Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm Re-Launching Myself

Several events over the past couple of weeks have made me come to realise that I'm too soft. I'm a department supervisor and, in the absence of a department manager, I'm in charge of 51 checkout, kiosk, cash office and admin staff. And I've been letting some of them walk all over me.

This problem stems, very simply, from my inferiority complex when dealing with certain staff. I'm 21 years old and, despite having worked at Food Place for six years, still feel very uncomfortable exerting my authority over people who are older, wiser and have worked there longer. The worst part is, all the time I've been a supervisor I've known this feeling is totally irrational. I don't need anybody to tell me that, in general, I'm liked and respected amongst the staff (Linda, rather disturbingly, wants to wrap me up and take me home - which is a separate matter - probably one for her psychiatrist). But I can't get away from the fact that I feel very queasy about laying down the law with colleagues who are old enough to be a grandparent.

On the whole, I'm fiercely protective of myself and I'm not afraid to stand my ground when I feel I'm being treated unfairly. I'm very outspoken with the management and I'm known for my vicious rants at staff meetings (sometimes, you can see people edging towards the door to escape once I've got going). It's the realisation of this that's made me see things from Terry's point-of-view this week.

You'll probably recall that I've had a series of rows with him. Until I actually sat down and thought about them, I was adamant I was in the right and that Terry had behaved unpleasantly towards me. But, the more I thought, the more I realised how frustrating it must be for him. In me he has a supervisor who, on one hand, let's certain staff get away with murder and, on the other hand, will scream and shout at his superiors at the slightest provocation. He's probably thinking: "if only he would get this worked up about old grannies on the tills nipping off for fag breaks whenever they like".

So, starting yesterday, I re-launched myself as 'the firm, but fair supervisor'. It didn't take long for a situation to arise that would test my resolve to kick the older staff into shape.

Marjorie, a Food Place veteran, started kicking up a gigantic fuss when she discovered she was scheduled to work a three-hour morning shift on Easter Monday. Before she'd even spoken to me about it she'd been threatening to walk out and was encouraging other people to rebel against the rota and refuse to work the bank holidays. She eventually did come and see me though.

"I'm not working that!"

"What's that Marge?"

"Easter Monday. I'm not contracted to Mondays, you can't make me."

Now, the old me would have snapped under the pressure and made alternative shift arrangements to give moaning Marge the day off. But the new, improved Andrew dealt with the situation fairly but firmly:

"I'm sorry Marge, the rota is done now. If you have an issue with it then you need to see Terry, but I can tell you now there's not a lot he'll do about it. You're not contracted to Mondays, but you always work them and, if you remember, Terry used his discretion to pay you for Christmas Day and New Years Day because they fell on Mondays and you wouldn't have got paid otherwise."

"Well this isn't fair."

"We've worked the shifts to be fair to everyone. Anybody who didn't request the Bank Holidays off was put in to work either Good Friday or Easter Monday and will be paid for the one they have off if it's a contracted day. If we'd put you in on Good Friday you wouldn't have got paid for Easter Monday because you're not contracted."

"But Terry would have paid me."

"He wouldn't Marge. He only did it at Christmas and New Year because the store was closed. He won't pay you for Easter Monday if you don't work it."

"Well I don't want the pay then, I'll just take it off unpaid."

"Then you need to see Terry or find somebody who'll work it for you or do a shift swap. Me and Wendy haven't got the time to redo the rotas to work around one person. Sorry."

It felt good actually. Marge obviously presumed that all she needed to do was wait until Andrew was in, kick up a fuss, and all would be arranged for her to have paid leave. Well no. Not anymore.

And Sandra had better watch her back the next time she dares to take 25 minutes for a 15 minute break!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Week from Hell

Well, so much for my assertion that it would be back to business as usual this week. So far I've had three nasty customers, three rows with Terry, the last of which left me on the verge of collecting my things and walking out, and I've had to be interviewed as part of disciplinary action against a colleague. So not exactly what I'd call a typical week.

A long-forgotten customer-type re-emerged this week. The ratty old lady who thinks it's OK to speak to supermarket staff like something she scraped off her shoe. There have been no fewer than three occasions this week when an old hag has seen fit to abuse us over nothing at all.

