Sunday, October 29, 2006

Money to burn

Having not grown up wealthy and being taught to be frugal, it often shocks me how people can spend so much money in one go. Sometimes I'd be surprised when my customers would spend $2-300 in one transaction on a few pairs of shoes, or on a few shirts. 'Wow, that's my whole week's wages.' (I judge many purchases and potential purchases by how long it'd take for me to work for). But what has been more shocking for me is what I have observed in my job as a Checkout Chick.

I recently scored myself a job at a major supermarket chain, The Supermarket, but unbeknownst to me, they put me in the customer service section (checkouts) instead of the higher-paid night fill department. Working on the checkouts is pretty monotonous. I originally thought handling all the smelly, squishy meat and other food and endless plastic bags would drive me insane. But then, like I say, you block things out and do what you have to do to come out the other end with sanity intact. The plastic bags sadden me, but I try not to think about it. What is less easy to think about is the amount people will spend on groceries and what it is that they are buying.

Customers who shop at The Supermarket usually have a significant amount of money to spend, according to some survey results I learned of in my training. I've processed several sales totalling close to or over $200. Their items poured out of the trolley and filled up both my front and rear conveyor belts. Hey, I'm new and therefore slow, but the amount of 'food' these people bought was shocking. But the packing and scanning itself wasn't difficult. There were almost no fresh produce items to manually enter and weigh. The whole sale consisted of assorted chips, biscuits, soft drinks, lollies and chocolates. Everything part of the sixth food group, artery clogging. I thought, maybe they're having a party, what with all the soft drink and chips and snacks. But then I shut my mouth and didn't say anything, because this is what some people live off. Colourful packaged goods. All in plastic bags, thanks.

We're pretty self sufficient and grow many of our own vegetables organically, and sometimes bake our own bread. The most common things we buy are milk, Weet-Bix and Milo. And then we buy in bulk when it's on sale! So to see people spending hundreds of dollars on 'groceries' with one lone piece of broccoli was quite confronting. Especially when they, and their children, were already overweight and bordering on obesity. But we can't discriminate against our customers either, and refuse to help them. It'd kill me to sell people cigarettes, so I don't think I'd like to work at the service counter. I have a hard enough time selling overweight people more junk food. In plastic bags.

Friday, October 27, 2006

How original!

Having finished my work for the day at HO, I offered to do odd jobs for Grant. That day, it was going through applications for Area Manager positions, as The Company prepares for its rapid expansion and growth of clearance stores. Basically, I was just stapling together applicants' cover sheets and resumes. Mindless, but hey, I don't mind for $17 an hour. No problem.

What I did notice was that many of the resumes were VERY generic. I lost count of how many resumes were created using Microsoft Word templates. Not that it's a problem, as the content and the candidate's relevant experience would be what counts, but it can be difficult to remember one particularly outstanding candidate from another when their resume looked just the same as the other hundred in my pile. I'm a visual person- I will remember info for tests by where and how they are located on my page, there were a mere handful of resumes that stood out visually.

So my 2 cents to people applying for upper management (hey, we're talking AREA MANAGER here, salary $90K plus) positions, go all out with your resumes! Do them in colour with interesting lines and headers and all that. We're scrooges, but DO print in colour! Keep it professional, and for crying out loud, if you've got 7 pages of experience and details, put page numbers on each page. Standing out from the crowd is the first step to getting noticed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sink or Swim

I have to give feedback to Charlene on how Skye, one of the new staff are doing. Admittedly, I've only worked with her, what 3 times now, but she isn't the brightest of new staff. I don't think she's finished her training with Darren (reluctant, unqualified training manager, as there ARE no more managers) at Howlong. She seems completely baffled by how to do the simplest things, and seems easily confused. Not just that, she isn't the most eager learner. Jen detests her, and thinks she's just a big boobed bimbo. Apparently she dropped out of high school and also does nails and events promotions. But hey, that doesn't mean she's not extremely intelligent. She's just not as fast to catch on or as active as I'd like. But I have high expectations.

