Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Love Bitching

Having inspected the stats for this blog, it would seem that visitors love reading posts that mock, insult and belittle my colleagues. Of all the labels I use, Colleague Bitches is, by a long way, the most popular one that people explore.

However, looking back through the posts that I have tagged with this, I've noticed that my bitchiness isn't particularly fierce. Alex, Sandra and Cynthia are the only colleagues of mine that have dedicated blog entries (here, here and here) - and even those aren't as bad as they could be.

So I thought I'd give you an updated low-down on who's annoying me at work and this time I will do my best to make it warts, boils and all. Nothing spared. It's just that it's quite difficult to get passionately angry about somebody unless you've got somebody to share the anger with - why else would bitching be such a popular activity at work? Anyways...

The new department manager at Food Place continues to rub me up the wrong way. And it's actually getting quite creepy now. Last night, I went out with a few of my friends from Food Place for a quiet drink (well, it was supposed to be quiet!). At about 10:00pm, were sat in a window booth at a bar and Debs looked out of the window to see Robert standing on the opposite side of the street staring right at us.

"Nobody look now," she whispered - God knows why - "but Robert is on the other side of the road staring at us!"

One by one, we glanced from the corner of our eyes and, sure enough, there he was. He wasn't with anybody - totally alone and staring at us - he vanished about five minutes later. And then the text messages started. He texted three different people, bombarding them with questions. Where were we? Was everybody at work invited? When were we going home? The icing on the cake was when he phoned Greg at 12:30am to remind him that he started work at 5:30.

I didn't know how to feel about that. Did I laugh at it or find it outrageous or spooky? At first I was a bit spooked. My mind ran away and starting adding bits to the memories of him standing there. By the time I'd finished blowing it out of proportion, he had red eyes, a death-stare and there was thunder and lightening to set the scene.

But all the same, there's something seriously bloody wrong there. Why didn't he come over and join us if he'd seen us? And what was he doing watching us? And checking up on us? Does he think we belong to him now? He's just a creep and I'm getting more and more uneasy about him all the time.

Oh God I hate this woman so much. She never stops moaning about the people "rahnd 'ere". Well sod off back to Slough then! She loves nothing more than picking fights with people and then twisting it round to try and convince Terry that it's all because she's from 'dahn sahf'. She's done it with me more than once and I just laughed in her face. "Yeah, one of my best friends is from Aldershot - I really hate southerners!"

Her despicable tactic of latching onto people she perceives as weak continues. She's all over any new starter like a rash. She tries to convince them she's lovely and everybody else is horrible, loading all the bullets and waiting for her victim to fire them. Yet, whenever she's confronted about things she's said, she denies everything: "I promise you dah'ling I'm not like that. I would never say things behind peoples' backs."

Yeah, and I'm Moira Stuart!

He's one of the department managers. As I've mentioned before, he suffers from mood swings. On Monday he worships Food Place and motivates everybody to think the same. On Tuesday he "can't wait to get out of this shit hole" and drags the morale to the floor. He constantly arrives at work still hung over from his binge-drinking the previous afternoon (he never makes it to the evening!).

Before, I could tolerate him. Now that he's developed a tendency to talk to me like I'm a sack of dirt, I can't stand him. He's forever poking his nose into my department and telling my staff what to do. If I set them off scrubbing the checkouts when it's quiet (a job that needs done at least once a week) he'll drag them away and have them helping somebody else - who doesn't particularly need help.

There was a row over the magazines last week too. Will, in his majesty, went behind the kiosk and pulled out the magazines back-stock box - which contains everything that won't fit onto the shelf, but will be needed later in the week. He pulled out two magazines with last month's date on them and yelled at Lyndsey for not getting them returned. OK, she was careless and we lost credit for them - but bloody hell, the way he went on, you'd think she'd lost us thousands!

