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!