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Monday, October 19, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - WESTERN HILLS FAMILY REUNION

When we said, Goodbye and they locked the doors to our store, this blog published it's final post.  It was time.  The emotions of the day, the pictures, farewells and just the fact that the doors were closed forever was enough to bring this to an end.  But as in movies, there are sequels - so with this blog comes another edition.

You see before the doors were locked, three ladies decided to plan a Reunion.  They made the arrangements, went about  planning and investing the time it took to bring it all together.  This would be a time where the past and present would, maybe for the final time, get a chance to come together.

And so today was the day that we came, ate, reviewed old pictures and  tried to recall the names of these faces from twenty years ago.  There was plenty of memorabilia; shirts, aprons, and a questionnaire as to facts of when the store first opened, stories from the past as well as a photo album to show us the moments that were never forgotten.   It was all there.

But along with a traditional reunion was the surprise of a retirement party for me.  Complete with cake, a bouquet of balloons, a flashy pin - all spelling out, Happy Retirement.  And one of my favorites were the little crafty, paper flower pots that read; Biggs Best Ever Flower Girl - they now sit on my desk.  And if that were not enough, I was given a gift that will remind me every day of where I have spent the last thirteen years - a collage of us.  Hanging on the wall of my Study is a large collage that Sandy had put together to remind us all of where we had come from - Biggs Western Hills - and hung it in the Break Room for all to see.  All the smiling faces, through the years, brought together in this large, well placed collage.  This undoubtedly is one of my treasured  keepsakes.

Amidst all the laughing, talking, eating and reminiscing this group had already started talking about when we would get together again.

This reunion was special and my retirement party was more than I could have ever imagined - how lucky was I.  And to spend these events, with these people, was the best part.

We have been together so long and along the way our lives have intertwined.  And although one might consider this just simply as human emotions, it is, however, one of life's highlights. For when you are lucky to have people stay close to you, go out of their way for you and call you friend well, that's a gift.

As everyone started to say goodbye and began to pack up and head for home, the Reunion had come to an end.

But, of course, it is not over, although this blog is, for in a few months we will meet again.  We will laugh, eat and possibly reminisce but more importantly we will be moving on, together.

We may have closed down a store, but it was just a building.  What's important is that we have remained together and will celebrate that throughout the years to come. 

I guess they are right when they say, 'We are family.'

                                             BIGGS WESTERN HILLS
See ya! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - GOODBYE!

As the doors of Western Hills close, for the final time, this blog comes to an end. 

When I started this blog it was done with the intention of writing about this grocery store.  A store that was like no other.  It was the people that made the difference.  They gave it a personality all it's own. They were a family.

We have spent the last week bracing ourselves for this, the final day.  The tears have been shed, the hugs have been endless and the phrase, 'I'm going to miss you guys,' has been repeated countless times.  And yet, we still were not prepared.

There will be many pictures posted on FB to show what it was like and how we partied at the end.  And though these pictures will not show the feelings that we have at this moment the pictures will, however, portray the genuine personality of this group.

Over the last four years, this blog has said everything there is to say and I sit here and can find nothing else to add.  Well, maybe there is one more thing;

To all you Western Hills employees, past and present


                                      GREAT JOB EVERYBODY!


And a special note to all the Biggs Western Hills employees - you are legend

Goodbye

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - 'SEE YA TOMORROW?'

I would think that each day, as I get ready to go to work, I would get that dreaded feeling.  But, that has not been the case.  In a way, I have been eager to get to the store.  Walking in and hearing those familiar voices greet me, the chit-chat that we all seem to share and just knowing that those familiar faces will be here. The same thing day in and day out. All the things that I have always looked forward to throughout these years.

Circulating on FB is a picture of so many of this group that I have worked with for so long. 

Today, it was decided that we would all sit down and have, what a couple of the girls coined as, 'our last supper'.  On the menu was Pizza, soft drinks and to complete the affect was an autumn themed table cloth, candles and even a center piece someone had found.  There was plenty of laughter, lots of talking and, as the picture shows, a lot of smiling faces. 

It was, as it has always in the past, a good time.

When it was time for one of the girls to leave, she clocked out and as she passed me, she said, 'See ya tomorrow?'  And that is when it hit me.

This is the one liner that I have heard every day, I have worked here.   As co-workers would leave you would always hear someone ask, 'See ya tomorrow?'  I am not sure if anyone else ever noticed this but, like a ritual, it is the one thing that I have heard repeated more than anything else in this store.

There have been a few times that I have had to remove myself from the floor in order to regain my composure. And today, was no exception.

As I sit here and look at the picture, posted on FB, I have to admit that I am choked up.  Not to see these faces every day, not to hear my name being called from across the floor or get that chance to chit chat will be very difficult to get use to.

And, along with everything else, there will be nobody asking me,
'See ya tomorrow?'

Talk at ya later!


 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - CONCLUSION OF A GROCERY CLERK

With the dismantling, condensing, moving and shrinking, of the store, comes a lot of memories from the past years.  And it is during this time that I have wondered if I would have worked as hard, been so frustrated at times, taken the job so personally and over extended myself so much, had I known that it would end as it has now. 