He seriously needs to die (ouch!). Or at the very least, leave Food Place and become permanently unemployed. If that's still too nasty for you, he could go and work in a small shop with Will as his manager and Sandra as his fellow assistant. I cannot abide the bloke. But King Terry seems to love him. Ed gets away with things that nobody else does. He doesn't wear the correct uniform and he takes unofficial breaks all the time - he must smoke about 80 a day judging by how often he's round the side of the building.

He's also a lying little toad. A few weeks ago, he lost one of the small handheld computers we use to do stock counts. It turned up in the cold-room, dead from hypothermia, and he was the last one seen with it. Instead of owning up to his costly mistake, he turned the blame onto Gina, claiming she'd left it there. She must have been the first person he laid eyes on when trying to formulate his excuse, because there is no fathomable explanation as to why Gina would have had the thing or what she was doing in the cold room.

It would seem I'm not as bitchy as I think. Those are the only people I can think of anything nasty to say about. I don't even have much to say about Alex at the moment - he's actually been quite pally with me of late and he hasn't done anything especially offensive. He's still a tart though. And so the claws come out once more...

Saturday, July 28, 2007


It would seem that all the cashiers at Food Place have got together and decided to drive me round the twist. All day they've done stupid things. Persisted in asking stupid questions. Summoned for assistance when it's not required. Summoned me to do tasks for them they're perfectly capable of doing themselves. Held competitions to see who can get rid of the most change in the shortest time. Constantly asked to be relieved for a toilet trip.

In case you didn't quite get all that - they've drove me up the bloody wall!

Dianne Leaves her Brain in Bed
It started first thing this morning. Dianne rang for me three times in the space of fifteen minutes to ask dumb questions. Firstly she asked "do we do these?" whilst waving a suspicious-looking card at me. It turned out to be a card given to convicted criminals to allow them to pay fines. Yes Dianne, we do, in fact, allow people to pay their fines here, but we decided not to train anybody to handle it, hoping you'd just blunder your way through it and miraculously do it right! (Sarcasm, as I'm sure you gathered.)

Minutes later she rang down again. "This lady's forgotten her purse, but she lives miles away. She wants to know if she can take the shopping now and pay next time she's in." OK, not a question, as such, but how dumb can you get? Yes Dianne, of course you can allow people to float off home without paying for their shopping. That's what Food Place is all about!

Next time, about three customers later, "Andrew, this isn't scanning, can you find me a price please?" What? You mean that packet of cheese you're waving at me that's got £1.09 plastered right across the front of it?

If she'd rang that bell one more time, I'd have gladly throttled her.

Deborah's Change Requirements
This morning I was in a very industrious mood and I got the morning change run done and dusted within half an hour of the store opening. I had every till crammed to the gills with every denomination of coin and was confident I wouldn't have to even think about change again until at least 3.00pm.

But Deborah had other ideas. By 10.00am she needed more pound coins. Annoyed at this attempt to scupper my change plans, I nonetheless gave her 100 more £1 coins and £40 in £5 notes. Nobody else needed anything, so I had to do this change run specifically for her till. What a waste of time, but I soon got over it.

Not two hours later, when most of the other cashiers hadn't even got through their first bag of £1 coins, Deborah rang her bell again:

"Andrew, I need some more pound coins."

"What the hell are you doing? Eating them? Have you not been working your change?"

The following line was delivered with such perfection that, despite my annoyance, I had to laugh (she was just finishing serving a customer as she said it)

"Yes! I have been working my change! [to the customer] that's £9.99 change, thank you!"

"Oh, you've been working your change, but you've just handed a customer a pocket-full of the stuff, without asking for the penny!"

At least we both got a bit of a giggle, but I still had to go away and do ANOTHER change run for one till only.

The Bells
Four times today, the bell was rang and I walked several thousand miles to assist only to be told that it didn't matter - they didn't need me after all. What the hell were they playing at? I'll tell you what it is - cashiers spot a potential problem, looming about five miles away on the horizon, and immediately ring for assistance - ignoring the 100 possible solutions they could use without having to bother a supervisor.

