Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Blues

What a boring day!

Sundays have gone from, pre-Christmas, being so busy we can barely move, to providing us with nothing but a steady trickle of customers. We're still taking quite a lot of money, and the store reports say we're serving more customers now - up to 25,000 each week - but it just feels dead! We seem to spend all day pottering around doing the little jobs that usually get neglected.

Today, it was scraping dried up crumbs and dust from the conveyor belts and obscure little corners on the checkouts. We blitzed the back-stock of impulse confectionery, re-laid the magazines to planagram, went on a paper and sundries ordering spree, tidied up all the junk behind the kiosk and corrected the bookstocks on cigarettes and tobacco. Oh, and I remodelled the cash office - again. Yet still we wandered aimlessly for most of the day.

And the customers weren't in particularly agreeable moods today either. Everybody seemed utterly miserable or hung-over. In fact, I'm a complete hypocrite for saying that because, by rights, I should have been miserably hung-over but, for some bizarre reason, wasn't. I normally feel rough the morning after eating a Wine Gum! So, there we all were, mysteriously happy, and we had to deal with a barrage of horrid customers who were wallowing in self-pity because they had to come shopping with a headache. Try being us lot that keep the bloody place running for you!

The cretin finally decided to grace us with his presence this week. He turned up, bright and cheery, and asked to speak with Terry. I led him upstairs and tried to poke about for a bit of information:

"So, where you been then Robs?" I ask, overfriendly, to-the-point and utterly two-faced.

"Oh, you know."

"Nah, not really, that's why I asked."


With this conversation yielding nothing, I deposited Robert with Terry in the stock-control office and hurried next door into the cash office. If you climb up on the worktop, you can put your ear to the vents in the wall and hear what's going on next door. Well, you can only hear muffled snatches of whatever is being said, but that would have to do. Here's what I caught:

Terry: "Almost can't believe *muffled* bloody cheek *muffled* say for yourself?"
Robert: *muffled*
Terry: "Oh don't fucking *muffled* that."
Robert: "*muffled* hard time mate..."
Terry: "*muffled* fucking mate me! All the chances I gave you, *muffled* fool I was to actually *muffled*"

I think you get the idea. The exchange continued in this manner for some time. Suzanne walked in at one point and, obviously as intrigued as I was, also climbed up to have a listen. Every time either of us whispered something, the other hurriedly shushed them. We needn't have bothered. There was very little to hear: Robert was sent numerous letters asking for him to get in touch, the last of which informing him his employment at Food Place had been terminated. Terry had nothing more to say and Robert left.

Terry then came into the cash office, forcing me to pretend I was up there looking for something on the top shelf, and told us everything that we'd just strained to hear; we had to act surpised. Much choice-language later, we were fully up-to-speed on what had gone on. It would seem that Robert just needed to 'get his shit together' - God I hate that expression.

So we can turn a new leaf and look forward to his replacement starting within the next two weeks. I'm not sure whether this calls for hopeful anticipation or complete dread. We might end up with somebody much worse than Robert, heaven preserve us!

My Shoplifter Heroism
As I've said before, I'm usually very lax about shoplifters. I'll only jump in and stop them if I'm 100% convinced that I've seen them conceal things and 100% certain they won't attack me. I've no desire to end up losing my job and garnering myself a criminal record, thus damaging my future career prospects, for brawling with a thief!

But this was one different. I knew I was onto something with her. I'd watched her loll her way around the store - in a random rather than organised fashion, always a giveaway, filling her trolley with all the expensive products that people tend to buy only when absolutely necessary. Typically, there was nobody else around to assist - I could have gone into the warehouse and got somebody but I wasn't taking my eyes off her. I perched myself beside the kiosk and watched. Usually, I would simply let them know I was watching because this usually results in them aborting mission. But this day I had a hunger to catch somebody.

She drifted her way over to the DVDs and began to weed out ones without electronic tags on them, filling the front compartment of the trolley with them. Gotcha!

I did a discreet call for Terry to come to the kiosk for a customer service issue and when he arrived we stationed ourselves just outside the doors and waited. There was no way on earth she was intending to pay for all that, so we knew she'd emerge. And she did, not two minutes later. Terry took her upstairs and I took the trolley.

