Inhumane schedule

It’s been a while since I posted, unfortunately it’s not because I got a job where I’m properly employed. I’ve had a few managerial changes because manager #1 was stealing from the company, manager #2 was such a ball of chaos I had to leave. That brings me to manager #3, who has obviously never heard about the study that found routine and ritual enrich people’s lives.

Manager #3 likes to have a routine. He works in the mornings so he can spend afternoons on his boat. He doesn’t work weekends so he can spend time on his boat. That’s nice.

The problem is we’ve been down one person for a while and now we’re down two people. That means while the manager is taking 3- and 4-day weekends, I’ve had this bizarre work 8 days straight, have a day off, work a day, have a day off, work 5 days straight, day off, work, day off, work, day off, work. I had one week where I worked two days, had a day off, worked three days and had a day off, which is a schedule I like because I’m not exhausted when I hit my day off and I can be creative and productive.

Today is Labor Day and I am working the fourth of 8 straight days. No, I don’t know what happens after Saturday because the next week’s schedule hasn’t been completed. Today I worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., it was remarkable because for the first time in three days I actually got a lunch break.

So, I ask of people celebrating Labor Day and the beautiful weather to remember something when you go into a store or restaurant: That person didn’t get a weekend in the sun. Please, oh please, don’t tell them to enjoy their Labor Day because to them it was just another day of labor.

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Boxer briefs

I’m currently the only saleswoman in a men’s clothing store. I’ve grown accustomed to evaluating the fit of men’s pants around their crotch and their butt. As long as I act professional and explain what I’m looking at there doesn’t seem to be any discomfort.

Just last week I was working on stock near the dressing rooms. When I walked toward the front of the store, there was a man in his 60s standing with the door open to his dressing room and his zipper unzipped. That wasn’t unusual, it’s how we check the fit of the pants and how much larger we need to go based on the gap created when the pants fall open naturally.

What made me feel like I was working in a men’s locker room was the next time I walked by he was standing talking to my manager in his boxer briefs. I pressed my lips together to keep from laughing and kept walking.

 

Bad weather

Saturday night, New England was hit with anywhere from 4″ to 18″ of snow. The plaza where I work contains a chain bookstore and a chain decoration place and there was talk of closing early because of the weather.

But the higher ups at each chain said “see what the other stores do.” To put it simply, if one store closed, then we probably all would have closed. Nobody was willing to make the decision that would send employees home safely, so we all stayed open in the hope we might make a sale. Several times I looked out as the night wore on and counted cars, I’m fairly certain they were all employee cars. I think we went more than two hours with nobody walking in the store.

The next morning I was back and our store was scheduled to close at 8 p.m. The last sale of the day was just before 2 p.m. But we spent the next few hours straightening what had already been straightened and putting together gift boxes. At some point I gave up trying to keep busy and we just talked.

But here’s the problem: We’re stuck in stores waiting for people too stupid to stay home where it’s safe during a snowstorm. We risk our lives to get to work because somebody might go shopping and find our doors closed. Perhaps we would all be safer if businesses weren’t open and home was the only place to be.

Clopen

I saw a BuzzFeed list about retail that included the “dreaded clopen” or when you close the store at night and then open the next morning. While working at the discount store, I was scheduled to close one night and open the next morning. It’s absolutely ridiculous because the store closed at 9 p.m., which meant working until 9:30 p.m. The store opened at 9 a.m., which meant being there at 8:30 a.m. There are 11 hours in between, but let’s look at how this actually works.

First, when you get off work at 9:30 p.m., you’ve probably been trying to stay awake for the last couple hours and you may have even consumed caffeine. You struggled to stay awake while driving, which means that when you get home you’re too wired to sleep until about 11 p.m.

Second, you have to be at work at 8:30 a.m. to set up before the store opens. This means you had to be up by 7:30 a.m. if you clean up and eat before getting to work.

Third, for whatever reason, I never slept well. It’s possible you worry more about oversleeping or you try harder to get to sleep so you just don’t get a restful night’s sleep of 8 hours. Or maybe that caffeine to keep you up isn’t flushing out of your system as quickly as you planned.

Yet we often forget that people working retail usually have part-time jobs and work at two or three places. This means I have closed at one place (9:30 p.m.) only to pre-open the other at 5 a.m. and work 6 hours on 3-4 hours of sleep.

As we head into the holiday season, stores will be open earlier and later. A store normally open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. is changing to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and some days 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

And worse, the Thanksgiving/Black Thursday hours. My new place will open from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., then close until 6 a.m. Yet I’ve heard rumors of stores opening Thanksgiving morning and staying open 41 hours!

I’ve rarely remarked that there is something you can do to improve the life of someone who works retail, but this problem can be fixed:

First, don’t go shopping outside of the regular hours. The “door busters” aren’t the great deal you think they are. If you don’t shop the odd hours, there won’t be a demand and companies won’t open earlier and longer.

Second, write to the companies and tell them you won’t shop them at all that weekend because of the hours they force their employees to work. And, then, follow through because they do track their sales by the hour to gauge demand.

