Wednesday, April 25, 2007


It always happens to me. I turn my back for five days to go on holiday and when I return the place isn't the same. Everybody's fallen out with each other, so-and-so and so-and-so have got together, so-and-so and so-and-so have split up, so-and-so's been suspended and so-and-so's been sacked.

Well, it's not quite as drastic as that, but you follow my meaning. And I should add that, somehow, I always seem to become involved in this disputes and dramas despite not being there!

It began with huge bitch-fight that took place between two female cashiers on Monday afternoon. Tensions had been frothing ever since Jean's surprise ruby wedding anniversary party last month. To cut a long story short, some people were miffed not to have been invited. Not me though. Personally, I can't think of a worse way to spend an evening than watching old people try to dance to crap music. But the tensions have been directed at Marjorie who was given the task, by Jean's family, to compile a list of who, from Food Place, they should invite to the party.

Anyway, feelings were bitter as it was. Now, if there's anybody you can always count upon to make a situation worse it's Sandra. She just can't keep her mouth shut about anybody or anything. She's a born stirrer and there's nothing she loves more than trying to humiliate people by shouting at them. "I tell it like it is!" is her strap line. Personally, I would go for: "I shout utter bollocks to try and make myself look tough and morally superior to everybody!"

What started it all, I don't know for sure. I presume Marjorie was having a dig at Sandra for not rotating the checkout confectionery properly - or something of the sort. Whatever happened, Sandra burst out with this:

"Wait a minute darling! You can back off speaking to me like that, because I don't know who you think you are. You've caused so much trouble in here and now everybody feels bad. What right did you have not to invite some of Jean's friends to her party? You're just a manipulative old..."

At which point she was cut off by Marjorie bellowing that the party was none of Sandra's business. She had a point there, it wasn't. Sandra would never have been invited in a month of Sundays because everybody hates her and she makes no secret of the fact that she hates everybody else. It's not easy to like somebody who, having been in the job three days, declares: "I don't care who I stand on to do it, I'm rising to the top in here!" (I just thought it made her sound dull - if you've got burning ambition like that, why waste it on Food Place?)

Sandra retorted with more utter tripe about Marjorie's involvement in the invitation list for the Godforsaken party. I don't normally defend Marjorie, but on this occasion I will. She was told she could only invite 10 people. So for everybody else it was tough luck. What else could she do?

But the row soon turned to much nastier. Here's a rundown: Marjorie called Sandra an evil, twisted liar. Sandra came off her till and, in front of customers, yelled "come on then!" in Marjorie's face to try and start a fight before accused her of being a coward. Marjorie told her she wasn't worth it. Sandra ran off the canteen and started blubbing to anybody who'd listen that everybody had it in for her and what had she done to deserve it? She then ran to the manager and told him a pack of lies about what had just happened. Wendy became involved because she'd witnessed part of the action and, her self-control failing her, told Sandra that she brings everything she gets on herself.

At this point Sandra changed tack. Before Terry got hold of the true account of what had gone on, she began to 'open her heart' to him about how ill-treated she felt by ME.

ME! ME? ME! I'm supposed to have upset Sandra! There I am naked on a beach in the Algarve (not literally) and, halfway across the continent, I'm being dragged into rows going on in Food Place!

She told Terry I bully her over her working hours. I'm supposed to have promised to raise her contract to full-time (I would never promise that because I don't have the authority to do it) before cutting her hours down and taking shifts from her to give to other people. Without consulting her.

Here's the truth: I gave Sandra three weeks' notice that she was losing her Friday evening shift (which she isn't contracted to) because she was consistently late for it. She told me this was to do with bus timetables so I gave her a shorter shift in the afternoon.

And now I've discriminated against an employee because they can't drive! You work it out, because I can't. I just flamin' well give up with doing the hours. Wendy and I are presently lumbered with the task because there isn't enough management cover for one of them to be able to do it. We'd had no experience of planning a checkout schedule so we found it hard. But we approached it with a simple philosophy. We said we'd be fair to everybody and we'd do what we could to accommodate peoples' requests.

