Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pandora's Boxes

One of my many compounding jobs is to put back on the shelves all the items that customers like to take what I cal “walks around the store”. For whatever reason they choose not to buy the item and instead of putting it back like a normal person, they just leave it where ever they are. OK, I can accept that. I’ve done it in stores myself when the flash of how much money I actually have in my bank account crosses my mind and maybe the DVD collection of Thunder cats can be put off for another paycheck.

Now where my peeve comes in is when I look at the item and what condition the person has through some unknown means turned it from perfectly useful and pristine condition to a figurative condition equally only to a child survivor from a free weekend at Michael Jackson’s Wonderland. The most glaring omission from the box is any shape resembling…a box. Are these people punching their way to look at a coffee maker? Should I be tracking down a hook handed customer for reparations? Is the concept of packing tape so foregone to some people?

In my store we specifically put up signs telling people “DO NOT OPEN BOXES” and we even put out nice pretty displays so customers can finger fuck every orifice of a toaster oven before taking it home. But no. People have some brain deficiency that convinces them that they must check inside the box or when they get home they’ll open it only to find birdseed or wood chips in place of dishes. The unspoken assumption that really irks me is that any department store would ever survive with a business model that involved ripping off customers by selling them empty boxes. Again, people are so self-involved that they are convinced that we’re out to rob them in our stupid gaudy coloured uniforms.

The majority of people who do this ARE immigrants; yes in my experience this is true. Why? Because yes, in dirty poor India or back country Haiti this switcheroo probably goes on a lot where everyone is trying to make a quick buck. But spare me your paranoia when you walk into our publicly traded, ISO 9001 accredited, and multi-division franchised store and think we are selling you a box of snake oil.

The greatest piss off as the guy who has to help these idiots is when they either asks me to go out back when I know for damn sure the item they have is in perfect order but they want one with a sealed package. So smiling I pull a trick I used to do when I was a waiter and people complained about ‘dirty’ glasses set out. I take it out back away from prying eyes. Make sure there is no identifying traits, tape it/clean it up, and bring it back as if it were a new item. And they go along happy thinking they have something brand new when in actually it’s the same thing. I think they get off on the sense of control personally.

New flash, most manufacturers use the same cheapy packing tape you can buy in the stores. The most obscene waste of time is when I get someone who doesn’t want to touch the box that has been open, requests a new one, and once they decide to buy it TAKE ANOTHER NEW BOX. Assholes.
For only .99 cents, you too can transform items from used trash to brand-new!

So I’ve entered recently into my bad employee matrix a series of straight out lies to avoid the inconvenience of people. The standard ”There’s no more, that’s all we have”, “It’s store policy you have to buy the item you opened”, and just plain “No”. It’s so powerful how that last one can turn normal human beings into lunatics because they don’t get their way.  Whatever, fuck ‘em.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Time Game

This pretty much sums up everyday at work for me. Couldn't write it better, article scheduled for tomorrow.

Direct link in case you can't see.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas... Party?

Ding ding ding dong. It’s Christmas time around the world and any prosperous Christian country (see: 80% of the world’s economy besides China). So the year had come and all the little elves working for the fat man in the suit are looking forward to some form of recognition for their years long of hard work. So inevitably there comes the year end Christmas party.

Usually this conjures in your heads a drunken foray with a crappy DJ playing the same top 40 music you hear on whatever your cities “Top Music bringing you all the hits” same two douche bag Disc Jockey radio station music. But the types of people who work full time retail are top heavy on the old fat woman variety outside of the odd high school dropout and a handful of slackers (see: me).

When I was first hired for this job and my payroll sheet was done up I was given an optional sheet if I wanted to donate $2 a pay towards the “staff fund” that pays for these events management should be paying for themselves in the first place. But I did sign it. Not out of belief that it’d be a fun time but as a tactic in the bad employee’s handbook. Staying under the radar. No need of drawing undo attention to myself early on in the game. I liken my work ethic to an eventual stick of TNT that’s going to go off resulting in me being fired. It is dependent on the conditions of the workplace that will determine the length of the fuse.