Evil old cow #1
The first incident was on Monday. I was sitting on a checkout with my weighing scale, counting the money in the cash drawer, whilst Deborah was cleaning the conveyor belt on this particular till. We started having a little chat, as you do when there's no customers around, before I spotted an old woman stomping towards us.

"Instead of sitting around gabbing, you want to get up and do some work! I've been watching you two, drooping about on these tills - there's no cream crackers on the shelves up there, so I suggest you get off your lazy behinds and get some!"

We were both completely speechless. I think I've mentioned before that I tend to lose my ability to speak when affronted by customers. It's only when they've gone that I start building up an idea of how I should really have handled the situation. I just stared right into the old witch's face.

Debs spoke, however. "Excuse me, but I'm not on my lazy behind, I'm cleaning this conveyor belt, which is part of my job, and he's counting the till float - doing his job. And I can see cream crackers from here." Thank God somebody was able to compose themselves enough to answer back.

The woman was shocked at Deborah's tone and asked to speak to her superior.

My chance to shine had arrived: "I'm Deborah's supervisor, how can I help you?"

Her face turned scarlet and off she stomped. Debs still hasn't stopped ranting about this woman. How dare she speak to me like that!

Evil old cow #2
The next old lady who'd seen her arse in the mirror that morning crossed paths with me on Wednesday. This one was a nosy old bitch who was poking her nose into areas that were none of her business. I happened to walk by as she was leaning over the kiosk counter and she turned round and attacked.

She jabbed me on the shoulder and snapped: "That notice on there is DISGUSTING!"

When I'd got over the initial shock of a customer committing battery against me, I looked over and seen what she was talking about. A notice, placed behind the kiosk by me, reading: This kiosk has now been cleaned and organised and anybody found to have messed it up again will be hanged and buried in an unmarked grave! Just a nice, lighthearted little message to the kiosk staff - all of whom found it amusing.

"That notice isn't intended for your eyes. It's behind the kiosk, out of customers' sight, and its addressed to the kiosk staff."

"Well I can see it and it's disgraceful. I shall be reporting it to your manager!"

I would normally try and be diplomatic, but not on this occasion. "You could only read it because you were leaning across the counter. The staff who can see it, thankfully, have a sense of humour."

She did a HUH! noise and stalked off.

Evil old cow #3
Wendy and I were busying ourselves merchandising a new rack displaying women's tights when the next moody old heifer kicked off.

"You've got nine empty tills down there and I'm waiting to be served! Get somebody else, pronto." Notice how they all launch straight into their nasty little rants without seeking our attention first.

Wendy isn't the type of person who gets mad with customers. She calls a shovel a shovel to anybody else, but she's generally overly professional and doesn't mind kissing customers' backsides when they're horrible. I guess she's just able to stay detached from them.

"Let's have a look then, and we'll call somebody else if we need to," she said, ever so nicely.

But nobody was 'pronto-ing' me. "There's no queue at all on till 3, straight over there. Jenny is just serving that customer with a newspaper, you can go there."

"I shouldn't have to stand about waiting behind other people. You've got nine tills doing nothing, so get somebody on them!"

"We will gladly open checkouts when there's more than two people waiting at any other till - but not when there's one person in front. You wouldn't even have got all your things on the belt by the time Jenny over there was ready to serve you."

Did she think we're going to open all of our checkouts every hour of every day, even when there's no customers there to serve? Did she think we want to go bust? And manners wouldn't go amiss.

Other Business
Terry has been picking at me all week.

The first row flared over the wages. Last week he told me off for signing-off staff working hours when people hadn't taken breaks. He made me go back and edit their records to deduct their break entitlements - even though they hadn't taken them. Fair enough. They know they're supposed to go, the supervisors provide cover for them to go, if they don't go and they don't write the reason for the missed break on their timesheet then they shouldn't expect to be paid for it. But this week Terry had done the wages and I noticed he'd signed-off the time sheets without deducting the missed breaks.

Battleaxe that I am, I fought the issue with him. How dare he criticise me for inflating the labour spends by not deducting breaks, when he goes and does the same thing himself. Terry being Terry, he wouldn't admit that he'd been a hypocrite, had a mini-row with me and went away to sulk.