But Sandra has just taken the Michael out of us from the word go. At first, she tried to tell us that Terry had promised her 35 hours a week - hoping we'd just give them to her without checking. It was total bollocks, Terry had said nothing of the sort. Next, she told us she was available to work until 10.15pm each evening. We gave her the shifts believing it to be a good move. She got extra hours, we got cover for the graveyard shifts. It was only three weeks later we discovered she'd been leaving at 9.45pm every day to catch her bus home - conveniently forgetting to clock out. With those shifts promptly taken away from her she looked elsewhere for overtime. Next thing you know, she brings us a typed letter signed by another employee "officially handing over" 5 hours of their contract to Sandra. What the Hell? She thinks it's OK to alter employment contracts without consulting a manager? In fact, who does she think she is doing things like that full stop?

I've had more than enough of this shite from her now. It's not the first time she's gone running to Terry about me. Last time it was to discuss with him my lack of supervisory skills. I confronted the issue with her and said: "if you'd like to try doing the work of four supervisors on your own with very little support from above for peanuts more than the minimum wage, you're welcome to try it out."

Argh, my rambling about Sandra is becoming disjointed now. I need to go away and forget about her for a few hours before I get in my car, kidnap her and throw her off Beachy Head!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunshine & Rudeness

Judging by this weekend, it would seem that warm weather and sunshine brings out the worst in people. It's been the first truly summery weekend of the year and, rather than making people happy and glad to be alive, it seems to have turned everybody into foul-tempered, moody so-and-so's. There hasn't been any one incident with a customer that has stood out, but there have been a few occasions this weekend when I've been gritting my teeth.

The first happened when I'd jumped onto the kiosk to help quell the last-minute lottery queue. I served a good few customers but, when there was nobody left waiting, I announced to Sandra I was going back to get on with the cash office jobs. But a woman appeared just as I was signing my till off and moved to plonk her basket on the shelf.

"I'm sorry, I'm closing on this till, Sandra will be with you in a second," I explained. I even smiled. The lovely breezy spring evening had made me cheery. But not this woman. She tutted and rolled her eyes, and made such a drama about of moving her basket onto Sandra's till. It was as though I'd told her she had to use another till on the other side of the shop.

Apart from anything else, it really irritated me that she didn't even have the decency to acknowledge that I'd just spoken to her. Most people would at least say "oh, OK" or something like that. I could have been a naughty, rude cashier and just walked away, leaving her standing there like a lemon. but I didn't, I spoke to her. I wish I hadn't bothered.

I came across the next irritating person in the laundry aisle. I was on my way to take the damaged products to the waste point in the warehouse so I had my arms full of bags, packets, boxes and all sorts. There was a customer blocking half of the aisle with her outstretched trolley and I was moving towards the gap on the other side of her to get past. But another woman veered round the corner, looked up and seen me approaching, but still tried to push through the same gap I was halfway through. I had to stop, walk backwards and move aside to let her pass.

She tutted. How fucking dare she! She was the one who got right in my way and forced me to alter my path! Any normal person would have, having seen me coming, waited until I'd passed. For which I would have thanked them and thought nice thoughts about them. But no. She was in so much of a hurry she had to barge her way through, nearly knocking me flying.

The next incident came soon after. A lady had got all her shopping scanned through the checkouts before realising she'd left her purse at home.

"Well I live 6 miles away, what am I going to do now?"

She said it as though I'd made some cock-up that was going to cause massive problems for her. How rude. I continued to be polite and tried to establish whether she had any means of paying at all. She said no.

"OK, well we can keep everything aside for you and make sure all the cold goods are stored properly until you get back."

"You can't expect me to make a 12-mile round trip!"

Well duh! You stupid cow. I don't expect you to do anything. You're the one that's got yourself into this mess. Any normal person would be apologising for inconveniencing us like this!

"I have my cheque book, but the card is in my purse, so I can't exactly use that now can I!"

"Well, if you write your name, address and telephone number on the back of the cheque and sign it, you can take the shopping home with you now and phone us with your card number so I put the cheque through as payment."