And when I stop to think about what I got in return well, that gets just a little more complicated.

You see I read an article today regarding the stagnate wages of the retail workforce, and listed in the article were the nine national employers that are considered the leaders when it comes to this pay scale deficiency.  But what got my attention the most was the description given, by a Ph.D., holder, of this workforce, as being the reason for being underpaid. My first thought, having read the article, was (sorry for this reference) 'screw you.'

Labeling the workforce as 'under educated' filling jobs that are merely 'trainable' as the reason for low income, leaves a lot to be desired.. 

When I came to work here I knew nothing about this industry and when it came to training, well let's just say that my confidence got knocked around a time or two.  I found that learning this 'trainable' job took a lot more time and in all reality, you never truly learn all of it for it changes consistently;  procedures, programs, supplies, products, laws, policies.  You name it and they will change it.  What is good today, will not be tomorrow. 

Everything from common sense to creativity, from 100% of your mental capacity to every muscle in your body and last but not least, most of your day is spent using basic psychology when it comes to Customer Service.  And let's not forget about 'cross training'.  Which, simply put, means, 'how many departments can you learn and work?'  My last count, 3.  And don't let anyone fool you, working like this does not make you a more valuable employee.  Simply put, it just cuts down on payroll. And, last but not least, I have learned so much about business and human behavior that I feel like I could write a book - now there's an idea.

So, to the Ph.D., holder, you do not know what you are talking about.  The reason for the low income level is due to the bottom line - Profit.  And to the 9 retail companies that are contributing to holding down this workforce, you're day will come when the workforce will change and these companies will take a hard hit. I see it happening already.

So now that it is over, what is my conclusion?  Would I do it again?  Probably not, but not for the reason one would think.

You see, I have been lucky to work with the people that I have.  They trained me, tolerated my misgivings, overlooked my opinions - no matter how loud I hollered, supported me and once in awhile fed my ego.  Some of the best people that I have known, have worked beside me.  And this is something which I would probably never find again in this line of work, because the times are changing.

So come October 10th, when the doors get shut for the final time and the sadness takes it's toll, I know how I will feel - so glad that I had the chance to work here.

Talk at ya later!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - THE LESSONS OF A GROCERY STORE

Well, the store is slowly losing it's square footage as certain areas are emptied of product and restocked with dismantled shelves, tables and bins.  And to make the everyday shopper aware of the change the area is roped off.  Grocery shelves are slowly emptying and a portion of the Produce Department has now been filled with skids stocked with cartons of soft drinks.  Slowly, everything is beginning to be moved forward.

The Floral Department is, more or less, non-existent and when a customer asks the location of some products well, your guess is as good as mine.  One has only to hunt for it.

Now, after all of these years, for some of us this is not a job any longer but more of an expedition.  What use to be organized, scheduled and prepped for, is now mostly a mere 'beats me' situation.  You come in to work, look around and try to summarize what needs to be done which ultimately gives way to a 'what the hell' attitude.  Sorry!

Liquidation, has become a new lesson.

Working in a grocery store is kind of like going to school.  The lessons are many, you just don't seem to graduate. 

For beginners there is basic math (figuring out those sales and percentages when you can't find a calculator and don't have your cellphone available), English (the art of learning to get a point across), Psych 101 (and II, III & IV), Law (both federal and state), Debate (how to handle ones self in the crossfires), Accounting & Banking (cash office, cashier), Proof Reading (figuring out how to read and explain those receipts), Computer Skills (learning how to handle, and apply, new programs on out dated computers), Home Economics (being able to help a customer distinguish certain perishable
products), Business 101 (ordering, managing, displaying according to sales, holidays) Speech (although this one most generally gets lost in interpretation) and Security (being able to identify a theft in process).  I am sure that there are some things that I have not remembered but this list provides the 'must have' courses.

As in school, there are some who will not pass and others who will go on and the only way you will know if you have passed will be if you are allowed to stay.  Which basically means, you will always be a beginner.

For some of us, school is about to be dismissed.  There will be no scheduled program to give recognition and no awards for any achievement. 

But when those doors shut, one final time, there will be a new lesson to learn - getting past the emotions and moving on.

Talk at ya later!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - SO MUCH MORE

Well, the Liquidation has begun.  Yesterday was the first day of the future of this store and, the feeling was just a little different than what I had expected. As in any given situation, you can sometimes figure out just how you are going to feel and be, somewhat, prepared.  But once involved, you find that it is so much more than what you were prepared for.  Such was the feeling last night.

First off, the presence is different.  Signs are everywhere announcing the percentages off of each and every product.  And, just in case you are not good in math, there is a list of the prices with the percentage off giving one the complete total of each item.  The signs are on every table, shelf, case and hanging from the ceilings - by the end of the evening quite a few were on the floor.

The parking lot was full and there were people coming and going- most of which I had never seen before.  In fact, to see a familiar face was a welcomed sight.  The usual customers would stop and talk about how they were going to miss the store and wish that it wasn't closing.  They spoke not only of the convenience but of how they would miss these employees that they had come to know.  While speaking with one of our regulars, another customer came by and said, 'Aren't you going to miss this?'  'Where else can you go and be made to feel that they are really glad to see you?'  Good point!