The next row came when he rewarded his two blue-eyed-boys (department managers Sean and Will) for working overtime by giving them bottles of wine. This was at a staff meeting and he then went on to sing the praises of the fresh foods and grocery departments and congratulate the relevant staff. I was waiting for the Services department to get it's mention - but it didn't come. Wendy and I were giving each other looks of disbelief over the table. I had to say something.

"Terry, can I just say, I think you missed a department off your little praise-list there."

He gets confrontational when challenged and he put on his little sarcastic, mock-offended act: "Oh, I'm so sorry Andrew, what do you want me to say?"

"Well the fact that me and Wendy both worked 45 hours last week to cover sickness, and are both losing holidays because there's nobody to cover, could do with a little mention. And while we're on the subject, we haven't had a manager now since Christmas and we're both having to do all the work of a Services Manager on supervisor pay. And I read in the visit report that Steve [area manager] was impressed with the front-end and you've yet to feed that back to us. We worked hard for that, and we've got no thanks for it. The more we do, the more you expect from us."

Terry was bright red and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. He made a public apology and took Wendy and me to one side later in the day. He apologised again and admitted he had taken our work for granted. A result.

But he soon ruined matters by starting another fight over a piddly little matter. This time it was over the carrier bags - or should I say lack of them. He caught me coming out of the cash office and started a tirade: "Andrew, there's only four sleeves of carrier bags down the front, we're going to run out, how did you let this happen?"

I wasn't in the mood for such attacks: "Er, I'm sorry Terry, but since when have I been responsible for ordering carrier bags?"

"Are you a Services Supervisor or aren't you?"

"Well, actually, last time you consulted me, I was Cash Office Supervisor - and the Stock Control Co-ordinator Routine Chart clearly states that carrier bags should be ordered when processing a sundries and store consumables order on a Friday morning."

"Well why haven't you liaised with Greg and told him you were running low."

"As a matter of fact, I ordered 15 cases of bags last Friday - I didn't have to do that, but I did - and only 10 cases were delivered."


Did I hear him correctly? Did he just call me a liar? I walked away from him, having grown extremely mad, and into the stock control office. I had Greg print me a copy of the previous Friday's order, and took it and thrust it into Terry's face.

He still tried to babble his way out of admitting he was wrong. But he'd annoyed me so much I was ready to walk. It was more to do with the fact he'd jumped on me for a problem that wasn't, technically, my responsibility. Yet, he's quite happy to ignore all the other extra duties I do.

I locked myself in the cash office and sulked. Terry went home we haven't yet crossed paths again. But I certainly hope he'll apologise.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Omnibus Edition

The past week has been living hell. Due to a certain ex-line manager (cough, Nick) signing off holidays willy nilly before he departed from Food Places employment, we've been left chronically short staffed this week. I haven't had a day off for 13 days now and I've still got tomorrow to work. Obviously, being tired and ratty (I've done two 13-hour days), I haven't found the time to sit down and blog about work. There's been plenty of things to blog about however.

Four, yes four, members of staff from the checkouts all decided to be ill. How dare they. Have they no consideration at all? Here's me working all the hours God sends to keep the place running and they're all busy conspiring to make my working day hell. As a result of this synchronised lead-swinging, when the store opened on Monday morning there was one cashier on the kiosk and me in the cash office - with nobody else due to arrive until 10.00am.

Several frantic phone calls later, I'd managed to get some staff on the scene but the day wasn't finished with me yet. The safe key decided to leap from my pocket and conceal itself underneath the worktop in the office. Cue 45 minutes of frantic searching, conducted to chants of "I've lost the bloody key. I'm doomed."

So, all in all, a day of absolute torture.

Things were going too well. By 10.00am, I'd done everything I needed to do and thought it would be a good idea to get ahead with the checkout rotas. I came to wish I hadn't bothered. After an hour and a half of trying to perfect it, problems began to arise. One after the other. It emerged that I'd given two people shifts on days they'd specifically asked for as holiday. I'd overlooked kiosk cover on two afternoons. I'd overlooked front-end cover on one morning. So another job done to the worst of my abilities.

