Why is it, we can go for months on end without anything exciting happening and then, suddenly, it all comes at once?
Yesterday morning there was a fault with Food Place's heating system and the store began to fill with thin white smoke. There was a strong smell of burning and it was quickly evident that we needed to get out.
But the customers had different ideas. I put a tannoy call out that customers had to leave their shopping where it was and make their way to the car park immediately. What part of that is difficult to understand? We had people just continue shopping, fanning the smoke away from their face while they did it. Some went to the checkouts, intending on paying before they left. Perhaps they'd have got the message more clearly if I'd star-jumped along the aisles screaming "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!".
It's just so selfish. They might not mind taking risks like that, but don't they realise that the staff can't leave until they've got everybody out? In the event, nobody did get hurt. But in emergencies, every second counts YOU MORONS!
Now, if that happened to you whilst you were shopping, and you were ushered out of the store, what would you do? Bear in mind you've seen the smoke, smelt the burning. Would you say it was very likely you would be let back in there any time soon? No, of course not. But what did the customers do? Went and sat in their cars and scowled at the staff standing at the emergency assembly point. I swear I lip-read one woman saying "look at them! Just stood there!".
Yes dear, we're just doing this for a laugh! We like standing outside in the pouring rain with our coats and car keys trapped inside the building! That said, we did our best. The duty managers were in touch with the emergency services, our operational support desk and the utility companies, so we were regularly touring the customers in their cars, keeping them updated.
But they were getting increasingly ratty. One of them exclaimed: "I've got a pound in my trolley in there! I'm not leaving without that!" I'd heard it all then. Do they think all the staff are rubbing their hands together at the thought of all the pound coins they can steal as a result of this? Do they really think we're not going to let them claim it back next time they visit? If I'd had a friggin' pound coin in my pocket I'd have thrown it at them.
They eventually gave up. One by one, they pulled out of the car park, scowling at us as they did. But those customers were only a quarter of the battle. Imagine the struggle we had trying to keep newly-arriving customers away. One old man pulled up in a car, got out, got a trolley, moved the advertising boards we'd blockaded the entrance with, and tried to prise the doors when they failed to open. Seriously mate, come on! Open your God-damned eyes! Do these people never ask themselves questions about what's going on around them? Do they even notice?
Three and a half hours. That's how long we were out there. We were finally OKed to go back inside just after 1pm, and a group of gossiping customers (who'd jumped to the conclusion the company was in administration and had closed all the stores indefinitely) tried to follow us in. Get a grip on reality you stupid fools! They actually thought that we were just going to let them straight back in without carrying out any sort of survey of the premises. For a start, we had to make sure all loose, uncovered food was removed from sale first.
So goodbye produce department.
The rest of the day was hell. I got around 20 extremely snotty phone calls. "Hello, have you reopened yet?" I felt like snapping: "No, we're not quite finished deliberately inconveniencing you yet." And then there was the people coming back for the £1 coins. I have never been regarded with such contempt in all my life! It was as though we'd done something absolutely awful to them. I actually said, to one whining customer, "Would you rather have stayed and choked? We had no idea what the smoke was, it could have been noxious, we acted in the interests of everybody's safety, what is the problem with that?"
As Basil Fawlty said: "I don't know why we bother, we should let you all burn."