Oh, it's doing my head in just thinking about it, so I'll go away and get some rest. Hopefully I'll be able to recharge myself adequately so I don't have another stressful day tomorrow. Highly unlikely...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Me: The Mystery Shopper & Ellenfoot's Closure

I don't know if other retail workers experience this, but when I go down town, or to a different supermarket, my critical eye switches itself on immediately. I've got hawk-eyes for merchandising standards, customer service, cleanliness and a whole host of other criteria I judge shops on.

On a trip down town today, I took a look around myself in Wilkinson's and wondered why it seems so popular. It's cluttered, messy, lacking in staff - and most of the ones they do have are rude and unhelpful - and actually quite dingy looking. I suppose in a shop like that with low prices, people expect a bit of mess. But then, we had a Kwik Save store near Food Place that was very cheap and yet extraordinarily clean, tidy and well decorated. Or perhaps people don't even notice such things. Thinking back, I don't think I ever took much notice of shops before I worked in one.

Poundland didn't fare any better. When we got the tills with our purchases, two out of eight of them were open and the queues were sprawling everywhere. There was a supervisor-type person standing at the back of them with one of those call-centre-esque ear/mouthpiece things on. He didn't seem even remotely aware of how many customers were queuing. OK, so maybe there actually weren't any more staff there to sit on a till. In which case, why wasn't he apologising to the customers?

It's this very issue that gets my back up in shops like Lidl and Netto. Their whole philosophy seems to be something like: 'We give you goods at cheap prices, so don't you dare expect anything closely resembling good service!' It doesn't matter what time of day you shop there, you can only expect one till to be open. They claim they're not 'wasting money' on overstaffing stores so they can offer cheap prices. I don't see it that way. I think: 'I'm coming in here, putting money into your tills, so do your bloody bit and get me served!'

At Food Place, I like to think that even when we don't have enough till staff to meet the demand, we act quickly to do something about it. I'm a checkout supervisor, but I can't just stand there and watch out-of-control queues. If there's no staff there, I throw my keys at the duty manager and get myself onto a till. It really annoys me when I don't see this sense of urgency in other shops.

The worst offender is Morrison's (one of the only supermarket chains I don't mind admitting this blog isn't about). They don't seem to mind having four people strutting along the checkouts on support duties while there's not half the number of till staff required. A lot of the time, they just stand in a crowd at their little desk and chat away to each other - oblivious to the fact that there's legions of waiting customers just staring at them.

Lack of checkout staff leads me into another area that makes me want to rip my hair from it's roots. Self-service checkouts. There's nothing worse than staff trying to prise you out of a queue to herd you through the self-scan tills. Yes, I'm aware that I only have one item, but when I'm shopping with a company that makes vast profits, I refuse to let them get away with forcing me to serve myself. My stance is partly down to the awful functionality of these machines - they're slow, very unintuitive and I've never witnessed anybody get more than five items through them without a supervisor having to come over and piddle about with the screen at least once. I also object to companies trying to squeeze every drop of profit they can by cutting out the human-contact. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd much sooner be thanked by a human voice than a robotic one!

And don't even start me on electrical shops. Why is it, when I just want to take my time and browse the options, I have to bat away attacks from sales persons every thirty seconds. Comet is the worst - they've got more predators in orange shirts swarming around than they have customers! Yet, when I've actually made my choice and would like to buy a product, there's nobody in sight. There's one salesman in the next aisle putting such a lot of effort into trying to persuade somebody who clearly has no intention of buying - but it would be rude to interrupt. When somebody does float along and you ask for help, their response is invariably "Oh, I don't do this department, I'll send a colleague along for you." Cue more waiting. And waiting. I once stomped out of Curry's in a huff after asking four staff members for help and still waiting almost 20 minutes with no assistance in sight.

See, I can be a snotty customer too. Perhaps I should be more forgiving of some of the less composed Food Place shoppers? Nah. I'm never rude, and I don't expect anybody to be rude to me.

