Category Archives: Work

Lost In The Supermarket

For several months from the end of last year we had been short staffed at work. Some positions had gone unfilled and we had a couple of departures. One woman went back to her old department after being offered a full time position and one recent hire leaving because she didn’t like hard work. To elaborate on that,  “J” joined us to make up her hours after her hours in her regular department were cut, and as she needed the money it made sense for her to take a position with us. Great, she knew the culture, was a quick study and put in a full shift.

Not so my other coworker. I don’t know what she was expecting, but the job wasn’t what she’d expected. Deli work is pretty demanding, especially on the back due to the amount of time spent bending and lifting. It doesn’t help that you are on your feet the whole day, and even though the anti-fatigue mats help, my socks are like tourniquets by the end of the day. Her major problem, though, was that as someone who had been an Aesthetician in Las Vegas, she was obviously better than us and too good to work in a deli. A big part of the job is learning the products so you can answer questions and give advice to customers. She never really made any effort to do this, which just made it harder for the rest of us as we had to fill in the gaps in her knowledge. She also made no effort to learn how to distinguish one salami from another, leading to difficulties when she mislabeled products.  Not to go into it too much, but imagine going into a furniture store and seeing a sofa labeled as a kitchen stool. That’s how bad she was, so it came as no surprise to learn that she’d be leaving before Christmas and surprise, surprise, she called in “sick” on her last day.

Another coworker leaving for a new job just made things worse, especially as she was a great worker, always pitched in, had a great sense of humour and was a genuinely nice person. So as you can see, having four empty slots ( one new hire failed the drug screening) made life a bit hectic for the rest of us. We adjusted, stretched ourselves further and worked harder to fill in, but all  that takes it’s toll, so it was with great relief that we learned that we’d be having four, yes, count ’em, four new recruits joining us early in the new year. Not only that, but they were all recruited as closers, meaning that there was a chance  that I’d get some mid shifts and hence 7pm finishes with all the attendant social life that entails.

Of course, any FNG creates drag as they get up to speed, but even that is an improvement over not  having enough staff. They duly started and we worked them into our routine. One woman had been in food service since she left school, so she hit the ground running, which is always nice to see. The other three took to the job pretty well, but are all a bit anonymous. The lone male of the group looks like he’s lived his entire life in his parent’s basement, and it didn’t surprise me to overhear that he  used to work at Gamestop. The other two women are pretty much ciphers. They seem decent enough but they don’t appear to have any personality and I know no more about them than I did the day they arrived. The guy, at least, seems keen to learn, and although he was very unsure at first, he was would ask for help when faced with a question he couldn’t answer or was unable to find a particular product.

One nice result of this is that I am now getting three or four 7 pm finishes a week which allows me to get out for a beer on quiz night and finish at a reasonable hour on weekends when I have the kids. I really think they’re going to work out, although one never knows. At least for the moment we are fully staffed and are able to start each shift without asking about the Crisis de Jour.

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Being Boring

What is the worst thing about your job? Is it the commute, the annoyingly loud coworker in the next cubicle, anyone from Marketing, the person who takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t make more, the petty rules, the delay in getting replacement equipment? Well how about your coworkers, or rather, one in particular?

For me, it’s the latter. Most of the people in the department are pretty decent. I mean, there are some arseholes, skivers and generally obnoxious gits, but by and large we work well as a team and like each other. However, there is one person who until recently got under my skin like a deer tick.

Let me elaborate: We have three shifts, the first one running from 5.30 until 2 pm. This is a brutal shift at the best of times as the opener only has 30 minutes to make sure everything is ship shape before opening the department, and  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, as I just can’t imagine having lunch at 10 am. One of our openers, the one who gets under my skin is a middle aged woman who is much, much farther along the Aspergers/Autism spectrum than me. A blind man on a speeding horse could see that, so to say that  it’s obvious is something of an understatement. Her one redeeming feature is that she is very good at her job, and I know that as the mid shift person, I will get a very, very full briefing on all the events of the day so far and numerous updates during the three and a half hours we work together, and that’s where the problems start.

