Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another field trip!

The same manager and I went in a different direction than last time. We visited two stores from our chain; the stores were total opposites. We had heard things about both of the head managers, one good and one bad. Without knowing who managed which store, you would have known from the condition of their respective stores. One store was practically in shambles, with product scattered everywhere, dirty floors and shelves, NO customer service or acknowledgement by any of the staff. The other store was clean, neatly stocked, a warm greeting from the cashier as we entered, and offers to assist us. What a difference!

We met the store manager for the good store and spent quite a while talking with him and our old store manager, who was working in his store for the day as they worked on a joint project. We mentioned the other store and they weren't surprised at our report. That manager will lose her store if she doesn't improve.....soon. (Our old boss has connections HIGH up in the company, so she's heard things.)

After the shop talk we went out for dinner before returning to our respective cities. It was a fun day, and I learned quite a bit from the two long-term store managers. Actually, I learned a few things from just walking around the bad manager's store, too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I'm confused.

Situation: a pretty normal day, but Boss's favorite (the nephew's friend) was on the phone most of the morning and then left early. She lets him (and only him) talk on the phone and arrive and leave as he pleases, so I couldn't do anything about it. A pipe busted and flooded part of the store, giving us quite a mess to clean up. Yet, customers were taken care of. The store was run. Money was made. Shelves were stocked. However, one routine task was not yet done when boss arrived. She was mildly angry, even after being told about the flood and employee issue. Why?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Trump makes it look easy.

I imagine that no matter how many times I do it, firing people will never get easier. This is the second time that I've been instructed to do it at the end of the shift. In the future, I'll do it when the employee gets to work, even if it leaves me short-handed. It's SO HARD to work with the person all day, knowing what I have to do later.

Another time I had to fire someone but without knowing ahead of time. He used profanity with a customer so I didn't have a choice. A quick phone consultation with the then store manager and he was gone. I've also acted as a witness several times (so if the person being fired tried to say anything against the manager then I could dispute it).

The first time that I was solo (with a manager from another store as my witness) I had seen lots of progress from the employee and didn't agree with the firing decision, but had to do it anyway. The high-school student let a few tears fall and as she left the store turned around to tell me, "I used to like you, but this is not right" What's that supposed to mean? The BOSS made the decision, not me. I was the bearer of the bad news because the (then) boss was too chicken to do it herself.

This time I TOTALLY agreed with the decision and wondered what took Boss so long to make it. She even offered to do it herself, but it would have been inconvenient for her to come in and I didn't mind doing it. Despite my agreeing with the decision, I got more and more nervous as the evening went by, and when it came time to fire the girl, my hands were actually shaking and I felt light-headed. I did what I had to do, she left, and I could relax. She had no idea it was coming, despite frequent informal disciplining and warnings. She didn't say much, only to ask what "not working up to our standards" meant.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Missing $50

LAG was main cashier. At a busy time of day I was forced to use her register for a few transactions, including one large one which the customer paid in cash. At the end of the shift the register was exactly $50 short. Refusing to accept any responsibility whatsoever, she blamed the shortage on me (despite her register being off frequently and mine rarely being even a cent off). Realizing it MAY have been my fault, I offered to split the amount with her, thinking that was more than fair. She left pissed off, refusing to talk to me.

Overnight I rethought my original offer. Seeing that I make more money than her, should I have covered the entire shortage? It was her register and she was away from the register without proper authorization (leaving a new, slower, employee instead)…..should I charge her for the entire amount? I came back to the original decision, that because it could have been either one of us who made the error, it should be split down the middle.

In my mind I went through the transactions I had done, looking for possible errors or short change artists or anything else weird. I always double-check both the amount I put into the register and the amount of change I give out, so there's little room for error. It made me mad that LAG automatically assumed it was my fault when both our records would suggest otherwise.

The next morning before officially reporting the shortage to the office, I decided to look around a little. You see, in addition to her register being short before, LAG has also lost checks, credit card slips, coupons, etc. through carelessness. What do you know, I reached far back into the drawer, and jammed up in it was the $50 bill. I was relieved, yet still angry about her assuming it was my error.

