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!