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?


Cash? What’s That?

When we were trying to get pregnant with my daughter, I went to a fertility specialist. For those of you who have never been through the process, it can be expensive. Very expensive. And insurance doesn’t cover some of the procedures. Some insurance covers very few of the procedures.

As a result there were a variety of signs when you check out. “Personal checks are subject to a fee if returned.”  “We accept Visa, MasterCard, Amex,…” Basically you could pay with anything except the child they were helping you conceive. It was stressful going there. One time I was leaving and the receptionist asked whether I was paying by check or credit card. I answered, “Do you take cash?” We both laughed after I said it, but she did say that it rarely happened.

I was reminded of that day on Thursday. My car had finally died. I become extremely attached to my cars. We learn each others’ quirks and peacefully coexist. I calculated it out and discovered that I keep my cars an average of 7.5 years each. The number is a little skewed by two of them being totaled (neither accident was my fault, before you ask) and not having the money to replace this one any earlier. Nevertheless, I am not one to go car swapping.

Unfortunately, the engine leaks oil, the transmission sounds like it may be going, and the wheels are shot. I lost control coming home the night my mother died and ended up in a snowbank. It wouldn’t have been so hard on the car if I had not taken out the guy’s mailbox, slid across the road and ended up back in his small culvert. My husband rescued me, but the car looks like it had a fang where the front quarter-panel was torn back.

But I still loved it. I lost control more times on the ice and snow this winter than I had previously my entire life because of the tires. I still wanted it. The air conditioning went out several years ago. Not a problem. I like having the windows down. (We don’t discuss the really hot, humid stretches we sometimes get.) The heat went out this winter and aggravated my frostbite. My husband told me it was the blower motor, and he could fix it. I forgave the car.

Then the starter went. And it was cold. If we took it in, the mechanics would hand us a list of repairs that would practically rebuild the car. If my husband fixed it, he probably would have discovered a litany of things we didn’t know were wrong. It was time to bite the bullet.

I hate car shopping. My husband tells me to look for a few types of cars I might want, then he does the research. All is well until he starts asking me what extras I want. The luxury package? The technology package? The standard package? Does the luxury package come with its own mechanic? If I don’t take the technology package, does that mean they use parts from the 1980’s? If it’s a standard package why is it separated at all?

On Thursday, we stop by the dealership “to look”. I hate this part. Generally we have to look at 150 cars with basically the same features until we find the “perfect” one. I knew I had chosen the correct car when we discovered less than 10 of them on the lot. And only 3 of them came with options that added less than $4,000 to the base price. Oh yeah, there was one that was dung-colored – that one was never in the running.

So we went inside. And waited. My husband had gotten the referral from Costco (they really do sell everything). Apparently there are only 3 salespeople “certified” by Costco. Our guy came in, introduced himself, asked what we wanted, and proceeded to extol the merits of the brand. Finally my husband told him that we think we found what we want on the lot.

We took it for a test drive. It’s not love at first sight, but I could definitely see potential. My husband drove it. Before we get back to the dealership, we’d decided to make it part of the family.

My husband is very good at getting the best price he can. So he talked to the guy for a few minutes, and the guy disappeared to see the “Sales Manager”. He came back with good news. Not only could he give us all the discounts available, they are willing to give it to us at the employee price. It was almost exactly what I had in mind.

The sales guy was excited. The first question he asked was how much we are going to finance. We weren’t. We’re going to write a check. Oh. Obviously we have given an unusual answer. It didn’t cross my mind that since dealerships do their own financing these days, we were probably costing them money. Hmmmm. Maybe I should have asked them about financing before I got the price appeared to be running through his head.

He disappeared to get the paperwork started. My husband told him that we are in a hurry and can’t wait too long. It will only be a few minutes. He reappeared 10-15 minutes later, rustled some papers and said that he needed to get some other paperwork. This happened several times. We were getting more irritated.

Finally, we were taken into an office to sign the paperwork. I looked at the first one and ask about the cost. Oh don’t worry about that. It’s going to the government; they don’t care about the rebates and price breaks we give you. That’s comforting.

Looked at the bill of sale. Told her it was the wrong figure. She looked puzzled. Disappeared. Came back and said that she has been doing someone else’s job since that person was let go. Some one put the wrong stock number on the form and it created the mistake. Uh, yeah.

Got everything signed. Gave them the check. (The Sales Manager came in for that part.) She told him that someone mixed up the MSRP with the selling price and that’s why she had to redo the paperwork. That sounded even worse than the first excuse.

The next day, we met with our financial adviser. He told us that dealerships have different procedures and paperwork for cash sales than for credit sales. Since they rarely handle cash sales, they are less familiar. Since we were there late Thursday night, the “A” team had probably gone home. That answer makes sense.

Too bad we didn’t have him with us on Thursday.



For Hire: Two (Semi) Trained Cats

The holidays are coming and I need some extra money. After much thought, I have decided that the best way to do that is to return to my former occupation as a manager. I can hire out my family and make sure they do the work correctly. Please understand it would be a temporary situation and that payment is expected before services are rendered. Rates are based on work expected. If you commit, you will sign an agreement stating the steps to be taken if you are not happy with the results. Please do not plan on using this same money for your own gift purchases. Tips to the worker are always appropriate.

In light of current economic conditions, I have also listed a number of things I would be willing to barter for these services. That way I can use the money I would have spent on them for gifts. So here are the workers:

Husband – electrical work, mechanical work, industrial cleaning, varmint removal. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around certain college football games (list provided at time of inquiry)

Daughter – manicures, pedicures, typing, mainstream social media. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around school, choir, and sleeping requirements. Also some football games. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Son – academic writing,  satire, cutting edge social media. Note: he is nocturnal as well as attending school. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Cat A (Super Snoops) – varmint control, light typing, prime cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are typing. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

Cat B (Kommando Kitty) – varmint stalking (she plays, you kill), warming, cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are sleeping or trying to do crossword puzzles. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

In addition we have a variety of wilder animals. Moles and groundhogs for underground tunneling needs. Rabbits and deer for garden control. Bats and snakes for child control. We also have possums, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes for various types of jobs. Note: these animals become your responsibility.

Items Taken for Barter – ruminant to replace our broken lawn mower, hoarder to help clean out my mother’s house, chocolate.

If you think it’s only fair that I offer services as well – baking, cooking (except red meat – my husband says I ruin it), cliched uplifting sayings. Note: Times will be negotiated. Reserve now for holiday baking. How you keep the cookies fresh will be your responsibility. (Some family members feel I should add sarcasm to my list of talents.)

If you would like to talk about any of these rare services, you may respond to this place. Please remember that the situations are temporary; I want my family back. Unless you offer a really, really good deal.