She will perseverate on the smallest of details. Anything that has happened in her life is apparently worthy of relating, including her nieces and nephews not liking whatever she had prepared for dinner, the lack of a product in stock, the arrival of the next load, in fact anything that has happened to her or she has seen in the past week. It used to drive me fucking nuts until like Baldrick, I had a cunning plan.

I would simply tune her out. I will make the occasional sound of acknowledgement, but don’t engage in any meaningful way unless I have to, and I try not to have to. I know she can’t help it, in fact, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even realise she’s doing it as she gets on with her work. Two things still get to me, no matter what I do. She will end even the most mundane of statements or observations by laughing as if she’s just delivered a razor sharp one liner. Maybe she genuinely thinks she’s being funny, but it happens pretty much every time she finishes a sentence. The other thing is her habitual attempts to upsell. If there is one thing I dislike with a passion when it comes to sales, it’s anyone who tries to upsell to me. In fact, if someone does that to me, I just leave and don’t even complete my initial purchase. I know that sounds like going too far, but I refuse to be manipulated into spending more that I have to, or buying something I hadn’t intended to at someone else’s urging, especially if that person has a vested interest in my purchase.

You see, we very often run offers and “Big Board Sales”, where various products may be offered at 60 percent of their regular price. Not just in the deli, but in every department in the store. This is a regular part of our life, and when the deli has anything either on offer, or on the Big Board we get slammed. Big Board items are advertised on standing boards both outside and immediately inside the entrances in font so large it can’t be missed. To give one recent example, we have prepackaged salami on sale, specifically 7 ounce sampler packs, which are selling well due to the number of parties taking place around Christmas.

I may be taking a bit of a leap here, but I work under the premise that all of our customers who happen to be of high school age or above are able to read at least at at high school level and possess the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Not so my coworker. Several times this week, as she handed a customer their order she went on to describe in great detail the salami, what the pack contained, the price and where to find it. Every time, every single time, the customer looked back without making eye contact, smiled weakly and thanked her before hurrying away as fast as possible to the furthest corner of the store. The only way I can describe it is to ask you to imagine the look on someone’s face as they are accosted on the bus by the guy across the aisle who is expounding on some bizarre conspiracy theory.

She even tried to get another of my coworkers to do the same. As he’s a sensible, well adjusted chap he demurred. She hasn’t asked me, as I’m pretty sure even she gets the fact that I will never upsell. I know all the above sounds mean, and to some extent it is. In fact, George Bernard Shaw put it perfectly when he said:

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity”.

The problem is that it’s the only way I can keep my sanity. I’m not mean to my coworker. It’s just that she has no conversation, no interests, no opinions on anything other than her family and work. She’s very good at her job, and within five minutes of starting my shift I know exactly what has happened, the state of our stock, anything of note, and for that I appreciate her and am most grateful. I just wish I knew of a better way to get through half a shift with her.

Suggestions on a $20 bill to Singledad Towers, please.





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Au Suivant

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for that I presume you are all very thankful. The reason is that by the time I get home from work I simply don’t have the bandwidth to sit down and tap out a coherent…thingy. You know, a collection of words including nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like organised in such a manner as to make them comprehensible to the average person. You see, my usual shift is the closing shift – 1:30 to 10 pm, and by the time I’m finished with dinner, it’s as near midnight as makes no difference, and who has the time or the energy to write at that time of night? Not me, apparently.  I started this post about two months ago, and only now am I getting back to it.

Yes, the day does calm down after seven p.m., but still, there’s a lot to do and a half hour walk home, so by the time I get my shoes off, I’m pretty much done for the day. You may well ask what it is that’s so exhausting, and even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you.

As the title of this post may suggest, I’m always dealing with two people at once: even though I give my full attention to the person I’m serving, I still have in the back of my mind the awareness that there’s another person to be served immediately afterwards, and usually one more after that. You see, we are the only full service deli in town, and people appreciate the fact that we cut meat and cheese to order. Essentially, we are a bespoke service, and that takes quite a lot of energy. We give each customer our full attention and work with them to make sure they get exactly what they want exactly the way they want it. It’s not unusual to have four of us working Meat and Cheese at the same time, all slicers in use, and still have customers waiting to be served. It’s not that we’re slow, it’s just that at times half the town is in the store, and half of them are visiting the Deli.

