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.
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.