More frustrations arose when, in the process of correcting these careless oversights, I unwittingly smeared my hand with Tippex before running my hands through my hair (my usual deep-in-thought-subconscious-action). You've never seen anything like it - I looked like Cruella DeVille.

One haircut later, I was all set for more mishaps. When I set about the morning cash office duties, I immediately discovered that Deborah, who was on the cash office close the previous night, had obviously been having an off-day. Five of the till floats were counted incorrectly, the safe had been miscounted by £540, the cash office stock was short by £59. It took me HOURS to sort it all out.

And then some stupid customer steps on a grape and skids three-quarters of the way down the produce aisle. They didn't actually lose their footing but, probably seeing the pound signs floating before their eyes, invented a neck injury that had resulted from this slight trip. This resulted in a good two hours of interviews, witness statements, CCTV trawling and form-filling.

Linda, who works on Legality Maintenance, went swanning off to a funeral for the day meaning that Jacqueline needed my help to make sure the workload got done. This meant I spent the day darting between the cash office, covering front-end supervision, and checking price tickets and putting out POS. I have never been so stressed in all my life and, by the end of the day, people around me were walking on eggshells.

There is nothing so mind numbing as conducting a category check. It basically involves using a handheld computer to scan every single product in a particular category and checking that the price on the computer matches the one on the shelf-ticket. Jacqueline obviously seen me coming and landed me with doing Beers, Wines and Spirits - the largest single product category in the store. It took me nearly two hours to complete this task and I was clinically brain dead by the end of it.

Whichever Godforsaken company it is that sends us our change made a complete cock-up of it. The failed to send us the ordered amount of pound coins, £5 notes and 50ps - the most vital coins. They did, however, compensate with lots of pennies and 5ps (which hardly get used). Thanks to this, my safe is now stuffed to the gills with useless coin and it'll take weeks to run it all down again.

Other than that, a reasonably good day, however.

There's not a lot to say about today other than that it was horrendously busy. And we didn't have enough staff due to more malingerers, but that's nothing fresh.

It's a shame I haven't been able to write full-length dedicated blog entries for some of the events of the past week as I'm sure they'd have made amusing reading. It is, however, back to business as usual this coming week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

They Just Keep Coming

Thankfully I'm in a much better mood today. Thanks for the comments from nice readers about yesterday's shenanigans. Normally, after a day has passed, I feel a lot better about incidents like that. But not this time. I still feel every bit as angry as I did when that old arse was mouthing off at me. But, one good thing, I've secured the support of all the management. They stand by my refusal to give the old git what he wanted and have promised not to cave in to him when they contact him tomorrow.

Enough about that.

I had a rather bizarre customer today. She was up her own backside, snooty and moaney - but all over a newspaper supplement. I mean, who on earth would walk into a shop and make such a fool of themselves over a trivial matter like that?

She collared me while I was standing next to the newspaper rack.

"Excuse me, I bought a Daily Mail yesterday and when I got it home it had the magazine in it for The Telegraph."

Oh, I'll just wave my magical fairy wand and correct the problem for you. "Oh, I'm very sorry about that. Somebody must have made a mistake when they were putting the inserts into the newspapers."

"Evidently. I'll be wanting the correct magazine please."

"I see. Unfortunately we don't have one in store..."

She cut me off: "what do you mean you don't have one? How can that be?"

"I'll explain. At the end of each day we tie everything up that we have left and send it back to the distributor so they can credit us for the value of what we haven't sold. So any remaining Daily Mails would have been sent back."

"In that case I'd like you to contact your distributor and get the magazine for me."

Oh for the love of Christ. "I'm afraid we can only contact them on weekday mornings and they wouldn't be able to fulfill a request like..."

"So that's it then? Somebody in your shop is incompetent and I'm now missing something I paid for! You haven't even checked to see if you have one and you're just refusing to help me!"

SUPPLEMENTS ARE FREE! You didn't pay for it you stuck up mare. "If you want me to show you the empty returns box I will, but all isn't lost. There should be a telephone number inside your newspaper to claim missing inserts."

"There will be a charge for that. And I'm not paying that because this is not my problem."