In some ways it was like being at a garage sale, the way people would toss the products around in their quest.  Which ultimately led to another problem, 'You call this a Sale?'  No comment.

I felt like I was watching the store being picked apart and the thoughts going through my head were not Customer Service related.  In fact, I found myself having to leave the floor - a time or two.

This was the moment when everything became a reality.

I wish that there had been another employee around that I could have shared these feelings with - to know that someone else was feeling the same; lost, bewildered, angry, sad. 

Besides the store, there are the regular customers.  The casual acquaintances that turned into friendships.  After all, it was through a customer that I have became a member of a Book Club.  The people that call you by name, offer advice, provide some really good recipes, bring you homemade cookies at Christmas and make you smile and laugh.

But now I have to brace myself for a second reality - the employees; the laughs, the friendships, the everyday contact.

When the announcement came down, about the store closing, employees are informed personally.  Each was given a moment to express their feelings and their future intentions.  Emphasis is put on how one feels at that moment and, as I was told, any sadness one feels is considered part of the grieving process that we experience during this time.

Unlike most of the employees, I am not setting off to another store.  I won't be spending the first week or so acclimating myself to a new surroundings with new co-workers.  Nope, I am just going to the house.  It's exciting, in a way, to say that I am going to start something new, fulfill something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  But, at the same time, there remains some questionable doubt.  Everything will be different.

So, ask me in October how I am going to miss these people since I am not going to see them anymore. 

You see, I thought I had it all figured out and I knew just how it was going to feel to say, goodbye; sad.  But when I walked into the situation, as I did yesterday,  I found that how I thought I would feel was just that, thoughts.

Because, when faced with the reality, it is the feeling I got inside that made it so much more.

Talk at ya later!




 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - FOOD FOR THOUGHT

My understanding, since the store is about to begin the liquidation series, we, as employees, are in for a 'bumpy ride'.  And from the way it is made to sound, this venture is truly going to be  a memorable experience.

New customers, new demands and well, let's just hope that we can get through this unscathed. 

Right off the bat yesterday, I found myself dealing with sale, product and customer philosophy.  A customer was looking for the 'Homegrown Tomatoes from Indiana, - I led her to the large, slicing tomato at the same sale price.  "No, these are not the Homegrown Tomatoes from Indiana." she said.  Okay, well let me double check on that - since I had been off for a couple days, perhaps I missed out on something.  But, when I went to ask a fellow produce clerk, I was met with a 'I don't know' reaction which, more or less, left me on my own.  Once I returned to the customer and continued my recommendation on the large, slicing tomatoes I was met with the same response.  Which clearly points out that signage appears to mean everything.  You see, according to the customer, the tomatoes looked too perfect to be homegrown.  Which made me feel that I should not have culled the table prior to this customer's visit - I pulled plenty of imperfect tomatoes, complete with worm holes.  Well, the end result was the customer blamed me for the tomatoes and off she went.

This little, ordeal reminded me of the customer with the bananas.  Back last winter, the banana industry decided to advertise the different ways customers can eat bananas - like grilling bananas.  And in order to persuade the public to take a different look at the banana, little stickers were put on the banana bunches to offer suggestions like, grilling.  While stocking the floor one day, a customer came over to me and asked for help in 'finding just the bananas'.  He said, 'I just want bananas I can eat but, every bunch I pick up is for something else - I don't know how to grill bananas.'

Then there was the croutons.  The croutons in the produce department are displayed on what we call the Multi-deck, which is refrigerated.  Well, when having a sale on the croutons one the clerks decided to create a display in the middle of the floor - right in front of the Multi-deck.  "You know, the customers will be confused with this display and ask me about croutons and if they need to be refrigerated."  I told the clerk.  Sure enough, there stood a customer between the display of croutons and the Multi-deck - looking to his left and then to his right.  Finally, it got the best of him.  "Excuse me, are the croutons that are refrigerated fresher than the ones over here on the floor?"  he asked.

Then there is the Organic selection.  We use to handle quite a bit of the organic fruit but you see, the organic never looked as good as the other stock - such as the apples.  Once you showed the customers the organic displays, they would say, 'That doesn't look as good as those shiny apples over there."  And, they would dispense with the purchase and buy the regular, shiny apple instead.  So much for healthy foods.

You also find that some customers usually know everything there is to know about products, such was the case of the Cilantro.  A customer looking for Cilantro informed me that all we had out was Parsley, and she knew what Parsley 'looks like.'  But when I went over to double check, I found Cilantro which, the customer continued to inform me that it was Parsley I was giving her.  Again, she knew what Parsley looked like - so I was informed.  But, the aroma and the band on the bunch, marked Cilantro, was a dead give away.  She grabbed the bunch and marched off, after telling me that 'looks like you  came over here for nothing.'

Then there is the testing of the grapes  More often, than not, customers have to have a bite, or two, prior to purchasing the grapes.  Some customers will try one, while others will look upon the grape display as a buffet and try many.  But, what surprises me more than anything is that the public thinks nothing about digesting product that is sitting on an open display and has been fondled by so many different hands - and not even think about the product not being washed, prior to eating it.  Then there are the peaches.  Ever notice how people test the peaches?  In order to test it, one will usually put their nose on the peach in order to get a good whiff - I guess.  I get mine from the back not from the display. 