So I pay into the fund but I also have an ulterior motive as by doing so it also allows me to prey on the weakened young part-time female staff who attend these functions and I play the “mature guy” role in their young eyes. Instead of the down and out loser the voice in the back of my head tells me I am for working there.

So I looked forward to this year’s party in hopes of getting some trim as a Christmas bonus. Well, what did we get for all our toil? Well it wasn’t even classified as a party by the crappy flier that went up. It was titled a “Christmas Luncheon” that was held in our break room…. during work hours.
Well of course they must have closed the store to hold it?
No. We got to eat constantly cooling food over our unpaid lunch break (yes, unpaid).
At least it was good food right?
It was Indian food, which for those reading who haven’t tried is terribly spicy and literally makes you stink of curry and spices after you eat it.

And that’s it, that was our Christmas “party”. A crappy meal of Indian food that was buffet style using plastic forks and paper plates. It was even during the day time so no hot cashiers were even there to creep on.  Then when we finished our break we were sent back to toil the acid mines with the stink of curry everywhere now. Terrific…

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ill Gotten Gains

One of the many unwriitten tasks that a retail employee has at their job is to look out for theft within the store. These means on top of dealing with irrate customers, even more mean employees, you are to put your safety in danger stopping potential thieves. All for minimum wage. Now I'm an intelligent person, and below this mask of bitterness and disappointment of where my life is going so far I actually do have plans for the future. Now none of these include getting stabbed or punched in the face trying to stop some guy/girl from stealing the latest Alt Rock or Rap CD.

Yet, as a retail employee we've all gone through anti-theft "training" telling us how to detect, deter, and apprehend thieves you my find in the store. There are actual people who make a living stealing from big box stores and fencing or return their ill-gotten gains. This is credited to why employees are paid so low because of retail theft there is not enough profit margin after selling plastic crap for "low low prices" and keeping their customer base....supposedly. This doesn't also take into account that every big box store has allocated 25% of its stock to be either damaged, broken, or stolen. Yes read that again, 25%. Now in another time I was also a security guard and I do know more than the average person about retail theft. The type of person varies greatly, and the ones who "look like thieves" are supposed to because their partner is dressed nice doing the actual stealing while the obvious person draws all your attention.

However if you're one of those poor fools who takes pride in their retail job, let me give you a warning before you try and go superhero on a thief. Let's say you see a person take something or stuffs it into their pockets and are walking out the door. I'll list the possible outcomes:

1. They ditch the item as they walk around the corner and you 'arrest' them = False Arrest = Sued = Fired
2. You do arrest them and the police are called = Wait between 1 and 6 hours for the police to show up. Also, the entire time you have to sit with the thief and listen to them beg to be let go. And 'protect' them from hurting themselves as your responsible for them as the arresting citizen, if not = sued. Why so long the wait? Because the police have real crimes to respond to and this is a paperwork nuisance. Don't forget your future UNPAID court time!
3. You see them walkout the door then you chase them and catch them. You get hurt in the process. Well if your company is like mine they have a 'No Chase' policy so at the least you'll just get fired. The worst a busted up face from a thief. Enjoy the rest of your shift with a swollen eye because you only get paid for time worked.
4. You confront the person as they walkout the door. BAM you get hit and they run off. Good work Quincy, now limp back to your post.

Let's say you do get the person, they're cooperative, and the police show up quickly. You give your statement. After that you get a quick pat on the back and told to go back to work. The same work that's been piling up since the theft began. Now you have even more work in even less time. Congratulations Hero!

However, the biggest part about retail theft is that the majority of it doesn't come from customers. No, it comes from bad employees like you and I! That's right, people get fed up with everything I've described so far and actually start taking things from the store. This is why there are cameras everywheres both in front and in the back of the store because management and corporate don't trust you. Why shouldn't they? I mean you make....oh that's right. Work prisoner work!