Ellenfoot Closure
Staff at the neighbouring Ellenfoot branch of Food Place were gathered together on Sunday evening to be told the store will close on 22nd September. A rival supermarket chain opened up right over the road from the store in April. The sales initially halved. The manager remained over-confident that there would be a magical recovery and all the lost customers would come back. He was wrong. Sales dwindled slowly over the following months and they are now 71% down on their former glory. This, actually, still leaves them with a respectable take-figure considering the small size of Ellenfoot and their proximity to such a large competitor, but what has really killed the store is not how much the customers are spending, but what they buy. Special offers and promotion stock account for 85% of their sales - and promotions are loss-leaders. They can only make a company many if the customers also buy non-promotional goods too.

Staff have gradually defected to work at the rival store and haven't been replaced. Of a former team of almost 100 staff, only 22 remain. Some of the supervisors have been relocated to our store and the rest remain at Ellenfoot to face redundancy.

It's been strange really. My branch of Food Place was always geared towards beating Ellenfoot. We made sure our service, availability, pricing and general standards were better - Terry was once absolutely obsessed with being better than them - but we could never really top their sales figures. We have, and have always had, competitors - Ellenfoot didn't. Before April, Ellenfoot would take around £45,000 on a Saturday, versus our £37,000. Now, they struggle to top £10,000. Suddenly, it's as though we've got nobody to compete with anymore. Ellenfoot's fall elevated us to the #1 spot on our region in terms of sales. £195,000 for a 13,200 square feet store is good - for Food Place anyways.

Oh well, I expect I shall soon be summoned to help Ellenfoot clear out their nooks and crannies of age-old stock. I did this gritty task when Bartonfield Food Place closed and it 'aint pretty. Packs of cigarettes that are so old they don't carry health warnings - bottles of 'Grants'' Vodka - how long ago did it change to Glen's? And every store I've been in seems to have, in a dusty little corner somewhere, a whole crate of matches that are so old they'd probably explode if you tried to use them. Oh, I can't wait.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Whoa! A Record

Today saw the highest number of awkward, strange, bizarre, rude or downright evil customers I've ever come across inside of a single day. It was literally one after the other! And it wasn't just the customers - the day was packed with unusual occurrences and it just felt like one of those days that makes you wonder when things are going to calm down!

Daily Telegraph
It began with a relatively run-of-the-mill rude customer:

"Where are your daily newspapers?" she asked, approaching the kiosk counter.

"Just over there," Lisa informed her, pointing towards the news-cube, stationed quite literally ten yards away.

"I want a Telegraph."

There was a pause - Lisa was obviously waiting for the woman to go and get it. But it soon became clear she wasn't going to budge, so Lisa said: "If you'd just like to take one from the box and I'll put it through for you."

"Well can't you get it?"

I was standing at the podium, which is behind the kiosk, and I was already seething with rage at how downright awkward, not to mention snotty, this customer was being. Did this woman not realise that supermarkets are, by their very nature, self service? You collect the items you require, place them into the vessel we provide for transport, and present them to a cashier who organises payment. Simple.

Sensing that Lisa was a little stuck for words, I intervened. "Let me get it for you. Telegraph was it? You see, Lisa here can't leave her till unattended - for security reasons."

"Well it would only have taken her thirty seconds!"

Well why the frigg is such an issue for you to pick it up yourself?

"There you go, one Daily Telegraph, your magazines are inside," I said, overdoing the fake yet quite pointed and deliberate politeness.

Without so much as saying thank you, the woman motioned to the till. She wasn't even willing to put herself through the strain of taking the paper from my hands. Giving up, I dropped it in front of Lisa and walked off, leaving her to deal with the lazy cow.

Swallowed Cards
Shortly after midday, an angry looking man came storming into the store. I was unlucky enough to be the first member of staff he spotted.

