Of course, before they can start work they have to go through the company induction day. This is when they're told all of the boring things they need to know, are shown a barrage of wannabe-cool videos about health and safety and customer service and are issued with their uniforms and other palaver. And it falls to me to guide them through this wonderful experience. If they were enthusiastic and keen when they went in, they certainly weren't when it was completed.
We kicked off with introductions. I told them who I was, and asked them to tell the group who they were. First up, Lisa. A former MacDonald's employee who almost couldn't attend because she had a meeting with the benefits office. Then there's Dave and John who are fresh out of working for a rival supermarket chain (I made a mental note to probe them about it because I'm considering a change of scenery). Finally, we had Dean who has only ever worked in construction.
The next part was to read them through the employee handbook. I hate reading aloud. I can read very speedily in my head, but trying to co-ordinate my mouth with my brain just doesn't work. I kept tripping over words and soon became very self-conscious. For instance, I spent most of the read-through with my hand covering my mouth because I could feel my front teeth sticking out. I was trying to create an impression - I didn't want to look like Bugs Bunny. And then, the further through the book we ploughed, the more my voice droned. By the end of it I sounded like Ian Curtis singing Love Will Tear us Apart.
And all that was on top of the blushes created by the content of my sermon. Have you any idea how embarrassing it is lecturing people about personal hygiene? I had to tell them they needed to take a bath before coming to work. I had to tell them to keep a hanky with them. I had to tell them to wash their hands after going to the toilet. I had to explain to them that sweaty people smell. I'm cringing just thinking about it.
The book covers a barrage of other insulting topics too. Like how to behave towards disabled people. You mustn't call them cripples, invalids, spastics, mentalists, loonies or spackers. The correct term is 'wheelchair user' - not 'wheelchair bound'. And there was me just treating them like the next person. I mean, who the hell would actually refer to somebody's condition when serving them? It's not as though you'd say "oh, let me pack your bags for you since you have Cerebral Palsy and, therefore, must find shopping a challenge."
With the book out of the way, it was time for the video. Oh the joys. The first one gives an introduction to working for Food Place. It's shot inside a store using actors wearing the company attire. It demonstrates dialogue you should use with customers: "Good morning and welcome to Food Place. Would you like me to help you pack your bags? Isn't the weather beautiful!"
I've seen it now about 15 times and it just gets cornier and cornier with each viewing. Particularly the scene which shows you how to handle awkward customers. It depicts a woman screaming a lengthy diatribe at a badly-portrayed cashier because the store has been moved around and she can't find suet.
Now the Accident Awareness video is one that I do enjoy. It's hilarious because it uses CCTV footage of real accidents that have occurred in Food Places across the country. I sometimes stick it on to watch while working in the training room (I know, I do need to get a life). Here are some gems:
- "Take care when approaching outward-opening doors with no viewing window." Cue footage of somebody getting smacked in the face by a cash office door.
- "Never attempt to move a roll cage on your own." Somebody tries to pull a cage from a tail-lift and it topples right onto them.
- "Be aware of slip hazards throughout the store." A customer slips on a grape and ends up on their backside halfway down the aisle with their shopping basket scattered around them.
- "Never try to climb on fixtures to reach top-shelves." Some fool steps on a shelf and it crashes to the floor, taking them with it.
I could watch that one all day.
The next part of the induction process, having got them to sign-off all their training sheets and fill in all their personal details, is to guide them around the store, taking care to point out fire doors. I don't know why, but I always feel like everybody in the building stops and stares whenever I do this. Here I am conducting a guided tour of a supermarket to four people in plain clothes. It attracts a lot of puzzled looks. And you feel stupid pointing at a shelf of Pedigree Chum and explaining: "This is the pet-foods section."
Could all readers please join me in a prayer. Please don't let Food Place recruit anybody else. Ever. Because I'll only end up having to bore you all with a fresh account of the induction process.
In other news, Emma worked on the checkouts on Sunday. And lost £30 from her till. My fury knew no bounds. It's been three weeks since our weekly cash discrepancies have totalled more than £10 - and that's for all the tills for the entire week. And this week, that airhead goes and loses three times that amount in one wallop. And on the first day of the trading week. So we went into Monday £33 down!