Monday, December 26, 2005


What a week.

Predicting when customers will shop is very difficult. Friday was one of the top ten busiest days EVER, in the existence of our store. After that we were gearing up for an incredible Christmas Eve, but were disappointed. We had 99% of our employees working, but ended up with an average Saturday. Granted, shorter hours with the same sales as a normal Saturday, but still--it's Christmas Eve--I expected a lot more people/sales.

Then surprise was INSANE. Quite a few returns, but most were exchanges where the customer ended up owing more money, so that was fine. People using gift cards, spending Christmas cash, enjoying the day off of work/school. We had a few more people than normal working (with the high school employees still on school vacation) but could have used some more help.

Most customers were civil; the others obviously needed a nap.

Toddler 1: We had one register closed to switch between cashiers. All of the other registers were open and running at full speed. A woman loudly complained, "Can't they open another register?!" when it was VERY CLEAR what we were doing. No one else was complaining, because they realized that no one can work 14 hours straight. The register must be closed between cashiers! It takes maybe 10 minutes. Deal with it.

Toddlers 2, 3, and 4: I was packaging items for a customer while THREE other parties stood nearby, staring at me, as if that would make me move faster. I took my time finishing with the first customer and by then two of the toddlers had found someone else to help them and the third wanted to know where the widgets were. "Yeah, right there," next to where you've been standing for the last ten minutes.

Toddler 5: Asking stupid questions, and I do mean STUPID. Then expecting me to walk her to each and every product that has to do with the issue and spend a half hour explaining each of them. Do you see any other customers in the store? How about do some of this research for yourself, then come back with some idea of what you want to buy. I don't get some people--anytime I spend that much money I have some idea of what I'm buying and what I need and how to keep it running well.

I can't think of any more examples right now because I'm too tired.

Oh, in employee news, an employee I've been having MULTIPLE problems with did a no call/no show on Christmas Eve. He had some kind of excuse, but he's lied so many times that I don't believe anything he says anymore. Boss is being entirely too lenient. A no call/no show deserves disciplinary action. If you can't come to work, you call. You're never that far away from a phone. If you're unconscious or dead, then I'll excuse you for not calling. Otherwise, I EXPECT TO HEAR FROM YOU.

And on Christmas Eve, a day we were expecting to be very busy, doubly so for something concrete to be done against him. But was he disciplined? No. I may go into more details about him later, or not. Eventually either he's going to leave or I am. His behavior is completely unacceptable, and Boss is letting him get away with it. I've considered taking it above Boss's head, but that would make things more difficult between Boss and me and probably not do much good. Long story, for another day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dirty Dumpsters

Today I got to handle a trash disposal issue. Whoever empties our dumpsters......and I'm still not entirely certain how this all works.....has been leaving trash all over the place and not putting the dumpsters back where they belong. So after talking with at least a dozen people at quite a few government offices and private companies I found out who it was (why can't they make it easy and put the name on the side of the dumpster?).

One of the phone calls was to our local government code-enforcement office, so after finishing my phone calls I went out with a couple of employees to clean up the mess behind our store so just in case anyone from code enforcement decides to stop by we won't get cited for any violations. (Not all of the chaos was due to the trashmen. Some of it was due to lazy employees.)

It was disgusting......rotting piles of garbage were everywhere. I felt a little bad asking the employees to tackle such a distasteful task, but they were glad to get away from customers for a while. The fact that I was helping, out in the cold and filth, may have contributed to their good attitudes, too.

Now it's nice and clean behind the store; the dumpsters have been moved to their proper locations; and only 4 more shopping (working) days until Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

There Was a Woman From !@#$%^&......

These holiday hours are killing me. Close late, open early.....where's the time to sleep?!

I had several good customers today. They actually remembered the polite phrases and behavior they learned in kindergarten! The other customers.....need to go back to kindergarten.

One customer from *a totally different area of the country with a totally different way of doing things* complained to my boss about me. A customer complaint?! On me?! OK, here's the situation.

The store was busy. No kidding, it's the week before Christmas. I was helping a customer figure out which product would solve her problem; it was a pretty in-depth thing. The rude customer from *the place that I've visited once and don't really care to visit again because of the attitudes of the people who live there* INTERRUPTED us to ask where something was. It was on the same aisle that we were on so I pointed it out to her, then continued with the CUSTOMER WHO WAS THERE FIRST.