She was off that day so I told the MOD to inform her that we found the money so she wouldn't be charged. Did she ever apologize to me? No, no mention was made of the incident. You can bet I won't EVER run her register again, regardless of how busy the store is.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Double Charged

Our computer system is wonderful. Earlier this month there was a complete meltdown that caused lots of headaches but we got it taken care of.......we thought.

Today I got a phone call from a customer claiming her credit card had been charged twice. At first I thought she had misread her statement or something, but after hearing that the date was the same as the meltdown, I took down her account number and contact info and promised to look into it. I called the appropriate person in the office, explaining that the date coincided with the meltdown, and left her to investigate it.

A few hours later I received a fax with nearly FIFTY customer account numbers and expiration dates. They had ALL been overcharged on that date and I was to credit their accounts. Talk about a headache! By the time I was done I was cross-eyed from the small print and making sure I input the correct account numbers and return amounts.

I then called the customer who had brought it to our attention, apologizing for our error and informing her that her account had been credited but it might take a few days to show up on her statement. She was very understanding and polite the whole time. She also seemed surprised that we took care of it so quickly.

You see, in our initial conversation I told her it might take a few days to research the issue; by handling it the same day we surpassed what she expected of us. Had I promised it to her that day and it took two days then I would have fallen short of her expectations. Never promise anything that you can't deliver.

(LAG learned absolutely nothing from the situation I wrote about on Monday. She believes she did nothing wrong because the part COULD have arrived the next day. But the fact is, it DIDN'T and there was actually a very low probability of it coming that day and the customer was disappointed. Even though the customer has the part now, she may not shop at our store in the future, all because of a promise that was impossible to keep.)

Monday, January 23, 2006


When I arrived at work this morning I found a message from Boss with what seemed like an easy task. A customer bought a set (on Sunday) but needed one item that we were out of in order to complete the set. I needed to call the office (now that it was Monday morning) to see if we could get the item soon. I called and got a "no" because the warehouse was out of the item. I then called all the stores within driving distance and they, also, were out of the item.

I called the customer and left a message that we were trying to get the item but it might take 2~4 weeks. Office knows we need the item; customer knows we'll call her when we get the item. The end, right? Of course not; things are rarely that easy.

The lady called back, FURIOUS. "I have this set but I'm missing the once piece and what am I supposed to do with it now?? I want the missing piece NOW and YOU WILL GET IT FOR ME!"

"We will get it for you, but it might take 2~4 weeks because our warehouse is currently out of stock so we have to wait for it to be ordered from {a far away state} and sent to the warehouse and then for it to be delivered to our store."

"THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE! I WANT IT NOW. You need to overnight it since you're out of it and you sold me the set anyway." (First of all, like the item is vital to her living another day or something; secondly, some people already have this part so they don't buy it with the set.)

"That's not how our system works. We'll get it for you as soon as possible, but it's not going to be today."


I began to lose patience with the woman, but saw the potential for further problems from her. I very carefully told her what she could do with it: "Well, you can either wait a few weeks or return the set."

Then she hung up on me.

I called the office back and expressed the urgency of our needing the item. Turns out there are still money issues which means our check has to arrive at the manufacturer before they'll ship the item. Great. Not that the customer needs to know that part of the story, but it adds time to getting the item.

A few minutes later the customer's mother called (who the set was actually for, the middle-aged daughter just bought it for her). She was a little more polite, but nevertheless I had to repeat myself. The mother insisted, "We really need the set-completer. Can't you order it for us?"

"Of course. It HAS been ordered. However, it might take 2~4 weeks for it to arrive."

"But we REALLY need it!"

"I'm sorry. I'd be glad to give you your money back for the set if waiting the 2~4 weeks is too long for you. Really, I wish there was something more I could do for you. But your only options at this point are to wait or return the set."

"OK." {Big sigh} "Thank you."


A few hours later the VP's assistant called to ask me why we weren't making the customer happy by getting the item for her. !!!!! Yeah, I've tried. I explained to that person (who's in a completely different part of the office than the person I spoke with earlier) what I had tried and if he could get the item any quicker then do it.

All this and a busier day than normal, along with extremely weird and difficult customers ALL DAY.