"Well yes, I think that would be a more appropriate solution."

WHAT? I'm placing a lot of trust in you here, as well as saving you a 12 mile trip! I don't HAVE to faff about all day cleaning up your problems, but I'm doing it out of the kindness of my heart and you're not even grateful.

I could kill people like that. The worst of them are the ones who ask for your assistance and then don't thank you for it. Like when somebody asks if you'll try and find a product in the warehouse when it's absent from the shelf. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it's not in the warehouse either (contrary to popular belief, if we have a product in stock we like it to be on the shop-floor so we can sell it!). When you tell the customer this, they sigh and walk off.

A-hem! Excuse me! I've just gone and scouted around to try and find what you're looking for. Two little words would do nicely!

And don't start me on the customers with a general lack of manners. Either they were never taught how to behave towards fellow human beings or, more probably, they don't think they have to apply general rules of civility towards shop workers.

Sometimes you'll be standing in an aisle when you hear somebody whistle at you. Or click their fingers. Or wave and bark "OI! You!" I always turn round, grin and say "hello, can I help you at all?". Rude people really get rubbed up the wrong way when you're nice to them.

Some people think they're more important than any other customer in the shop. You can dealing with one customer when another comes waltzing along and says: "is there any tomato sauce?" For God's sake, I'm clearly dealing with this customer. Wait patiently! And sometimes you're talking to one customer over the phone when another comes along in the flesh and starts demanding your full attention. It's just so rude.

By reading this, anybody would think I don't like customers. I do. I genuinely like working with the public because 90% of our customers are lovely. You can have a laugh with them and they treat you like a fellow human being. It's just the tiny proportion of arrogant, cocky, rude buggers that really get on my nerves.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hall of Shame: Volume IV

Smokers, it seems, are worse than anybody else for making a show of themselves in Food Place dramatically enough to warrant a Hall of Shame entry. Many entries about nasty customers seem to relate to scenes that have unfolded at the kiosk and this one is the worst of them all. Looking back, I think I handled the situation well, although very unprofessionally. But nobody who witnessed it really cared that I was a little out-of-line.

This, I should point out, happened before I rose to being a supervisor. I was just a kiosk assistant and was nearing the end of an eight-hour-shift of non-stop serving customers. I was sick of the sound of my own voice saying "hi", "bye", "please" and "thank you". I was thirsty. I was tired.


A lovely old chap, a frequent Food Place visitor, approaches the lottery desk in his mobility scooter. He can't walk very far on his own, so he uses this vehicle to keep his independence. He seems to like coming in for the social activity more than anything. He's always bumping into people he knows and most of the staff, myself included, enjoy a good chat with him. He's one of those old people that can get away with rambling on about his life because he actually has something interesting to say about it.

Back to the story, he's in the lottery queue. He hands me his slips and begins to chat to me about the weather which, if I recall correctly, is pretty horrible. When I get to the last slip he's given me the machine throws it back at me and makes one of it's many silly noises. A quick investigation yields the explanation.

"Oh, I think you've filled this one out on the wrong type of slip. Was it the main lottery game you wanted it on for?"

"Oh yes, why what have I done?"

"Oh you've written onto a Hotpicks slip, that's all. Never mind, I can type the numbers in for you."

The lovely old man apologises, I assure him it's not a problem, and proceed to enter the numbers. Within seconds I'm disrupted by an overly-dramatic sigh coming from the queue. I look up and see a young-ish man - hair gel, leather jacket, shirt and tie - giving me the evils. He's looking at his (flashy) watch and shaking his head.

At first, I ignore this blatant show of impatience and bad manners and continue typing the numbers. Seconds later, the sigh sounds again only this time with far more emphasis. I look up and return the death-stare, determined not to be the first to look away. The man crosses his arms, sighs again, and looks to the roof.

This momentary distraction causes me to lose track of what I'm doing, forcing me to start all over again. I apologise to the man in the scooter for the delay.

But somebody else isn't amused.

