Thursday, August 13, 2015

If You Have A Group Of Friends And No One Is An Asshole, Chances Are You’re The Asshole

     Wow.  Over a year since my last post.  For those of you who find my rambling stories amusing, I apologize for the absence, but you know what they say about absences and the heart.  I just have not been feeling very creatively inspired for a very long time and that needs to stop right here and right now.  So, let’s get into it, shall we?
     One topic I wanted to bring up is the amazing ability customers possess to shoot themselves in the foot.  Does this ever happen where you work?  A customer has an issue that needs resolution but before anyone can even attempt to fix it, they erupt into a ball of rage at anyone they feel is to blame for their predicament.  It happens at least once a week where I work.  I don’t know how much of an exaggeration that is, but if it is an exaggeration, it’s not by much.  Thankfully, since I’ve been in the warehouse and haven’t had to deal with many customer issues, I haven’t had to have anyone flip out on me.  I just get the benefit of watching grown adults whine about first world problems like little children.  Good times.
     This scenario usually plays out thusly:
     The customer comes in because of some issue with something they purchased.
     The customer explains said issue to lowly employee (poor sap #1).  This is usually followed by a statement about what they would like to see happen to keep them happy.
     The lowly employee has to explain why the issue happened.  At this point, the lowly employee has to either tell the customer they can’t do anything for them under the rules of their company OR presents a resolution that the customer doesn’t like.
     The customer’s frustration – and the frequency with which they huff and shift their weight from leg to leg and back again – increases.  The customer then repeats the only acceptable resolution to their situation (the one that won’t happen).
     The lowly employee repeats their options.
     The customer requests to speak to their supervisor (poor sap #2).  Really, they want the CEO of the company but barring that, they’ll settle for the store GM.  They really get someone one or two steps below the GM.
     The lowly employee walks off to get their supervisor (probably someone just slightly higher up on the food chain whose work life can be summed up with the equation: “shit I have to deal with > the money I’m paid”).
     The supervisor might have to first explain that they’re either a direct supervisor or “one of the managers” when the customer asks if they are THE manager.  Carrying on, the supervisor repeats the options, backing up what lowly employee #1 said, which only infuriates the customer further.
     The customer gets worked up and now demands the GM so the supervisor pages for a manager (sometimes the actual GM, buuuuuut sometimes not) to come over.
     The manager (whose work life can be summed up with the equation: “shit I have to deal with < the money I’m paid < complaining I’ll do about how the money isn’t THAT much better than the lowly employee #1”) comes over.  NOW, this manager might be open-minded and might be willing to listen to the customer.  Maybe the manager isn’t.  The point is, the customer probably won’t ever find out which way this manager is leaning toward because once the manager walks up and says, “Is there something I can help with?” the customer starts to dig into him/her.
     This explosion will probably include expletives about the other two poor saps that wouldn’t help them.  Insider tip: calling employees that work for that manager “idiots” or “fuckers” or the like probably won’t go over well.  Anyway.
     The manager will then either ask the customer to step off to the side (a mark of a very calm & collected person in the retail world!) or to leave the building (a.k.a.: “get the fuck out of my sight you worthless piece of crap, I don’t have time to deal with you trying to return a remote control from a year ago.”).
     This is where it can diverge into very different outcomes.
     Rarely, the customer will pick the option to go with the manager to calm down long enough for the two parties to come to an understanding and maybe a resolution can be reached or maybe not.
     Generally, the more entertaining of the two options will occur.  The customer will tell the manager that they won’t go anywhere followed by an even more expletive-laced diatribe about everyone they ever had to talk to at the store and how they will never shop their again and why the company is destined to go out of business and go fuck yourselves while you’re at it, thank you very much.  Keep in mind, this all happens before the manager can even decide if they want to override whatever his employees told this customer before he/she even showed up.  The manager can’t even hear the customer’s side of the story and only hears how the customer believes the manager should go fuck himself/herself.
     At this point, they’re either ushered out by security or by the police depending on how long and how loud the expletives lasted.  If you’re lucky, the customer will throw whatever they were trying to return across the building.  One time, I saw a guy punch a stop sign as he stormed out of the store.  True story!  Perhaps he thought the stop sign was telling him to stop being a d-bag?
     Moral of the story?  Don’t be a d-bag because you might just get what you wanted in the first place.  I guess this moral can be applied to nearly anything you do in life if you think about it.  Hey, what do you want from me?  Not all of my stories have profound solutions.  This IS my first entry in over a year, after all.  Give me a break.
     More soon from the frontlines...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome To The Warehouse... Hope You Survive!