I finally found out that the whole problem would not have happened if LAG hadn't PROMISED the item the next day. When I told the customer it would be 2~4 weeks the lady was (understandably?) upset. I still don't understand what she expected me to do......I can't snap my fingers and make it appear. I NEVER promise anything. I give predictions and probabilities, but NEVER promises unless the item is IN MY HANDS. I about killed LAG for the problems she caused me. But of course she doesn't care.

For the time being the customer has decided to wait while we rush the part. Now that the VP is involved they're either going to ship it directly to our store from the manufacturer, or possibly transfer it in from a store in a neighboring state. It will most likely arrive in 3~5 days, which makes it look like I wasn't trying very hard by my 2~4 weeks estimate. But that's all I have the power to do. The VP can do it a lot faster.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


We had some really bad weather this evening. A guy came into the store with a lit cigarette in his hand. He had some story about needing $5 to give someone for gas so they'd give him a ride over to the next city.

Seems like I've heard that story before. Interestingly enough, I think I've heard that story from HIM before.

"Sir, you can't smoke in here."

"Oh, but I just need some money to make it to {the next city}. I've been trying to get there all day. If I have money to give someone then I can get a ride."

"Well you can't smoke in here. It's against the law. You need to leave."

"You don't have any money?"

"Not on me, no." Entirely true. I carry a very small amount of cash, but not on me. In my purse.

Employee chimes in: "We don't get paid until tomorrow so we're all broke."

He grumbled a bit and then went outside and stood under our roof for a lot longer than I would have liked. It was getting near closing and because of the bad weather there were few customers, few people on the roads, and poor visibility (from the road or nearby stores to our store). The guy still stood there. I called my father for advice......I don't like people just hanging around, especially when we're about to close and no one's around to witness anything that they might do. I came very close to calling the police but I checked once more before calling and he was gone. Whew.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The coupon lady was in again today. She snottily asked, "Remember me?" as she acted like a queen. She was artificially friendly as she made sure that I knew that she, the almighty customer, was in control and if I didn't please her she would get me in big trouble. She still doesn't get that I was just doing my job and protecting my company. Apparently Boss did her apologizing profusely thing to keep the lady happy; the lady apparently thinks that she has the power to get me fired.

The same day, before the store manager arrived for the day, a man had a complaint and wasn't satisfied in the store so I gave him our corporate number. Within THREE HOURS our regional manager called to question whether I had handled things correctly. I explained the store side of the issue, told her I had witnesses who would corroborate my story if needed, and that was that.

When Boss came in I informed her about both issues. The more I thought about it, the more the coupon lady upset me. I hate feeling like I have to kiss ass or risk getting in trouble. It's a constant balancing act of following company rules to keep a certain corporate employee happy (calling him Mr. Prick will work just fine) and bending the rules to keep customers happy (because if the customers are upset then Mr. Prick would also come after me). If I'm too strict with policies the customers call corporate and get their way anyway; if I'm too loose with policies I get yelled at for not following policies. Today was one of those days where I wondered, "How can I stay in retail?"

Before the conversation with Boss had ended I was crying, which I hate, because some employees saw me upset, too. At least Boss realizes how that lady affects me. Before she always said, "I don't have a problem with her." Yeah, no kidding, she knows you're store manager so she gives you tons more respect than any of the rest of us. I DO have a problem with her, as do several other employees. A SERIOUS problem.

While I know customers are why the store exists and how we get paid, why must we tolerate customers who treat us as less than human? Further, they expect Wal-mart prices with Saks service........not possible!! Many customers judge me by my job or the status that they perceive me to have. They think I'm in retail because I have no other options but that's not true. I've just become comfortable where I am and am hesitant to change. But now.....do I really want to continue dealing with customers? Yet am I going to let customers drive me away from a job that's worked well for me?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Who Was It?

Statcounter is great, or not so great, depending on your perspective. Great to see who is visiting, how they got here, which posts they like best; not so great when you're worried about WHO is visiting.

Recently someone visited from the city next to mine. At first I was concerned, but then I thought about it being a pretty large city, so no big deal. But when someone visited from my not-so-big city....!!!!....go away! No, you don't know me. You have no idea who I am or where I work. Really.

Not too long after that, a co-worker suggested that I print something off the internet for another employee, "Since you're on the computer so much." What does that mean?