Not your problem? Is it mine then? If you'd had the foresight to phone us yesterday, as soon as you realised you were deprived of a magazine, we could have kept you one! Do you think we're some sort of vintage free crap stockist? "No I don't believe they do charge. You've already paid for the newspaper see."

"And what about my telephone bill..."

I knew full well she was just looking for a fight. But no way on God's planet was I giving her one. I took hold of a Daily Mail and browsed for the number. I was deliberately unhurried and relaxed just to annoy her.

"Oh here we go, it's a freephone number."

"Well they're going to charge me for postage and I shall be billing it you. This is your mess up, not mine."

"I'm nearly sure they won't charge you, but if they do then feel free to contact the store and we will be more than happy to refund you for any costs this mistake might incur for you.

She looked rather shocked at this and I was half expecting her to return later with petrol station receipts to claim her travelling costs. She didn't though. I can just imagine her sitting at home telling the people on the Daily Mail Missing Supplements Department how it was all Food Place's fault and recommending we're struck off their list of sellers.

As low as my opinions of people like her are, I can't help but be slightly pleased they exist. It's good, simple evil customer fun. Nobody gets insulted (well, not directly anyways), nobody gets hurt and it gives one party something to complain to all their friends and relatives about and the other party a good laugh. I hope she knows the entire scene was re-enacted to everybody in the staff room with full-blown impressions and exaggerations.

I remember another customer, a few years back, who was quite similar to this woman. It might even have been the same person. The other incident, nothing to do with any of the staff, was a grown woman throwing a wobbler in the middle of Food Place at her humiliated family.


While her family tried to hide behind sweet displays or pretend they were nothing to do with her, other customers looked on. Nobody quite knew what to make of it. I thought I was watching a scene for a new sketch show being covertly filmed. You know, like the Dale Winton impersonation visiting ASDA in Dead Ringers.

Oh, they do brighten up my day.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Customer Reduces me to Tears

I'm deeply ashamed that it happened. I'm deeply embarrassed to write about it here for the world to see. A word of warning before I go any further: my sense of humour has completely deserted me today.

Being somebody who has always taken the stance of never letting nasty customers get under my skin, it's very hard for me to admit that I let somebody get the better of me. The situation was intensified, to me, by other pressures I was under at the time - but still. How did I let somebody get me to the stage of rushing into the cash office to cry tears of rage? Wiping my face on a cloth cash bag (no tissues available), afraid to go back onto the sales floor because my eyes were red.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of why the customer chose to behave the way they did. It was a very mundane situation which arose because they looked at the wrong price tag for a particular product. There was nothing amusing about it and nothing amusing about the way they treated me. They weren't abusive - in which case I certainly would have been writing a humorous blog entry, poking fun at them. They were just plain obnoxious and made remarks that hit all the wrong nerves with me.

My attitude towards work, of any description, is this: if I'm doing it, I might as well do it well. Strange as it may sound, I take a lot of pride in what I do and feel very good about the fact I do a good job and work hard. So if somebody comes along and starts blaming me, personally, for something outside of my responsibilities that is wrong I get very defensive. To be told I'm "absolutely useless", "a disgrace" and "completely incompetent" is hurtful. It's more hurtful still that it took place in an aisle crowded with customers.

The long and short of it is that they were so unpleasant, they made me extremely angry. They also happened to catch me when I was in the middle of frantically trying to work out why one of the tills was showing as being £750 short. Throughout the encounter I was desperately fighting the urge to scream "FUCK OFF!" in their face and return to trying to find the money. Visions of being hauled in for a security-breach investigation were flashing through my mind. As far as I was concerned, at that moment in time I was as good as sacked. And there I was being publicly grilled over £1.02.

By the time the customer finally went away, I'd allowed the pressure inside me to build to a level I couldn't handle. I got myself out of the way and cried. But it wasn't the thought of the missing money that was driving my tears of absolute rage - it was the thought of the way that customer had spoken to me. How dare they? Who did they think they were? Why can people get away with that? Do I not have a right to be treated with respect because I'm a shop assistant?

When I managed to compose myself, I immediately realised where the missing money was. If I had any tears left in me by this point, I'd have been crying with joy.

