Friday, June 08, 2007

Quiet on the Customer Front

I've noticed, and you probably have also, that Food Place has been remarkably devoid of horrible, nasty, vile customers recently. Nobody seems to be in the mood to complain about anything. I even had a customer today who brought back a fruit trifle that had soured, smelly cream on top of it. Naturally, I couldn't apologise enough and had my teeth gritted just waiting for the outburst of bile. But it didn't come.

"Oh, never mind, these things happen!" she said with a toothy smile.

What?! No 'I could have been poisoned!'. No mention of having to 'travel fifty three miles specially to return this substandard pot of filth!' I was stunned. They didn't even throw in a snide remark that we should 'check these things'. Don't get me wrong, I was very happy with how this customer reacted. If only more people realised that checkout staff can only be quality controllers to some extent. It's normally the poor cashier who gets blamed for smelly fish, glass in coffee jars and lumpy orange juice.

The smelly fish remark has reminded me of one customer, many moons ago, who brought back a pack of fresh prawns claiming that his entire family had smelled them and they all agreed that something was wrong. 'They just didn't smell right. They smell very fishy' - I couldn't work out if this was a deliberate pun, intended to be funny or whether he didn't realise that prawns are actually seafood. Of course, I played along with him and agreed that they smelled vile. But they didn't. They smelled of prawns to me and I made a point of surveying my colleagues to see what they thought. Everybody agreed with me - they actually smelled quite appetising.

The new department manager has continued his quest to make enemies out of all the people in Food Place that, actually, are very useful to have on-side. Take Wendy, for example. She will work for anybody, treats everybody with respect and will defend anybody when she feels they've been wronged. Why on earth would somebody even dream of trying to make an enemy out of her?

Allow me to explain. Robert wandered up to the cash office yesterday afternoon and knocked on the door. Wendy opened it, on the chain, and asked what he wanted. He demanded to be let in. Wendy, perfectly reasonably, explained that he isn't authorised to enter the cash office and, even if he was, she was busy processing cash through the system and had it out on the worktop, so it would be a breach of security rules if she let him in. Robert threw a wobbler and protested 'I'm management!'. Wendy stood firm, as I would have done, and said no. The rules are clear. There's a list of people on the back of the door who are allowed in there and even those people are not allowed in when another team member is dealing with cash.

Robert took his wobbler to Terry. Apparently, he doesn't like 'that woman's' attitude. I can see why he might have felt his nose had been put out of joint. He's management, yet he's not allowed access to a certain part of the store. But sorry 'that woman' was only doing her job. And if he doesn't like that he can sodding well lump it, can't he!

I'm just dying for him to turn round and start picking on me. I've come across far bigger shits than him in my life and I've always came out the other side sticking two fingers up at them. He won't be any different.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Another Day From Hell

Today was one of those awful days, that I seem to have a lot of lately, that starts off terrible and doesn't get any better.

Cleo pushes her luck

It was exceptionally busy today, for a Monday, and we hadn't really budgeted for this when we compiled the staff schedules. So we were a bit thin on the ground with checkout staff and I was running between departments like a blue-arsed-fly borrowing staff. The last thing you want in that situation is a member of staff failing to turn up on time for their shift.

Just as I realised Cleo was AWOL and was about the phone her, she came sauntering in looking like she'd been run over by a tram and said: "Andrew I feel terrible, like I'm going to faint, I don't think I'm fit for work."

I was ready to wrap my hands round her throat and finish her off. How dare she do this to me. "I'm sorry Cleo, you know the company policy. You need to give us an hours notice at the very least if you're ill. You will have to work you shift."

This might sound cold-hearted. Not if you know Cleo. She can be a good worker for months on end and then all of a sudden she goes through a phase of constantly coming up with any excuse not to work. She never phones the store if she's 'ill' - just turns up and demands to be sent straight home.

"I couldn't phone you, I had no credit."

"Well you have a land line phone don't you?"

"It's only taking incoming calls. I didn't know what to do."

"Well you could have gone to the phone box." (I know perfectly well she lives right beside one). "Or at the very least came to the store earlier to let us know in person."

"I'm really not well," she droned, putting on the 'please feel sorry for me, I have a hangover' voice.

"Well, if you're telling me you're not fit for work, all I can say is that you haven't followed the procedure correctly, so it's out of my hands. You'll have to go and see Terry and see what he says."

Half an hour later she came to the tills and sat herself down - with a face like a smacked arse. She managed to sit there for exactly an hour before deciding to have another go. This time she bypassed me and went to Terry again, who'd evidently told her the first time to see how she felt in an hour. She was evidently unsuccessful as she worked the remainder of her shift, sat on the till sulking.