Don't even get me started about Cherrie season.  And, I have lost count as to how many times I have witnessed a customer picking a fight over a produce table.

Most of our regular customers are smart and have common sense. 

But, as shown in the past, there are some of the one timers that you get, now and then, that seem to shine a different light on the consumer market.

One thing is for sure, customers have taught me quite a bit about how to purchase produce; never test the grapes, always wash the product before eating it and it always helps to apply some common sense while shopping in order to avoid becoming a future, silly experience for some clerk to relate to at a later date.

So brace yourself, everybody, we might be in for a 'bumpy ride' but perhaps we might also get a chuckle or two.

Talk at ya later!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - STILL STANDING!

So, now that I am on FB, I had to announce that today, September 2nd, marks my 13th Anniversary with the store - and now they are closing.  My anniversary comes on the same day as the 70th Anniversary of the end of WW II.  This was something that I was not aware of and am embarrassed to think that I did not know this date especially, since one of my uncles was a recipient of the Purple Heart Medal.

When I hit my 10th Anniversary I published a blog post titled, 'Here's To The Last Ten Years'.  The post describes my amazement at how the employees work and how the customers act.  And if one were to only read the post, and not know me, they would be sure that I was not employed at the store any longer.  But I am and I did make it. 

And now that I have finally hit 13 years I would have to say that no longer am I amazed - I evolved.  No longer am I surprised at how hard these employees work, for it is just the type of people that they are.  No longer am I surprised at how some customers act, I am more surprised, however, at how they survive.

And since I am only going to work approximately 1 month and 8 days into this my final year, I can now say how surprised I am that retail companies even survive. 

With the business decisions made, or lack thereof, the continuous need to expand and the need to out-do the competition  has all come down to a pure lack of common sense.  For within the fight to come out on top, or just merely to compete, these companies have deprived the workforce the ability to maintain.  And, in doing so, they have cut the spending power that these very companies need in order to succeed. 

Because, it is the workforce that is undeniably the consumer market.

This is what I have learned in 13 years.

Talk at ya later!

 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW

During the course of posting, on this blog, I have read many articles depicting the retail employees.  Some  of these articles attempted to explain the culture, service and the economic standards of this workforce.  While other articles delved into the health issues that employees face while working these jobs.  But never did I find articles that described what it takes to work these jobs.  Although, however, there are plenty of articles written that give advice as to how these positions can better serve customers.

Retail/food service, is like any other job - one has to work it before you understand it.

If the public could ride in the back of a cruiser, walk the halls of a hospital, teach a student, trudge a battlefield, among other jobs, we would understand more of what it takes to work these jobs.  And although working in a grocery store does not begin to be as important as any of the jobs previously mentioned, it has, however, found a spot in public opinion.

'You want to make more money, get a better job.'  Now there's an opinion for ya!  Oh, how the public went up in arms when they thought there was a chance of having to pay more for a burger.

But, I am here to confess that 15 years ago I probably would have felt the same way.  Truly!  But, life can change within seconds and bring one to a point of either 'sink or swim'.  And how one handles this change will be their deciding factor.

The people that work these jobs are faced with the rising cost of living; food, home, medical.  And these jobs do not provide for the increase in living expenses and have remained stagnate causing some to take on financial assistance while working.  Or how about the people that work two part-time jobs.  And don't give me the speech about higher education.  During this recession I have been surprised at the amount of people I have met who hold degrees and are yet forced to work part-time jobs in retail in order to survive. 

When working these jobs, one is faced with the turbulence of fluctuating finances due to not knowing how many hours they will work from week to week.  There is the health factor when faced with irregular hours that they are expected to work. And hey, what about the cost of that health insurance?   And let us not forget the demands that they mentally face while working these jobs.  The bottom line is, no one has a right to point a finger at this work force.  You want to get in someone's face over the rising cost of a burger, then face off with these corporations who are in control of the financial well being of this public.  For it is they that make the conditions necessary in order to maintain their profits.

This job that I have maintained for about 13 years now, has humbled me to say the least.  No longer do I judge what I see or read about on the news and instead have more of an understanding of the work force and society.  Through the time, I have been lucky due to the love and assistance provided me by my family and the friends who helped me learn how to cope.

No, working in a grocery store has not been a waste for me.  It has helped me to see and understand and probably made me a much better person than I would have been had I not worked this job.

You see, understanding is the secret to making things better - while ignorance is what kills the opportunities.

Talk at ya later!

 

Monday, August 17, 2015






                              HAPPY 4TH ANNIVERSARY


                      CINCIGAL GROCERY STORE CLERK



Celebrating the final Anniversary of Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk
 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - "IT'S ALL GOOD"

As would be expected, after working so many years at one store, we have been through quite a few store directors.  They came, they went and all they really left behind was whatever impression they had made on us.  Some were strong, some were weak, hellish and there is even one whose name is hard to recall and often referred to as 'the guy who wore Penny Loafers'. 

