vivian: Yes.

Tim: And that is the machine that is giving you trouble?

Vivian: Yes.

Tim: Normally we don’t see a problem with that model. It is possible that the memory was holding data from testing.

Vivian: Can you fix that?

Tim: I have removed everything from the memory between the date of manufacture and the date of purchase. You should be all set.

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Vivian: Thank you very much!

Tim: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Vivian: No. That was the only problem.

Vivian told Harry about her conversation with Tim. They were both excited that they would be able to enjoy Venus without monitoring everything they said for fear that Venus would might pick up something to order.

It seemed that everything was well for a few days. Then they received a vacuum cleaner from Euphrates.

What was going on?

Image result for unhappy hedgehog

Next week – Do the hedgehogs finally get to the real reason Venus keeps ordering things?

All pictures courtesy of Google Images

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21

Why am I Working Here?

First a brief overview of my past for those of you who missed it at the beginning (about 95% by my non-scientific analysis).

I grew up blue collar in a Detroit suburb. Went to a highly regarded mid-western university (does not go by the initials ND). Got a couple of very well-paying jobs.

Had two psychotic breaks. Discovered I was bipolar and my job stress had to go. Finally ended up stocking cheese at a big box store. Low stress; low money.

Started blog about work. Got bored with that. Moved on to other subjects. Which is why you are reading a blog called Adventures in Cheeseland that has nothing to do with cheese. Have been told it’s a very bad idea to change the name of the blog.

Life has been pretty good in cheeseland. I like the people (most of them). The work is low-stress. My hours are early, but I like them. We are unionized, but that’s not one of its selling points.

It’s family-owned. When I started it was run by a man who was philanthropic, family-oriented, and good to work for (if you’re looking for that type of work).

[Warning: from this point forward it’s sarcasm, not the kind of humor you usually see in my blog.]

Unfortunately, he died. His sons took over. From all appearances, they learned very little from their father except how nice life could be for them with a lot of money.

They have been steadily climbing the Forbes 500 list of wealthiest people. During the United Way campaign, they asked us to contribute to help support people earning less than $27,000 annually. No one in the room was making close to $27,000 annually.

They started to buy a lot of their inventory from China (not the food). In fact, they have opened a distribution center in China “to be closer to their suppliers.” Some slippage in quality; some increase in price.

Their store brand used to be comparable to the national brands. Now the only thing I will buy are the pasta and canned tomatoes (to start the pasta sauce). They raised the price on cheese so high that sales started to drop.

The company hired a non-unionized workforce to do some of the stocking. Higher pay, same benefits as the rest of us. The union said to let them know if anyone had their hours cut because of these people.

Excuse me?! All of the work they are doing should be done by union workers. Michigan is now a right-to-work state. But standing by while the company pays non-union workers more money is not one of the definitions of right-to-work. At least is wasn’t when I did employee benefits.

When Michigan raised the minimum wage, the union made no attempt to get a higher wage cap for the employees who were already above that level. I’m guessing the idea never crossed the brothers’ minds.

The union contract is up next year. We no longer need to belong and pay dues. They may want to start working a little harder. Even the stewards are advising that we get rid of them. (They did save the job of a guy who went totally ballistic when someone took his food out of the microwave after he left the room.)

But all of that pales next to the company’s most recent initiative.

Work-motion studies have been around for more than a century. (Anyone remember “Cheaper by the Dozen”?) But the company seems to have created theirs without actually studying what the employees do.

Their basic idea is to get the maximum number of employees at work during the busiest times of day. Sounds logical, right? In fresh foods they do it by taking the people who set up the departments and having them start 2 to 3 hours later.

Problem? Nothing is set when the customer levels increase. Solution? Don’t change the standards for when the set-up needs to be done. But don’t allow workers to have carts on the floor because that’s inconvenient for the customers.

Employee can’t meet the standard? Write him/her up.

Best usage of this idea? In the bakery they have moved the slowest person to a schedule that requires her to do the majority of the baking before the store gets busy. Hope she doesn’t currently have any performance points. We only get 12 before we’re terminated.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO OVERTIME. Yes, the memos capitalize it. Currently, we can work 7 extra minutes each day without incurring overtime. It’s helpful when you’re trying to help a customer or finish a display.

We are moving to being paid by the minute. Which means that we can have 7 extra minutes per week before we have overtime. But we get paid for those extra minutes. And we get written up for that 8th minute. Seriously.

If we are helping a customer and it gets close to quitting time, either the team leader needs to take over or we need to call the manager to see if we can stay the extra time. Seriously.

Did I mention that the store is understaffed? The only ones who want to work here can’t pass the background check. Seriously.

I’m guessing that by now you understand why I no longer write about work. Work is no longer humorous.

I wonder if there’s a call for cat-sitters around here?

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

You WILL be Friendly

One of the first meetings I attended at Ralph’s was a “Friendly Meeting”. I sarcastically asked whether they were going to teach us how to be friendly.  As it turns out, that would have been a lot more useful than what actually happened. The store director began by telling us that since we can’t compete on price, we need to succeed on customer service. It appears that after cutting staffing as far as possible, taking away merit raises, and putting a cap on the number of automatic increases an employee can receive in any position, they were still losing customers based on price. So they decided to do something radical: be nice to the customers.

There are a few rules: smile and say hello to everyone, ask whether you can help them find anything, and never (ever, ever) point them in the right direction. You must always take the customer to the item they are looking for. Some customers take well to an employee saying hello at 6am; others give a look that says, “If I wanted to talk, I wouldn’t be here at 6am”. Nobody said anything about how to handle the people who take it as an invitation to start a lengthy discussion about their eating habits and why they only eat “x” type of foods. But I’m friendly so….

At the beginning it was easy to not point people in the right direction; I didn’t know where it was either. As time went by, I learned that people don’t necessarily want someone walking them to the item (I would hate it). They want information, not a shopping partner. A few even got offended by the idea: “I can find it myself.” (If that were true, why are you asking?) Now the only people I take are the ones who still look confused after I’ve explained where it is multiple times. They are always very sweet and say something along the lines of “Thank you so much – I never would have found it without you.” There really isn’t any way for me to answer other than “thank you” without sounding unfriendly.

We have meetings every quarter to discuss how friendly we are. Last year, all was well. We consistently met or exceeded our target. We all got cards that entered us in a drawing for a $25 gift card. (How’s that for motivation?) We must have gotten complacent because this year, disaster struck. In late spring we found out that our customers were not at all happy, and that we were 15 points below company standards friendly-wise. We had to fix the problem!

It was also at this meeting that we learned that there are actually 4 pieces to the “friendly score”: checkout friendly, floor friendly (that’s where I am), store cleanliness, and product availability. As it happened, the checkout was 10 points above target and the floor was 15 points over. The two problem areas were store cleanliness and product availability. Nobody stated the obvious: the employees at the meeting were doing fine; somebody needed to tell those wilting veggies to get their act together.

As usual in the world of Ralph, anything that might impact management’s bonus or tenure was a crisis. Over the next couple of days, we would get messages over the speaker system: “Our friendly score is X; remember to be friendly!” Every hour or so they would update the number. The customers must have thought we were nuts. All the while, the floor had streaks and the strawberries grew moldy.

I’m really not sure whether the situation improved or another crisis has arisen, but friendly is not the focus. At the last meeting, we talked about the United Way campaign. Why not? It has as much to do with me being friendly as the black marks on the floor.