So I'll be at HO tomorrow, and will have to call Charlene to let her know how Skye's going. I'm a bit concerned about the weight and effect my feedback and comments and observations will have on whether or not she stays. But then again, as the new manager or acting manager at Sunshine (woo hoo for me) I'm not sure if I'd have the patience to train her... Ongoing training of the new managers that are already clued up are fine.

I've been a bit slack with the posts lately. Some family from overseas are over, so I didn't cover a shift at Innaloo today, and I'm still busy with assignments. I'll get back to posting regularly as soon as I finish all of them, and my last exam!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Making the cut

There has been a huge influx of new staff, training and working full time and casual in our region. Sunshine, Innaloo, Howlong and Nevertire have all now got several new staff working in store in preparation for new clearance stores opening nearby in the next few weeks and months. This means that several of the regular staff have been moved around to other stores to accommodate for the training of the new staff. They have been less than appreciative, as many staff, like Jen and I prefer to work at Sunshine. I'm still there regularly now, but Jen's gone to Howlong.

There has been a huge increase in wage costings as The Company prepares to hire and train new staff to run and work in the new stores. It should be interesting to see, as the majority of staff in the new stores will be brand new staff and unfamiliar with The Company and its operations. I've met a few of the newbies, and some are really great, and I am beginning to be able tell whether or not they will make it. Andie had that skill honed to perfection. She could tell while training them and within the first few weeks whether or not they'd make the cut and last the distance. I wonder what she thought of me when I was new and training.

Caroline will be moving from Innaloo to work in one of the new clearance stores with a whole bunch of new staff. I am still at Sunshine for the time being, I hope I don't get moved over there to fill the gaps (they still don't have a manager). I offered to work full time at Sunshine over the holidays in place of a manager, and assist new staff in ongoing training and manager training as well, so hopefully Charlene will take me up on the offer. I've been helping out with a couple of new staff, ensuring they know how to carry out laybys, product returns, etc properly, but honestly, one of the girls in particular... driving me insane in the 5 hours I worked with her on Sunday. You'd think she hadn't been trained at all! She had to ask for help with the simplest things. Even Jen can tell that she won't make it...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I wanna be a Supermodel

Talk about getting paid to stand around looking pretty.

Outside our store at Sunshine are 3 newly opened clothing stores, making our corner of the shopping centre much busier and very 'fashion-oriented'. One of the large stores next door is a trendy teens/young women's store with affordably priced clothing and accessories.

As a new marketing/advertising scheme, they have staff (or models), standing outside in the entertainment area on a platform as 'human models'. They strike various poses in the store's new season outfits, and carry shopping bags with "get this look at Valley Girl". The circular platform they pose on is probably a metre in diameter, and 3 models (sometimes, guys, interestingly from a store called Valley GIRL) strike various poses for the majority of the day's trade. Of course, they alternate the models every now and then.

In all, an interesting concept, and it has certainly garnered a lot of attention for the store, though whether it has increased their sales is unknown. The first day they were there, many people would just stand and stare at them. I'd walked past them thinking they were just mannequins, and what a strange pose for a mannequin. And then I stopped and looked, and saw that they were people. Oh. Whatever, and walked on. I was taking out rubbish and had things to do. They weren't partitioned off yet, as they probably didn't envision any trouble.

On later days, they were roped off so spectators couldn't get too close, I think perhaps people were trying to talk to them... but terrible teenage girls being terrible teenage girls were apparently being nasty and even throwing food and things at them! I was appalled. What a completely disgusting, subhuman thing to do. Why would you go and torture someone like that? For kicks? Do they not recognise that these models are also people? That they are just doing their job, not hurting anyone or anything like that? It was beyond comprehension.

Well, more disturbingly, I saw one man crouched down, taking a photo of them with his digital camera. That stopped my train of thought. What the?! I slowed down and turns out he wasn't just taking a photo of the teenage models, but his daughter for some unfathomable reason thought it'd be cool to be a model too, and she'd hopped up onto the platform, posed, pre-pubescant hips jutted out, handbag in place with the trademark vacant look. Daddy's little girl. She couldn't have been more than 10, yet her outfit was a tween hip-and-trendy number, little camisole, lowrider bootcut jeans, bare midriff and a cute little handbag. I honestly wonder what could possibly be in these little girls' handbags. Probably their lipgloss or something.

