And So It Begins……

Just got home from work, poured myself a glass of wine, checked my Snaps from my sister, and am settling in to try and order some new pants for work. I would seriously like to know who the hell is in charge of setting pants styles and deciding that stores will carry only those styles each year. We have to wear plain black pants at work. Any plain black pants or jeans will do as long as they’re presentable and have no visible rips or tears. No yoga pants, or leggings, or ripped up jeans, or pants with embroidery or patterns. Just plain black pants. Think I can find some? Nope!

I have looked at every store I usually shop at. Everything they have is either tights or full of holes. The only blank jeans I found all day that aren’t full of holes had giant embroidered flowers all over the thighs and butt.  Unless I’m willing to shell out $60 for a pair of pants that will be worn out in the inner thigh in a matter of months anyway, I’m not getting any pants today. The closest I’ve found so far are ankle length linen pants with flowers on the back pockets.

Of course, I’m doing this online. Today is Black Friday, so there is no way I’m am stepping foot within 100 yards of the mall today. I know that Black Friday is a huge deal in America, but it hasn’t been that big of a deal here in Canada until recently. I live in a border town, so the last few years we’ve started having Black Friday deals popping up here and there. We even have a little display at work with a handful of Black Friday deals that last the weekend. This year is taking it too far though, in my opinion.

Usually, American Thanksgiving signals the start of the Christmas season around here. The mall stays open later, people rush out to go Christmas shopping, there’s decorations and Christmas music everywhere. This year, instead of just keeping the mall open later than normal, stores in our mall were given the option to open at 6am in order to attract the cross-border shoppers who were coming home from a long night of deals at that time. People lined up at stores at 7am, and it wasn’t even the day after Christmas!

I admit I have done the 7am lineup once with my siblings. We made a day of shopping on Boxing Day, getting those post-Christmas clearance deals. I did it once, and once only. I’ve been offered a few times to go again and turned them down every time. There’s just something that bothers me about adding to the madness that causes people to have to get out of bed on a nice, relaxing day to head into work hours early to serve anxious shoppers who come through their store like a tornado.

Black Friday isn’t the only sign the Christmas season is starting, though. Today we had our first seasonal worker in training on cash! He seems like a really sweet guy, and he caught on really quickly. We’ll hopefully have the other four workers in very soon to get their training in because this is our busy season. For some reason, people go nuts this time of year even just shopping at my store.

I get it, this is a busy time of year for people. I mean, just for me this time of year means more hours, a tonne of baking, more shopping in a matter of days than I usually do the rest of the year, wrapping gifts, chasing the ever playful Bowser Kitten after he gingerly plucks another ornament down off the tree and runs off with it in his mouth to nap with, and the mounting stress that comes with dealing with everyone else who is doing much of the same thing. Add to this the constant barrage of sweets, invitations to dinner parties, yet another Secret Santa, Christmas Parties, dealing with relatives who insist there is a War On Christmas, knowing that you’re going to have to spend at least one Christmas dinner stuck between your very liberal uncle and your ‘”Make America Great Again” aunt, and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. The thing is, we’re all going through this stuff right now.

I know that you’re stressed, and you’re tired of dealing with people. You just want to walk into a store, grab everything you need in one fell swoop, cash out, and never set foot in a mall again. You don’t want to deal with all the other shoppers who are ready to pull out the pepper spray and fight to the death over the very last whatever the hell the popular toy is this year. Walking through the mall, you keep replaying old video clips of the 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids riots that happened in stores, waiting for someone to run up behind you and wack you with a metal folding chair so they can take the last cheese log at the Hickory Farms kiosk. You’re on your toes, ready just in case some random dude tries to piledrive you into the shiny tiled mall floor over a novelty Santa apron. The last thing you want to deal with is an over-attentive store clerk asking you what you need.

The thing is, that clerk is dealing with this crap too. Go check out YouTube, look for Black Friday shopping videos. Watch the 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids clips. I saw clerks in those videos carrying baseball bats for their own safety. These employees get trampled, get grabbed at, get screamed at, get threatened, all over a few dollars worth of merchandise. And this is on top of the normal dumbassery they deal with! They still have the secret shoppers to worry about, the stacks of clothes that are laying in a heap on the floor minutes after being carefully folded. They have to deal with poop in the change rooms, and parents letting their kids run rampant in the stores while they shop. When you have some free time while in front of your computer and aren’t obsessively reading through my old posts (or listening to the I’m Sorry Dad podcast, which I highly recommend), go check out Not Always Right. People post stories all year about the crap they have to deal with working in retail. Now imagine dealing with the things you read on there, plus all the crap that comes with the holiday season.

And to deal with the increase in shoppers over the holidays, a whole lot of stores hire seasonal workers. We have a new batch being trained right now, and a few stores in my plaza started training their last week. I know a few places in the mall here were starting their workers next week. That means that these people will have maybe six whole weeks of experience by the time they’re done. They may be really slow on cash. They probably don’t know where things are in the store. They don’t know how to look things up, or where the next closest store is, or when the next sales start. They’re basically hired to run cash so the full-year employees can get everything else done.

