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!


Citronella said...

"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?"

The answer is: because they don't leave in Canada. Or any of these places where shovelling 20 inches of snow every morning before you go to work is considered normal. Otherwise, they would know there is nothing to worry about...

James UK said...

Citronella, you are so right...

I can remember BBC Essex radio broadcasting a few years ago on a day when about an inch of snow had fallen. The dialogue was so "scare-mongering", and intense all day that you'd have thought the end of the World was coming.

A friend from Chicago had only just sent me some snaps of his house knee-deep in 3 or 4 feet of snow (the real deal) so I recorded some of the BBC Essex broadcast, and snapped some of my own pictures of our snow.

He said that hearing it, you'd have thought people were trapped in their homes because the weather was so bad, yet the pictures told a completley different story.

"I was getting rather tired of her constantly telling me how awful it was"

People have no conversation skills these days... I remember reading that basically now, a conversation consists of person A talking, relating a story. Person B listens, then relates A's story to one of their own experiences, and tells A this experience. Then A relates that to another one, and so on...

As an example, someone said to me "Do you follow the football? Seen the news about Beckham?", to which I replied in the negative, saying it's not really my cup of tea.

Then they started on a 20 minute monologue all about British football. They just didn't listen to my original reply, or my constant "Well, I've no idea about that, not following it" interjections!

(I usually just keep saying "Beckenham" despite being corrected everytime, until they stop talking to me about it)

My favourite thing with power cuts / thunderclaps etc. where all the goons in the office go "Ooohh!" is to wait for a split second too long (as per Clive Dunn, coming to attention in "Dad's Army"), then do a really loud "Ohhhahhhhh!" of my own. Always goes down well, and just as good when someone drops the tea / coffee tray, knocks their keyboard off the desk etc.

Al said...

Do you always get a little cheer when the lights come back on (assuming there's still any customers in the store that is) as well? Or is that just something we get?

I'm not sure how long our tills will go on the back-up supply but I know it's longer than 20 minutes. We are (probably) a larger store than yours so that's probably why.

James UK said...

Al, what's the back-up power supply like? Is it a UPS type battery "stack" type thing, or is it a proper generator thing? (I'm guessing the former, if it's limited to around 20 mins.

I once went to that "Secrect Nuclear Bunker" at Kelvedon Hatch and the generators that they had there, along with the literal lakes of diesel fuel buried under the ground were awe-inspiring...

Al said...

No idea James. I'm guessing some sort of UPS system too. I know it's kept most things running for over 30 minutes before.

James UK said...

Ok, thanks mate.

clubcards gonna get you said...

haha im a supermarket worker, too. so im with you!