Well, about a minute later the woman INTERRUPTED US AGAIN to ask an in-depth question about the product she was considering. I stayed totally calm and very politely told her that I'd be glad to help her when I was finished with the first customer. Is that so unreasonable??

The out-of-town woman responded, "Don't bother!" as she walked to the front and complained to my boss about how rude I was because I "refused" to help her. Then she asked, "Can't she walk and talk at the same time?" What?! Helping two customers with two very different yet complicated problems at the same time? That wouldn't be providing good service to either one of them. How would the first customer feel if I had stopped helping her to help the out-of-towner?

In response to the complaint, Boss did her "I'm so sorry, how can *I* help you?" spiel, made the sale, and got the woman OUT OF OUR STORE. Hopefully she'll go back to where she came from and never return. At the next lull in customers Boss related the story to me and we had a laugh about it. Boss knows I do my job, and knows that people from *place that's far away* are generally rude and selfish and overly demanding.

In my store, FIRST COME FIRST SERVED, as a general rule. Now Mrs. F. who's in every week spending $100~$300 or the lady with her monthly sprees often totalling $1000+, usually get slightly better/faster treatment than someone I've never seen before. That's fair. Mrs. S. doesn't spend a lot, but is always so pleasant to deal with. I'll go out of my way to be the one to help her. The middle-aged lady, quiet and withdrawn, is a new favorite as she starts to open up with me. Mr. "Greetings and Salutations" keeps me on my toes with his cryptic choice of words, but brings some laughter to the day.

You've got to **earn** special treatment, either by being nice or spending lots of money. You can't just walk in, throw down $10, and skip in front of everyone else.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Puzzle Pieces Fall Into Place?

What would you think if the shelves in your store stayed empty for weeks on end, shipments were irregular and smaller than normal, they stopped sending store supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, pens, paper clips, etc.), some vendors stopped delivering to the store altogether because they weren't getting paid…….

For a few weeks we excused it because of inclement weather and other extenuating circumstances. After the bills were paid deliveries started again and the shelves began to return to normal. However, a few weeks later the situation repeated itself. The office is also cracking down on when we're allowed to refund money. Our paychecks have arrived on time and in full so far, with the exception of the week-long power outage.

What do you think? Should I be worried?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Biting My Tongue

What is it with people asking if a product is "in the back" or if we "have it somewhere else" in the store??

I was in the store on my day off, doing some paperwork that had to be completed that day. Brilliant, right? I worked the day before and the day after, but I couldn't do it early or late. The manager on duty didn't have the authorization to do it, so I had to come in on my day off. And work. On my day off.

The young cashier saw me and passed on a question from a customer as to whether we had a particular item. When I told the customer that we were out of the product she was looking for, she threw a fit.

"I know more than you about your products. I should work here."

Whoa. Where did that come from?

"I'm sorry, but we're out of that item. We may have some more next week."

"You know, it's sad that I know more than you do about what you sell. You don't even know what you carry. There might be some in the back."

I bit down on my bottom lip, HARD, and tried not to roll my eyes. I repeated that we were out of the item, and there were none in the back. Then I walked off. I SO wanted to say more, and the fact that I wasn't in uniform made me so tempted, but........I've seen the lady before, must be a regular, and I'd still get in trouble. Bite and walk, the best course of action.

Does it make any sense, WHATSOEVER, to have empty shelves but lots of products in "the back?" Where is "the back," anyway? Our "back" is the size of my bedroom at home, if that. It contains a bathroom, a breakroom, store supplies, extra store fixtures and such, defective items, cleaning supplies, and yes, a FEW items that won't fit on the shelf. But when there's room on the shelf, we put the items out.

It's been my experience that items don't sell well when they're in "the back." It generally helps if customers can see them, touch them, carry them to the cashier to pay for them, etc. Customers have no brains. "The back" doesn't exist. If it's not on the shelf, we don't have any.

I know, you're terribly inconvenienced and we should give you a 500% discount and deliver the item to your door in person. But guess what? Retail doesn't work like that.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Latest

It's pretty sad that it's dark when I go to work and dark when I come home, too. I feel like I'm living in Alaska or something. Seeing the sun is nice every now and then!

The store is still busy, but because of the increased sales we have more employee hours to use so the sales floor is more adequately covered and I'm a little less stressed.