Normal procedure when you catch somebody shoplifting is to take the goods to a vacant checkout and scan everything through the till in training mode to find out how much they were going to steal. This took me a good ten minutes and the total was a staggering £536.00! All in one trolley!

And what happens when the police arrive? Spot-fined. Eighty-miserable-quid. She was one lucky bitch, that's all I can say.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Power Cut Mayhem

Why do people feel the need to rush out and buy enough provisions to see them through a nuclear winter every time there's a suggestion it might snow?

Food Place was absolutely heaving almost from the moment the doors opened this morning. And it the shop wasn't just full - it was full of drama queens. People fighting eachother at the shelves, jumping over trolleys to reach their desired products, stamping one another underfoot...OK, now I'm the drama queen. But, take my word for it, it was busy.

This matter wasn't helped when a member of our checkout staff phoned in sick. We're very honoured at Food Place to have the only woman in the world who's ever been pregnant working for us. If she so much as feels mildly tired she phones in sick and is always referring to herself as being "with child". Thank the Almighty that her morning sickness has passed; I was getting rather tired of her constantly telling me how awful it was, as though I'd never been ill before. I've known people deal with terminal illnesses with more decorum than she's handling this. So, anyways, the selfish, thoughtless swine chooses today to drop us right in the proverbial!

So, being abnormally busy, we didn't have enough staff as it was. I had to run around the other departments asking members of staff to stay behind and cover part of her shift on the checkouts. Some people enjoy the buzz of dealing with such emergencies - morons, that's all I can say about them. After the fifth refusal I was a gibbering wreck, saved only by the lovely Amanda from stock control offering to help out.

By three o'clock, the panic-buying reached it's height. We had every single checkout open - which was an achievement in itself as I almost had to recruit cashiers from the street outside - and queues were sprawling everywhere. The snow had been falling since lunchtime and the gale-force winds were on the go again.

Suddenly, the store was plunged into darkness. The customers all did their little gasp - they always gasp when the power cuts out - and looked up at the lights as if their collective will-power could turn them back on. I was just standing there thinking, shitting hell this is all I need! Glancing up the aisles, I could see people, unabashed by this turn of events, continuing to shop in the dark - as they always do.

The cashiers didn't know what to do. I had to quickly run along telling them all to wait a minute or so and the backup supply would kick in to power the tills so they could carry on. The waiting customers were giving me dirty looks through the darkness, obviously thinking I wouldn't see them.

Meanwhile, the managers were herding people off the shop floor to the checkouts. The emergency power supply will only keep the tills running for twenty minutes, but the customers seemed to have problems understanding this: "YES! I'm almost finished, I'll be there soon!" They're the centre of the universe you see. No concept whatsoever that there were a hundred other people to serve too. I didn't care though - let them wander around in the dark and injure themselves before arriving at the tills and finding they've gone dead. At least they couldn't say we didn't warn them.

So, once all the customers were out, thankfully before the tills died, I posted the cashiers to the entrance. It's amazing how blind customers are. No lights in the car park, no lights on the store signs, total darkness inside - and they still get themselves a trolley and try to get in. Some of them even tried to argue that they only wanted a couple of things. We've got no power you total fools!

It was around two hours before the power came back on, but by this time we were under around 6cm of snow, so nobody was bothered about food shopping by that point.

All of this will create mayhem in the cash office tomorrow morning. Although the tills were still powered and able to handle transactions, the cash office system was down, so it won't have logged the sales taken during the power-out. This will mean that every single till will be hundreds of pounds over and all the credit card transactions will need to be manually processed. Thank the lord I don't start until 3pm tomorrow!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Trading Hours Extension

Every January, Food Place carries out an extensive and vigorous review of every single store it operates. They look at how much money each store takes, how many customers they serve and how many items they sell. They then break this down into fifteen minute time slots for each day of the week to identify when the strongest trading times are for each store.

Somebody had a eureka moment when they looked at our store's trading patterns. They recognised that we take a higher than average amount of money in our first and last hours of trading and thought: 'Ooh, wouldn't it be a good idea if we opened that store for longer!"