Since my last post, I’ve been relocated into our store’s warehouse and I must say that it is FANTASTIC!  I don’t know why I never tried to apply for a spot there sooner.  I have seen the light and it is warehouse, ladies and gentlemen!
It all began when I went into work one day to work in my old department but before I could even punch in to start, I was pulled aside by one of my store’s managers.  He asked if I had picked a department to switch into and after telling him I preferred the warehouse, that department’s supervisor approached me and told me to ignore the following week’s schedule that was already made.  I was quite surprised since this was on a Thursday and the new schedule was to start on Sunday.  Not a whole lot of time to get myself into the mindset that this was the end.  My coworker, Victor, who had been working with me for years in that same department and who had also gotten the assistant supervisor spot, was standing next to me at the time and we both were left somewhat speechless.  We figured we had at least another week to work together.
My new supervisor came back and handed me a new schedule and ran down a list of things I was going to be doing the first week.  It was all becoming real, really quickly.  That Thursday was also the last day Victor and I were going to work together in the same department.  At the end of his shift we said some rushed ‘good luck’s and that was that.  An end of an era in our department.  It was odd.  I’ll still see Victor around the store since he was relocated to a different department, too, but it won’t be the same.
Then, on my last day in my department, I was hit with nearly every possible issue and every possible grumpy customer.  Do you ever have one of those days?  It’s like everyone just waits for that one particular day to bitch and moan.  It’s amazing.  You can go days without running into problems and then BAM – it hits you all at once.  The day when the world says, “Sucks to be you,” and laughs.  When I came in to work that day I had been a bit bummed out that I was going to be leaving for the warehouse but by the end of my shift, I couldn’t have been happier.  I was reminded about all the perks that went along with getting off the sale’s floor, which is, mainly dealing with assholes.
I was a bit disappointed, however, that my last day wasn’t greeted with a bit more fanfare from my coworkers.  I have to admit, I figured that since I had been in the same department for several years and had outlasted most of our employees and managers I would’ve had a free lunch or something.  Not that I deserve one because I’m awesome or anything, but my work rewards people for just showing up and doing their job.  Oh well.
Then Sunday rolls around and it’s my first day in the warehouse.  And holy shit is it a sweet gig.  Granted, nothing in retail is rocket science but warehouse is so laidback and fun thanks to the relative freedom you have back there.  There are no customers to really deal with and most management won’t bother me unless they need something done around the store, so right off the bat it already rocks.  Plus, I was out early that first shift and had the rest of the day to enjoy while most of my coworkers were just showing up.
Since there are more people working in warehouse than my old department, a lot of the work was also divided up a lot more than it would’ve been.  I’m also enjoying the fact that I can now give the salespeople shit just because I can.
For example, if somebody comes into the warehouse for no apparent reason, I now typically say something like, “Hey, who said you could come into my warehouse?”  To which a warehouse associate would normally go, “YOU’RE warehouse?  You’ve been here for less than a week!”
Apparently, being a dick suits me.
I also don’t go into work dreading what possible issues I might have to face.  That was always the worst.  The work isn’t hard but when you have people who complicate it with issues and complaints for no real reason, it’s the pits.  There’s nothing like that – so far – in the warehouse.
Now, I’m sure that the warehouse will have its drawbacks.  It’s retail.  However, all I’m going to do is remind myself of that very last day in my old department and all of the bullshit I had to deal with and I’ll know that I’ll have it so much easier than I ever had.
I’ll go into the changes in-depth in a later entry.  I just thought I’d update on the change and my initial reactions.
More soon from the frontlines...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

“If You Could Reapply For A Second Time For The Same Position… That’d Be Grrrreat.”