"For fuck's sake, I haven't got all day you know." He clearly hasn't got the guts to shout it though. He just mutters. But I bloody well hear it. He's got one last chance. He gets one final death stare from me as a stark warning to behave himself.

I return to typing the numbers, but I've barely got the first one tapped in when he flares up again. But he really makes me see red this time...

He directs his venom at the poor man in the mobility scooter: "What are you playing at holding us all up like this?"

I'm not having that: "OI! This gentleman is a customer like anybody else, and he'll be served just the same. I'd do the same for you, so just back off. You've no right speaking to people like that."

He's stunned. Obviously he thinks lowly shop assistants aren't allowed to challenge his disgusting conduct. "What did you just say to me?"

"Basically, I said mind your manners and stop speaking to people like they're dirt on your shoe."

"I don't fucking believe this. You're paid to do a job, so do it..."

"Well, if people waited patiently and respected the fact that they're not the only customer in the shop, maybe I'd be able to get on with doing my job!"

The man puts on a flabbergasted face and gives me the 'your card is marked!' look. He does more huffing and puffing and it's really distracting the poor old gent caught in the middle of this unpleasant charade.

The man, ever polite, turns round to the jumped up, spikey-haired pillock. He touches his arm and begins to apologise for the delay. I'm about to run over there screaming at him not to apologise, when the pillock launches his next tirade:

"Don't touch my jacket!"

Oh my God! How far up his own arse can he get? Mind the jacket? Does he think it's special or something? Jesus Christ I have a leather jacket! Half the population have a leather jacket!

"I'm sorry, I'm just trying to say sorry for the delay, it's my fault for filling out the form wrong..."

Pillock cuts him off: "I haven't got time to wait all day because of your arse-ups."

I've had enough now. "Any more swearing and I call the manager and have you removed." I turn to the old man, "And you've got nothing to apologise for, it's an easy mistake to make." And back to Pillock, "You're only holding yourself up by making such a scene, I could have sorted this out three times over if you hadn't been such a drama queen."

Pillock turns a bright shade of red and backs down. He turns his back to me and allows me to finish dealing with the gentleman. Soon it's his turn to be served.

I'm not the in mood for all-singing-all-dancing customer service. "Yes?"

"Twenty Bensons."

"I'm sorry?"

"You heard."

I toy with the idea of calling the manager to give this drama an explosive end, but, after more death-stares, I decide to proceed with serving this piece of filth. I get what he wants, violently scan the barcode and fling the packet onto the desk.

"Four-seventy-two." (You can tell how long ago this was) Even after all that had gone on, I still felt very rude for omitting the please. But he'd have to have some bottle to comment on my lack of manners.

He tosses a five-pound-note onto the desk. I snatch it up, hammer the buttons on my keyboard, slam my cash drawer lid down and drop his change onto the counter. He makes a big show of slamming his fist onto it, sliding it across the surface and scooping it into his pocket. He walks away doing his tough-man walk.

But I just know he's going to go back to his flashy little car and try to crawl into the boot to hide and recover from the humiliation. Serves him right. He tries to look hard by abusing shop assistants and defenceless customers, it backfires. Shop assistant bites back and he ends up looking a right prat in front of a queue of people.

If he hadn't involved the poor man in his little attempt to look powerful, I'd have laughed in his face. Arrogant little wotsit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ellenfoot Dies

Today brought me to visit Ellenfoot Food Place, unfortunately. You remember, it's the store that's always got on our wick by being oh so better than us.

Ellenfoot Food Place is virtually identical to ours, only slightly narrower. It has the same warehouse-look as us, with no ceiling and a clear view straight to the tin roof and air conditioning apparatus. The staff, however, are another issue entirely.

I don't need an outsider to tell me that my branch of Food Place has friendly staff. We know many of the customers on first name terms, we're generally very cheery and we'll go out of our way to help (unless the customer in question is a nasty-pasty). But Ellenfoot is something else. At the till they totally blank the customers. No eye-contact, no smile, no please, no thank you, no sod all. One of them has the looks and posture of a gorilla.