About 2 weeks into my new job I started eyeing things to steal. I honestly haven't yet because I haven't found an easy high volume item I can hide easily and turn for a good profit. I thought along the lines of SD photo cards or memory sticks, but besides being locked behind glass, they usually come in gigantic gawdy plastic packages that aren't so easy to dispose of off camera (employee washroom). They're also small in the inventory so it'll get noticed quickly if we come up short. I'll keep looking though. I've stolen lots from jobs I've worked before (+$3000 cash in one case over the course of 3 months) just so you don't think I'm bullshitting. Well, it is the internet... so trust me on that one.

I could rationalize my thinking process of why I did steal. The money never went to rent, or groceries, or kids I needed to support. The majority of it just went to leisure time fun. Not even the stereotypical drugs and booze but just to having some money left over after all my bills were paid to actually be able to enjoy my day off. Like going to a movie with my girlfriend, buying dinner at a sit-down non-fast food restaurant, and then having enough gas money to just drive around chatting with a coffee for the both of us. THAT'S ALL! And this wouldn't happen everyday. Maybe once a week max. It's also the difference between "minimum wage" and a "living wage".

But the retail overlords instead of actually raising wages and giving people a sense of pride in their work or making the money tolerable enough to stay, stick with a underpaid/undertrained disposable workforce that has so much turnover it's actually built into their business model.

So go ahead steal, I'll probably be happy to direct you to the good stuff.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bad Employee, Good Person?

I'd like to take an aside for a moment between my constant ranting and complain to actually point out that besides being a bad employee, hating my job, doing everything possible to make my store lose money, to point out that I am in fact a good person. Yes, underneath this bitter ego I project I actually have a human aspect to my work, and not the serial killer type.

Now, when I go to work and haven't show up late or encountered some dummy manager for a pep talk about something that I have to feign interest and attention in I go about a normal day of work. That's when the slide slowly begins. I enter the store completely fresh, clock in, throw on my stupid shirt, turn on my electric leach (aka walkie-talkie) and enter onto the sales floor. Then it starts.

Talking to the five year old translating for their 50 year old immigrant father, the person who expects me to be their personal shopper, the person who can't understand why the last day of the week long sale that "Awesome Deal" is sold out one hour before the store closes, and the incredibly rude person who gets "offended" when I actually show some personal pride by snapping back at their own rude comments. All of this slowly accumulates over the period of a four to seven hour shift into me being a beast by the end of things.

However! I can be rocked out of this by a simple "please" or "Excuse me, could you help me?" in a non-confrontational and genuine tone. I will stay with this customer for an hour if I need to in order to make sure they get what they need. I will tell other customers to "Go away" and bluntly "I'm busy" so this person gets what they need from me. I may be a bad employee and asshole but for the moment I'm their asshole. Common courtesy and respect is so bereft in the retail "industry" that whenever it comes along its like a shining point in my day.

The other night I literally came across a hunch-backed woman. She could hardly look at the items on the shelf above my waist and don't even think about lifting the actual items into her stroller/walker. This woman I could tell gets laughed at, ignored, and mistreated everyday by the world that when she asked me for help I dropped everything at a moments noticed and made sure she got everything she wanted. It was even ten minutes before closing and I helped her well fifteen minutes after close. I was literally running across the store to get her what she needed and not because I wanted her to leave. But because I genuinely wanted to help her.

Unfortunately, this is the vast minority of my work and the bulk is dealing with self-entitled assholes who are so self centered that they forget what it is to be human. The assumption is that cash will smooth over anything. And for most people it does, but for me its not the end-all-be-all. Yes, I do have my own bills, and I do like to have extra cash. But it usually goes to something silly like buying spiderman kites to fly on a bored day, or some XBOX game to kill time. But I don't aspire to be the monopoly guy any time soon.

The worst part is that somedays I find myself so devoid of emotion and energy that I can't even muster the tears to cry. I hate my job and I find myself hating people. I'm just glad that in these small moments I can still preserve what's left of my humanity.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Facing" Nonsense

You know how when you walk into the store when it first opens and it's like everyone of those boxes and useless consumer items seem to want to jump right off their hooks and shelves straight into your basket like a twin towers office worker? Especially strange since the night before it closed it looked like an earthquake hit the entire store. Well that's no coincidence. That's part of my job.