We put up some more Christmas decorations today. That's about as decorated as it's going to get. It sure takes a lot more time to put stuff up than to tear it down at the end of the season!

"Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays"

The whole "Merry Christmas" controversy is insane. People are choosing where to shop based on how the employees choose to acknowledge the holiday?! My store doesn't have an official position on it, while I don't care if my cashiers say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or "Have a great day" or simply, "Thank you." I continue with my normal year-round send-off because I'm just not in the holiday mood, at least not yet.

Some customers very pointedly say, "Merry Christmas!" and I usually respond, "You too." I mean, it's not Christmas yet. Christmas is on the 25th. My store isn't open then. Why should I say "Merry Christmas" now? Now with some of my regulars I'm more friendly. I heard how excited one lady is because she gets to visit her son; an older gentleman asked for his gift because he might not see me again before the holiday. He thinks I'm with it enough to have shopped already?

Anyway, the whole "Merry Christmas" thing.......while I consider Christmas a secular holiday, its roots are religious and I'm not into forcing religion on other people. If they ask or even seem interested, I'll certainly share. Never had the opportunity at work, but with friends we've had pretty deep conversations. Life, death, after death, God, which god, the difference between religion and church. If someone doesn't want to hear something, then trying to make them listen will only build a wall that's not easily torn down.

I've seen signs outside businesses that say something like, "We say 'Merry Christmas.'" Yeah? So? Do you provide good service? How about your prices? I don't care if you're politically correct. I care if you give me what I need.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I hate people.

My main cashier was on a break so I was filling in for her. A lady came in and demanded an item (didn't ask for it, but DEMANDED it). After I got it for her she wanted something else that was RIGHT behind her. I told her where it was but she seemed annoyed that I didn't come over to help her pick one out. Yeah, whatever—there are a zillion different types and I have other customers waiting to hand me money, pick one out for yourself!!

There was one register open. All of the other registers had their closed signs up. I was in the front cleaning a shelf within easy sight of the doors and registers. Yet people still had trouble figuring out which lane was open. "Where do you want me?" "Oh, all the lanes are closed, I guess it's free today! HA HA HA!" "Which one's open?" Is it that difficult?! I want you at the only register that doesn't have a rope across it!

18 days left. Will I have any hair left by then?

Friday, December 02, 2005


At this time of year we run out of stuff more than normal. It's because people are shopping more than normal. Is that a hard concept to grasp?

Sometimes our in-stock numbers get messed up too. We might be completely out of something but the computer thinks we have enough of it so the item is not reordered. When that happens I first have to notice the empty shelf and then research it.......did we just sell more than normal this week so we're out of it, or did someone forget to stock the shelf, or is our distributor having supply issues, or did the computer not order any of it because it thinks we still have some?

Yesterday I researched some bare spots on shelves and fixed the problems, including the items that the computer thought we had some of. Today I assisted a customer who was asking about one of those very items. He asked when we would get more of the item so I explained it might be a few weeks because of the computer error. He responded in a very domineering way, "Computers don't make mistakes; people do. I know someone on your board of directors." He said it as if it was MY mistake that we didn't have any of the item. I just FIXED the problem; I didn't CAUSE it!

Is that a threat? I think it's despicable when customers threaten me. I thought to myself, "Do we even have a board of directors?" Then I explained, AGAIN, that I was sorry for his inconvenience and the problem had been fixed but it might take a few weeks to get the product in again. After all, our computer talks to corporate computer, that computer talks to the people who make the product, those people send the product to corporate, corporate sends them to us.....that doesn't happen overnight.

The customer repeated his threat, "I know someone on {Big Competitor's} board of directors! I wouldn't say anything to him about this, but……..I expect you to compensate me for this."


I didn't point out to him that we aren't {Big Competitor} but that we're {Us}. After all, if he's mad enough to talk to someone higher up, let him talk to his friend {Big Competitor} to complain about our store and only then find out that they don't have a store in our area. If he knew who we were he might ask for our office's phone number and cause problems there.

I apologized again, knowing that I could make fun of him all I wanted once he left. I showed him the smaller size of the item he wanted and, after checking with my boss, offered him a rather significant discount on the larger size when it came in. It wasn't as much as he wanted, but what he wanted wasn't anywhere near reasonable. The boss said that was it, not a penny more. Take it, or shop someplace else. We went above and beyond to help you; there's no way you're getting us in trouble.