"Oi! You! I've just been at your cash machine and it didn't give me my card back!"

I don't remember my extensive property portfolio including an ATM.

"Oh, well I'm very sorry, but we don't operate the cash point, all I can do is give you a hotline number for Lloyd's TSB as it's their machine. Or you could call your bank and they can arrange it to be returned to you."

"What's this bollocks? You have a cash machine on the side of your building, and you don't operate it?"

Offended at his tone, I continue: "No, Lloyd's TSB operate the machine. We don't have any access to the back of it."

"Well it's got my card and I want it back right now!"

"Well, as I said, all I can do for you is to give you the telephone number for the operators of the machine. When a card is swallowed, it's held in the machine until it's next emptied."

"What a load of shit, I want to see the manager!"

Terry is called. He tells the little dweeb the exact same thing that I just did, interspersed with protests of "get me my card!" "this is bollocks!" and "so I've got to phone a hotline on my own phone bill because of your incompetence?"

Eventually, Terry allowed the man to call the number from the phone on the podium. He gave the poor operator who dealt with his call the exact same verbal diarrhea that I got. In the end he slammed the phone down on the desk, called us "stupid pricks" and stomped out.

What a charming gentlemen!

Alcohol Woes
Soon after the above incident, a young man came to the checkouts with a basket full of alcoholic drinks. Stephen asked him for proof of age, and he presented a birth certificate. We told him that we don't accept this as proof of age and he was fine about it, picking out his non-alcoholic purchases and buying those before leaving. Fine. I wish all such incidents passed as smoothly as that.

But then his father came storming back into the shop.

"Have you still got that basket full of alcohol there that you've just refused my nineteen year old son?!" He spotted it, sitting on the vacant checkout behind Stephen and said he would be buying it now.

Stephen acted in accordance with the law: "OK, do you have any proof that your son is over 18?"

"My son isn't buying it now, I AM!"

"I understand that, but the law states we cannot sell alcohol to anybody who we believe is buying on behalf of a minor."

"Are you stupid or something? I've just told you he's nineteen and he was trying to buy it on my behalf!"

Not wishing to get into a further nasty argument, Stephen summoned me over. I'd already been listening and knew exactly what I had to say - but I was still panicking. Something about this man's tone and aggressive stance made me very nervous of what was going to happen.

After being updated on what the situation was, I explained: "the fact is, he tried to buy the alcohol first, and you're now trying to purchase it instead of him - which suggests to us that you're buying on his behalf. We can't allow this, as Stephen explained, because we'd be breaking the law and the terms of our Premises Licence."

"For a start, he gave you proof of his age!"

"Yes, he gave us a birth certificate. This proves that the person it belongs to is 19 - but there's nothing on there that verifies it belongs to him."

"So you're saying he's using somebody elses as fake ID?"

"No, I'm not saying that at all, I'm just telling you the reason we can't accept birth certificates as ID. It has to be a passport, driving licence photocard or another photo-card with the PASS logo on the back."

He started kicking off even more, so I informed him I was calling the store manager to come and deal with the situation.

Terry arrived and, yet again, repeated exactly what I'd just told this fool. That it is against the law to buy on behalf of minors and that all the evidence pointed towards him as doing so.

"Well if it's the law, get me the fuckin' law! I want the police here!"

I could hardly contain myself. This prat wants us to the get the police involved? And what are they going to do? I'll tell you what they'll do, bang you up for wasting their time and applaud us for being a diligent retailer!

Terry, who's much better with aggressive customers than me, took the man over to the customer seating, sat down and calmly explained things again. The man then produced his credit card, saying that the surname on there matched the surname on his son's birth certificate. Therefore we had proof he was 19 and the alcohol could be sold. Thankfully, Terry wasn't having any of that. He explained that we'd refused the sale for perfectly legitimate reasons and would be standing by that decision.

"You've not heard the last of this, I'm going to the papers!" And off he stomped. I can't wait to see the headline.

