Sunday, August 27, 2006

A "Slow" Day

It's been a busy week both on the work and home fronts, thus the lack of updates. The most notable weekend event:

It was a somewhat slow day (for a weekend, anyway) and plenty of associates were working. My cashier rather curiously paged me to the back of the store. Huh? Where? Why? Assuming she was mistaken or I misheard, I headed to the front to see what she needed. Partway there she saw me and somewhat desperately shouted out, "The back of the store! Don't ask questions! Just go! Hurry!" I want to know what I'm going to find when I arrive at the back of the store?!

The back door was propped open, not unusual since the smokers take advantage of the rare weekend moments slow enough to get off the sales floor. Outside, one of my most trusted employees was being interrogated by a police officer. A police helicopter circled the building. Another policeman/car surveyed the front of the store.

Apparently our alarm system malfunctioned and sent a message that we were being burglarized. Now usually our alarm company will call us first before calling the police. But either they couldn't get through on our always-busy phone lines or they assumed that since it was regular business hours that we must be in trouble, thus the call to the police.

My trusted employee told me later that just as he was exiting the building the police officer was rounding the corner. The officer radioed the dispatcher with my employee's description as he kept his gun-hand ready for action. The employee offered to go and get me, the manager on duty, but the policeman quickly refused as his hand moved a little closer to his gun and he insisted that the employee step away from the building/door. The officer radioed the dispatcher again for them to call our store and send the manager to the back.....thus the cashier's mysterious page.

We quickly sorted it out. Apparently the policeman thought the employee might have been involved in a robbery or taking merchandise out the back door or who knows what. No, no illegal action here.

The policeman went back to his car and drove around to the side of the building, where he met up with the other officer to chat for at least a half hour.......must have been a slow day for them, too.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Creatures of Habit

Why do companies have to change the packaging their items are in?!

I know they probably think it keeps the items modern-looking and fresh and NEW! and IMPROVED!


It confuses customers (and occasionally the salespeople, too).

Several of our big vendors recently redesigned their ENTIRE LINE OF PRODUCTS. Within the last week I can't even begin to count how many confused people I assisted.

One lady tried to narrow the search for her favorite product, "It was purple." Key word being may very well be a new color now. Do you know the NAME of the product? One brand has 30 different but similar items. "It was purple" is not a big help. There are two purple ones, one purple patterned, one maroon, and one dark pink that some people consider purple. After I showed her all of those choices, to hear her respond, "No, that's not it," to EACH ONE, suddenly she remembered that the product she was looking for was actually GREEN, her husband's favorite was purple. Then we started all over with the 5~10 shades of green products.....that all have names......that have not changed. Only she didn't remember the name.

Another woman wanted to know the difference between two products. I flipped them over, saw that the item numbers were identical, and told her they were the same items in different packaging. "They don't look the same," she insisted as she demanded to know the difference between them and which one was better. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE, only different packaging. REALLY! I PROMISE!

Yet another woman (are men not as picky about getting the same item each time?) was looking for some {soap}. What kind of soap? Liquid? Bar? Hand? Antibacterial? With lotion? Can we be more specific?? When we finally narrowed it down to the lavender body wash with massaging beads, there was still the choice of dry or oily skin. In the past they only made one formula for all skin types. She acted like it was my fault that they changed the products. "I want what I always buy!" Well, they don't make that product anymore. This is what they make now. Still angry, she wanted to know the difference in ingredients between the old product and the two new ones. Well, since we don't have any of the old product left, we can't compare them now, can we?

Friday, August 18, 2006

WWW Safety

I came across one of my employee's m123y123s123p123a123c123e page. It had his FULL NAME, a partial picture, interests, his workplace, his school name, his grade. Then he linked to another of my employees and a former employee. All are teenagers. The current employee had a very safe page…..a picture, but only her first name and no detailed information. The former employee (under 18) had a picture up in her UNDERWEAR. Does her parental figure know about this???

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You don't carry it?!

A man asked me for "this product" (while holding up a 50 ounce bottle) in a 10 ounce bottle. There was no space on the shelf for it so I was 99% sure that we no longer carried it. I checked with another employee and found that we had NEVER carried that item in that size. When I told the man this he was indignant.

"Don't tell me that!! I buy it here every month!" To his wife..."Can you believe this? I buy it here all the time but she's telling me that they've NEVER carried it!"

I showed him the industrial-strength carpet cleaner in the 50 and 100 ounce sizes, to hear him complain that he would never use that much of it. I explained that most people who need a carpet cleaner that strong need a large quantity of it, as well, the reason we carried the sizes that we do.

"I don't need a strong cleaner. This is just for my home. Why would I want a strong cleaner?!"

Then it dawned on me.....he wanted the home-strength carpet cleaner, which DOES come in a 10-ounce size. At that point I was needed to perform a management function so I asked another employee to show him to the correct product. That employee later told me that the man asked him if I was new since I didn't know anything about the products that we carry. ??? The man apparently never understood that he had been asking for the wrong product.

