Sunday, October 30, 2005

Get a life!

Without revealing the exact location of my store, shall I just say that we had some inclement weather recently. It was bad enough to have to temporarily close the store. Although only minor damage was done to the store, major damage occurred at several of our distribution centers. As a result we got virtually no deliveries this week, so our shelves are emptying. This, of course, is my fault. It's "bad business" to not have the products that my customers who spend "thousands of dollars" at my store, want to get.

Regionally: the roads are blocked. The power is off. A couple of our stores were destroyed. There is very limited gas to get any available merchandise to the stores. Curfews are still in effect in many places. Some employees haven't even been paid yet. But, it's my fault that we're out of certain popular items. Get a life, people. Major damage was done, and you're pissed because you can't get the brand that you usually get?!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Being Creative

Not much for me to do today, so I tackled a section of the store that's been driving me crazy for months. It looked cluttered and disorganized and some items we don't carry anymore so there were empty sections and new items were crammed in at weird points. In short, it looked BAD. I re-merchandised the entire section, made new price labels, and spot cleaned as needed. It took all day, but now it looks GREAT!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Do you have..........

Some people need to be a little more specific.

Today a woman came up to me and asked, "Do you have {LONG pause as she thought of what she wanted} applications?"

I came pretty close to responding, "What kind of applications?" After all, there are applications for skin, hair, eyes, teeth, many kinds of "applications" are there? Because of her long pause, I thought she was asking about a product. It then hit me that she was asking for a JOB application. No, actually, I don't have one. The company has some, though. They're in the front. Ask the cashier.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Interviewing isn't my favorite thing to do, but it can be interesting. A guy called in to check on the status of his application. Well, I couldn't find it. A few days before I had purged the old applications and the ones with NO CHANCE of being hired: criminal history for shoplifting, wanting $10/hour, availability 9-5 M-F (it's called "RETAIL," that means WEEKENDS!), etc. So anyway, this guy sounded OK on the phone so I told him I couldn't find his application but he could come in and fill out another one and we'd do an interview.

The minute he walked in the door I knew why I'd put his application in the "NO CHANCE" file. You could smell him from TEN FEET away and he had a very rough appearance that was unsuitable for our shop. Not a rough like "he's had a rough life and looks it" but a "he doesn't care what he looks like and will have trouble conforming to our dress code standards." It's a job interview! Comb your hair! Take a shower! Wear clean clothes!

I did a brief interview with him anyway: no retail experience, no {our specialty area} experience or knowledge WHATSOEVER, no verifiable references (since the garage he used to service cars in had closed), but he "really needed a job". Besides all that, I am 99% sure he was on some type of drug. He rarely made eye contact--his eyes were shifting around the entire interview; his hands were also very restless.

Bottom line, and most important in my opinion, is considering the safety of my employees and the security of our store. I would not feel comfortable being alone with him. Say, at closing or even in our break area. He wasn't huge but he was certainly stronger than me. Our cute little 16-year-old cashiers, the young junior manager and her tight pants............What if he didn't work out? He seemed like the type who wouldn't just walk away. Do we really want someone who might be on drugs to have access to tons of cash and know our security procedures? NO WAY.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The answer is...doesn't really want the job.

The girl I wrote about on Thursday called Friday morning to say that she was bringing in the new hire paperwork. Since she lives a 2-minute WALK away, we assumed she was coming in soon. We waited, and waited, and waited. Round about 4 PM she finally came in, but without the paperwork. She'd found a better paying job, but she'd brought her nephew with her since he needs a job.

Hmm..........after the way you just acted, you think your nephew has a chance with us?? First you commit to the job and promise you'll bring the paperwork back the next day. Then you drop off the face of the earth. Then you call and say you're bringing in the paperwork. Then you say you don't want the job after all.

I gave her nephew an application and went back to what I was doing, which was within sight of where he was filling it out. He needed help to fill out the application--lots of help. Nope, don't want you here. If you can't fill out a job application on your own, then you can't understand our subject area and use our expensive equipment correctly so as not to cause damage.