Ellenfoot is also more expensive. Food Place think they can get away with charging the customers more money because competition is thin on the ground in the town. The staff don't follow the POS policies and, as a result, many of their shelf prices are missing, inaccurate or misleading. My inside knowledge tells me they don't follow stock-control procedures properly and it really shows. The number of missing products, incorrect facings and overcrowded shelves is quite astounding.

Ellenfoot have always thought they can get away with being sub-par because their customers generally had nowhere else to go. But last week this all changed. Muhaha! A rival has opened up shop in the town, and sales figures for Ellenfoot Food Place plunged. At first the manager was overly confident it was because people were checking out the competition - he was so sure they would all return. But it's not happening. In fact its worsening. This time last week they were down 38% on the previous week. This week, they're 18% down on last week's poor figures placing them 56% short of their sales before the rival arrived.

In a way, it's sad. There's no doubt that people are going to lose their jobs. Food Place has "Sales Tiers" which dictate how many supervisors the store needs. Ellenfoot has dropped two sales tiers in the past two weeks. Their new position, if maintained, means they should have 5 supervisors and 2 department managers. They currently have 9 supervisors and 4 department managers. Eek. And then there's the possibility of closure. If their new rival (you're probably already guessing who this rival is) gains the confidence of Ellenfoot residents, Food Place is stuffed. If it goes anything like Bartonfield (another local Food Place hammered by the same rival chain) then the sales will continue to slide gradually until it reaches the point that promotional stock accounts for 90% of the total sales. And we all know what that means - no profit. Bartonfield lasted 8 months - I wonder how long it'll take for Ellenfoot.

When I visited today the store, although far from deserted, was nothing like as busy as it usually is. There were plenty of customers but, sadly for Food Place, they were only stocking up on the special offers.

And the effects don't stop at Ellenfoot. Sales at my Food Place branch are down by roughly £3000. This is a tiny fraction of our total sales and isn't going to lead to mass redundancies, but it's still something.

At the end of the day, the blame doesn't lie solely with the rival - naming no names, but inviting guesses (I'll give you one). Ellenfoot Food Place isn't able to compete because it's much smaller, more expensive and it was too complacent. If the staff had run the store well in the past, they might have more customer loyalty now. But it's too late...

The drama.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Operation Checkout & Retained Cards

Retained Cards
It's so bizarre that I should have thought to myself last Thursday, "oh, it's been a long time since we had to retain somebody's credit card". I wish my mind had kept it's dirty little thoughts to itself because, sure enough, the very thing happened today.

Carla's chip-and-pin machine had instructed her to swipe a customer's card, the old fashioned way, rather than processing it the now-normal way. When she did this, a message came up on her till: "RETAIN DEBIT CARD". Thankfully, she had the brains not to tell the customer this, and rang for me.

God, did the customer take the news badly. I can understand it in a way. It can't be nice to be told, by some checkout supervisor, that your card is going to be taken away from you and destroyed.

"WHY? What's the matter with it? WHY, WHY, WHY?!"

Again, understandable. I think I would be agitated under such circumstances.

I tried to keep the whole thing discreet. I didn't want all the customers rubber-necking and eavesdropping for a bit of scandal. "I'm afraid they don't tell us why they've done this, so I can't say for certain, but they normally ask us to withhold a card if they've noticed suspicious activity in your account. That's not to say they suspect you of anything, they've most probably done it as a precaution for you."

"What? You mean some hacker's got into my account and spent my money!? Oh my God. Sweet mother of God, no, not this..."

"No, no, I'm not saying that's what has happened, I was just giving an example as to why they might have asked us to keep your card. You'd have to get in touch with them as soon as possible."

"Well it's a brand new card!"

"I see. Have you used the old one today at all?"

"Yes, this morning."

"Well that could be why they're asking us to retain the new one. On their system, it will appear to them that you're still using your old card, yet there's been an attempt to use the new one - they might suspect it was intercepted in the post."