So, from 18th February, Food Place will be trading for an extra two hours each morning, opening at 6am, and an extra hour in the evening, meaning we'll be closing at 11pm. An idea that is incredibly stupid in my opinion.

Yes, I know the old argument. If it was my business, I'd want to take as much money as I possibly could. But they must be stupid to think that anybody is going to come to Food Place at 6 o'clock in the morning. Large hypermarkets get custom in the middle of the night because people who rise from their beds obscenely early, or are coming off night-shifts, get the weekly food shop done and dusted when they know the stores will be quiet. Food Place just won't pull that sort of custom.

We're a 'top-up shop'. Being reasonably small in size, people don't generally come to us for all of their weekly shopping needs. Just their daily bits and bobs to keep them going until they go somewhere bigger to get the majority of the food in. And nobody does that at sparrow's cough!

I can almost understand the logic of opening until 11pm. There, I think we will get enough trade to justify being open. But, unfortunately, it's the later closing that's causing the riots amongst the staff. Nobody wants to work until that time of night - although it doesn't particularly bother me because I'm more of a night-owl than an early-bird. In order to trade, we need at least two people manning tills (you can't leave one person on their own for obvious security reasons), two people on the shop floor - which is actually already covered because we have a night-shift), one supervisor (to access the cash office) and one manager. Spread that across 6 days and it's going to be very difficult getting people to cover it. It's not so bad with the earlier mornings, because all of our morning checkout staff are prepared to do their share of 6am starts, and there's already fresh-foods staff working at that time.

I just don't see why, when they weigh the obstacles against the, extremely minimal if non-existent, benefits they actually want to go through with this. When the late Ellenfoot Food Place started opening until 11pm two years ago, within three weeks they had an armed till-raid and were forced to backtrack because the staff revolted. I can see the same thing happening with us.

Mrs Snot and her sodding boxes - again!
The customer from hell seems to be moving house once more - perhaps the neighbourhood she just moved into was too common for her on reflection. She telephoned us again this morning asking us to ensure that boxes were reserved. But she had specifications this time: they're not to be wet, they mustn't be broken down and they should be large enough to hold a 'substantial content'. For want of something better to do, I actually trotted off to the warehouse and sought these boxes for her. Naturally, I had to tape them back together to save her the strenuous effort of doing so herself. She hadn't been to collect them by the time I left, but I hope she was duly impressed by my efforts. Now there's a sign of how bored I was today: I actually went out of my way to please Mrs Snot - what was I thinking?!

On a further note...
The people dressed like lab-technicians who insist on pitching up in our store to peddle free samples of random crap need to be banned immediately. What do they think they're playing at? Handing customers little trays and cocktail sticks for them to leave in their baskets and trolleys, along with small morsels of food waste, for us to dispose of!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mrs Snot: Round 300

Regular readers of this blog should be well acquainted with Food Place's resident moan-bag by now. If you haven't read about her before, try these posts: Clementines Nightmare and The Return of Mrs Snot. Put simply, this woman should be incredibly thankful that her only punishment for her bad behaviour at Food Place, thus far, has been a few blog posts written about her. My previous dealings with her have furnished me with plenty of information about her: I know her full name, address and telephone number. She needs to watch her back - one more rude, nasty comment and the shop-assistant will bite back.

There are no words that can accurately describe how much she does my head in. If it's not her condescending tone or lemon-sucking-facial-expression, it's the ridiculous things she complains about and the way she thinks the staff at Food Place are all out to rip her off. If I had a pound for every time she's threatened never to shop with us again, I'd be a very rich person. Sadly, it's all a big bluff. She's yet to disown us.

In fact, rather annoyingly, her visits seem to be becoming increasingly frequent; a state of affairs I can only suspect to be the result of her being banned from every other shop in town. None of the rest of them are stupid enough to put up with her.

Last Week's Incident
Don't you think it's unbelievably cheeky for somebody to telephone a shop and ask a favour of them if you're going to be rude about it? Cheekier still if you happen to have verbally abused several employees of the said shop on previous visits? Well, Mrs Snot apparently has no shame:

"Good morning Food Place, Andrew speaking, how can..."