Interviewed a teenager too. Not good, not bad, just someone if we can't find anyone else, then would be an option.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Staffing Updates

One of our junior managers applied to work somewhere else, in a vastly different field, because "it's too far to drive" to our store and she doesn't get respect from the employees. Oh please! The respect issue is a two-way street: if she treats her employees like slaves, then why should they respect her? She still hasn't quite gotten over the power trip. (This isn't the new manager, but one who's had her position for a bit.)

We have an employee transferring in from another store. Finally, a new employee that I don't have to train………he already knows what he's doing! He's a REALLY hard worker, good with customers, OK as cashier, friendly with co-workers. Since he's coming from a store in a different region, our stores do things slightly differently, but nothing that he can't adjust to.

The store manager interviewed a new girl (normally my job, but it was my day off). The next day the girl came in for the new hire paperwork and I didn't get a real positive vibe from her. But that point, it was too late--she was already hired. Well, she was supposed to bring back the paperwork the next day, but she didn't show. What does that mean? That she's busy, or that she doesn't really want the job?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Choose for Yourself!

I've only recently understood that some people want to be told what to buy. They have absolutely no brain cells to be able to decide for themselves. I can explain the differences between several items and the benefits of each until I'm blue in the face, but they still want me to tell them what to buy. Fine. Buy this one. It might not be what's best for your particular situation, but since I don't know everything about your situation, given what I do know, buy this one.

People ask which is better, the $9.99 or the $14.99 one. OK, let's think about this for a minute…….besides being a bigger paycheck for me, the higher priced item means higher sales, means more employee hours, means same amount of items handled with more employee hours, means less work for me………..oh, the $14.99 one is MUCH better. There's a reason some items are more expensive than others. They're better products, or the company is more reputable, or SOME reason. We don't just randomly pick prices.

Other people ask for my recommendation and then it's like they're purposely choosing the other one. It usually happens like that when I have a STRONG preference for one product over another, and it has nothing to do with price. Some companies have bad reputations or some products don't work well. Yeah, we're here to make money, but in general I recommend products that I know are good, regardless of price.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

QUAL Returns

The regional manager came for a visit, and our score keeps getting better. If we were in elementary school it would be A++++. The store looks great. Sales are up. The only thing that needs improvement is some of our junior managers still need to work on customer service. Of course, it's not easy when we have customers like we have.

The Queen of the Universe and All Time came in again…….to return the $5 item she bought. The only item, to my knowledge, that she has EVER bought from us. Surprise, she had the receipt, so I had to give her the cash back. She took up another 20 minutes of my time asking stupid questions, then left without buying anything. It's customers like her that make costs higher for everyone else, besides putting us in bad moods.

Friday, October 14, 2005

An Arrest

The excitement never ends.

I was in the front doing a return, and before I knew it a man was being placed in handcuffs by plainclothes policemen, IN MY STORE.


It was done very quietly, such that there wasn't a big scene or anything, but still! The policemen took the man outside and another policeman asked us where the man had been in the store. I don't know! I was helping other customers! What's going on?

The policeman went on to explain that there had been a shooting at a nearby hotel and the man matched the description of one of the suspects. He may have hidden the gun in my store.


Hey, we have lots of weird customers and kids running around unattended and you're telling me that there may be a gun around here somewhere?!

The employees looked everywhere that we'd seen the man go. I tried to think like a criminal.........where would I hide a gun if I didn't have much time?

I had to ask the store manager about something else anyway, so I called her and filled her in on the situation. We discussed how weird it is that so many things are happening lately.

The policeman came back in and told us that there was another suspect in the shooting so the suspect they arrested in my store might not have been the one with the gun, but that we should give them a call if we find the gun. Oh, and don't touch it. Yeah, no problem. Fine with me.

For the rest of the evening we were talking back and forth with neighboring stores, comparing what different people had heard and seen, trying to get more details.

The "victim" in the shooting ran away from the police, too, so it was presumably drug related.