She took this explanation readily enough and paid with her credit card. I followed the normal procedure and cut the corner of the card off in her presence before filling out a form and placing it in an envelope ready to send back.

It wasn't long before she returned and asked for the manager. Oh God, here we go.

She ranted to Terry: "These fools in here have cut up my new debit card and sent it away, and I've just been on the phone to my bank who've told me there was no reason they should have done this!"

It took a long time for Terry to explain to her that we can only handle cards as the tills instruct us to. If it asks for us to seek telephone authorisation, we have to do that and if it instructs us to keep the card we have to do that. He eventually won her over by reminding her that she wouldn't thank a shop for ignoring such a message if her card had been stolen.

Honestly. But there you go. That's banks for you. If ever there's a problem they always shift the blame onto the shop. Nothing's ever their fault.

Operation Checkout is Coming
Today was absolute hell on earth. Easter isn't normally especially busy for us and we certainly didn't bargain for what we got today. We're putting it down to it being the first Easter since the local Kwik Save store closed down, but God Almighty, surely all those customers didn't just come from that! At one point this afternoon we had all the tills operating and the queues were stretching back to the middle of the aisles.

Strange that people still glare at me as if to say "I'm waiting here! Do something about it!" when there aren't any more checkouts left to open. What am I supposed to do? Wheel out the six spare tills we keep locked in a cupboard? Yeah.

But thankfully our saviour may be on the way. Following on from the huge refit Food Place underwent after Christmas, the hitherto unchanged checkout area is in line for a revamp. Operation Checkout they're calling it. It's a rolling program moving across all Food Places that will see new checkouts installed and layout improvements. Or so they say.

So they're finally ripping out our existing checkout bases, which are pitted with dried up debris that's gathered over the past 10 years, and replacing them with shiny new ones. We're going to have 10 mainbank 'fish-tail' checkouts (ones with conveyor belts and packing wells for those unfamiliar with techno-shop-talk) versus the 8 we currently have. And we're getting express checkouts back - the old ones were removed to make way for self-scan tills which, themselves, were pulled out months later because of shocking levels of customer abuse.

However, by far the most interesting change will be the removal of our Customer Service Desk. The tobacco kiosk, which it's currently joined on to, is being moved to make room for the additional checkouts, and the desk isn't surviving the changes. In once sense I won't be sorry to see the back of it. It'll mean I never have to cover another lunch break on there. Which means less exposure to the morons who shop with us. Or does it? With no desk to complain at, they're going to attack anywhere and everywhere. I can see it coming. Nobody will be safe.

Least of all me and Wendy. To compensate for the loss of workspace when the Service Desk goes, we're getting a small 'podium' behind the new kiosk which will act as our new base camp. Customers are going to see that as a 'Please Complain Here' location. I see teardrops ahead.

It's a shame these changes aren't going to bring the cash office back down to the front line. It was so much easier to manage in the past, when the cash office was behind the kiosk. We could do the cash office jobs and supervise the tills at the same time - we even had a little window to keep an eye on what was going on outside. Nowadays, if you're upstairs in the cash office, there's no question of trying to be anywhere else at the same time.

Friday, April 06, 2007

New Uniform, Cheque Madness & Goodbyes

Today will be my first day wearing my new uniform. Terry, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that he wants the store supervisors differentiated from the rest of the staff by what they wear. The previous uniform was something of a sore point.

When we were hastily taken over and rebranded two years ago, New Food Place sent in somebody to take our uniform measurements and order what we needed. This woman, Tricia she was called, was also responsible for organising everybody's contracts, so she had a bit of a say in who got what posts. Problem was, she had her favourites. She immediately took to Lorraine - who wouldn't though? - and made sure she got a supervisor post and ordered her five tops, five pairs of trousers, a quality name badge (not like the DIY-kit ones most of us wear) and all the accessories. However, Tricia didn't like me and Wendy. We got two tops each, no name badge and she did her very best to try and stop Terry making us supervisors.

Lots of bitterness broke out in the store when it was revealed that Tricia hadn't been allocating uniform fairly. Some part-time staff had got more uniform than the full time staff. She told some people that blouses and shirts weren't available, but allowed others to have them.