I know!  Another gap in posting.  But I am back… again!
The past few weeks have been quite the interesting experience at my job.  I’ll have to break this down into two posts perhaps but I’ll just write about what’s affecting me directly in this entry.
It actually began several months ago.  My company has decided to change the layout of my department and because of that, I had to reapply for the same exact position I’ve been in for the previous few years.  Nothing was changing about the position but because they were redoing the structure of that aspect of the business, I had to prove my worthiness to stay on (I guess).  That was kind of insulting, in my opinion, but whatever.  My supervisor was a good guy and his manager had known me for most of my career there so it wasn’t as if I was overly worried about getting hired.
I go for the interview and a short while later, the manager – let’s call this person Lester – contacted me to tell me that I would be staying on in the department but since the reorganization was taking place, there was only one full-time position available.  Doesn’t sound too bad but there were two full-timers vying for the position – a coworker and myself.  We had been under the impression that there were two full-time positions but it turns out we were wrong.  Long story short, my coworker took an assistant supervisor position that was available in the reorganized department and I took the full-time spot.  That was last August.
My supervisor, meanwhile, was told he wouldn’t be staying on when they redid the department and so we got a new supervisor around September of 2013.  Besides the changing of the supervisors, however, nothing changed.  My coworker who got the promotion experienced no change in duties and pay (as far as I know).  It was basically all paperwork.
Fast-forward to around January and we were told that we would have to re-apply AGAIN for our spots.  Our department would be finally making the real reorganized structure they had been laying out since last fall: now there would be different pay structures, different bonuses, different uniforms, etc., etc.  Now our interviews would be with our new supervisor (who we had only known for a few months and who came in with his own way of doing things).  There was nothing wrong with the new supervisor but he had more of a used car salesman mentality and that was different from how we had been trained to interact with our customers, which seemed to be good enough for our department to hit our revenue goals for most of my time in the store.
Our newest part-timer was determined to stay on in the department and began memorizing everything he/she could.  In just a few short weeks, he/she had absorbed as much product knowledge as he/she could.  It was quite impressive and he/she blew me away.  I, however, had more of a blasé attitude about the whole thing.  I had been there for years and if I got the spot, great.  If I didn’t, whatever.  I kind of was looking for an excuse to do something else, I guess.
I mean, I knew my products and I knew how to talk to customers and I knew how to fix most of my own issues.  In my time at this job, I even had managers who didn’t want to deal with my department’s customer issues come to me to resolve problems.  I wasn’t the best but I seemed to be fairly relied upon and looked upon favorably by most of my store’s managers through the years.  So, I was probably the most relaxed person going into these new interviews out of everyone.
(I should point out that I did need a job but I wouldn’t have been devastated if I didn’t get hired on.)
The new interviews were quickly approaching.  Things were getting serious now.  However, even before we were supposed to interview with our supervisor, my newest part-timer was told that he/she was going to have a second interview at another store with other department managers and corporate managers.  He/she was the only one who was told about such a meeting.  The other full-timer and myself were not.  When we went in for our first interview nothing was mentioned about a second interview.  Other than that, my interview went swimmingly.
A week passed with no word on if I got the spot.  I was leaving on a vacation the following week and just before I left the part-timer told me that he/she got a spot on the new team (which was awesome for him/her.  I was totally excited for him/her because he/she deserved it.).  Yet, no word still about my situation, but I wasn’t completely stupid.  I knew as soon as the part-timer got their second interview BEFORE even having their first and the rest of us didn’t receive the same that we didn’t get on the new team.
I wasn’t upset about the situation but I felt more insulted than anything.  For one thing, my supervisor knew I was going on vacation but I still hadn’t heard any word about the application.  Then you schedule a secondary interview with our coworker before their first interview and you don’t think it’d look suspicious to the rest of us?  Plus, like I said, we were doing pretty good as a team month after month.  We were part of the reason the company felt they should reorganize the department structure thanks to how good we were doing.  So we’re good enough to warrant a restructure but not good enough to stay on?
I go on vacation and while I’m on vacation, I hear that the part-timer was the only one who got hired on to stay in the department.  Not that anyone knew if I got a spot but I was 99% sure I hadn’t.  I came back from vacation and even though I had been back for three days and the first day of training for the part-timer was the following day, I still hadn’t heard anything from my supervisor.
Finally, I had to TEXT my supervisor to find out.  He told me to call him and over the phone he told me that there was a lot of talented competition and that I wouldn’t be staying on in the department.  I guess I handled it better than most since, like I’ve said again and again, I knew this was happening for weeks by this point and I’m not stupid.  I had been thinking about what I wanted to say to my supervisor but when the time came to actually receive the news, I thought, “What’s the point?”  The decision had been made and my coworker who hadn’t received a spot had been sticking it to the supervisor enough for the both of us.  It was best to just move on.  And that was that.  It was pretty disappointing that my supervisor couldn’t have the spine to tell me to my face if I got the spot or not but HEY, that’s the kind of new management my company wanted for the reorganization.  Hope that works out for them (since that probably didn’t come across in text – that was supposed to be sarcasm).
Since then I’ve actually never been happier going into work.  There’s a great freedom in knowing I won’t have to deal with the same issues and the same people and the same questions day after day.  I can handle the grumpy customers better and I just go in and do what I can but I don’t stress about stupid bullshit any more.  I do have options other than termination but I’ll get into that in another entry.  I’ll also get more into how I’m feeling as my time in the department is coming to a close in another entry.  I’ll also talk about the fallout from the shake-up in another entry.  This has been long enough.  Suffice it to say, the bumbling rollout of this transition – from last fall to now – is pretty typical of my company’s rollouts.  They seem incapable of doing anything coherently.  It’s truly an amazing feat for such a large company.
More soon from the frontlines...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Universal Retail Constant