So they came, they left and we moved on.  Along the way we had a favorite and it definitely was sad when he departed.  And then, 'She' came.  Like a tornado she whipped into our store.  With an exuberant personality and all sorts of ideas, the game was on.  Immediately, there was a lot of head shaking, eyes rolling and I believe I even witnessed a department manager banging his head against the wall - a time or two.  But no matter, we were moving to the beat of a different drummer.

Like the Pied Piper she led us down the aisles.  Changing this, changing that - there were times when it was hard to keep up.  And during the changes, should you not agree, she would wave it off and always say the same thing, 'It's all good.'

Somewhere along the way, we just kind of came to accept her positive outlook, out-going approach and sometimes silly sayings.  We found that she was someone that we could count on for support when we would be overwhelmed, she was someone who would listen and was earnest in helping and never, did one have to worry when things got a little out of control - she would help to put things into perspective.  And, you could be yourself.  She is always there asking how we are doing and wanting to know if we need anything - we are never alone.

She is definitely the hardest working manager we have ever had, she never stops working.  And at the end of the day, she is truly just one of the crew, no title needed.

I read in an interview, once, with one of the corporate heads, that he didn't ask his employees to do anything that he, himself would not do.  Well take that as you may, but I am here to tell you that our store director may not say that but, she definitely exhibits that.

So as we begin to come to terms with bringing this store to an end, I thought it only fitting to shine the light on someone that we will truly miss.  Like her staff  she was dedicated, hard working, supplied teamwork when needed, felt compassion for those she worked with and took pride in whatever she did. 

And although she was silly, at times, she demonstrated to us all what Customer Service and Teamwork is all about.

So here's to you, Debra - Thank you, you will be missed!

Talk at ya later!


 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - THE DREAM

There is one thing that never seems to be discussed, in this line of work, and that is what we, the employees, really want to do with our lives.  Here you are, working in a grocery store where one minute you will be bagging someone's groceries and the next minute you could be down on the floor cleaning up someone's mess.  You spend the day answering countless questions, seeking out products, explaining policies, running to meet demands and just trying to get by.  It's a world where one never knows what to expect and yet, subconsciously, you are ready for anything.

It's a place where a kind word and a smile mean more than words can begin to express and yet, there are moments it seems like a prison and escape is impossible.  Although those doors keep opening and closing, you never get the opportunity to make a run for it until your shift is through.

But there is an alternative side to all of this that is not visible to the public; the dream.  While we run, stoop, carry, talk, assist, clean, direct and cajole we are dreaming.

In this building there are artists, musicians, photographers, writers and students.  Each of these employees has a dream and this job is a background for their future.

At this job they are able to express their future plans with their co-workers.  And when the days are too hectic and nothing seems to go right, it will be this job that will push them harder to succeed at what they want to achieve.

So the next time you are checking out at a grocery store, smile at that cashier.  They could one day be your next elected official.  And that clerk  that assisted you, show your appreciation.  You never know, you just might be talking to a future celebrity.  And always be nice when a clerk helps you with a problem.  One never knows when you might meet up again in the future - medically or legally speaking that is.

One thing is for sure, each of these employees that you pass, every time you shop, has a hidden agenda.  From the cashier that is pursuing a nursing career to the guy getting carts that can strum a guitar, they each have something in common - the dream.

Talk at ya later!   

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - SAYING GOODBYE TO THE FLOWER GIRL

I guess the first thing I have realized, during this time, is that you just cannot avoid nostalgia.  It can't be helped.  Just a normal part of saying, 'Goodbye'.  And today, I am saying, 'Goodbye' to the Flower Girl; a title I was given by customers.

It's only now that I can see how far I have come, what I have contributed and achieved.  And of course each achievement has a story behind it.

Quite a few years ago, an employee told me that customers were requesting single roses so I got busy and started figuring out how to fill this request.  Well, to order single roses from the wholesaler added more cost to the store and since customers preferred the color red, well this would not be practical since only a percentage of the roses, in a case, were red.  The remainder of the case of single roses would be pastel and pastel does not last as long as red, so that would provide for more shrink and less sales.  So, believe it or not, I remembered a TV series called, The Love Boat and many times single roses were presented to the characters.  The roses were in long clear, single boxes and I thought that that was just so cool.  So, I got with the supplier who found me the boxes and water tubes and the idea became a reality.  And once presented to the customers, the reality became a staple for the floral department.  I lost count as to how many cases we went through over the years but, it was enough that we ended up with a sign.

Back then, when we were the other company, employees were encouraged to think up ideas and well, we were never without ideas - some of them even worked.  This was my first real business idea and since it took off I was ready to try other things.  Making cut arrangements became the next significant idea.  I worked at it and over time, even I was proud of the accomplishment.  By doing this I was using my own stock which cut down on my shrink and cost and I found outlets that sold very nice containers at a fraction of the wholesalers cost giving way to a far better selection.  Gees, I was becoming a real business person.  Each step taken led to another.  From there we went to potted plants.  Since we were the only store in the area that sold 4" potted foliage at a low price, the shelves were being refilled on a regular basis.  It wasn't long before I figured out what to bring in and when. 