And that’s just on a regular day. We’ve had Saint Patrick’s Day, Father’s Day, and July 4th since I started, and each of those days, or rather the day  before those days has been a beast. People who couldn’t find Ireland with both hands and a flashlight queue up to buy heroic quantities of corned beef as if it’s the rarest and most desired meat on Earth. Have you ever cut two and a half pounds of  sandwich cut corned beef? Probably not. Let me tell you that it takes a bugger of a long time. Do that half a dozen times in a couple of hours and there’s half your morning gone before you even start. The busiest day of the year so far was July 3. Everyone, and I mean everyone was stocking up for the following day’s barbecue at the same time. We worked like dogs just to keep up, and on days like that, other things just don’t get done. You see, we try to keep the slicers as clean as possible by giving them a good wipe down with hot sanitiser any time we have the opportunity. However, when we don’t get a break the only thing we can do is brush the fragments onto the floor with a piece of paper and move on to the next order.

This means that the floor looks like someone has overturned a bucket of scraps and then gave them a good kicking around. Of course this means that when we eventually do get a chance to clean the slicers it takes about three times as long as usual just to make them acceptable. By far the worst is the cheese slicer as cheese adheres to the side of the blade and once it gets too caked on, it begins to snag the slices and tear them, making even more mess and more work. Sometimes the only option is to get some very hot sanitiser and give it as quick and vigourous a cleaning as time permits and move on, as once the sanitiser begins to cool even slightly, it loses the ability to deal with the dried on layer of cheese.

Anyway, we survived, if only just and then prepared for the fourth as those customers who realised at the last moment that they’d forgotten something made an emergency shopping run. Of course I knew I’d be working on July 4, if for no other reason that the FNG always gets the dirty end of the stick. At least I was Mid that day, so I would be finished at seven pm and be home before Amateur Hour. Until we learned that my closer had just called in sick. I mean “sick”, because if he actually was sick, then I’m the king of Poland. On the principle that it’s better to volunteer than to BE volunteered, I let the lead know that I’d be willing to stay and close. Admittedly this wasn’t purely altruistic as I was on double time all day and an extra three hours overtime would come in useful. Long day, very long day, although after 2pm it got really quiet. Still, that meant I had another eight hours on my feet and by the time I got home, my socks bore a close resemblance to tourniquets.

Despite the above, it’s not a bad place to work as I’m usually kept pretty busy and most of our customers are decent types. I’ve come to know a couple of them by name and well enough to have a short chat with them, including one local who always, and I mean always wears this Liverpool F.C. cap. The only bright red baseball cap that I can look at without sneering at the wearer.  There are the usual number of ungrateful and unpleasant people, but not so many as to ruin the day on a regular basis, and they are more than outweighed by those who are friendly and appreciative. We do work very hard to work with our customers to ensure that they get exactly what they want how they want it and also spend a great deal of time answering questions and educating them about our various products. Of course it gets tiring, but it’s part of the job, and it’s nice to be able to pass on information and experience.

So do me a favour: The next time you ask your local deli worker the difference between Bayonne and Serrano prosciutto just remember that they may have been on their feet for six hours straight and you may well be the 150th person they’ve served today, so cut them some slack if they seem a little tired.

I’ll be with you in a moment, sir!

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Back On The Chain Gang

Let me start by asking a couple of questions. How many of you cut the cheese at work? How many of you get to hide the salami as part of your regular duties?  As to the first, I reckon we can all plead guilty, in that at one time or another, we’ve all let slip a Silent But Deadly in the elevator, disguised a guff in a meeting by shifting in our seat or simply kept walking towards our cubicle whilst maintaining as nonchalant an expression as possible under the circumstances.  As to the second, well, office romances bloom from time to time, and I guess the supply closet is largely wasted space, but that’s not what I had in mind.