How about a quick observation?
On my last trip to get a haircut, I entered the establishment to find that besides the two workers and one older lady getting her hair done, I was the only other person there.  After being seated, I mentioned how I had been worried I was going to have to wait in a long line since I was coming in after most people were getting out of work.
The lady who was cutting my hair said that even though she would like more people coming in, it did afford her the time to do school work.  And that’s when I stumbled upon it – the one universal constant amongst retail workers (and barbers).  Love of down time!  The greatest thing one in the world of retail can look forward to.  Those brief moments where you find yourself not having to rush around doing three things at once or having to look busy so management leaves you alone.  The time where you can just stand around and shoot the shit with coworkers or skim the internet or glance at your homework or a book that you had stashed away.
Whatever it is, we can all agree that it’s better than what we are actually getting paid to do.  We’d rather be bored or doing other things than having customers come in and bother us – even if it meant giving us their money.
You tend to savor those fleeting moments like you were a parent looking forward to the five minutes your baby decides to nap.  We become inconvenienced even if a customer looks as if they’re approaching our department.
“I have to do my job now?” we all whine and huff, before dragging ourselves over to the customer(s).
You – okay, I – can’t even get through an entire six-hour shift without wistfully daydreaming of when I can get five seconds of down time.
Take this entry, for example.  It should’ve taken me just ten minutes to write but I stopped numerous times to go online or to daydream.  A half hour later and here I am!
[Another two minutes elapse.]
I guess I’ll just end this now.
More soon from the frontlines...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Do You Work Here?"

One of my favorite questions I get when I work is, “Do you work here?”
I know the question is meant to imply “Do you work here… in this department?” but I always have to resist the urge to look down at my uniform that has the company logo on it and my name tag on it, before looking back up at the customer and asking, “What do you think?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t go around wearing the work uniforms of places I don’t work at just so I can get stopped and asked ridiculous questions.  Or is that a thing?  Do some of you out there dress up in retail uniforms just to fuck with customers?  Because that would be HILARIOUS!
Maybe, like Jennifer Aniston in Office Space, I’m not wearing enough flair.  I should probably just wear multiple buttons that say, “Yes, I work here!” or “Ask me a question!” or “Hey, I’m not wearing this uniform for shits and giggles!”  That could cut down on the confusion.
Regardless, the obvious question shouldn’t be, “Do you work here?” it should be, “Can you help me?” or “Do you know somebody who can help me here?” or something along those lines.  Ah, the English language and all of its quirks.

There is also a flipside to this scenario & that occurs whenever I wear my work uniform into another company’s store.  Oddly enough, whenever that happens I never get asked if I work there.  It’s always just assumed I do.
“Can you tell me where you keep the cayenne pepper in jars?”
“Uh, I don’t work here.”
At this point the customer looks at your uniform a little closer – a uniform that is unbuttoned & un-tucked, mind you – and has a shocked look on their face.
“Oh, I’M sorry!  I just saw your uniform and thought you worked here.”
Yeah, I already got that part.

First, what if I was just a guy wearing a collared shirt that was unbuttoned and the same color as the store’s employees?  Whenever you go into a store where all the workers wear black shirts, do you ask anyone who wears a black shirt where something is?
Second, you’re too lazy to observe what somebody’s wearing and too rude to avoid asking somebody who would have to be off the clock to wear their uniform unbuttoned and un-tucked.
I’ve always been tempted to tell people the wrong answer if they ask me a question whenever this happens.
“Do you know what aisle the fabric softener is in?”
“Oh, yes!  It’s down aisle 56 on your left,” and then watch them scurry away down fifty-plus aisles to get to the one they’re looking for.  Ah, the laughs I’d have… if I had the knowledge that that same customer would never come into my job and remember what a dick I had been.  I might not have the spine for it but I sure hope someone out there tries this.  HAS anyone tried this?  If so, let me know how that went. 
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my pieces of flair.
More soon from the frontlines...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Sound Of Silence

Look at me!  I’m posting on a fairly regular basis!  Onto the entry…
First off, only my humblest respect is meant to Simon & Garfunkel for the title of this entry.  However, it is quite fitting.
The latest installment features another customer interaction that I learned about during my stint in appliances the other day.  This was just too good to pass up.  Do you want to feel better about your life?  Well, then read on!
A customer had recently purchased a refrigerator from our store.  This refrigerator was a floor display that was sold to him at some dirt-cheap price – nearly a thousand dollars off of the original price.  The customer called the department later that day saying he wanted to cancel the refrigerator because he was reading reviews that it was a bit loud.
Okay, I get that.  If you live in a small home and noise is an issue, you don’t want it sounding like a freight train coming through, right?  But there are a few directions you can go with this scenario.
1.  There is a high chance that it was plugged in when he purchased it.  It was a demo unit.  Did he hear noise in the store?
2.  Why cancel it before you even got it into the home?  If you saved over a thousand dollars for a great refrigerator, wouldn’t you want to try to at least see if it sounds fine?  Even if it is loud, you can still either return the item with no restocking fee or you could ask yourself, “Is this noise not worth the hundreds of dollars I saved?”