Young girls, dolled up like Barbie for a day of shopping, dressing like wanna be promiscuous adults, posing on a platform for their picture to be taken... something about that just gave me the shivers. I suppose what can be observed of the people in shopping centres bespeaks the advancement of our civilisation. What a scary thought.

Friday, October 13, 2006


After some persistence, my wishes have been granted! I've noticed that we are now rostered on 15 minutes before open, and today, I was rostered and will be paid til 9:15PM! That's a full 15 minutes to cash up! It's about time too. I wonder if I'd be pushing it to be paid overtime rates for the 15minutes after 9PM. Either way, I'm satisfied. This is just one small step in improving our workplace conditions and hopefully, retaining staff. They haven't published or replied to my vociferous staff feedback email, but the proof is in the paycheck!

Things are still a bit of a mess at The Company, there's a wild mess to cover shifts and it's not uncommon for staff to have to work all day without a cover. One of the poor new girls, Karen, was forced to work all day 9-9 yesterday at Innaloo. She had to close twice for her lunch and dinner break. It's not exactly reassuring for a new staff member, especially as she also had to cash up by herself for the first time. It's frustrating to constantly work with new staff, where the person that picks up at whichever store you call is new and has no idea what's going on, when new staff keep ringing for checks and transfers of new catalogue stock... I don't mind helping people out, it's just frustrating that all the staff are new, and then end up quitting in a few weeks, or months anyway. And so the cycle continues.

Today was one case in point. Apparently I was rostered to work 1-9 at Innaloo, so come 1:30, as I'm preparing to leave, Karen calls and asks where I am, as she has to leave at 2. Bummer. I was already meant to work 2-9 at Sunshine covering Marg, who'd quit the week before. And of course, there is no one else to work, especially given the late notice. We can't just close the store for the rest of the day. And there was no way Karen was going to work another 12 hour day and fat chance the girl at Sunshine would do the same ... oh, what to do. I called Charlene, and fortunately, she was able to get hold of one of the other girls to come in to Innaloo from 4-9. So that just left me working 2-4 at Innaloo, and then travel to Sunshine to finish the day from 4-9:15. What a day. And I'll be back all day tomorrow without a cover, and all day Sunday as well. Sigh, I'm too old for this... But hey, at least we get paid to cash up now! A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Window Washers

How much do you pay a window washer? You know, the kids hanging out on the side of the road at major intersections with squeegees and soap water.

Do you pay more if your windscreen was particularly dirty and bird poo/insect splattered?

Do you pay less if it was unsolicited?

Is it appropriate to turn on your wipers as you see them approach?

I was unwillingly approached by one kid that was apparently so poor that he couldn't even afford a Tshirt, and I saw them hovering on the median strip as I approached the red light. I locked my doors, don't know why, and without even making eye contact or anything the guy just started scrubbing my windscreen! I was angrily muttering 'NOOO! Grrrr' but started to fumble for some change.

I felt bad for being so petty when he did a reasonable job and even scrubbed at some encrusted insect splatter. I'd run out of water in my wiper tank and I'm not exactly fastidious in the maintenance of my car. And after all, they're just trying to make some money by doing some honest, hard work as well, right? And I work and have money, and can appreciate other people's efforts. Just I pay taxes on my wages.

In any case, I gave him 50c and thanked him, and he thanked me too. He returned to the other side of the road. Mine was the only windscreen he cleaned at that red light. It got me thinking, about my own prejudices, passing judgement on people I don't even know, and how much money a window washer could make in an hour if each car paid 50c...