Where's my birth certificate?
Not five minutes later a man appeared by the podium.

"Has a birth certificate been handed in?"

"I'll just check for you, when did you lose it?"


"OK." I examine the lost property register. Nothing. I get the box out and have a look. Nothing.

"Well I've been told by my friend it was handed in here."

"Well it would be logged in this book, or at least be here in the box, it's where we keep everything that's handed in. So, sorry, we don't have it."

"But you must have."

God's breath! I've told you once! Do you think I'm trying to steal your identity? "Sorry, we don't have it. Who told you it was handed in?"

"My friend. It was last Friday - or the one before."

"I thought you said you lost it today?"

"It's got my bank details on."

"What? A birth certificate?"

"It's in a yellow wallet - you know when you get a birth certificate, it comes in a yellow wallet? You must have it."

"I'm sorry. We don't have it."

He stood there and stared at me. I was quite unnerved. Will you just fuck off!

He eventually strolled away along the checkouts and started looking on top of them all to see if it was there. How bizarre?

I noticed a customer walking over to the magazine section with a basket full of alcohol. I didn't think very much of it - she probably just wanted a Heat magazine or something. But when I next looked up, I saw her heading out of the doors.

I have never ran so fast in my life. I don't usually go in for heroics. I'm happy to prevent shoplifters by keeping hawk eyes on them when I see them behaving oddly, but I usually draw the line at chasing them. But this time a fire burned in me and off I went.

She tried to say she was going to the ATM, but I was having none of it (she was walking in the opposite direction for a start!) She was hauled into the office and spot-fined by the police.

YES! A victory!

That's about all, as if it wasn't enough!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mrs Snot Returns

Today we got a blast from the past at Food Place when a customer kicked off over some pears. The woman in question was formerly referred to as 'Mrs Snot' in this post about a previous incident relating to clementines. Maybe she just has some sort of obsession with going into shops and kicking up a fuss about fruit.

This time she launches her offensive with a phone call:

"Good afternoon Food Place, how can I help you?" came my cheery greeting.

"Yes, I was in your store earlier and purchased some pears which said 'buy two for two pounds' on the shelf. I haven't received this offer. Can you tell me why?"

I love you too...

"OK, I'd have to go and have a look at the shelf, but if you could just tell me which ones..."

She doesn't let me finish: "They're prepacked Conference pears, can you go and look now."

I'm perfectly capable of scheduling my own day, thank you very much, I will do what I want to do and when I want to. Try asking nicely in future. "I'm afraid I can't go this second because I'm in the cash office and can't leave at this time - if you'd like to leave your number, I can call you back in about ten minutes, would that be..."

"Well hurry up because I'm going to collect the children from school any minute. It's 556357." CLUNK!

Aghast at her extraordinary rudeness, I'm left to scrabble around to find a pen to jot the number down before it goes out of my head. It crosses my mind not bother returning her call and wait for her to phone Food Place again - I could just say I didn't catch the number before she slammed the phone down on me! But I'm not petty. I write the number down and duly set off to investigate as soon as the cash is safely stored away in the safe.

A quick look at the shelf reveals that the Conference pears are above a standard price tag which says £1.29. In the next basket along there are bags of Braeburn apples which are marked at £1.45 - buy two for two pounds. Clearly, this woman has made a mistake. I decide that I'm not going to phone her back and kiss her ass and offer a double refund and triple replacement - she's going to be told she's made a mistake and invited back to obtain a refund should she not want the pears.

When I attempt to call her back, the number doesn't work. I could have just given up there and then - but I didn't. I remember that the woman had an Ellenfoot twang to her accent, and tried the phone number with the Ellenfoot area code in front. Ta-da...


"Oh hello, it's Andrew calling from Fo..."

"Yes, I do have a caller display!" (she's obviously so accustomed to telephoning us, she knows the number by rote)

I contemplate hanging up, but decide against it. "I'm calling back about the pears you bought. I've had a look at the shelf..."