"Yes, I want you to keep me some cardboard boxes. I shall be visiting your store at 1 o'clock this afternoon and I'll need them by then - can you tell me if this is possible?"

How dare you butt in when I haven't finished speaking! And what happened to 'hello', 'please' and 'thank you'? I already know who it is I'm speaking to, so I don't go for any fake politeness. I reply to her question in the same fashion she posed it:

"Well how many boxes will you need? Now isn't the best time because all the cardboard from last night's night shift has been crushed."

"For goodness sake! What sort of supermarket doesn't have boxes?"

"A one that recycles them. The best we can manage at the moment are the cardboard produce trays, but they aren't very big."

"Well when will there be more?"

"We get our next delivery at 5pm today..."

"So, if I come at 5pm I'll be able to trouble you to fulfill this extremely difficult request?"

Butting in again woman! And you can drop the sarcasm, because I've already had a skinful of you and am seriously tempted to slash your tyres as it is.

"No. The delivery arrives at 5pm. The stock isn't brought onto the shop floor until nightshift work it tonight. There won't be any empty boxes until after that."

"Well can you leave them a message that Mrs Jenkins [named and shamed at last] would like seven large boxes? I shall come in to collect them at 8am tomorrow morning."

"I'll be sure to leave a message."

"Good day." CLUNK!

I dutifully leave a message for nightshift. However, I know full well that they are incredibly busy people. They have a huge delivery to work, the entire shop to face-up, the warehouse stock to pull out and all the mess to tidy. I'm not overly optimistic they'll find time to lovingly set aside seven large boxes for a stroppy old bitch.

And surely I'm not the only retail worker who gets frustrated at this general expectation that we have cardboard boxes coming out of our ears. Yes, we receive a lot of them. But they're incredibly bulky. As soon as the stock is removed from them we break them down, cram them into a waste cage and they're quickly crushed and sent for recycling. We have a tiny warehouse and do not have room to reserve boxes for people. Besides, people generally see them lying there and crush them anyways. We have far more pressing matters to attend to.

Tip: if you go into a supermarket and ask for boxes, do so politely, take whatever is on offer, and don't moan that they've been broken down and will need taped back together. That way, everybody stays happy!

So, the next day Mrs Snot arrives for her seven large boxes. Thankfully, I'm too busy living it up as a student to be there to participate in this joyous event. But other staff members told me the scene that followed.

Mrs Snot wasn't amused that the boxes that had been left were all broken down. She was politely told that we don't have space to keep these things (they were bloomin' huge boxes) intact. This still wasn't good enough. She demanded to speak to a manager and proceeded to complain to them that, not only were her boxes not of the standard she expected, but 'every single member of your staff who played a part in handling this has been rude and incompetent'.

She's actually surprised? This is the woman who I don't think has ever uttered a single 'please' or 'thank you' in all the times I've encountered her. The woman who turns her nose up at you, and refuses to make eye contact when speaking to you. The woman who shouts at rotisserie staff because chickens aren't quite ready. The woman who was once overheard telling her daughter that shop workers are 'plebs'.

Who thinks it's high time we banned her?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No More Apologies - Just Moaning!

This blog has taken a back seat recently for numerous reasons. Firstly, I was very busy over the Christmas holidays. Secondly, I had lots of work to do for university after Christmas. Thirdly, Food Place hasn't been a fun place to be recently. I'll elaborate more on the third point in this post, but one thing I should say before I do: I will not apologise for the infrequency of the posts on this blog any more. I'll post when I have time, or something I feel like ranting about.

So, what's been going on at Food Place?
Well, since I haven't been blogging about Food Place matters for some time, it would be very difficult now to explain everything in retrospect. So, I think the best place to begin is to set the scene by quickly running through some of the recent events that have led to such a bitter state of affairs.

- Much loathed grocery department manager, Robert, suddenly disappeared in mid-December. He failed to turn up for work one day and nobody has seen him since. He could be dead for all we know.

- To cover his sudden absence, our Customer Services Manager, Lorraine, was shunted into his role and dairy supervisor Suzanne was hastily promoted to Lorraine's old job - making Suzanne my new line manager.