As a result, two years on, some of us are wearing rags because we got so little that it's been washed a thousand times over.

But not from today. I have shiny new shirts and ties to wear, as well as a smart name badge. We were all happy with this new situation except Brian, one of the stock-control supervisors, who took issue with the colour of the shirts. He's gone away and moaned to Terry and he's been told he can buy his own shirts and wear those. This caused a minor riot amongst the other supervisors. We all went to Terry and announced we'd be coming in wearing luminous yellow shirts if we were allowed to pick and choose what we wear now. He quickly backed down and is making Brian wear the standard attire.

So all is now well in that department.

Guarantee Cards
Today was Good Friday and it was horrendously busy. We slightly underestimated how many bodies we needed to man the checkouts and ended up borrowing from all over the shop. On the whole, however, the day ran pretty smoothly, but you can always rely on one person to go and bugger it up by kicking up a fuss.

Cleo rang her bell to summon me to her checkout and explained: "This gentleman wants to pay for his goods by cheque, but the guarantee card he's given me isn't for the same bank account as the one written on the cheque."

You'd think it would be quite straightforward to handle this.

"I'm sorry," I explained to the man, "if you want to use this cheque, you'll need to provide us with a guarantee card for the account the money will be coming from."

"I don't believe this."

People say that quite a lot. They can never quite believe their own stupidity it would seem. Never occurs to them for a moment that it's their cock-up. They just think that, being paid shop assistants, we should be able to sort out any mess of theirs.

He continued: "My name is on my card, and it's the same name printed on the cheque!" He waved the card in my face as proof.

"Yes, I'm aware of that, but the card is for a Barclay's account and the cheque is for a Halifax account. The guarantee card is our confirmation that your bank will honour the payment to us regardless of the funds in your account..."

"Well, are you trying to say I've got no money, because I have!"

"No, I'm not saying that...all I'm saying is that we can't accept cheques unless they are supported by a guarantee card..."

"But I've given you one that clearly belongs to me!"

"I'm not disputing that the card belongs to you, I'm saying that we can't take payment by this cheque unless you provide us with the card for the same account."

At this point his wife starts. "This is pathetic. I've never known anything so small minded and petty."

"I'm not being petty, I'm just trying to explain the situation to you..."

"We've paid with these a hundred times in Tesco!"

I seriously doubted that this was true, but continued, "Well Tesco's till operators clearly haven't checked the details on the card you're giving them. Checking card details against cheque details is the first thing our cashiers are trained to do when they learn to handle cheques."

Like most similar situations, my attitude wasn't helping matters. I'm not the best person to deal with these situations because I take the moral high ground with everything. I insist that, if I was the customer, I would never expect shops to take a cheque from me without a guarantee the payment would be honoured, and I believe all customers should think the same way. But they don't.

"So, to be clear, you definitely don't have the card for this cheque account?"


"OK, well if I call the manager down, we can see what he says, but I'm quite sure he'll only confirm what I've said."

I was right. He did. So, what did the customers do? Threw us the card to pay with that! After all that fuss! I was furious with them.

Food Place won't be the same for me after today. It was Kate's last day before she moves on for pastures new. She's finished her degree and has secured a job as a Human Resources Field Manager for a large clothing retail chain.

I can't imagine what it's going to be like when I don't have somebody's accent to mock. And nobody else can laugh with me when I find random things funny. Renault Espaces. Poo. Certain doors. Chairs with amusing postures. Evac-Chairs. Diana Ross. Shoe polish. Poop-scoop bags. Klingons.

I'm going to miss having her there so much. She started there at the same times as me, and she's one of the few people who've been there the whole time I've worked at Food Place. I'm really happy she's going on to better things, and I hope I'm not too far behind her, but HOW DARE SHE LEAVE ME ALL ON MY OWN!

Well, there's 83 other colleagues, but they're not Kate!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Recruitment Woes

Oh my God if Food Place never hires a colleague again I will rest easy. You cannot underestimate how annoying, stressful and plain hectic it is trying to recruit a suitable person to fill a 25-hour checkouts vacancy.