{We also may or may not carry carpet cleaner. OK, we don't. This product substitution doesn't make quite as much sense as Monday's.}

Monday, August 14, 2006

Super Sharp Pencils

A woman came in and asked where the Super Sharp Pencils were. Trying to clarify what she wanted, I asked, "Is that a type of pencil or the name brand?"

"That's the name of it! Super Sharp Pencil!"

We've never sold a product called Super Sharp Pencil. We sell some pretty sharp pencils, but none with that brand name.

"I buy it here all the time! SUPER SHARP's in a red package with blue writing. Does someone else know more about the products?"

How do you respond to that? She was asking for a name brand product that I knew we did not carry. She assumed I was the stupid retail employee who knew nothing.

"Is it possibly Major Brand Name Pencil? In a red package with blue writing?"

Sure enough, when we got to the pencil aisle we found the Major Brand Name Pencil with the advertising phrase "Super Sharp" on it. It was NOT the name of the product. It was an advertising phrase. An advertising phrase shared by a dozen different pencil companies.

We had one package left and I could tell from the shelf label that we wouldn't be carrying the item anymore. I thought I'd be helpful and let the woman know so she could start thinking about what product to get in the future.

I shouldn't have been helpful.

"Why aren't you going to carry it anymore?! That's the only pencil I've ever used! Can't you order it for me?"

"No, I'm sorry. Either our company or Major Brand Name company made the decision to stop carrying/making the product. I am unable to order any of them."

The unhappy customer used the common threat, "Well I guess I'm going to have to find a new place to shop."

Do you really think your threat is going to change the reality of me not being able to order the product?!

Even more senseless, she didn't even buy the one we had left. Maybe it was a punishment for us not going to carry it anymore, or perhaps it was because she had such a hard time finding what she wanted or maybe it was because she had such an unknowledgeable sales associate. What has customer service come one knows how to provide excellent service anymore. Poor customers.

{We may or may not sell pencils. It's just an example of a real situation I recently encountered.}

Friday, August 11, 2006

My Morning

A cashier paged me to the front where a uniformed man was waiting impatiently. He pulled me to the side and quietly informed me that the store's power would be turned off if the bill wasn't paid by the time he got back from his (early) lunch. Uh…….thanks for the warning? By the way, how much is the bill? (Maybe I can pay it out of store funds?) HOW MUCH??? I don't have access to that much money!

I called the office… answer. They never answer their phones. Voicemail…no good, I need action now! OK, try again, so when the power gets shut off I can at least point to the fact that I left a message and tried to do something. Called the office again, same extension number…..and someone answered. I quickly explained the problem and was told that they would "look into it." What part of "OUR POWER WILL BE TURNED OFF IN LESS THAN AN HOUR IF YOU DON'T GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER AND PAY THE BILL" did you not understand?????

So that was a lot of help. Hmmm……Boss is away….again….what do you know. Better let regional manager know what's going on.

Voicemail. Lovely. "Big Boss! Help!"

Wait. Wait. Wait some more.

Thirty minutes left. Office calls. "We called the utility company but they haven't called us back yet. We're still working on it."

I am SO not impressed with the people who work in the office.

Twenty minutes left until we have no cash registers. No credit card machines. No phones. No air conditioning. No LIGHTS. Twenty minutes until we close our doors and stop making money.

Is there anyone else that I can call? No, not really. Looking back, I guess I could have gotten the VP involved, but that would mean some angry office personnel and make my life more difficult in the long run.

Fifteen minutes left and Big Boss calls, seeming unsurprised at both the size of the bill and the situation (and the response from the office staff. After all, it wasn't THEIR power that was about to be cut). Speaking with her made me feel a lot better about things getting taken care of. However, I wasn't so sure about her being able to take care of things in only fifteen minutes.

Five minutes left and I was positive that we were about to be in darkness and SEVERE HEAT. Then the office called….."Big Boss is paying the bill. If the utility employee comes back, tell him that the bill's being paid and he shouldn't turn off the power." Yeah. Right. He gives us an hour's warning (which wasn't required) and then he's going to come back into the store to warn us, AGAIN, and listen to pleas and lame excuses? I don't think so.

The deadline arrives…..hold your breath, cross your fingers…….the lights are still on. Five minutes later…..still have power. Ten minutes….cash registers continue to work. Big Boss calls, "Is your power still on?" Yes, thanks for checking. She gave me the payment confirmation number in case we had problems later on and we agreed that the office staff SUCK (not in so many words, but in those things that you can't say but you understand what the other person means anyway).

Another day. Another crisis averted. Can I go home yet?


Check out the comment on this post. Anonymous has serious problems if he thinks that I meant that as a serious quiz!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Search Terms

I can't believe how many shoplifters there are out there! Lots of people visit my blog through searches for how long shoplifting stays on their record, if they're a minor is it on their record at all, etc. I DON'T KNOW! I just try to prevent shoplifting and call the police if I witness it (which has only happened once because they're too sly).