- I'm very happy with Suzanne's appointment as I think she's perfect for the job. However, she has little experience of the front-line nature of the Services department and requires full training in checkouts, checkout supervision, kiosk and cash office - as well as all the back-office tasks such as staff schedules and attendance management.

- I set about freeing up time to take her through these things, supporting her as much as I can. Wendy, my co-supervisor on Services (remember, the one who's obsessed with cash office and thinks that's her only job) doesn't support at all. She leaves all the gritty tasks to Suzanne and expects her to automatically know everything.

- Suzanne eventually finds her feet and, taking one look at the current supervisor schedules, decides that Wendy isn't pulling her weight. She has shifts that suit her, and she refuses to work weekends and late nights, leaving these undesirable shifts to be covered by me and other supervisor trained (but not paid) store staff.

- Suzanne changes Wendy's hours. Nothing drastic. She is now expected to work just one late-finish and one weekend in four.

- Wendy reacts bitterly and launches a campaign of hatred against everybody. She takes great delight in telling anybody who will listen that she's been wronged and is going to any extremes to try and get out of working these new shifts.

- Suzanne and myself become fed up of getting the cold shoulder and a meeting is called to talk the problems through.

- Wendy says Suzanne and me have formed a little clique and have turned against her. We reassure her this is not the case, and point out that we've spent a lot of time together through Suzanne's training. Things seem to be partially resolved...

- But it doesn't take long for it to become clear that Wendy is still not calmed. She continues to be cold and distant when spoken to and goes out of her way to cause problems. For instance, granting four holiday requents on the week she's on holiday without making arrangements to cover it, leaving Suzanne and me struggling.

- Wendy returns from holiday and moans to Terry (the boss, lest anybody has forgotten) that the place fell apart without her. Terry retorts: "Well maybe that's what you had in mind when you let all those staff have holidays? Suzanne coped extremely well under the circumstances you left her in." Wendy is not amused.

- The hate campaign deepens. Wendy rips down some photographs I had pinned up in the cash office. Doesn't sound like much, but it really, really bothered me. What justification did she have to do that? The only good thing it did was banish my suspicion that it was 'all in my mind'.

Stupid isn't it? All this ill-feeling and resentment over something relatively minor that could have been settled so easily. But the result of it all is that Suzanne has been left doubting whether or not she wants to keep this job. She's brilliant at it and has so much respect from her team (with the obvious notable exception) and she shouldn't be made to feel like this over a bitter old sow who doesn't like it when things don't go her own way.

And just what am I supposed to have done to deserve what I'm getting at the moment. Wendy is refusing to alter her hours to cover my forthcoming holidays - which has led to me having to agree to work part of them. She can't even be bothered to say hello or goodbye to me.

The only consolation I have is that the Services team are, in general, supportive of me. They kindly report back to me the things that Wendy has been saying behind my back. They stubbornly refuse to co-operate when she tried to get them to bitch about me.

All in all, the atmosphere has been terrible recently. Absolutely nothing on the relaxed, casual and fun way of working we had only a short while ago. Everybody got along, even if we did get on each other's nerves from time to time, and work wasn't really such a bad place to be. Now that Wendy has almost totally withdrawn from speaking to anybody, I can't see that she'll last much longer - she's a reasonably proud woman and I doubt she'll stick around when people are beginning to laugh at her. No doubt she'll claim constructive dismissal though.

Other Issues
This hasn't been the only saga going on at Food Place. A huge fuss-and-nonsense errupted just after New Year when it became common-knowledge on the shop-floor that extra-marital shananigans were going on between two married colleagues - one of whom's wife also works in Food Place. I've well and truly kept my distance from this one, but things get complicated. You aren't quite sure who is on who's side and every conversation in the canteen is frought with politics.

A long-serving colleague was suddenly dismissed last week when it transpired that they'd been passing boxes of high-value stock through the back gates. It's reckoned that the losses the store incurred because of it run into the tens of thousands of pounds. It's left us all completely shocked because nobody had even the slightest notion that they were the type to do something like this - it only came to light because a customer who lives back-to-back with the service yard passed comment on what they'd observed to one of the cashiers.

So, that's the miserable post done. I've actually sat down and attempted to write something about it all several times, but I get depressed just thinking about it. The next post, I promise, will be about the customers!