Saturday, October 07, 2006


A quick rundown of the latest goings on and victims of the past week at The Company:

  • New spring/summer catalogue came out Thursday, thank goodness for no cheap freebie offers. Not all items are reduced, and some items are featured at full price. Others are a new, lower price. This means less freebie-grubbing bargain shoppers. Though we have 2 whole ranges of cheap women’s tees, all to be placed strategically in the front of the store. We ignore customers in that section.
  • Robyn, started in May this year, new manager at Nevertire has quit and finishes next Wednesday. She’d had enough, when given a particularly rude and abrasive store report and confrontation with Angela, having not received proper Store Manager training.
  • Janet, manager of Innaloo shortly after starting at The Company around April-May of this year, has also quit, her last day being next Wednesday. She has moved house and found employment closer to home. Not in retail.
  • Marg, new manager at Sunshine, worked her first shift there last Thursday, and has quit already. I met and worked with her briefly that day, having not worked there myself for some time, but she seemed like a nice enough, competent person. Well, that leaves the rest of her shifts for this week to fill, which I have ever so kindly offered to help out with.
  • James, one of the casuals at Poowong, trained with Stephanie at Nevertire just before last Christmas, has quit and also finishes next week. Poowong is also currently without a manager (that I know of, as Lia recently quit after more than a year of The Company)
This leaves Darren as the only manager in our whole region.
Charlene’s region consists of:
- Nevertire: Robyn, quit, finishes Wed
- Innaloo: Janet, quit, finishes Sat (or Wed, if she can’t cover her shifts)
- Sunshine: new manager Marg, lasted all of one week. Charlene trying to cover her shifts.
- Mooball: without a manager since early this year, though they have a new ‘full timer’, Becky
- Dunedoo, a clearance store, without a manager for some months since Naomi quit.
- Howlong: Darren, manager there for the past 1 1/2 years and has been with The Company for almost 2 years. Gypped out of his managers bonus for some 12 months, as he was not informed he was entitled to any sort of bonus at all, found out about it by accident.

With no administrator to do rosters and timesheets. Impressive, huh.
There is an “aggressive hiring campaign” taking place as The Company tries to recruit more staff for its “rapidly expanding” business (opening of clearance stores and closing of several retail stores) and rapidly quitting staff. But who will train them if everyone keeps quitting and there is no one that has been around long enough? In our region, there in Caroline who has been around for 7 years, me for over 2 and Darren and Ellen for almost 2 years. The rest have only been around for a matter of months or weeks. Only Caroline has been trained to train new staff, and she is reluctant to do so now that she is a casual and I suppose, doesn’t want the responsibility or stress.

  • Still no sign of a reply to my feedback about not being paid to cash up, which I sent mid September, and, not receiving a reply, resubmitted some 13 days later. Reasonable amount of time to wait, I thought. Saw Grant in HO again and he let me know that he appreciated concise, succinct feedback, of which mine was not, in his opinion. I am still awaiting a response, and national publication.
  • I received a Managers’ Bonus, split equally with Gina and Jen, for holding down the fort at Sunshine while there has been no manager. There is a new bonus and commission system in place, mostly favouring managers, and since there seems to be a serious shortage of those, Charlene (I presume) has decided to award the bonuses to the responsible casual staff filling in the shifts there. The amount of bonus paid out is determined by the store’s performance in presentation, budget, administration, price errors, etc. Sunshine did pretty badly, but I hadn’t been working there much at all so take no responsibility for it. But I’ll gladly take some of the bonus! This is a first for The Company, acknowledging and rewarding staff for their efforts. Hey, it’d sure make me work harder. I think I may request full time, maybe even manager status when I am on holidays from Nov-Mar.
Charlene seems a lot nicer, in the few minutes that I met and talked to her and when I’ve spoken to her on the phone to help cover shifts. Perhaps she has changed. I hope I have too. So it’s reassuring and also somewhat hopeful that maybe things will be a bit different this year under Charlene.

Well, off to work for another all day catalogue weekend. Should be a busy one, the first weekend of the new catalogue. I hope it isn't because I'm covering for Marg all day without a cover (I'm assuming) or key to open. So I have to get in a bit earlier. Perhaps I shouldn't have stayed out so late last night. I'm knackered.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two weeks notice

One of the busiest periods in retail is Christmas, and so The Company, in trying to keep things under control, has a strict policy of no leave for store staff in December: for casuals or managers. Thus, anyone who plans on going on holidays must either take their time off earlier or later, and make sure they have their leave approved well in advance. Others just quit. With such a hardline policy against allowing leave over the holiday period, most staff will choose their holiday over working long, late hours and serving stressed, cranky customers.