Holidays were hectic.  I would normally spend anywhere between 48 -54 hours during a holiday week but, everything sold; bouquets, cut arrangements etc..  And when the flowers came in, the
skids were stacked so high that I would have to get a step ladder to unload. 

Now I go through all of the Thank you notes, the cards of appreciation and the pictures customers brought me of the arrangements I made for them and I will take them home.  With the last single rose having been sold this weekend, I have now removed the stand and sign from the floor.  The only thing in the flower cooler now are bouquets, there are no more cut arrangements.

Kind of hard saying, Goodbye to the Flower Girl.  It was a fun, interesting, frustrating  time filled with hard work and long hours.  And even though it's a little sad, I am glad that I had the chance to do it.

And I figured out why these ideas were such a hit - it was the customers  All I ever did was watch and listen to them and they taught me everything I needed to know.

There's a lesson here.

Talk at ya later!
 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - MAKING OUR WAY

 Today the company, that I work for, has decided to close the doors of our store.   In a little more than two months we will, cease to exist.  The store will empty, the doors will close and everyone will head somewhere else. 

Although this has not really been a total shock it has, however, reminded us of how it all began.  So many of the employees, that are left, can recall the day this building opened as a grocery store - that was 20 years ago.  Each change, steps taken, employees and customers can be recalled.  And it is in these next two months that our memories will be sharpened with these thoughts.

Up in the Break-room there is a framed collage of pictures of employees taken throughout the years.  It is a reminder of happier, busier times.  Times that we never thought would come to an end. 

Now that we are heading in a different direction there will be plenty to discuss, quite a few memories to recall and for some a questionable future.  But even though there is change coming there is one thing that will not be changing during this time;

As always, as in the past, we will be there for each other.

Talk at ya later!

 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - WHEN CHANGE VS REALITY

For so long now, we have been kind of  'hanging'.  No longer do I look for any one person or one particular change to come in and rescue us from the slump.  Although, it would be nice. 

There are new changes coming, we are told.  With technical support the aim will be to make shopping more convenient and more personal for the customers.  Hey, we are told, it has worked for other companies.  But anymore I am not so sure that anyone really puts any stock into these changes coming, for we have been down this road before.  There have been high hopes on many different changes in the past but, things never turned out as what was expected.  But, it is a new day and age and the changes made are considered progress that follows the paths of many other companies.

But the one thing that I have always noticed is that when changes are made no one ever gives any consideration to the problems that already exist.  There is no question as to what should we do but, more of what we will do.  We just seem to cover things up and keep going forward.  But the problems keep pulling us back, taking us further down.

When a company is not a well known, or a high profile, company then reputation is of the essence.  And that, more or less, is passed on by word of mouth - customers.  So, more so than the high profile companies, a smaller establishment has to work harder at how they represent themselves in order to get noticed.  They have to put more effort into what they do and how they appear to the consumers. 

Over time, I have been through quite a few managers but only two of them showed me what it takes to make sales.  Each, in their own way, knew how to project their department towards the customer.  And really, it was quite simple.  One of the managers was very precise in how his department appeared.  He knew it had to be detailed, organized and selective in what was presented to the customer.  And he was right - I see that now.

Customers look for quality, selection and prices in order to make their decision as to where to shop.  Sorry, but Customer Service is not at the head of the list.

The other factor that these two managers brought with them was teamwork.  Their staff was customer oriented and they took pride in how their department looked and they worked well together putting everyone on the same page - we had a purpose. 

Our managers kept us laughing and it kept up our spirits while we worked so hard to maintain a certain standard. 

But those managers are gone now, as is the original staff, and with them they took what was needed to succeed.  And it took no time at all to see how valuable they had been.

Not too long ago a friend of one of these managers was in the store and upon seeing me, he came over and we chatted.  I asked him how this particular manager was doing and he told me.  I told him how I missed this manager's expertise and definitely his jokes.  He responded by saying, "Oh, he doesn't joke anymore.

I said, "Mmm, that's okay we don't laugh anymore.'

Talk at ya later!



 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - 'UP CLOSE & PERSONAL'

On this Blog, I have written quite a few posts which describe the many benefits of good employees.  How they perceive their jobs, their work ethic, their frustrations along with the benefits they provide their employer.  And, on the flip side, I have described what is lost when they decide to leave.  But, no matter how many times I have witnessed this it hasn't been until now that I truly understood the benefits that the majority of these people have provided their employer.

It's only been the last couple of months that I have seen, first hand, what happens and how big a void is left when such an employee leaves.  From the organizational skills to the appearance of a department, each and every step takes a hit.  No longer is their a team effort in promoting a department only the frustration of picking  up the slack.  Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to quality control and no one has the same outlook on function and appearance.  The department becomes a tug of war and finger pointing is rampant.   But the most important issue is that there is no pride and no personal effort being put forth for customer satisfaction.  For an employee there is no satisfaction only frustration leaving a department disconnected and lost. 

What once was an important part of an employee becomes nothing more than a job to be done.

And although there are quite a few steps that lead up to this it is the loss of a good employee that caps it off.

What is more, is that employees hired on to fill the spots cannot begin to fill the void.  All too many do not have the work ethic that was provided by previous employees.

I have often wondered if it is the pride of an employee or the personal investment an employee makes in their job that provides this valuable quality.  Until now I would have chosen, pride.

