6

Black Friday and the Arrival of the Grinch

(For the uninitiated – e.g., those living in more civilized parts of the world – Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores offer their best sales for Christmas. It even existed during the Dark Ages when I was young. The Thanksgiving newspaper was always the largest of the year because it carried the advertisements for the Day-after-Thanksgiving sales. As I recall it was more genteel pushing than tripping and hitting.)

On my first day of work, the manager told me that everyone works on Black Friday. It really didn’t surprise me since the company is on the news every year for its Black Friday mobs (and occasional brawls).

My experiences at my previous job weren’t particularly encouraging. But working in cheese meant that I got the customers after they had been through battle and licking their wounds. The Grinch usually arrived sometime before the end of the shift with his tight shoes and snarl to take up residence until after New Year’s Day.

At 10p on Wednesday, I showed up for work ready to prepare for the sale. Silly me. The sale didn’t start until 2p Thanksgiving afternoon. If we put the merchandise out the night before, the day shift would be fighting off customers all morning. That might be fun to watch.

I was pretty excited. I never shop on Black Friday, and I thought it would be fun to see the crowds. There was even a county deputy there. I got to the back room and the manager said that we were going to be assigned from the break room instead of the hall as usual. It was packed, about two times as many people as usual.

The store director got up to talk. This must be important. We never see him at night. He started out by telling us how disappointing sales have been so far. Way below what they expected.

Our job was to make sure that the store looked good for Friday. They advised us to look around the store to know where the sale items were since people would be asking us all night. Good idea. Except we didn’t have fliers to know what we were looking for.

There really wasn’t a good job that night. We straightened, put things away, and threw away mangled displays. It was a bit like kids cleaning their rooms. No Grinch in sight; he would have been bored.

I straightened men’s jeans. I don’t know what kind of gremlins shop for men’s jeans when the store is busy, but they’re slobs. Must be male gremlins.

I talked to two customers. One wanted to know if it was always that slow on Black Friday. The store they usually shop at back home in Missouri always had at least a couple of fights going on. The other guy wanted to know where we kept the garbage cans. Seriously? Who buys garbage cans at midnight on Thanksgiving? Of course, I hadn’t seen the ad.

The food they provided was amazing. Big aluminum trays of ham and turkey. Mashed potatoes with bacon. Pies and cookies. Soda and water. The Grinch didn’t make it to dinner.

I was sent to stock toys; an indication of how slow it was. I talked to one customer. She wanted a toy from the ad. We were sold out of it. She huffed and said that she was going to Kmart. I didn’t have Kmart’s ad either. Maybe the Grinch was there and she’d find a soul-mate.

I had just unloaded the third pallet of toys when someone came by and said that we weren’t stocking anymore. We were supposed to straighten all of the end-caps before the end of the shift. Ummm. Okay. You took several of us from straightening to stocking. Now we’re going from stocking to straightening.

I decided to straighten the gift baskets, stocking stuffers, etc. It was the best because I got to play with the stuffed animals. Did you know that if you go into Starbucks and order hot chocolate, you have to get it with mocha but you can buy the real thing (no mocha) in a gift collection? How about they now sell foot-long Twix bars for stockings? (My family got cheated. None of us has a stocking that big.) And cheap perfume companies come out with really horrific smells for their holiday scents?

Friday night was equally quiet, but they gave us really good food again. A couple of nights later, they gave us 15% off coupons good for an entire shopping trip because we worked on Thanksgiving. A couple of nights later we got two cakes for our hard work. Two days ago we had pizza and salad for a quarter with no lost time injuries.

I never did see the Grinch. I guess he got held up at my old store.

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4

Another One Bites the Dust

Apologies to Queen. I would have preferred to use Bohemian Rhapsody, but could not find anyway to tie it in. This concert at Wembley is supposed to have been one of the best ever at that stadium.

I always miss the good stuff. I took Friday off to take my daughter to an appointment. Yesterday morning I got to work and discovered that someone had been removed from the schedule. Actually, no one ever disappears the first week they are gone. The name stays but the hours are gone so everyone knows someone left. It’s for people like me who don’t actually pay attention to who works when but will notice when there is a week of empty space next to someone’s name.

The interesting thing about this person is that not soon after she arrived, she became the “heir apparent” to be the next team leader-in-training. I think the team leader is/was anxious to get someone to help with the team, and the employee felt she should be promoted. Pretty much from the day she started, she saw the need to tell the other team members what they should be doing and report those who were not behaving as desired (by her). You may have met people like this.

It appears that her need to correct was finally her undoing when she came up against the team leader. Since the team leader is another person who is never wrong, it was probably a crisis waiting to happen at some point. They got into a huge fight in the deli. In front of the rest of the staff. In front of the customers.

It’s not really that unusual for the team leader to disagree with someone. Loudly. That’s what happens when you have all the answers, but don’t understand all of the questions. In fact, I know of a couple of instances where there have been rather unpleasant exchanges between different people and her. The difference is that this time someone complained to management.

If there’s one thing that management hates, it’s customer complaints. And people fighting rather than working. And people disrupting other people working because it’s hard to interact with customers when you can’t hear them over your co-workers yelling at each other.

So the team leader and the employee were called to the office. (Life there always seems like high school replaying on a continuous loop.) The employee walked out with no job. The team leader walked out with a job but a warning. It’s generally the rule that they don’t get rid of bad leaders, they just send them to the equivalent of Siberia at an undesirable store.

In this case, I think we are just going to have to live with her. Management already knows about her talking about her employees behind their backs. To other team members, not fellow team leaders. They know about her inability to order food correctly. And her inability to get new staff.

There’s a breakdown in logic somewhere along the line. She insists she doesn’t have time to call prospective employees for the first interview. She doesn’t want any of the other team leaders to do it for her. Then she complains about having no staff.

The last time she did interviewing, she saw four people and said she was going to hire three. One started and will probably not stay because she gives him panic attacks by yelling all the time. The second one didn’t pass the background check. I can’t imagine what that person did, but it must have been pretty awful to not make it into the deli. She was sure the third one was destined for management. Lots of deli experience and very enthusiastic about serving customers. There was a delay in his background check. Then he fell into some black hole. I believe he has found another job.

One of the day people who was also “destined to move up” did just that. But not at our store. She’s running a deli at another store. I’m sure she’ll do very well. And be a lot more relaxed.

The woman who moved from afternoons to days did it based on seniority (we do have a union after all). She’s a wonderful woman and works very hard. Unfortunately she also has a significant hearing loss and can’t work on the counter. The team leader neglected to tell her that since she couldn’t work the counter, she would be deep frying chicken parts all day. She might have been able to do dishes part of the time, but the team leader likes that job. It’s one of the few she doesn’t complain about doing.

There are two people who roast chickens. The first has Aspergers and is getting worse daily because the team leader is constantly yelling. The team leader wants to replace him because he’s too slow. The second one has significant health problems and should be out on a long-term disability. The team leader wants to replace her because she calls in sick too much.

The team leader wants to replace them with an employee from another department who has shown interest in transferring to the deli. But he’s only interested on the condition that he will stock, not wait on customers. We need stockers, but she won’t hire anybody she can’t use on the counter and with the chickens. We won’t be getting that guy.

So life goes on over there. The team leader complains about the employees. The employees complain about the team leader. The employees complain about each other. The other departments laugh about the dysfunctional deli.

It probably won’t be long before another one’s gone.

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.