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.

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.

Retention

Today, I trained six more seasonal cashiers in two shifts.

When I went to lunch, one of the people I began with handed in her apron. That means out of the nine we began with only four are left standing after four months. The latest, Katie, was a victim of the 3-hour shift.

Of the nine, four were cashiers. Given a 3-hour shift, we might actually earn two hours after we paid for gas to get to work. That meant $14.50 before taxes. And the days of these shifts were irregular so it was difficult to tell another place when you would be available. Most of us worked more than one job so when the schedules overlapped, you had to decide which place to work and more than likely it was the one where you had a longer shift. So people called in, which meant they had points against them.

The thing is I’ve known Katie was looking for something else and I even suggested places she might apply. So I wasn’t surprised when she quit. I’m more surprised she hung in as long as she did.

You see the difference between us is I responded to calls when people called out and slowly started getting longer shifts and my days were often extended when people called out. Whereas Katie never did get longer than a 5-hour shift.

In the four months I’ve been there, I’ve seen some crazy stuff by my fellow employees. And I’ve seen some work at a snail’s pace. Katie never did anything crazy and she worked at a good speed with a pleasant attitude. I wish her well at school and in the future.

What I wonder is how this company decides to allocate hours. Whose feedback do they use in deciding who to give more hours to? Or is it the squeaky wheel gets the grease and because she didn’t complain, they just kept screwing her.

 

Fourth quarter

Over the last month I have made extra money because the place where I was a cashier likes how I train cashiers so as a front end supervisor I trained 3 out of 4 of the seasonal cashier hires.

But what’s been happening is all of our hours have been getting cut because they are hiring more people so there are fewer hours available for the regular employees. We’re told to hold on because we will be getting more hours once the fourth quarter begins. We’ll get more hours because they expect more sales and they are open longer hours. Instead of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., they are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week. On Sunday instead of opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m., we’ll open at 8 a.m. I’m not sure when we close since I tend to open on Sundays.

That’s great that we’re going to be getting more hours, but the cut in hours to make room for the trainees has really pinched budgets. As one person who has been there for a long time said today, “I have a mortgage, you know.” And that’s what management seems to forget, most of the people working there are older than I am with bills coming due that don’t get smaller and then larger because the fourth quarter is coming.

Listen

After three months I’ve moved from being a cashier to front end supervisor, which means I do several things during the day and have to respond quickly to cashiers when they call for assistance.

Yesterday, I was at the customer service desk doing a return when I received a phone call:
Me: Thank you for calling (store name). How can I help you?
Customer: I bought a table that needed to be brought out to my car. I’ve been sitting behind the store for five minutes and nobody has come out.
Me: Did you ring the bell beside the door?
Customer: No.
I had to shut my eyes and take a deep breath to keep from laughing. You see each cashier is trained to explain to people how to pick up the items from receiving and the paperwork the person needs to take up to the door with them. But somehow this person didn’t get any of that information.

At a later point there was a man trying to purchase an extension cord but the code wasn’t ringing up on the register. I tried looking it up on the computer to get our code, but it wasn’t there. And I grabbed the rest from the floor because they didn’t have a code. Then I returned to the customer prepared to let him name the price of the item, which is something we can do.
But as I started to explain it wasn’t anywhere in the system, he cut me off and said he’d waited long enough and he didn’t want to wait any longer. I said, “OK.” And walked away without selling it to him.

Both of these customers were inconvenienced because they didn’t listen to the store employee. One person wasted five minutes sitting in their car because they thought receiving would just know they were out there. I’m not sure why they think they would spend their day looking out a window to see if someone drove up, but it’s a symptom of just not listening that happens quite frequently in retail. I’ve had people come through and not look at me at all during the sale or act as if I am bothering them.

But the man who couldn’t wait 5 seconds for me to complete a sentence, probably wasted at least 10 minutes finding an extension cord at another store. Yet he thought whatever I was going to say was less important than what he had to say. And I see this a lot where people act as if whatever the employee needs to tell them is beneath their contempt. My favorite was the man who slowly ran his credit card through the machine time and time again while looking bored or as if there was nothing we could do right. Then I said, “You need to run the card through faster,” and sure enough, it read it the first time after he speeded up.

As if you don’t already get it, here’s the point: When a store employee is trying to tell you something, listen. We aren’t just talking because we have nothing better to do. Most importantly, we aren’t trying to waste your time. We’re trying to serve you based on our experience (cards need to swipe quickly to be read), our policy (ringing the bell) or the situation (letting you name the price if we can’t find a code).

My feet

This post has been a long time coming and it only has one purpose: to make you aware how painful it is to be a cashier.

You have to understand that being a cashier in a store is probably the only job where you stand on your feet the entire shift without moving more than a few inches. Nurses walk around during their shift and (I think) toll booth operators have chairs. What this means is your body weight is in the exact same position anywhere from three to eight hours. Your feet, ankles and knees are in the exact same position for all but your short break – 15 minutes if you work four hours; 30 minutes if you work five or more; 45 minutes in two breaks if you work eight hours.

Many nurses wear Dansko shoes because they provide a lot of support for their feet, but they run around $100. For the minimum wage worker that’s 14 hours for a pair of shoes. Most wear a pair of sneakers (athletic shoes, tennis shoes, trainers) that cost around $30, which means they don’t have anywhere near the padding needed for that long of a shift. When I get off my feet after working eight hours, I can feel the blood returning to my feet as I drive home. And all I want to do is keep my feet up to relieve the pressure.

During my shift I do everything I can to move around. I put bags in the customers shopping cart (carriage), which means walking around the counter. I immediately clear any left behind items so I can walk anywhere from 5 feet to 30 feet each way. I volunteer to do put backs because it means I get to walk around the store. I’m still on my feet, but my feet, ankles and knees are getting flexed so the blood flows through them. And, I am lucky enough to own a couple pairs of Danskos that I alternate with my sneakers so when I work two days of long shifts, my feet, ankles, legs and entire body are in different positions.

So the next time a cashier looks at you with a pained expression, check out their shoes.