I know at my store, there’s a 6am shift just for the holidays. The work BFF and I will get in at 6am to wash the floors, pull the warehouse, stock the front end, and start putting stock away. Then we’re unloading the delivery, scanning the warehouse, and doing more stock once the store is open. There is a tonne of freaking stock to put out, and we have everyone possible in to help out. We pull every available body to keep stock on the shelves and need those extra people on the cash registers. For the most part, they can handle themselves. But they’re temporary workers who have no clue what goes on the there the rest of the year. They can’t tell you where a specific wine is, or what pairs best with veal, or whether we’re getting any Beaujolais Nouveau in before the holidays. They are just there to run cash.

So while you’re out shopping this holiday season, have a little patience. Chances are, the person at the cash is new at this. Yes, you’re tired and sore and hungry and frustrated with having to deal with 3/4 of the city being crammed into the mall all at once. But they’ve had to deal with all of the same things, with the added stress of being yelled at and given attitude by shoppers who can’t believe they have to wait an extra 90 seconds to be rung through because their cashier is slow. These poor workers are getting the mental shit kicked out of them, and then having to go out into that same madness to do their own shopping.

So be kind this holiday season. Remember that the people serving you in the stores are just that: people. They deserve the same kindness and respect that you would expect from them.

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How Not To Keep A Job

Good morning Sunshine! Hope you’re having a nice, relaxing Saturday morning. I’m on day 17 or 30 days straight of work this month (unless we wind up going on strike on the 26th, then I’m not technically working if I’m on the picket line), and I’m going right goofy.

For those of you who are new around here, I make my living by professionally peddling the Devil’s Brew in a government-owned retail establishment in a Canadian province (I think putting it that way works around my “social media” clause in my contract).  It may not be the greatest job, or have anything to do with what I went to school for, but it a great fit for me right now. I work with pretty much the greatest staff ever. Other stores have told me they’re jealous of our store, because we all get along so great and we’re like family. This job also gives me time to figure out my life, which I need to do very much so right now. And even though I hate people, I seem to like working with the public.

We have two busy seasons, where people buy a metric shit-tonne of alcohol – Christmas, and the summer. We get a few seasonal workers to come in at these times, kinda round out the schedule and make sure we have enough people on staff every day to keep the store open.  Usually, for a store our size, we would get 4 or 5 people to come in and help. This year especially, we needed that many people due to the possibility of a strike and the public’s usual “what do you mean you may be closed for a few days??now I need to buy CASES of booze to make sure the world doesn’t run out!” panic/ But this summer, through some combination of new management and some sort of curse, we have one. We have The Kid.

The Kid must have interviewed really well, because he’s never had a job in his 22 years. He’s never handled money, or touched a cash register, or dealt with the public. The product of helicopter parenting and a God-complex, The Kid believes that he is the be-all and end-all of cashiers. He even once dubbed himself a “cashier ninja” for his ability to hold up a line while he stood there staring into space and adding numbers in his head (we had to remind him that the cash register does all the adding for him, without uncomfortably staring at customers).

Now, I know that everyone has to start somewhere. The Kid doesn’t want to just “start” though. In his own mind, he knows everything and no one can tell him what to do.When I was just starting out as a cashier at my first job, I brought a notebook and pen and actually took notes on everything I had to do. Hell, even when I started THIS job a few years ago, I brought a notebook and pen to my cashier training and took notes on everything I had to do! Not The Kid, though. He knows everything, even though he knows nothing.

It’s only been a few weeks since The Kid first graced us with his cash-ninja presence, but it feels so much longer. Everyone but him seems to realize that he probably won’t last much longer. The only reason he’s lasted this long is because we are severely short-staffed as it is and we need bodies in the store.

Basically, he’s a walking manual for How Not To Keep A Job.  Here’s just a few of the thrilling lessons he’s given us so far:

1- Stand there. Don’t offer anyone any help. See your coworker with the huge line-up? Don’t let anyone in her line know that you’re open too. Just watch her struggle. Customer has his hands full and needs a basket? Just stand there and watch him drop glass bottles on the floor while there’s a pile of baskets next to you.

2- Stare. At everyone. Customer, coworkers, managers. Don’t say anything, just start at them.

3- Don’t think, just talk. If people are offended, it’s their own fault. Some great random phrases to get the conversation started with your customers: “Wow, you were in here yesterday too. You must be a huge alcoholic.”, “I can’t tell if you’re pregnant or really fat. Should you be buying coolers either way?”, “You’re smelly. You should go take a shower, or not look homeless or something.”

4-Don’t listen to your coworkers. They’re not trying to help you. Sure, they’re telling you what you did wrong and then showing you how to do it properly. And yes,  they’re being very patient with you. Ok, and they keep having to remind you of the same things over and over and over again. Easy things like, “Before you try to log on to a cash register, go sign in and grab your till. You can’t just walk up to a register and start using an empty drawer” I mean, all of this SOUNDS like they’re trying to help you. But they’re not. Don’t listen to them.