One person searched for "get me a job, maybe driving, perhaps something in customer services, or possibly, if its a tuesday, e"…….the search engine cut them off, yet still gave search results. My advice: go out and look for a job instead of doing a wacky internet search!

An indecisive customer/web searcher wanted to know "laws about retail store return policy." I say, make up your mind about what to buy BEFORE buying it! Find out the return policy of that store BEFORE buying it! Yes it's legal for us to refuse the return! Go ahead, sue me! Sue the store! It's not against the law!

These people: "customer approaches unreasonable request what do you do" and "how to handle an insubordinate employee I can't fire"…..let me know when you find out.

Apparently someone was either having after-thoughts or was planning something: "retail manager fired for pushing an employee"……that sounds right. Completely hands-off is always safer!

And finally, "can a retail company fire employee for cursing at customer"….Yep. Been there. Done that. It was his first job, he was only 16, but he still should have known better. Curse at them after they leave the store. Make fun of them with co-workers after they leave the store. Make fun of them on the web after they leave the store. Doing it to their face is a really bad idea....if you want to keep your job.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Another new employee from last week is gone: I worked one day with him and knew he wasn't going to work out. At that point it's stupid to waste time training him further, but Boss said, "Give him a chance." Well, I did. I gave him a chance to do what I said, then when it wasn't done I gave him another chance, then I had to remind him a THIRD time of what he was supposed to be doing. He was polite enough with the customers, but extremely lazy and didn't know much about our specialty area.

A few days after he began working for us we seemed to be short on a certain item. Hmm….what timing. I ran an inventory list of what we should have vs. what we did have and unless the items got up and walked away on their own from the employees-only area, then it looked like the new employee was to blame. I expressed my concern to Boss, knowing that she might tell me I wasn't giving the new employee a chance by making such an accusation. But I was careful of how I phrased it. I showed her the inventory shortage and suggested keeping an eye on that particular item and perhaps that employee because the shortages began occurring just after he started work.

She agreed that it was suspicious and that we should be more alert.
We informed the other managers of the problem with that specific item and asked them to be particularly watchful, especially of new employees. No names were used, no accusations made.

A few days later the problem took care of itself. The employee came in to work in a foul mood, did a poor job all shift, then started an argument with a co-worker over an extremely petty matter. Luckily a manager saw the whole thing, including the part where the new employee threatened to harm his co-worker. You can't do that! You're fired!

The co-worker who was threatened wasn't at all at fault…..the petty matter wasn't anything he did wrong. When the new employee began shouting, it was clear that he wasn't logical or anything…..the co-worker kept silent in an attempt to diffuse the situation. While that didn't work, the fact that there was no physical contact is pure luck.

(May I note that I did not hire this guy or the people in the two previous posts? That's right, someone else did.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

No Notice

We have another new employee who's been with us a few weeks. She seemed to like the job and we liked her. However, she had a full-time job somewhere else. She worked at our store part-time for extra money. One day she called to get her work schedule and the very next day, just 30 minutes before scheduled to work, she called to quit. ??? If it was too much for her to work two jobs or not enough money or whatever, what's wrong with GIVING NOTICE so we weren't stuck short-handed?!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Back to hiring.....and firing. We have lots of long-term employees (long-term for retail, anyway) but when one of them leaves or increased business leads to the need for more employees, we go through SO MANY employees until we find someone who will stick around. Many times if we need one employee then I'll hire two because chances are at least one of them won't stay.

Last week's new employee: worked one week with perfect attendance and more or less punctual. He did an adequate job with minimal training, but did only what he was asked to do instead of looking around to see what needed to be done. That's OK, we can fix that.

Week two…..first day he called in sick. O…..K……personally, if I was sick with a new job I'd go to work anyway. I've had many people out "sick" for a day or two while they decide if they want to quit or not. On the second day there was a death in the family (half-brother's grandmother's sister's sister-in-law's great-nephew's wife's dad's dog) so he couldn't come to work. I've been down "excuse road" that point I started interviewing to replace him.

On the third day he actually showed up, more or less on time, and did his adequate job again. On the fourth day he didn't show up or call at all until after his shift was scheduled to begin. He claimed that his alarm didn't go off so he didn't get up on time but that his dad needed help with yardwork so he couldn't come to work at all that day…??? You're fired!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Weekend Trip

Sometimes you just need to get away. I had the weekend off and was so bored of this city that I used MapQuest to plot a trip out of town.

I went to a well-known place on Saturday. It was super super hot and very sunny. I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible; during the hottest part of the day I visited the museums and saw the outside stuff when the sun wasn't quite as strong. I used a friend's vacation home that night.

The original plan was to visit a less well-known place but bigger city on Sunday but instead I relaxed in the outdoors with some non work-related reading. It was a nice bit of nature and much needed peace and quiet instead of the heat and noise that the big city would have involved.

After the weekend away it felt like I was playing catch-up this week.....piled up laundry and cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. that I usually do when I'm off. But it was totally worth it to get away and do something different, even if it was just for a couple of days.