"I can see where you're going with this, you're going to blame me for picking the wrong thing up - again! It's not good enough, you're not looking after your customers here!"

"Well, yes, actually I was going to explain that there is a two for two pounds offer, but it's on Braeburn apples - which are next to the..."

"Well your shelf display is misleading customers, like myself. And, quite frankly, I'm fed up with this. Every time I come in your bloody shop..."

It suddenly dawns on me who this woman is and she's not getting away with it a second time. It's time for me to interrupt her for a change. "Well I have just inspected the shelf, and I can say in complete truthfulness that there isn't anything at all misleading about the way the products are displayed."

"Oh so I'm a liar now, I ought to inform your manager about this..."

"Would you like to speak to him? He's just outside the door now..."

"No, I don't have time for this carry on, my children will be waiting in the rain! I shall be coming back to return these pears to you and I want my money back. I shall find somewhere else to shop in future!" CLUNK!

And I leave the office whistling a merry tune to myself. Does she think I care that she won't be returning? Let Morrison's deal with rabble like her. OK, so we lose the money she spends - but what price can you put on a happier working and shopping environment for all? Actually, it's academic anyways because she threatens never to return every time she misreads shelf labels or finds something minute to complain about - if only she'd stop teasing us with such promises.

Robert has been getting on peoples' nerves again. Lorraine and myself were in the training room this morning conducting a return-to-work interview on Cleo (who was 'sick' for the umpteenth time) when Robert barged in. The door was closed (a sign on the outside of it says that the room is engaged when the door is closed) so just who did he think he was to burst in?

"I'm sorry Robert, we're in the middle of a private meeting..." Lorraine said politely.

"It's OK, I won't bother you."

"No, Robert - it's personal business..."

He sighed and walked out, but kept knocking on the door every thirty seconds thereafter to see if we were finished yet. By the end, Lorraine was so annoyed and frustrated that I had to escort her to the smoking area to unwind. When we arrived, Mike from the bakery was already there - also unwinding from an encounter with Robert.

"Twat-face would like me to remove the baskets from the bakery shelving and display everything in plastic tubs instead!" He explained through gritted teeth.

Lorraine exploded again. "WHAT? Since when was he anything to do with bakery? And has he not read the Merchandise Showcase book? The baskets have to be used!"

She then used several colourful terms to express her frustrations about Robert - again, I'm too delicate and innocent to even think of repeating them here...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


At the time my computer broke, Robert, the new department manager, was just beginning to get up everybody's nose, if you recall. Since then, he's surpassed himself numerous times and now, I can say in all honesty, not one single person in the store actually likes him. And very few haven't been pissed off by him yet.

I first realised that I wasn't going to get along with him very well about a week into his training month. Although I'd heard all about him from other people and knew of the numerous incidents with my colleagues that had caused upset, he hadn't actually directly annoyed me. As it turned out, he did it without intending it.

One day, I was in the toilets, having a wee at one of the urinals (as you do) and he entered the room. Now, any man will know that it is basic toilet etiquette that, when somebody is using one of the two urinals, instead of going to relieve your bladder right beside them you use the cubicle instead. Apart from the basic manners aspect, the other urinal is in full view of the door and, should somebody open it, any passing waif or stray can get a front-row view of you peeing. All of this bypassed Robert though. He parked himself next to me, so close he was almost touching me. This alone was enough to distract me and no amount of concentration could allow my urination to continue. As if that wasn't enough, he then started blathering away about the trolley in the warehouse with checkout sweets needing to be worked immediately and that I should get one of the 'checkout girls' to see to it. Apart from the fact that 25% of the 'checkout girls' are actually male, did Robert not realise that this was a totally inappropriate moment to hold a strategy meeting?