What is up with this neighborhood lately?!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Break-in Follow-up

Nothing much has happened related to the break-in besides exchanging a few phone calls with the police. Them asking if we remembered anything else that might help them; us asking when we can have the things back that they took as evidence; stuff like that. They'll never catch the people who did it. No fingerprints, no witnesses, despite lots of people around at the time. The night of the break-in I saw several areas where the police could have been more thorough. But as far as their office procedures, I am impressed by their follow-through. They actually return calls! Wow! I'm used to people using their voice-mail as a trashcan.

I've refused to close by myself since it happened. If I'm not through with the paperwork when my employees are done with their duties, too bad. At least one other employee WILL wait for me to finish before we leave. I really don't care if that employee sits there and does absolutely nothing, on the clock, as long as I'm not there alone. The other night I asked one of my high school students if she would mind staying late. Hey, extra money! I put her to work putting up signs for the sale that began the next day while I hurried to finish my paperwork so we could leave at a decent hour and wouldn't violate child labor laws.

Nothing has been said from the upper beings in my company regarding my tiny least not yet. I don't know what I was expecting....a phone call the next day saying, "You're fired!" or a surprise visit and a nasty yelling fit from the prick himself, maybe. Nope. Nothing. I'm hoping the police will perhaps leave out that tiny detail so that nothing more will come of it. It's possible. After all, my immediate boss knows all about it and didn't do anything in the way of disciplinary action, not even an informal lecture, because IT DIDN'T CONTRIBUTE TO the break-in in any way. But Mr. Prick being as he is.........

Sunday, October 09, 2005

LAG forgets how to work

Even though she hasn't been in charge yet, Loud Attitude Girl is becoming overly confident and is getting less and less done each shift. Just because you're part of management now DOES NOT MEAN that you can STAND AROUND AND DO NOTHING while telling everyone else what needs to be done. Yes, you must direct your employees to the tasks that need doing. Yes, you must supervise your employees to make sure they're doing the tasks correctly and not goofing off. Yes, there is paperwork for you to do. But you must also work!

As I've been learning to manage, I've learned that the best way to lead is BY EXAMPLE. I started off as a tyrant and no one liked me much so they did tasks to the minimum standard required only after a lot of threats from me. Now that I'm more comfortable in the role of manager I've backed off and allow my employees some choice in what tasks they do and how they choose to do them. They'd better stay busy, sure, but there's more freedom.

By working alongside of them I show them the proper way to do things and let them get to know me. They see the high standard that I hold myself to and the pride I take in a well-run store and well-trained employees. They know that I'm proud of them and the way they work and the things they do. They do high quality work and do the routine tasks without reminders because they want to please me, not because they're scared of me or worried about keeping their job.

No one likes to be bossed around. Until LAG learns this, she won't be a very effective manager. I realize that she has to learn this lesson for herself. HOWEVER, when the other junior manager got promoted I lost several good employees because they couldn't put up with the BS. I don't want that to happen again, and I don't want the store to go downhill, either.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

LAG fails the mystery shopper

Loud Attitude Girl got a bad service evaluation--again. She needs to lose the attitude! Again, she had tons of excuses: "My shift was over, I don't remember helping that customer, why didn't someone else help him...."

It doesn't matter that your shift was over, you must still be polite and enthusiastically help the customer or FIND SOMEONE ELSE TO HELP HER. That would have been fine. When I'm on my way out with something to do, I still ask customers if they need help. If they say yes, I say someone will be right with them. Then I IMMEDIATELY get another employee to help them and continue on my way out the door.

You don't remember helping that person?! That doesn't matter, either. How many customers do you help each week? Do you remember ALL of them?! I know I don't! What, do you think the person picked a name out of a hat and just happened to put your name on the evaluation?

Why didn't someone else help him? Because you helped him!! Or didn't help him, as the evaluation showed. Again, if you needed to leave, GET SOMEONE ELSE TO HELP THE CUSTOMER.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Peope who think they're special

I was opening this morning with the store manager. We were getting a delivery when a woman walked in with the "I know you're not open yet, but I just need one thing" speech. The store manager hesitated, explaining that the registers weren't even open and there wasn't any money in them yet. Then she let the woman in. Wimp!

Of course, the "one thing" turned into FOUR things, one of which the customer needed my help with, as I was in the middle of doing tasks that MUST be completed before we open.