"Facing" (a.k.a. blocking, dressing, zoning, conditioning, etc.) is a term created by some corporate jizz-bag trying in inject another layer of accountability and unessential supervisory aspect into an already over worked retail employees job. It means pulling items from the back to the front. That's all, did we need a shorter term for "tidy up"? Again, people justifying their jobs, wanting to get themselves in the corporate newsletter,  and adding redundancy.

Now I can understand that the place can't be left a mess at the end of the day and the night cleaner can't expect to fix everything themselves by morning. In fact, I don't mind it at all. I find it quite relaxing just staring into nothing pulling boxes forward and making things oh so neat and tidy. What I can't stand however, is that you are expected to do this while:

1. Helping Customers
2. Escorting Items to the cashiers.
3. Getting items from the warehouse.
4. Putting back items customers returned.
5. Nonsense little jobs that your department manager give you that should be put off well until later.

Why so bad? Because at my store the managers actually evaluate the "quality" of your facing of items. Which means they check every aisle you completed and even if there is ONE thing wrong they give you shit about it. Not fix the small problem themselves and be done, but justify their own job by berating you. I've had talking to's by managers because an item was 4cm from the edge of the shelf instead of 1cm. Not that it didn't look neat, but 'not neat enough'.

Now combined this with having to complete your facing of the aisles by closing time starting 2 hours prior. In theory it is enough time, but combine in all I listed above and completely shopping induced lunatics ripping items off the shelf and just leaving them in ther middle of the aisle like a hurdle. Then management gets angry about why things aren't done in time for the closing. Idiots.

Being a bad employee I've actually been taught 5 or 6 times by managers "how to properly face an aisle" to which I nod and say 'hmmmm' and 'oooooh, ok' giving them a false sense of importance. Like they're a fucking mentor with this horseshit.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

4 Hour shifts

Imagine you wake up. It's a bright day, there's no clouds outside, your girlfriends making you some good greasy breakfast, and while you worked a close last night you got enough sleep to recharge. But wait, you realize you got to work a four hour shift today. And it's not another close, and it's not another open. No, you're scheduled to work 3 pm - 7pm. Smack dab in the middle of your day. Also right in the middle of the busiest store shopping time. So you're guaranteed that as soon you get to work and put on your vest, apron, shirt, or whatever 'flair' covered garb you will immediately be swamped with consumer zombies seeking out the brains at the bottom of that new LCD Monitor that's only $59.

Now if you were a normal person, you'd work a regular 9 - 5 job. But since you are an asset of the company this isn't the case. You can't get full time, because 'normal' people hold those good jobs. And you can't get mornings or evenings only because you have 'To be Flexible' and 'Work with the Team'. So you're shifted around like a Tetris piece in a seemingly simple schedule.

So now you have to balance your schedule. Do you sleep in or do you do errands? Do you go to the gym or could you stand being sore AND exhausted at the end of the day? Can I go out in the morning and be to work on time using public transit?

I find it an insult working in the middle of the day. I've done shifts where I've showed up, worked, and on my way out my department manager say "I didn't know you were working today". I preformed no essential function and sacrificed my morning and half my night to just pad a department that's covered by the other drones who ask themselves 'Is this good for the company'?

I'm an adult, treat me like it and don't insult my pride and spit on my income with this waste of my time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Get Out! Get Out Now!

Every night I work a closer-shift it's the same damn thing. The cashiers come on the PA and announce 15 minutes before closing time that it's basically time to wrap things up, find what you want, pay and get out. This is probably my most productive time the whole shift. I'm like an assembly line telling people where to go and get their shitty "Made cheap in China, who cares about our economy" product.

But it's never good enough. The 10 minute warning, the 5 minute warning, and finally the closing announcement. Now I understand (yes I actually do!) if they're old and decrepit and slowly making their ways towards the cashiers. But what I don't understand is the salmon I find swimming up stream to the back of the store 10 minutes after we closed. And it's always the same stupid argument and justification.