The Company policy doesn’t allow staff to come back once you quit over the holidays - if they did, it’d just be like approving leave for the holidays. I think it’s more out of spite than anything else. Though I think they might reconsider if the staff member had been ‘valuable’ and highly skilled and long-serving and they were desperately short-staffed. However, if you quit at any other time of the year for whatever reason, you may be welcome back. There are now several staff who have quit, gained other employment in retail, only to have come crawling back.

I was considering going on a brief 5 week holiday from the end of November til early January, and was faced with the dilemma (ooo, tough one!) of the (im)possibility of being granted leave, or whether I’d have a job when I came back. Quitting for me was not an issue, as I’m sure I’d be able to find similar/better employment somewhere else relatively quickly, but I felt bad that I’d just started training at HO with the intention of covering for Helena when she went on holidays over January.

I felt obligated to Gemma, who had shown faith in me for suggesting me for the position, and also to Helena and other HO staff, for putting in the effort to train me. I know it’s not easy training new staff, and there is considerable inconvenience to many staff not directly involved in my training. Sharing an office with Grant, National Sales Manager or something like that, I was privy to a few phone conversations which I probably should’ve tried harder to ignore. He was going off to Gemma about one of her staff that wanted leave over Christmas- basically, to quit and come back, as she had been working in the warehouse for several years before now working in stores. The gist of it was, there was no chance in hell that she was going to be approved leave. Which left me more than a little apprehensive. I wanted to be sure I gave the appropriate length of notice so that they could possibly allow me to go on holidays and return to my position in stores and in HO over January. If not, I would also want to give them a reasonable amount of notice to find someone else to train in HO and I could finish my shifts with 2 weeks notice. I am loyal, to some extent, to The Company, but I also understand that this is the fickle world of retail, and that we are all basically expendable. Having worked there for so long and being given such responsibility, I am also (I like to think) highly employable.

Well, after all that, the holiday plans fell through, and I won’t be going away probably until I graduate... So I’ll be able to put in the hard yards over Christmas and really suck up to and impress The Company. I really was looking forward to another Christmas and post-Christmas sales period at The Company. Can’t wait. I was looking forward to seeing how far I could push my luck and whether or not I would be granted leave!


I've been having internet connectivity problems, namely I've inadvertently changed my wireless settings and can't get them back, and haven't been able to get on the net or post. I think it's ok for now, so I haven't disappeared and retail hasn't killed me yet. More posts soon.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nine to Fivers

Working in Head Office full time is demanding but I'm not yet sure if it's rewarding. I'm hired as a casual and paid on an hourly basis, but the HO staff are full timers or part timers, probably on contracts. They have set work to do, and obviously would have to finish that before they can clock off and head off for the day. Helena and Jasmine, who helped me out when Helena wasn't in, made it clear that they all work hard (probably just as hard as us in stores) and are expected to put in long days, and often work 45+ hour weeks. I was surprised, but then realised, that's reality in office jobs. And The Company has been demanding enough of us in stores, so there's no reason they'd go easy on their HO operations staff.

Well, sure, I care, and will try to get things done and do things properly, but I can say that when I am training in HO, though I have to get the weekly reports, budgets, summaries and store outcomes, etc done, come 5:30 last Friday, even though the spreadsheets didn't balance, I was out the door! I didn't feel that I'd received sufficient training to be entrusted to carry out all those tasks alone, and it was overwhelming, so I tried my best and did what I could, but I also had Andie's party to go to later that evening. So I wasn't going to stick around for free. There were still several HO staff still working when I left that Friday. I think they were going out for drinks later on anyway. Whenever they managed to pry themselves from their work, I suppose.

This Friday, Helena was in for a full day (she only works part time, as she's got kids) and went over some more training with me and we were able to discuss some of the problems I'd had the week before. I felt it was a good day, and I learnt a bit more and actually understood what I was doing and supposed to be doing, rather than just copying and following. I was given the task of going through the time sheets, calculating budgeted sales and store hours and also go through and record the AMs' day sheets. The last part was the most fun (and also the easiest!), and come 5:30, I still hadn't finished all the AMs. But being the good worker that I am, I offered to stay back and finish it off so that Helena could finish her productivity reports to send to all the AMs and The Owner and other assorted Important People.