I sometimes wonder why I allow myself to get so wound up. It's not as though I'm paid a salary that's high enough to warrant such pressure. The key thing for me is finding the humour in things. But there's nothing funny about losing £750 - until you find it. And for the worst customer imaginable to turn up and start ranting while you're still searching. I'd challenge anybody not to have got stressed.

I've never felt this bad about a single day at Food Place since Nick was my line manager. Every day was living hell with him, but that's a story that should be saved for a day when I can laugh at it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Music Tape - Hurrah!

The powers that be have decided that the in-store music at Food Place needed sprucing up. Frankly, after after over a year of listening to the same tripe ad infinitum anything new is good news. But what they have provided us with has enormously boosted my confidence in Food Place bigwigs.

They've introduced "customer-suited" music. They've carried out extensive studies on what sort of customers shop in the average Food Place outlet and at what times. They've had this information analysed and have used it to play suitable music at suitable times. So the morning is dominated by Motown classics (I nearly jumped through the ceiling with joy when The Temptations - Get Ready came one) and slower, gentler modern tracks. The oldest track I noticed was Little Bitty Pretty One. The afternoon has a more 70s/80s pop tone, with disco classics like Heart of Glass and FunkyTown included. By the evening, when they think the younger people come shopping, the music gets rather rockier. Of course, there are limits. Sweet Child O' Mine, classic as it may be, isn't really suitable for food shopping is it? However, I did hear Place your Hands and Snow (Hey Oh).

OK, so they've stereotyped people enormously by doing this. But who cares? For somebody like me who listens to anything, it can't go wrong. There have been times today that I've been desperate to burst into song and dance along the aisles. Before the new stuff came along, we generally had the music turned to the lowest volume, but today we've been blaring it out. It's amazing what sort of effect a small detail like background music can have. Nothing has seemed like too big a chore today with decent tunes to work to.

It also seemed to go down extremely well with the customers too. They haven't been moaning half as much today and many of them have actually made positive comments about the new music. Perhaps next time somebody starts complaining about nothing, I'll just advise them to go with the music and relax.

We had further good news today. Head Office received a letter of compliment from a customer about the service levels in our store. It related to an incident when the customer in question had brought back a faulty MP3 player. We didn't have any in stock to replace it, but since they were quite keen on having another (they were a good make at a good price) somebody on Customer Service (Ooo...I wonder who on earth that could possibly have been...) rang round the other local stores, located one and arranged for it to be brought to our store for the customer to collect at their convenience.

Nothing outstanding really. We would do that for any customer. But they went on to say that they were "consistently bowled over" by how helpful we are. "Nothing is too much trouble", "everybody is smiling" and "the atmosphere is so friendly". Aww. They even said they prefer to travel to our store rather than use the Ellenfoot Food Place! Victory or what?

All I can say is this: they must have been lucky on their visits having obviously never encountered some of our more dubious staff. There's Andrea for a start. Her face has been set to frown-mode for so long now I think it would do serious damage if she ever happened to smile. And they clearly have never come across Cynthia and been bored to tears by tales of glandular fever and brain tumours. And they haven't gone through Lisa's till any time recently. It's basically like paying to watch a girl chew gum whilst scanning shopping.

I have to travel away on another course in a few weeks time. Mercifully, it's only about 30 miles away and I already have a vague idea of where I'm going. No confusing Internet directions this time. And I don't have to stay overnight in a hotel, which is always a bonus. Overnight stays invariably involve crossed wires at Area Resources when some fool books you into a hotel opposite a store - but not the store your course is based at. So you have to travel a further 10 miles just to get you to a room which was actually booked with somebody else's details in mind. So after rowing with reception about your own name you're booked into a room where smoking is forbidden and there's no shower. And then they decide there's a cap on how much petrol money they'll pay you for such outings, regardless of how much you spent.

You wouldn't think working in a supermarket would require such excursions would you? At the end of the day, all we do is sell people food. And yet I have to go on courses that attempt to teach me how to develop teams, coach colleagues and operate elaborate computer systems - which are only actually used to a tiny fraction of their potential. Oh it does my head in. We once had to do a pretend mystery shop in one of our rivals' stores - I've never felt like such an idiot in all my life. Being somebody who has the brains to be able to find things in supermarkets, having to go up and ask a member of staff something was an ordeal for me. I felt so stupid - "can you tell me where the tuna is please?" when I'm thinking DUH! Try looking where the rest of the tins are for a big sign saying 'tinned fish'!