You see, all jocularity and sophomoric humour aside, cutting the cheese and hiding the salami are what I do pretty much all day. Since the turn of the year, I’ve been working in the deli department of my local supermarket. After being taken on in a temporary capacity to sell Christmas trees, ( See “A Forest” and “On Repeat”), the store found me some other tasks to fill out my time after we sold all the trees ahead of schedule and then offered me the chance to apply for an opening in the deli. To be honest, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, as I had nothing on the horizon. The vacancy was posted internally only and I duly applied and was interviewed twice before being offered the spot. In truth, it was made clear, though not explicitly, that the job was mine as long as I applied.

I’ve never had a food service job, so although I was happy about the work I did have some trepidation as to the tasks involved. I should point out that I was hired for the Closing shift, which is 1:30 to 10 pm. I wasn’t thrilled about this, being very much a morning person, but beggars can’t be choosers, although the three day weekend prior to starting did allow me time to adjust to the new schedule. I managed the transition pretty well by treating 11 am. the way I used to treat five am and not going to bed until two thirty or so.

I live only a mile and a half from work, so decided it would make sense to walk rather than drive, especially as short trips aren’t good for the engine and it costs money. I splashed out on a cheap pedometer and began tracking my steps, miles and calories burned in my usual OCD manner as I thought this would be a good way to see if I can lose a bit of weight. It also gives me the opportunity to listen to some of my almost endless podcast playlist, on the walk home in particular helps me decompress. Mind you, walking home alone in the dark is probably not the best time to listen to a podcast that involves readings from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I also made the decision to take shakes to work for lunch and leave them in my locker and carry little to no cash to discourage me from buying lunch at work. Add to this the fact that I’ve stuck to my plan of not buying candy or chips, and you may not be surprised to learn that I lost 10 pounds in two months. Whoo hooo! I’m quite happy with this as you can imagine, and if I lose another 20 we’ll be talking real progress. Naturally you have to take into account the fact that I’m on my feet all day, but still, it’s not to be sniffed at.

I’ve fitted in pretty well to the team and get on well with everyone. Most of the department are middle aged or older, apart from the kitchen crew, but even they have a sense of humour and are willing to help  out as needed with other stuff and the department manages to get through the day even if we have someone out or are swamped with customers. I know it may seem like an odd  place to work for someone on the spectrum, but it forces me to interact with people all day and remain friendly and engaged whilst doing so, so in a way it’s a kind of aversion therapy, especially when you realise that there’s nowhere to hide and you are always on show, like some sort of zoo exhibit.  I made a very conscious decision to muck in wherever needed and make the effort to do things without asking: a policy that seems to be paying off, as is my effort to interact with my colleagues as much as possible, despite my natural instinct to avoid giving away personal information.

The last three hours of the day are fairly quiet, and this is when we begin the cleaning and shut – down procedures, a long process which leaves me pretty much beat as the level of cleanliness involved is much higher than that required at home. Still, the work gets done and I haven’t heard any complaints so far.

The downside of this is that by the time I get home and eat dinner, it’s around midnight, so my desire to do any kind of housework is severely diminished, and I wish I cleaned my kitchen as well as I clean the Meat and Cheese area. It’s not that I live like a slob, but my counter top is never empty, nor the kitchen table devoid of clutter. By the time I get home I just want to veg out and watch a DVD – usually an old “Doctor Who” episode from the library and eat my Poutine, which has become my comfort food of choice. I’m only drinking one night a week, as I finish at seven pm. on Friday and can get to the taphouse for a couple of beers with the lads. The middle shifts on Friday and Saturday are a recent change, and I’m not complaining as it also allows me to go over on the evening boat and have some extra time with my sweetie on Saturday. I don’t miss drinking as much as I thought I would and it makes it more of a treat than when it was a daily event, and of course, it’s saved me a bit of cash into the bargain as well.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my work day as it essentially consists of taking orders, slicing meat or cheese and wrapping said product. I do have some opportunity to chat with customers, and by and large are a happy bunch who appreciate the level of service and the range and quality of products the store has on offer. I’ve had a few difficult customers, but more of that another day.

I’ll sign off by saying that despite this job not being what I went to business school for, I’m enjoying myself, have avoided any major gaffes and have been accepted into the team, so I’m in a happy place right now.

Oh, and in answer to your original question, yes, that is a salami in my pocket… but I’m still pleased to see you!

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