Friday, August 17, 2007

Drama Queens & Corpses

After a reasonably quiet week on the fussy customers front, a lady chose today to table her motion to have our entire product range tweaked to suit her.

The lady in question is a customer who frequents Food Place. She's one of those strange customers that you never know how to take. Some days she appears to be in high spirits and chats away to you like a best-friend. Other days she does nothing but moan; usually about the finer details of her personal life.

This week, the big topic is that she's been diagnosed with diabetes. She's told us all about how she is waiting to find out whether she will have to inject insulin on a daily basis; all about her new diabetic nurse, who's lovely by the way; all about her quest to discover whether she can milk any money out of the government. Well, her words were closer to "this is affecting my quality of life! I might have to stop working, they should be paying me disability."

I felt like slapping her in the face and yelling at her about the four or five diabetic staff we have at Food Place. You didn't hear them moaning for days when they were diagnosed and they aren't screwing it for all it's worth by trying to get out of work and extracting extra benefits.

I digress.

This lady has decided to complain to us, formally, that our product range is not suitable for diabetics. She wrote Terry a snotty letter which went something like this:

Dear Mr Lucas
I am very annoyed that Food Place does not cater for me properly as a registered diabetic [oh, we're keeping a directory of people with blood-sugar disorders now are we?] and here are some examples of this.
  • You stock Dr Pepper full sugar, but not diet
  • You stock cans of full sugar Tango, but not the diet version
  • You don't stock Robinson's Summer Fruits in a low sugar variety

[the list continued ad infinitum] I feel very discriminated against by this stocking policy. Please change matters.

Just who the hell does she think she is? The opening paragraph of her letter suggested that Food Place doesn't cater for diabetics in general. She then moved on to give a list of very specific products that we stock in a standard variety but not a low-sugar variety. So what about the several hundred sub-brands we do stock that are suitable for diabetics?

So basically, Mrs Muck, you're actually saying Food Place is discriminating against diabetics who insist on buying summer fruits squash rather than blackcurrant & apple. Who insist on buying Tango rather than Fanta.

Or, closer to your meaning still, you're moaning that we don't stock a long list of products you want, and using diabetes discrimination as a weapon to get your own way.

Dead Customers

Today we found out a regular customer had died. Paula, who lived on the row of houses opposite Food Place, died of a heart attack aged 52. She wasn't in ill-health and seemed absolutely fine when I spoke to her yesterday morning - only about three hours before her death.

As most people know, a sudden death like that brings some harsh realities home. Any day on this earth could be our last. And what are we doing with our lives? Working in supermarkets. I spent a lot of the day walking around in a little daze thinking about dying and how seemingly random it is. Paula got up yesterday morning and went about her normal daily routines - popping over to Food Place to get something in for her husband's tea before she started work - all for the last time. She might have been worried about a dentist appointment next Wednesday. Or putting off paying a gas bill. And it's all over now.

And death makes people talk. Everybody at work was discussing it today. I was helping Deborah out on the kiosk this afternoon and we got talking about other customers who have died on us. I worked on the kiosk for quite a long time, and if there's anywhere in the store where you get to know the customers, it's there. Mostly because it's the same people coming in for the same products. A lot of the time, I used to find myself subconsciously going to grab a packet of their brand of smokes before they even asked for them. Every now and then, a customer would suddenly stop coming in and you always assumed they'd kicked the bucket.

The most memorable is the one we'd all like to forget about. The customer called Bob who visited the store twice every day - and then died in it. He collapsed in the wines & spirits section, suspected heart attack, and was dead before he even reached the hospital. Strange that I even remember the date - Tuesday 2nd November 2004. My God, it seems like last week! I'm getting old!

Not quite a customer, but linked to the store nonetheless, was a 10-year-old boy called Dylan. His mother was a regular customer who I often spoke to and I remember, vaguely for I was never paying that much attention, she often had her small son with her. He was run down by a truck on the road immediately outside Food Place and three members of our staff were on the scene administering First Aid. That was a terrible week too. The staff involved were deeply disturbed by what they'd seen and the front of the store was covered in floral tributes.

There was a young-ish man who shopped most evenings for odd-bits. I didn't know his name until after he'd died, but he was always chatting away to us. I had no idea he was an infamous criminal until the night he fell through a glass skylight whilst trying to break into a warehouse and plunged 30ft to his death. JPS Lights were taken out of our tobacco range not long after he died because he was the only customer who ever bought them.