But now, having been a witness from the beginning to the present, I firmly believe it is the person themselves that renders this quality.

And that, cannot be replaced.

Talk at ya later!

 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS AND ROBOTS

"Excuse me, I have a complaint."  "Now I know that it is not your fault but, the bananas look terrible and I found some outdated product over on Aisle# __."  "I just wanted to let you know."  Now the response; a slight smile, nod the head in agreement and give parting words, "Thank you for telling me, I am sorry and will forward your complaint and take care of the outdated product."  She said, I said and well, that was about it.  Yes, I did go over and look for the outdated product which I found, one.  That's the extent of it anymore, mostly complaints and compliments have become a fond memory.  Will it change, probably not.  But, hey, the complaints are mostly of the store itself and not of the employees.

Customer complaints and how they are handled are part of the job. And it is the handling of the complaints that can, and do, become exhausting.  To put it quite simply, complaints most generally are not about an employee but more about the store itself.  And when it is something out of your control then you become the glutton for punishment.  But, that could all change in the future, or so I have read.

With the retail market being hit in different directions, wages and sales, the one thing that remains intact is that of consumer complaints. 

Recently I read an article by John Aziz, The Weekly, that gave a little outlook on what is to come in this job market, and it is not pretty.  With technology going full force there are so many of these jobs that will ultimately end up being replaced with robots.  Well, that is one way to take away the fear of having to pay higher wages which will definitely increase more profit.  And I believe that this move was put as 'revelation of automation' which will really cut into the job market.  But it won't only be the retail market that will feel the effects, this new way of automation will be felt all of the way to Wall Street.  And to compliment this futuristic employment outlook the author provided quite a few changes that could offset the social traumatization that would follow.

When I was done reading the article I found two things that had not been discussed, or probably thought of, and that would be consumer complaints and Customer Service.  This led me to believe that, as a consumer, one will be thanked, 'Thank you for shopping _______."  But should you have a complaint, I don't think that the robot will be of much assistance.  And considering how some customers can react, I don't believe that yelling will be an option. 

And Customer Service?  Well, the robots will probably tell you to have a nice day

There are some pros to this concept.  Employees won't be targets anymore and less employees will call for less benefits and more profit. The Mystery Shoppers will be in a bit of dilemma and theft should hit an all time low, since I am sure there will be a system that will not only tag a thief but, dispense with the crime before it gets out of the door.  And as for the cons - less jobs, more economic woes and the politicians will go crazy - ier.

The history of the job market has always been evolving and the secret to success is to stay one step ahead of the change.  Some businesses will make it while others will fall to the side. And if society can comply, or not, will depend on how the changes are implemented.  Remember the gas station attendants?  By dispensing with that job it allowed the customers to work more, pay more and in the end have little say so.

Customers and complaints go hand in hand and how they are treated in the future will be interesting.  One can imagine all sorts of funny scenarios and even come up with an idea or two but perhaps, like the jobs, the complaints will be fazed out. 

Like that old saying goes, 'Change is good.'

Talk at ya later!

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

When I got to work yesterday, I passed a customer at the Customer Service Desk that was trying to get a refund for a package of cookies.  The bag she was holding was a bit dilapidated, to say the least.  Not something that you would be putting back on the shelf.  Now the matter of the cookies was slightly amusing.  The customer said that when she bought them they were on sale and yet she was charged full price.  Now there was no receipt to back up this story because, it couldn't be found and there was no memory as to when the purchase was made.  And there was, of course, that expiration date.  Hmm, must have had them for awhile.

This reminded me of a story that a previous store manager once told me.  When this manager worked at another store, and was in training for a certain position, a customer came into the store and wanted a refund for a set of tires.   Now the customer had no receipt and wasn't accepting the employees reasoning as to why there could be no refund.   So the store manager was called to take care of the situation and, that he did.  When all was said and done, the store manager gave the customer the money for the tires.  Now I don't think that you could call it a refund because, you see, the store didn't sell tires.

One of the first impressions I had of retail was how stores will give away money.  Be the reasons justified, or not, stores were quick to hand out refunds or gift cards to appease the public.  In fact, it wasn't too long before I noticed that our store was known to the public for doing this. 

I figured that the reason for this practice was to keep people from bad mouthing the store or in hopes that the party might shop there.  Whatever the reasoning behind this practice, in the end it hadn't worked and yet, it was considered Customer Service.

We have all witnessed these practices throughout time.  Some will bring in products not purchased at our stores while others will attempt a refund for a product not purchased.  And then again, as with the lady with the cookies, should there be question the end result will most generally be determined by "Do they spend money here?" if a manager gets involved.

As for the customer with the cookies, and no receipt, I have no idea how that ended.  But she will be back and will bring in something else, with no receipt, and the quest for a refund will continue.

Talk at ya later!


 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - MANAGERS; THE CYCLE OF CHANGE

There's a lot to be said about managers.  Some are hard working while some, are directors.  There are those that create a team and then those, that stand alone.  And somewhere along the way there are those that just get by - usually, due to the competence of their staff.  And although there are different types of managers the one thing that stands out the most, is the change that takes place when a new manager comes in; appearance, organization, emphasis, contributions, efficiency, work load and morale.