Me: Sir/Mam, the store closed 10 minutes ago"
Customer: "It's OK, I just need to get _____"
Me: "No, we are closed. Please make your ways toward the exit"
Customer: "But I just need it. can you tell me where it is?"
Sometimes I escort them, because I don't want to start a fight. Not that I wouldn't like too. And of course they take that as a sign of weakness and linger where ever they find the item asking inane questions 80% of the time that can be answered by reading the box.
Finally I just say " The cashiers are closing in two minutes. After that you can't buy anything" Then I chuckle to myself as I see a flash of anxiety flush over their face and like a junkie threatened to have his fix taken away they sprint towards the cashiers.

But we have this stupid fucking idea that "The customers always right" shoved down our throat from management who themselves are idiots. I compare them on par to a pet that learned a series of interesting tricks but don't really understand the purpose of doing them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Fellow Employees

Ever seen 'Fight Club'?
You know, that cult-hit where a bunch of guys go down into a basement, get all sweaty, and roll around on top of each other? Well besides all the blatant homosexuality that most male fans obviously miss there is an underlying tone of camaraderie amongst every participant in this gory modern day tribal ritual. Where the local busboy is on par with the manager of the bus company. Where they all work together towards an undisclosed project mayhem being dictated by an unnamed mans pancreas or liver.

Well that's non-existent in the real world. Out here it's like a fire in an apartment building. It's every person for themselves. The corporate line of a "Winning Team" with "Superior Teamwork" is a big a lie as the cashier who says Thank you for shopping with us. They don't care, it's all a script from their manager who tells them what to say. Ever come back the day after you bought something and talk to that "nice, helpful employee". Maybe you even mention it. This is usually followed by an "Oh Yeah" or "That's right". No one remembers you or cares. Your dollars mean nothing to someone who will never get a cut outside of their hourly wage.

It is straight up 'Lord of the Flies' in the retail world. People backstabbing one another just so they can move up the phony corporate chain that matters to no one outside of your little retail world bubble. Associates want to be department managers, department managers want to be store assistant managers, assistant managers want to be store managers, them owners, them corporate. Everyone wants to be in a position that removes them from dealing with the type of people who frequent the store. The more, the better.

And it's every man and women for themselves. So why are you working so god damn hard for someone who wants nothing to do with you?

Starting Up Late

Well today was a fine day. I woke up to a cold bedroom unrested from a bad nights rest of staying up to late surfing the internet and writing blog articles.

So it didn't come as a big surprise when I shot awake noticing the time was 8:20. Then the faded memory of waking upto the 7:00 alarm came slowly back. You see, today my shift started at 8:00. Uh oh, trouble right? No. Not for a seasoned pro. What would you do in this situation? Hurry out the door as fast as possible, drive like a maniac, and grovel to your boss about how you messed up? No, no, no, NO! Let me explain how to handle these types of situations.

If you want to be a bad employee like me, you never take any responsibility when it comes to missed productivity. Here's how you play out this situation:

Firstly, shit shower and shave (guys face, girls legs if they're showing). Nobody will believe anything you say if you show up to work with messy hair, stubble, and you smell. Ladies that also means fresh makeup for you. Take your time to do the essential maintenance, eat something so you're not craving food all shift and go out the door.

Next is to get into work. You can either sneak in or walk in calmly and not in a rush. Guilty people rush. Calm people walk normal. If you safely enter undetected and make it to your lunchroom/locker room your in the clear. Congratulations! Depending on how long you took you have now won the excuses of "Stomach problems on the toilet", "Personal matter on the phone", ladies also gain +1 save roll to "Female Problems".

Got seen? No problem. This is when factors beyond your control come into play. Transportation is the best route. Own a car? It's winter. "My starter wouldn't turn over for a bit. I flooded the engine and had to wait awhile till it turned" or "My car wouldn't start and I had to wait for a friend to drive over and give me a jump". Using public transit? Even better. "Traffic was terrible", "The bus just kept going and I can't afford a taxi", "My friend/family who drives me sent me a text message canceling 5 minutes before I was to leave", "The bus didn't count my change correctly and the driver said I couldn't go on even though I KNOW I had the right amount! So I had to convince the next driver to let me on".