When will customers get it through their heads that they are not special?! I don't care that you "drove all the way across town" just to shop at our store. Come on! What stores of our type are open at that time of morning?! Had it been only me opening the store, you would have been WAITING OUTSIDE for the 30 minutes. I don't care about any of your sob stories. I have stuff to do and our hours are STANDARD and POSTED ON THE DOOR!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I don't have an answer, either!

Today I had a customer who was displeased by the service I gave. You see, this customer was having a problem, had consulted a professional, and the professional said that nothing could be done. So the customer came to me, a retail manager, and wanted me to give him a solution. Hello! The professional, with tons of education, training, and experience, has declared the case hopeless. If the professional doesn't know, then how should I?! Of course, the customer gave me an attitude like I'm not doing my job because I wouldn't contradict what the professional said.

Helping customers was hard all day. I feel like why should I be so nice to them, especially when they treat me like trash, when I may be risking my safety to be here. Even now the would-be-robber may be watching, gauging our business, planning the best time to try again. This time he may have better tools, or come while we're still open, or turn to violence. Why should I put up with such crap all the time?

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Break-In

The weekend sucked. Big time. My store was broken into. Nothing was taken, but nevertheless there was stress and a mess to clean up and lots of people to call.

Worse, as closing manager the night that the break-in occurred, I did one itsy bitsy tiny thing wrong. Something that we OFTEN do, but apparently are not supposed to do. While that thing did not at all lead to the break-in or make it better or worse in any way WHATSOEVER, if the police include certain details in their report then the higher beings in my company will ask questions. If they ask questions, I have two choices. I can tell the truth and most likely get fired, or I can lie and hope that the other managers and I coordinate our stories well enough.

The police never directly asked me about the itsy bitsy tiny thing, but they did ask my boss. In an attempt to make things look OK and/or protect me, my boss played dumb/was intentionally vague/basically-but-not-quite-lied-to-the-police. I stood by and said nothing.

It appears to be an inside job. Several of our stores have had break-ins with very similar details lately. I'm really paranoid, and I totally don't want to go to work. They know where everything is now. They know how long it takes the police to respond. And apparently, they were waiting for me to leave before they entered the building. Less than a half hour after I left and the alarm was going off. Coincidence? It scares the shit out of me to think that they might have been preparing to enter the store even as I was finishing out the closing paperwork in the darkened store, all alone. The fact that I was talking to someone on my cell phone as I locked the front door and got in my car might have stopped them from attacking me.

The day after the break-in we instituted some changes for improved safety of our employees and better visibility of certain areas of the store. The damage couldn't be completely hidden, even after all the managers' late-night repair-what-we-can-and-get-maintenance-in-first-thing-Monday-morning. Employees were told to attribute the damage to an "accident," if any customers asked. If the break-in was discussed within earshot of customers, employees would be disciplined. It's a safety issue. We don't want it to be widespread knowledge that we're an easy target so the whole area tries to rob us.

We were unable to contact our regional manager until about 12 hours after it happened. We had to go through another manager to get approval for the late-night, expensive repairs. The other regional manager was PISSED. Not that he got a late night phone call or that he had to help us; he didn't mind that. He was pissed that our regional manager wasn't doing her job by being available for this type of thing.

A new employee (lasted a whole 3 days) quit the day after the break-in. Poor timing. I don't think the employee would have done it, but right now I suspect everyone. It could be her. Or maybe the disgruntled employee's husband. That one customer has been coming in a lot recently. Why is that guy so interested in if we've had good business lately? That guy is straining his neck awfully hard to see inside my cashier's drawer. Why is that woman just standing there while I count the change in the safe?

My first night closing since the break-in……… dad came up and stayed with me until I finished all my paperwork. Then he helped me make sure all the doors were secure, as we're doing a temporary fix on one of them. I must have checked the safe 10 times; each door was quadruple-checked. I am paranoid!

I haven't had much sleep and the sleep I have had is full of "Did I lock the safe? Is the alarm set? Is the side door bolted? How about the back door? Was someone hiding in the bathrooms waiting until we left? What if……………………." Will I ever feel at ease again?