Toilet troubles aside, he's also got it into his head that I'm his PA. He keeps stalking me, with his arms full of paperwork that he wants me to do for him. On three occasions, he's dumped a load of handwritten training sheets for his staff on me and informed me that they need typed up. OK, in the past I've been more than happy to do peoples' typing purely because I can get it done three times faster than most people. But other people ask nicely. "I'm sorry to bother you Andrew, but could I be cheeky and ask you to type this up for me when you get a spare minute?" is the usual request. But in Robert's case it's more like: "I need these typed in time for a training meeting at two-thirty-sharp." Excuse me mate, I'm a flamin' shop assistant! If I wanted to be somebody's secretary, I'd pick somebody much more charismatic and attractive than you!

And then came the day he had to get some passport photographs taken for his Premises Supervisor liquor licence. He informed me at 9:00am that he was getting them done and would need to be reimbursed for the expense from the store allowance. At 10:45am, he found me on my morning break in the canteen and remarked, "I would have thought breaks were less important than finishing your work - you still owe me four pounds for my photographs." I owe him money? The fool. He's not even the manager of my department!

And those are just the incidents where he's got up my nose. I'm too much of a prude to repeat any of the numerous expletives I've heard Wendy - who famously doesn't swear - utter in reference to him (I'll give you a clue what the worst one was - it started with a 'c' and ended with a 't').

Delicatessen Closure
Food Place decided, quite rightly, that the deli counter in our store wasn't worth operating. Considering it needs to be staffed for fifteen hours a day and loses more money in waste than it actually puts into the tills, I certainly can't argue with their reasoning. The unfortunate aspect of this is that the four staff suddenly didn't have a job to do. Because they'd all been with Food Place for longer than five years, it meant the four newest recruits from the other departments lost their jobs. We had to lose two very good, very flexible cashiers to make way for two old-fogeys who if they operated any slower would stop. But then, that's life.

At present, the deli counter remains in place but is soon to be removed to make way for an extended bakery section. How exciting. I often wonder why Food Place didn't think, 'oh, why don't we look at all the work that needs done with this store, and do it all at the same time to save money?' In January we had a store refit, in March they replaced the freezers, in May they replaced the checkouts and the kiosk, in June they closed the deli and, soon, they're coming back to move the kiosk (again!) slightly. What a total waste of resources. Surely the thing they did first, the painting of the walls, should have been done last, when they had everything where they wanted it.

Of course, there's been the usual ones. The Kappa-clad chavvy mothers who accuse me of starving their children because I won't let them have a £4.18 tin of infant formula in exchange for a £2.80 Healthy Start token. But aside from those, there haven't been a great number of remarkable customers. There was one lady who came in to be refunded for some cat food and we couldn't work out how the hell she'd managed to buy it from Food Place because it was a variety we don't stock. She rang ten minutes later to apologise, saying she'd just remembered that she bought it in Morrison's.

The Floods
Our store was affected twice by water over the past couple of weeks. When the heavy rains first started, one of the pipes that carries rainwater burst and emptied over the wines & spirits aisle. Several customers were soaked and angrily demanded that we replace their clothing and we had a lot of mopping up to do. Later in the week, the biggest fuck-off torrential downpour I've ever seen in my life turned the car-park into a lake and the water ran into the store. Within half-an-hour it had spread across the shop floor was approaching ankle-depth. It totally knocked out four of the tills when it became deep enough to bathe the computer terminals beneath them. Yet more mopping up to do, which several of us volunteered to stay overnight and do (night-work premium - RICH!). The engineers arrived to fix things (freezers, chiller cabinets, ovens, tills, the lot) and perform safety checks at about 3am, and we were ready to trade in time for opening the following morning. Terry didn't manage to drag himself in from his holiday though.

So, that's about all there is to update on, so with any luck I can resume normal posting from today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm Back...Again

My lack of posts for the past month and two days has been due to another computer failure. But since I haven't had enough cash handy lately, it's had to wait until now to be fixed. Luckily, I've kept notes of things to include in my catch-up post. But I am now, officially, back on the map. Well, unless my computer should decide to go wrong again.