Whoever took the call was able to talk the guy out of it (mainly because they told the guy that they’d be able to sell a great fridge at dirt-cheap to a less picky customer on that same day.) but that wasn’t the end of it.
The guy called the next day and told the supervisor that he wanted to come into the store and listen to the refrigerator for two hours to see how it runs.  He wanted us to get the refrigerator that somebody had already wrapped up and placed off the floor, bring it back onto the floor, unwrap it, and then plug it in just so he could sit around and listen to it.
I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell wish I could have two hours to kill just sitting around some electronics store doing nothing else other than listening to how a refrigerator sounds.  Even when I’m home, I have things to keep me busy.  I have to give it up to the guy.  He did find the one thing that sounds more boring than actually selling appliances:  listening to them run.
According to the appliance team, the guy came in just the other day, listened to it for less than a half hour, talked with the appliance crew about all the customer reviews he read online (UGH!  That’s a whole other blog post alone.  Wait have I already done one of those?  Shit.  See, this is what happens when you don’t update regularly.), and ended up canceling it anyway.  I went up to the refrigerator that he was sold, stood around the item with another coworker for several minutes, and didn’t hear a damn thing.  I just heard the sounds of his parents weeping at the wasted time their son wasted in our store.
More soon from the frontline...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Can You Read This For Me?

I’ve mentioned before how lazy I think humans have become.  For instance, I don’t even intend to edit this blog.  Then again, why start now, right? (ba-doom-cha)
I think, however, that the next story takes the cake.
I was working in our store’s appliance section for the day and had a customer approach me with a look that was equal parts apprehension and hope.  He proceeds to tell me that he purchased a gas stove about a month ago and had a few questions about how to use it.  I thought, “Oh, great, a product I’m not too familiar with and this guy is going to ask some oddball questions that not even the manufacturer has thought up.”
Once we walked up to the gas stove that he said looked identical to the one he purchased – besides the fact he bought one with five burners instead of the four that were on this one and the fact that the electronic displays were completely different, but other than that they were identical – and I braced myself.  So, it was to my surprise when he told me he wanted to know how to start the oven.  At first, I thought he was kind of fucking with me.  How do you start the oven?  Really?  Even I knew that one!
“Uh, well, let’s say you want to bake something.  You just hit the bake button and hit this button to increase the temperature.”
Holy shit, that was easy!
“That’s it?”
Yeah, genius!  That’s it.  Welcome to ‘Things I Learned When I Was Ten’.
“Yep,” I replied.
“Do I need to hit this ‘Bake Time’ button?”
Okay, a bit harder.  That’s when I stumbled upon an obvious solution.  The owner’s manual!  I knew that most of the appliances the store had on display had their manuals somewhere.  I first opened the oven door but came up empty.  I then opened the broiler drawer and – A-HA! – found what I was looking for.
“I’m not sure but the manual should say what to do.”
I made sure that that sounded as obvious as it should’ve been to anyone who has purchased anything in the past and had to consult an owner’s manual for an answer.  He could’ve saved himself a trip to the store if he just broke open the manual.  What was this guy thinking?
“Ah, yeah, I know we could’ve looked through it but it’s so long and confusing.  You can never figure those things out.”
Sure, if you were looking up how to bring a space shuttle back down to Earth but we’re talking about a stove.  The manual was less than 25 pages long and it’s not like it was in four-point font.  If you cut out the small print at the end that nobody pays attention to, the pertinent information only account for about 20 pages.  And if you cut out all the pictures, then you’re down to about half that of actual instructions.  I found the answer in less than thirty seconds.  But that was too confusing?
See what I mean?
You have to spoon-feed people.  Nobody seems to want to do anything for themselves any more.  I think I’m going to rent myself out for reading services.

In a world of lazy fucks, I’d be rich!  Rich I tells ya!
Feel free to use this idea for your own monetary pursuits.  However, if I see any advertisement like that in my area, I’m asking for 10% commission.
More soon from the frontlines...