I think the whole problem is aggravated by the extremely low staff turnover in our particular branch of Food Place. If I had to deal with recruitment week in, week out - like many stores do - it would just become part of the daily routine. If we were such a horrid place to work that we went through 20 till assistants per week, reputation would spread and nobody would bother applying. But as it stands, our store is the only major employer on our side of town. If local residents secure a job, they don't bloody well let go of it. A bit like me really. As a result, a vacancy in Food Place is a minor media event.

The fun starts the second you place the advert in the window. You get a rush of people asking for application forms. But they don't just want one. They'll also take one for their son who, they explain, is so lazy he sits down to take a pee. Yes, you really skyrocketed his employment prospects by telling me that didn't you? And then they remember, they should take one for their neighbour, Joyce, who's been very depressed lately and needs something to take her mind off things.

Give me strength.

But some people can't even be bothered to visit us in the flesh to seek an application form. Whenever we advertise vacancies, you always get people ringing up and asking for one to be posted to them:

"Hello, Food Place how can I help you?"

"Could you post me an application form?"

Could you post me an application form WHAT? But you have to be nice, so you get a pen ready and say "Yes, certainly, can I take your name and address please?"

"It's 11 Peel Green Road, Natasha Bedford."

WHAT?! You want me to post an application form to PEEL GREEN ROAD? It's practically in the car park! Jesus Christ I'd have to walk past your house to get to the post box! You lazy great heifer! As if we'd even contemplate employing somebody who can't be bothered to walk five yards!

When the closing date arrives, we remove the notice and start vetting the application forms. Here are just a few observations that have arisen from this arduous process:
  • "I want to work this day, those hours!" Why do people respond to an advert for an "evenings and weekends" checkout assistant and fill in the grid saying they can only work 8am-10am every fourth Saturday and 10.00am - 2.30pm Monday to Friday except every fifth Tuesday? Do you really think employers will take on anybody who dictates their working hours like that?
  • "I don't want 2 work on da tillz!" Well tough madam! You applied for a 'tillz' vacancy! And please at least attempt to use English when writing an application form.
  • "I want to work 'behind the scenes' as I'm not good with people!" Oh good! You're exactly what we're looking for! NOT. There is no behind the scenes in a supermarket. Most people are crap at dealing with the public, but you've got to do it sonny. Sorry. I work in the cash office and you still get customers popping out of the safe to ask where the pasta is! (slight exaggeration)
  • "I be cleaner as I speak no English at all!" Well you're not much use to us then are you.
  • "I've had 15 jobs in the past two days!" How can people honestly expect to get anywhere in finding a job when their track record proves they can't hold a job longer than 20 seconds? Well, when you think about it, some morons must be hiring them.

So, having waded through all that nonsense, you end up with four very good application forms. Two of them are from recent school-leavers with good grades who are currently doing part-time further education courses. Two of them are from mature applicants who have very good previous employment records that prove they can hold down jobs for years on end.

And then it comes to the interviews. Sadly, two of the applicants looked much better on paper. One of the school-leavers clearly got somebody with nice handwriting to write their application form for them and one of the mature candidates has obviously held their previous job so long because their employer couldn't find an excuse to get shot of them.

I mean, they just showed no spark of life at all. It went something like this:

"So, tell me about your last job."

"It was in a pub" ...

"OK...and...what were your day-to-day duties?"

"I served drinks" ...

Oh for CHRIST'S SAKE! Do you want this job or don't you?!

But the other two pose a dilemma for us. What do you do when you have two applicants who are both as suitable as each other competing for one post? All there is to do is let one of them down gently. We send them a letter which says how impressed we were with their interview, but due to overwhelming response to the advertisement, we cannot offer them the job on this occasion but will contact them as soon as something suitable arises.

I felt like such a bastard for having to do that. It broke my heart! And here's me trying to be tough.

However, the next step is the one I'm dreading the most. The induction. Kill me now.