The key is to use things out of your control for an excuse. Never give the option of personal negligence, and NEVER apologize. Apologies are for the guilty and above all act calm unless you're a good actor and make an entrance where you storm in out of frustration.

Also: Your cellphone is always on the fritz and your provider sucks

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sold Out? Not for what I'm making.

Forever I get questioned about some item that probably is on sale for the current week and is being hocked by flippy the whale or whatever child endearing promotion vehicle they have on television for this retail chain. As usual I always refer them to the according aisle hoping to get them out of my face as soon as possible so I can go back to "looking busy". This usually amounts to me holding an item at face level pretending to find its spot on the shelf among other items. I can do this for about 20 minutes per item.

Of course though they eventually come back bringing my pong score to one with this person saying there isn't any left. Now I know we "probably" have some in our warehouse somewhere. However this causes its own problems as by doing that I am:
a) Being productive
b) Giving this person a positive experience meaning they'll most likely shop here again
c) Have them prefer to deal with me in the future (see: more work for me)

Now none of this can happen. Therefore I say "I'll go out back and check". Now I do actually go out back. But I'm not going to find it that's for sure. However being out in the open on the sales floor opens me up to more stupid customers. So like the item that can never find its place I stare into shelves in the back warehouse. Why the ruse there? Because the company doesn't trust it's own employee who will rob them blind given they chance they pay so little. So they have cameras installed in the warehouse. Sure, they say it's for "your safety" But its so it deters and detects employee theft. So I carry on a game for the camera, helping no one yet "looking busy".

Eventually I return after 10 minutes and if the customer hasn't left by then, I lie and say we are soldout and won't be getting any for two weeks. They usually leave disappointed or mutter about waiting. Darn.

PROTIP: If any customer stops you on the way off or on the sales floor during this. Don't stop but keep walking saying either you don't work in such-and-such department or that you're in the middle of helping someone else.

People Pong Christmas version

The Christmas rush is upon us and everyday I'm swamped with people literally shoving Christmas flyers in my face. The majority of them not even using any attempt at verbal communication. Merely, shove point to a picture and wait for response. It's gotten pretty standard that I walk around any corner of an aisle and BAM! Be hit by a dash of paper and hearing the tell tale smack of a finger on an item. This is where I don't play nice...I just seem to.

Killing them with kindness is the technique of detraction I like to use. Usually it carries out like so:
Customer shaking flyer: "This!"
Me: "Why certainly Sir/Mam you can find that in Aisle __ "

And the customer takes off almost salvating at the prospect of whatever Chinese slave made item they maybe salvating for. But soon enough they return:
Customer aggitated: "Umm! It wasn't there!"
Me: "Are you sure? It's on the far left hand corner. Maybe at the very back end of the aisle. Did you check there?"
Customer: "No, but I didn't see anything like it."
Me: "Well its a special SALE item, so it has a special spot. They move them around everyday. I saw it there this morning."

Eventually the customer goes off again to look for an item that's probably in the aisle next to us. It's like playing pong with people only you score by the amount of time they come back to you. My record is three so-far.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Introduction of sorts: Who am I, What I do

I'm a retail employee.
I working at your favorite big box store.
We sell lots of your favorite products all conveniently under one big roof.
And do you want to know a secret?
I hate your guts and I don't even know you.

To me working with the public in any customer service position face-to-face is always confrontational. Even when courtesy is shown on both sides it is done to save face or obtain what either of us want. I want to quit my job everyday but have bills to pay and at the moment my options are somewhat limited. So we have the situation I find myself in now. The game is a foot.

What is the name of that game? It's to obtain as much money possible via delivering the least amount of productivity possible. If I could go to work and do absolutely nothing and get paid for it, I would have hit the jack pot. Even making minimum wage. Alas, that is not the case. Hence the battle begins everyday and everyone stopping me from obtaining that goal is my enemy. Follow along as I battle unproductively in a corporately run retail outlet against those who will do anything for a bottom line.