I'm sorry, but I just do not have time to indulge staff when they start swinging the lead. If she was genuinely ill I'd have known just by looking at her. But her acting skills aren't worthy of an Oscar, so I knew she was faking it. All the empty threats of "I think I'm going to be sick" came to nothing. I'm not going to put myself through the stress of trying to cover a shift at the eleventh hour for somebody who just wants to go back to bed.

New Manager Gets Shirty

I've mentioned in passing that Sean, one of the department managers in our store, left rather suddenly. It's THE bit of juicy gossip in Food Place at the moment and I'd love nothing more than to discuss the ins and outs of it here. But, for rather obvious reasons, I don't want to go giving too much away. Suffice to say he was given a very clear-cut choice and he took the sensible option.

He's quickly been replaced by a man called Robert, who'd already passed the interviews and assessments and was just waiting for a managerial position to arise in one of the stores. I don't like to give the impression that I'm reacting unduly negatively towards a new colleague before giving them a fair chance, but the man's an arse.

The current management team in our store are the first fully-functional lot the store has had in a long time and they've worked very hard to throw Food Place's past in the bin and start again. They've brought the staff together to work as a team and have eliminated most of the weak links among us. They've tried their best to stamp out the old ways that were embedded by the piss-poor management of the past and the store really has benefited from it. And now this Robert has waltzed in and rattled enough cages in a mere four days to risk stamping over all the hard work.

It started, quite literally, the second he walked into the store. He walked along the diary aisle and collected four pieces of loose cardboard from the shelves and retrieved a multi pack of yoghurts that were on-sale despite having split outer packaging. Fine. But to herd together five team members that he hasn't met before and berate them for 'failing to do their job properly' and 'poor standards' without even having the courtesy to introduce himself first - is not fine.

He then proceeded to complain to Terry that customers were being kept waiting at the tills whilst supervisors 'faffed about' looking in the till drawers to see what change was required. 'Could that not be done before the store opens?' he asked. Except, he didn't ask. He set it as a rhetorical question. Well. For somebody who doesn't have a clear understanding of how Food Place's cash flow system operates, he's nobody to barge in and start poking his nose into it. I should point out that, and I've timed it, it takes takes around 15 seconds to check a till drawer for change.

So he's got up mine and Wendy's nose too. Even Terry has admitted that he's came in with completely the wrong attitude. He hasn't yet taken the time to introduce himself to anybody and hasn't gone out of his way to build bridges with the team.

It's all going to end in tears. I just hope we don't go through the living hell of having another manager like Nick again.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Nature Bites Back

I'm now the laughing stock of Food Place. Allow me to explain.

This morning I woke up feeling really groggy and tired. You know, when you feel as though your body just doesn't want to wake up and all you can think about is crawling back into bed and sleeping. And sleeping. You want to go back to sleep so badly you couldn't care less if you never woke up again.

So, I think I've just about established that I felt tired. Well, as I was leaving the house to walk to work, in a daze of tiredness, I tripped over the doorstep as I came to close the door. I fell forwards, landed on my hands and rolled to the side, promptly going head-first into a large plant pot. God, if my head hurt before, it was caving in with pain now. If I'd have been in any other mood I'd have creased up laughing so badly I would have struggled to get back to my feet. But, as it was, the foul mood I was in got the better of me and I was sat on the front path gritting my teeth with anger. How dare the doorstep trip me up.

You might be wondering how my little accident in the front garden turned me into a laughing stock at Food Place. Well, I pulled myself to feet and stomped off to work. When I arrived, still in a complete strop with myself, as I walked up the first aisle to get to the canteen, I quickly realised I was getting a lot of stunned looks from my colleagues. If you're anything like me, you'll know how irritating it is when people stare at you when you're in a bad mood and want to be left alone.

Eventually: "What? Why is everyone staring at me?"

Lorraine was struggling to hide her giggling. "Go and look in the mirror Andrew."

I felt butterflies in my stomach. Oh my God, what have I done? My foul mood suddenly seemed to evaporate and I was nervously smiling away to myself in anticipation of the view the mirror would yield.

I got into the toilets, took one look and burst out laughing - hysterically. I had soil marks down my cheeks and bits of twig clinging to my hair! By the time I'd composed myself enough to go back into the canteen and face everybody, quite a few people had gathered to survey the damage. Of course, I had to tell them what had happened. Everybody found it riotously funny that I'd fallen arse over face into a plant pot and still had bits of horticulture in my hair and mud-stains to show for it.

I, very briefly, tried to trick them into thinking I was offended by their reaction: "Oh well that's just charming isn't it. I fall over and possibly concuss myself and all you do is laugh. Some friends." It didn't wash though. Still, at least it cheered me up for the morning.