I’ve worked retail …

On Monday I started a new job, which is quite different from where I previously worked. I was at a high-volume store selling cheap crap including items that hadn’t sold at other stores. Working there often resembled being a chicken running around with its head cut off.

My new place sells clothing by one manufacturer so you have to know the product you are selling. The pace is much slower and there may be hours without a customer so you learn your product and you straighten up after customers.

Two days ago, I straightened all of the clearance piles and organized the area by size so it was much easier to find things. Today, I had a customer come in to do a bit of Christmas shopping for her sons. She avoided the regular priced merchandise and only selected from the clearance shelves. At one point she tugged out three shirts made from the same fabric and then returned them to the shelf – not on one of the pre-existing piles but between piles so they were close to tipping over. It was then I noticed the mess she’d made of the top shelf, which had been five neatly stacked piles of shirts, but was one big hill.

Don’t get me wrong, part of the job of recovery at a large store or just working at a small store is straightening up after customers have looked for items. But her remark to her husband is why she earned a blog post:

“I’ve worked retail so I know she’ll be bored if I put things back. This will give her something to do.”

Luckily, we were at a slow point of the night and I could neaten up the stacks in the 10 minutes I had left. But not before another customer, who had tried on a shirt and didn’t know how to fold it just tossed the unfolded shirt onto the top shelf hill. The problem with a customer who is a slob is the mess they make becomes an excuse for the next customer.

But the real problem with this customer was she was rude and assumed I had nothing better to do than clean up after her.

Customer complaints

One of the reasons I was asked to move to the service desk is that very little ruffles me. What they didn’t know is that I’m actually trained in conflict mediation, which means listening and making sure the person knows they are being listened to.

One morning last week the person on the desk took a call and then asked me if we had an item on the floor that was in the mailer. The previous day we only had one bag style but overnight two more styles had been put out, which meant two styles were still missing. When I returned, the customer service person passed the call off to me. It’s not that unusual an occurrence if we’re busy, but we weren’t.

I picked up the line and asked which type of bag the customer was looking for. And the customer immediately began ranting about us not having what was in the mailer and that someone had told her to call in the morning for the item. I probably stood there for at least a minute as she ranted because I asked her a question. Finally, she said, “I want to talk to someone who can answer my question.”

“Yes, ma’am, that would be me,” was my firm response. Once I realized I had her attention I explained that we had received two styles and what they were but they we hadn’t received two other styles. I also explained the corporation put the mailers together about a month prior and then shipped the products to several stores in different amounts to arrive around the same time as the mailers but some things showed up earlier and sold out while some may be a little late.

In the six weeks I worked on the desk, I only had a couple irritated customers and I discovered that a firm “ma’am” works wonders in getting someone’s attention while making them feel respected. I also found a clear explanation of why something happens diffuses the situation. Too often in retail (and in life), we’re in too big of a rush to listen and explain so the person walks away frustrated.

Finding a job

On June 20, I began working at a retail store that specializes in marked down merchandise and seasonal products. I was among nine people during orientation that day, but I can guarantee I was the only one sitting there with two master’s degrees. I told myself that I preferred any work to unemployment.

Promised 20-25 hours a week at $7.25, I took the cashier job hoping to get another part-time job to match up. Two weeks later, I got another part-time job that should have yielded almost 15 incredibly-early-in-the-morning hours per week at $8.25. There was little overlap between the schedules yet I was finding myself only working about 25 hours a week with the two jobs.

And I applied for jobs in my field. I was reminded of the crazy process of a few while reading “Ask The Headhunter: Unemployment — Made in America by Employers” by Nick Corcodilos because I would get a phone call or email and I could tell from the questions that the person doing the screening had no clue what the job entailed. The time between the application deadline and when I was contacted was so long in one case that I had deleted the materials I submitted the week before. 

It was with this search that an appointment was made for a screening interview and they didn’t call. When I emailed them (since I didn’t have their phone number), I was told in non-grammatical English they had Internet problems and hadn’t been able to contact me. And then we set another appointment. When I passed the screening, I was offered one possible time to meet via Skype with three people from the organization. When the video interview began, there were five people present and only one of the people matched what I had been told.

Next week I start a full-time job, which I interviewed for more than a month ago. Mind you, I interviewed with the manager and the assistant manager (who somehow hadn’t gotten the message I was coming in), so when I walked by the store and there was a sign saying they were hiring I assumed I hadn’t gotten the job.

Among the “why didn’t I hear anything about my application” spots have been retail stores where my hobbies (sewing, knitting, crocheting, mixed media art) would be especially helpful. I applied to Michael’s, A.C. Moore and JoAnns. I did work at one for a while doing replenishment or unloading the truck. But it didn’t utilize those skills and, truthfully, just about anybody can unload items from a truck.

My point is simply this: We have a lot of people who have been looking for work, who have been confounded by the people who do the hiring. And sometimes the hirers are so incompetent that the job seekers gets frustrated. I know, I’ve gone a couple weeks without submitting anything because the unanswered calls when they ask you to get in touch and you leave a message or the missed appointments make you wonder why someone so incompetent can keep their job and keep you from getting a decent job.