Another slightly bizarre one was a young woman who often came in with her father. She was on holiday in Africa and was killed in a safari accident. The local rag never elaborated the details, which is probably a blessing because I don't imagine a safari accident would be very pretty.

There's lots more, but I'm going to stop being morbid now you'll be pleased to learn.


Al said...

I get the impression that your store isn't the largest in the land so perhaps you should suggest to Mrs Diabetic there that she shove off somewhere bigger if she wants all of the things she listed.

If in fact your store is a large one you could merely suggest she just shoves off.

I've never had any regular customers die, that I know of anyway, and nobody has died in store as long as I've been there. We have had a few members of staff though, mainly the older checkout staff, but we also had someone die who was still at school. The place isn't the same without them.

James UK said...

Someone very close to me is a diabetic and they have a huge chip on their shoulder about it. Every single thing you ask them to do / they have to do or deal with it's "But I'm a diabetic!" and it's used as an excuse just like your woman. (I actually thought it could well be the same person!)

So many disabled people seem to act like this... I knew a blind telephonist at one job, and he was a great guy in most respects, but was terrible to "work" with, as he always demanded everything his way, and "guilt tripped" you into it because of his condition.

Going back to the diabetes person, they too make damn sure everyone knows about it as well. Me, I'd just get on with life and never mention it, like so many others do.

Talking of death in stores, I think one of the saddest things is when you see someone visibly deteriorate in front of you over time. One example of a couple of cases I've been aware of was where a guy has been going to the same corner shop every day for years, always buying two bottles of the cheapest whisky.

Gradually, he looked more and more "sick", until he stopped coming in, with enquiries meeting with the unfortuneatley expected response of "Him? Oh, he died.

Peter Kay's "That Peter Kay Thing" series has a wonderful episode called "Leonard" in it, which is based on a man Kay knew who used to come into the shop where he worked all the time. Kay says in the director's commentry that when he died, he thought hardly anyone had gone to his funeral. In the episode, there's a line where someone actually says "Leonard is everybody's friend, but he's got no friends."

Paradoxically, the diabetic person above I mention worked at the CO-OP for a while, and had someone die whilst they were shopping, and they were there working.

Just to enhance my comments about them, and further stress what sort of a person they are, as they were recounting the story of this poor old bloke's collapse to me in an almost gleefull way, they said "'course, we knew 'e was dead, 'cos he'd piss*d and sh*t himself!"

No matter how many times I hear that repeated (or remember it), I always think I'll never hear a more grossly offensive sentence as long as I live... :-(

AggressiveAdmin said...

We haven't lost any staff while I've been at Food Place but there was one girl off the kiosk who was involved in a really bad smash and was in hospital for months. She came back for a few weeks, but couldn't manage in the end.

I've read about Leonard in Peter Kay's autobiography and it struck me as quite sad at the time. There's also a good bit in there about when he worked at a cash 'n' carry and it was held up in an armed raid. The girl in the cash office was traumatised but still had to stay there to make up the wage packets "with sick down her overalls". Made me laugh. That'd be me if it ever happened to Food Place again. We did get robbed once when the cash office was downstairs. It'd be quite hard now though.

AggressiveAdmin said...

And no, we're not a large store. Eight aisles, 11 checkouts. But I'd just tell the woman to shove off anyways ;)

Al said...

I didn't think it was a big store. We currently have 41 aisles and 33 checkouts although more aisles are coming with the refit. Not sure if we're getting any more checkouts, they might stick a few self-serve in.

James UK said...

Thanks for that Peter Kay's autobiography info.

I'd been thinking of getting it, but left it as I expected it to just be a hastily written "cash in", but I might try and pick it up now.

AggressiveAdmin said...

It does come across sometimes as though it's been written as a quick cash-in, but it is nonetheless funny. He also worked at Netto for a time and his account of it is quite amusing.

They applied for permission to extend our store before we had the refit, but it was refused. There's plenty of room, but they wouldn't let the building get any closer to to the houses. A few years back, they managed to add an extra 2,000 square feet to the floor by moving all the offices upstairs.

Al said...

That's what they did to ours at the last refit apparently (I wasn't working there at the time). Old Google Earth pictures still show it without the extension and re-designed car park. Things like the canteen were always upstairs but the extension let them move all of the offices (except the cash office which is downstairs, it's like a bunker in there) up there as well as create some extra warehouse space.