During the last 12 years and 7 months, I have been through eight managers.  And for the last year, the department I work in has been through four managers. 

Over the years we had three managers that were, what you would call, 'team players'.  They were as dedicated as their staff in providing a good department.  And what stood out the most was the dedication to customer service.  This is something that can only be achieved when a staff is able to work together and morale is high.

But times change and, as the old saying goes, 'all good things must come to an end'.

In the midst of change, this time, one has decided to 'jump ship', while leaving the others to contemplate their positions.  The morale is gone and the direction has changed.

I don't know if things will ever get back to the way they were, at this time it seems doubtful.  But, for the first time, I have now witnessed how easy it is to take a good department and break it down.

And all it took, was the changing of managers.

Talk at ya later!
.

 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - MY STUFF!

In my home is a collection of 'stuff', which I often refer to as my 'collectable clutter.'  It is my 'stuff', a collection of things that reminds me of where I have been, who is dear to me and those that I have lost. 

In all reality it is, my world.

Much is the same for me in the store where I work.

Having been told that we are about  to have a big cleaning spree I find that I have some 'collectable clutter'.  Sitting on my work table is a black, plastic container that holds scissors, ribbon, pinecones and wire, all things necessary for making floral arrangements.  But, tucked underneath these tools are a pile of note cards and envelopes all, of which, are addressed to me.  So I took a moment and went through them one by one.

These notes say, 'Thank you', 'Much appreciated,' 'You're the best', and more.

The notes are a reminder of everything I have done.

For all the years I have been doing this job I sometimes lose sight of, just maybe, what I have accomplished.

Things are different now but, not too long ago I provided customers with something that they liked, wanted and apparently were appreciative of.

So I will take these cards home and add them to the rest of my collectables.  Somewhere down the road I, once again, will find them and take a moment to read the words written inside.  And, again, I will probably get that feeling of accomplishment.

I don't do all of the things, at work, like I use to because anymore it is of little concern to the company.  And that I have had to learn to accept.  But at least for now I will have the reminder that, at one time, what I did made a difference. 

For me, that means that it was all worthwhile.

Talk at ya later!


 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - CUSTOMER SERVICE: THE IRONY OF IT ALL

Recently, I had to take a trip to our local ER.  Now it wasn't anything that was life threatening just something that kind of needed immediate attention.  And even though I was clearly dreading this experience I was, more or less, surprised.

The lobby was empty and the receptionist was very outgoing and full of conversation.  In fact, I was made to feel so welcome that I got the impression that everyone was glad I was there.  Had the visit been under different circumstances, I am sure, I would have felt the same.

But what got my attention, more than the atmosphere, was a sign posted inside the automated doors.  As I made my way into the building there, on a post, hung a sign with big letters that read, CUSTOMER SERVICE along with a small description of the ER's promise of this service.

Now if memory serves me correctly Customer Service is a term, used by businesses, to ensure customers a pleasant experience while using their services.  At this point I did not consider myself a customer but, more like a patient since I was in need of medical attention.

As a patient, one is filled with all sorts of emotions; fear, pain, anxiety.  And for a patient there is nothing more important then the skill and knowledge of a medical team.  The comforting words of a medical professional, the caring skill of a nurse and the abilities of a physician are what provide the patient the care needed.

Having grown up around a hospital, and been a patient more than a few times, I was somewhat familiar with the operation of medical care.  And it was in 1969, when my father told me that I would witness medicine become big business in the future.  Something I could not have imagined at the time - but, happened it has.

So what are we now, patients or customers?

When I enter a facility, for medical assistance, I am there for their knowledge and abilities.  I am there to have my pain eased, my symptoms taken care of and my being put back together again.  And if they smile at me and converse well, that's great.  But in the meantime, I would rather they go about there job and do it well. 

When it comes to customers, at our store, we are impressed to give good Customer Service so that they keep coming back.

But at an ER?

Now that's a trip, hopefully, I don't intend making anytime soon.

Talk at ya later!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cincigal Grocery Store Clerk - 'CHANGE IS GOOD' (?)

I recently received an email, from a friend, who mentioned that she had not read any new posts on this Blog.  She likes reading them, she said.  Well, I emailed her back and told her that there wasn't anything to write about.

So I thought about it. 

What was there to write about?  The morale of the employees - uh, there isn't any.  Compliments from the customers?  Sorry, haven't heard one in awhile - in fact, just the opposite. What about the closeness of the employees?  With the amount of new hires there have been, it is not uncommon to come into work and say, 'Who's that?'  And the only response you get is a blank look and shrug of the shoulders.

To put it simply, it's all changed.

And from the way it looks, I don't think that we will be able to get back what we once had.

Now I don't know if it was the intention of corporate to deliberately change this store to what it has become or, if it just happened due to the changes made.  What I do know, is that it definitely is not the same anymore.  So much so, even the customers are talking about it.

We had something once and it was kind of special.  And with the changes made it is disappearing

Which kind of leads me to that saying, I have heard repeated so many times; 'Change is good.'
To which I ask, 'For whom?'

Talk at ya later!