5- Go that little extra mile to put a personal touch on things, even if it means breaking all the rules. Coworkers told you to hit “assistance” button when you have a big line or need to use the bathroom or it’s time for your break, so that they know you need help and can come out there and help you? Screw that! You don’t play by conventional rules! Just abandon your post, wander into the back, tell them personally that you need help. That face-to-face contact is sure to impress them!

6-Make sure your coworkers know you’re on to them. Be loud, be forceful Don’t worry about their feelings; they have none. Yell right in their face if you have to. Make sure they know you are smart, and you know everything there is to know about their job, so you really don’t need their help. In fact, they should be asking you for help!

7-You know how every workplace says they have their own policy for breaks? Well, they’re lying because those policies don’t apply to you. Have a huge line-up? Just walk away and take a break! Supposed to buzz for someone to come relieve you for your break? Why bother? Just walk away whenever you want your break! Supposed to take 15 minutes? I’m sure you can reason out a way to take more! “Well by the time I sat in the office for a bit, and then went to the bathroom, and then sat for a few minutes, and then heated up my food, it was 4:15. So technically my break didn’t start until then.” See, just outsmart them!

8-The same goes for the end of your shift. Sure, the boss says he’s the one to tell you when to cash out and finish up your shift, but you know better than him. He says it only takes 5 minutes to do that? You take 25 minutes! Coworkers try to tell you that’s not how things are done? Well screw them! You know better than them! Just ask your mom, who has probably already checked in on your at least once during your shift and is waiting in the parking lot for you 45 minutes early just in case someone is mean to you.

9- When in doubt, get your mom. No one wants someone’s mom not to like them. Have your mom tell everyone how stressed you are, how you stay up at night crying about your job after the second day there. Make sure she tells everyone what a good kid you are, how smart you are, and how special you are. Everyone will listen to your mom and automatically love you.

10- Do things your own way. Sure, the register adds up all the prices you scan, but isn’t it just more fun to add up all the numbers in your head, even if it takes a few extra minutes per customer because you have to scan so slowly? Damn skippy it is! When the boss tells you to stop doing that (apparently it distracts you from stupid things like taking payments, and making change, and checking ID’s to make sure you’re not serving a 15 year old when the legal age is 19), stop for the few minutes he’s watching you, and then get back to doing what you love! Remember, your way is ALWAYS the best way!

 

This is just the short list of things he’s done THIS WEEK. And that’s not counting all the stupid comments he’s made to us. The concept of keeping the doors locked until we opened so that customers couldn’t come in was well beyond his comprehension. He also doesn’t seem to quite realize that “seasonal employment” means that he’s employed for the season, no matter how many times we explain it to him. He has flat out demanded we order him full-time staff uniforms and get him his own locker (instead of the one marked “seasonal staff”).

And I know I sound like a bitch for complaining so much about The Kid. It’s gotten to the point that he’s already made the most patient workers there snap from frustration. Last weekend, I kept rubbing my temples every time he said or did something unbelievably dumb or rude. And I don’t mean he hit a wrong key on the register, or accidentally gave someone an extra dollar with their change. I mean, his 15 minute break was almost 30 minutes; he mocked out plain-clothes security guys for not standing next to him all night to make sure he was safe (which apparently makes them lazy); he refused to ID people, and then refused to log the few ID’s he got in the system (it’s just logging that yes they had ID and what kind they had, for legal purposes). This was on top of his rude comments to staff and customers, his refusal to help anyone with anything, and his flat-out mocking of certain staff members and shift leaders. By the end of the night, I had my nervous twitch back in my left eye, and I had rubbed off my eyebrows and most of my outer eye make-up from rubbing my temples so much. And I’m one of the patient ones, too! Already this week, he’s had multiple private meetings with the boss about the things he’s doing wrong, and he’s almost been fired more than once. And I have one of the most patient bosses ever! Sweet little old grannies have come into the store, dealt with The Kid, and have almost resorted to purse-swinging violence!

He’s worked all week, as we’re trying to prepare him for our own brand of personal hell called “Dealing with customers who are trying to prepare in case we go on strike, and are acting like it’s the coming of the apocalypse”.  We’ve kept him on the early morning shifts to avoid him having to deal with the night rushes and the after-work/pre-party crowd. But tonight, a Saturday night when we’re already short staffed and have a tasting in-store, we also have The Kid with us. I already have my spiked rootbeer chilling in the fridge, and a big bottle of Chilean Cab Sauv staring at me from the counter.

This is going to be one hell of a long summer!

What about you, Sunshine? Have you ever had a coworker who you knew just wasn’t going to work out? Someone who drove you bonkers? Or maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this before and found a way to make it work?  Drop me a comment below, let me know how you handled things…… or let me know the worst of the worst stories you have about that coworker (we could all use a bit of a giggle).