I just can't help thinking that all this effort is completely wasted...

Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm a Rude Customer Magnet

Whenever I jump onto a till, when it's busy, I might as well stick a sign at the end saying "Rude customer? Please queue here." They just won't leave me alone! And it doesn't stop at the rude ones. I also seem to get all the downright nasty ones.

The first incident took place while I was serving at the kiosk. The queue was a mile long and, take it from me, when it's as busy as that you don't have time to look up. But, having served one customer, I looked up to see a woman starting to pile the contents of a shopping trolley onto the counter.

"Oh, I'm sorry, this is the cigarette kiosk. You need to pay for those at the checkouts." Duh! Does the fact that there's no conveyor belt and nowhere to pack not give anything away?


"We can only take pay for five items here I'm afraid."

"Well where's the bloody sign saying that?"

Don't you get shirty with me you snotty mare. "It's just up there," I say, very politely, pointing up to the huge poster on the wall.

The woman pushed her glasses down her nose and strained to read it. Though why she'd need to strain I don't know because the writing is big enough for a bat to read without effort. She was just doing it for show. "Well how's anybody supposed to see that?"

God if I ever spot you in the street I'll kick your feet from under you! "To be honest, it doesn't really need to be there at all, it's generally accepted that you can't pay for more than a handful of items at the kiosk in any shop."

"This is a pissing joke! You've stood there and watched me wait in this queue, which is a mile long, and now you're telling me I've got to go back over there and queue again?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't see you waiting. If I had, I've have told you sooner." And how in the name of sanity did you get that trolley over here anyways? You must have pushed it through a closed checkout, which you obviously shouldn't have done! Did it not give you a clue that all the other people with trolleys were paying AT THE TILLS?

The woman had clearly entered stand-off mode. She was adamant she wasn't budging so Sandra, who I'm learning to like, decided to try and talk sense into her: "I'm sorry darling, it's not fair on..."

"Don't you DARE call me darling!" the woman roared.

I couldn't help myself. I burst out laughing. Sandra's accent includes darling as a general term. The same way Yorkshire folk say love and many people say mate.

"Are you laughing at me? Right. I want to see the manager now!"

Terry was called. As soon as he arrived the woman started her tirade: "Do you know what sort of people you're employing here? That Welsh one won't let me pay for my shopping and that Cockney thing - the cheek of it - calling me darling!"

I was starting to wonder if I was actually dreaming. Did I just hear myself called 'that Welsh one' and Sandra 'that Cockney thing'? Sandra is from Slough. Stupid bitch.

Terry managed to successfully prise her away from the kiosk by opening a checkout specially to serve her. God I wish he wasn't such a push-over. It's not even as though there were queues at the checkouts, but he still did it just to shut her up. He probably gave her vouchers as well. Still, he did get one snide remark in at her: said me and Sandra were working very hard, but that we had rules to follow. I doubt very much this quelled the woman though. I'm expecting a complaint through Head Office to come through soon.

Next up was another snotty woman who objected to waiting in a queue consisting of ONE other person to buy lottery tickets.

"But I've already queued with my shopping, why should I have to wait again?"

"This gentleman was here first, I'm serving him now, I'll be with you in 30 seconds."

But that wasn't good enough. She marched herself behind the man I was serving and stood huffing and puffing and looking at her watch. "This is ridiculous!" she said about five times.

And then something absolutely wonderful beyond belief happened! The gentleman I was serving stuck up for me! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to cry and hug him and offer him free shopping for life!

He said to me, purposefully loud enough for her to hear: "Just because people are old bats, it doesn't mean they have to be rude to people just because they're young. They should be setting an example!"

Oh her face. If I'd had a camera. It's customers like him that restore my faith in life! (OK, maybe I'm going a bit too far, but in five years of working at Food Place, only one other customer has ever defended me).

There were quite a few more rude ones, but they're hardly worth bothering about. Just run of the mill awkwardness.