The co-worker didn't say anything else and no more hits from this area recently, but still......it makes me wonder if I make my writing anonymous enough. My company isn't with-it enough to have a blogging policy, but I am fairly certain that they wouldn't like me writing for all the world to see, even if I don't reveal what type of store I work in, and especially not the company name. While they couldn't fire me for the blog itself, I probably have violated the confidentiality clause.

I think I'm doing OK with not discussing things in too detailed a manner. Certain posts would be clearer if you knew what type of store I worked in, while you've missed a couple of very funny stories because certain subjects aren't possible without revealing the store's specialty area. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but stores in this specialty area are few, my company is on the smallish side, and many of my employees are young and technologically savvy. Fewer details is good.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Eyes in the Back of My Head

We have a couple of newish high school employees that aren't working up to our standards. One of them (A) it's pretty certain that we'll get rid of soon. A pretty good high schooler (B) commented on A not doing the job well. I told B that I noticed what A was and was not doing and that if it continued she wouldn't work for us anymore.

While I try not to mention employees' negative performance with other employees, I had multiple reasons for saying this to him:
1. Demonstrate to B that I see things that I don't always appear to see.
2. Make sure B knew that the behavior was unacceptable so that he wouldn't begin doing it.
3. Knowing how our employees love to gossip, I knew that B would tell A what I had said. Hopefully A will then either get scared into doing the work properly or quit before we have to fire her. Either way it's good for us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Asshole of the day:

A man, in his early 70s, wanted to buy a part to a product he bought in our store. I explained that we don't sell parts; we sell the whole thing. I've probably sold a thousand of that item, and not a single person has come asking for parts. Until now.

The man started yelling that no one told him that parts weren't available when he bought it two weeks ago and now he has a thing he can't do anything with, blah, blah, blah, what is he supposed to do, etc. etc. I suggested he try a hardware store or the company who makes the item. "So you're not going to do anything for me?!" That would be correct. If we don't have it, we don't have it. No, I can't order it. If you had taken care of it to start with then you wouldn't need the part now.

Throughout his tirade he liberally used PG-rated words and kept getting closer and closer to me. I backed up, and backed up, and after repeating my advice to try a hardware store, I went to the front of the store and filed some invoices while I kept an eye on the guy and had employees and a phone close by. He made one last try to somehow get me to say I'd get him the part, I repeated that I COULD NOT GET IT, and he cursed a little more before leaving (still PG-rated, if it had been worse I would have made him leave).

A woman browsing in the front commented that someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. You think?

Monday, January 09, 2006


Tissues are a good thing, right? Very useful things, they are. But, they should be used in their appropriate location.....the bathroom. They are not meant to be carried around my store so you can wipe your ruby-red nose whenever you need to. If you are that sick then you need to stay at home and out of my store and away from me. To be clear, I'm not talking about a little travel-sized package stuck in your pocket, I'm talking about a full-sized BOX of tissues. Gross!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Why Should I Know?

Today was like my zillionth consecutive day working, including both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. So no deep thoughts from me about the new year or goals or resolutions. In fact, I was so tired that I was asleep way before midnight.....pitiful. Even worse, both Saturday and Sunday the store hardly made enough money to warrant being open. Perhaps eventually we'll be closed on more holidays? No, probably not.

I hate having to repeat myself. A customer asked me if {Company} had {variety of} {product}. I responded that we don't carry products by {Company}, so I wouldn't know. After not listening, she told me why she needed the product (like I care) and then asked, AGAIN, if {Company} made {variety of} {product}. I answered, VERY slowly......"I. Don't. Know. ---------- We. Don't. Sell. ANY. Products. By. {Company}."

She, of course, wasn't satisfied and acted as if I'm not doing my job since I don't know about every product by every manufacturer that's even vaguely related to my industry. I hate that. I know a good bit about the 10,000 or 20,000 or however many items that we DO sell. It doesn't make sense for me to learn about products that we DON'T sell. If it's a new and exciting product that my store has some chance of carrying, yes I probably know a little bit about it, even though it's too new to be in my store yet. But if it's an established product that we for whatever reason don't sell, I don't waste my time learning about it. In this particular case, the company she was asking about makes products inferior to the ones we sell. Spend a little more money for the quality product and in most cases you'll be happier.