The Day Sheets are daily emails all the AMs must complete, outlining what they've done during the day: store visits, discussing issues with staff, travelling between stores and being sick, if it comes to it! It's basically so HO or The Owner, or whoever knows what they've been up to all day and haven't been slacking off and neglecting their stores. Each AM has a set number of store visits that they are required to complete each week, and each store must be visited so many times per month or something like that. It was quite interesting to read what each AM got up to. I usually just look for whether or not they visited a store, and record that, I don't need their Day Sheets for much else. If they have a reason for not being able to complete their required store visits- for example, if they have been tied up in HO conducting interviews, or busy opening up a new store, etc, I record that down as well and adjust their required store visits accordingly. This week, my previous AM, Gemma, who got me the position in HO, has been in one of the new clearance stores daily, busy setting things up and hasn't been able to visit her other stores. So I've noted the long hours she's worked and what she's been doing, and rather than having a required 15-odd store visits for the week, I've adjusted her target visits to 0. She actually managed to visit 4 stores, so she's actually done very well for the week! 400%. Woo hoo! I've got your back Gemma!

I managed to get out at 6 that day, and still got paid for it, which was good. I expect that once I know what I'm doing, I'll be able to work more independently and efficiently. And get out on time! As I'm sure they're not too keen to be paying me long hours for doing relatively 'simple' work that should've been completed by 5:30.

Back in stores again, I've felt rather sad and somewhat frustrated. I can't stand dealing with the customers anymore, and maybe it's because they only buy or enquire about the cheap stuff, but even when they need help with shoes, I just can't bring myself to be bothered anymore. There's still a lot of new stock (we have a new catalogue out next week, can't wait) and I just want to be left alone and unpack and merchandise my stock. Perhaps I should work in the clearance stores - self serve! I've stopped caring about so much already, it surprises me when all the new staff make comments about things they're unhappy with at The Company. I've just blocked it all out for so long.

This week has not been a good one for retail- compiling the budgets in HO, our retail sales were extremely low, and we made probably 60-70% of the target budget for the week. And staff wages in retail were a great percentage of the costings as well, due to all the stock issues we've been having. This has probably made some of the Important People from Upstairs unhappy, and they've probably been putting pressure on their underlings to perform better too. So store visits by Charlene and one of her superiors, the National Training Manager, Angela, have not been pleasant. They made new manager Robyn at Nevertire cry with their scathing report and criticism of her store, and she put in her resignation shortly after. They also went to Innaloo and Howlong (I was at Sunshine that day) and it didn't go well for the managers and staff there either.

The Howlong staff, especially the manager, Darren, have had major issues with their lack of consideration or common courtesy, and the draconian policies of The Company. It was thought that Darren would quit straight away as well (2 weeks notice), he was so angry, he was forced to work 12 hours straight with no covers for lunch or dinner, but he discussed his issues with Charlene and I think Darren has calmed down now. He'll stick it out for a while and see how things go for now. Angela was nothing short of a bitch in her responses to Darren and Linda, who was told off for not wearing "top to toe" The Company gear. Linda has size 11 feet and there is nothing in The Company range to fit her. So I can understand her need to wear conservative, comfortable sneakers with no obvious brandings. Angela wouldn't accept that, surprise surprise. I hope Linda doesn't get a reduction (fine) for that 'breach of policy'. What a load of crap.

So many staff have been quitting this week alone, and I know many others are actively looking for other employment. I'm covering at Innaloo this week as one of the girls has an interview at Country Road. Given the daily stresses and pressures, although we are paid by the hour, overtime and penalty rates where applicable, I don't know how much longer I will last in retail. It's fine as a casual, but I'm not sure if I can handle it day in day out as a manager, '9-5er'. It's a lot of stress. If you care. My new supermarket position, with minimal responsibility, is starting to look more and more enticing.