Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some stuff our staff tolerate

There's standard crap and then there's industrial grade crap. In the main our staff cope with the run of the mill by being run of the mill but when the industrial grade crap comes along they can surprise everyone, themselves included probably, by rising to the challenge in the most heart-warming way.

Leaving aside for the purposes of this post the management weaknesses there are still many challenges; they include in no particular order:

  • Thieves, aka Shoplifters. The shop floor staff are our eyes and ears. The walls of their lunch room are adorned with cctv images of known thieves and staff are expected to be alert at all times to attempts by these known criminals to carry out an offence within our premises. If you ever see a member of store staff behaving like Inspector Clousseau on a bad day, that's quite possibly because he or she is making a valiant attempt to be more effective than said inspector without any professional training whatsoever.

  • Under age would-be customers. Alcohol, cigarettes, lottery, matches, lighters and knives are just some of the lines we sell that are 'age restricted', though the age varies. Our policy is that customers who don't look at least 21 years old should be asked to produce ID and the range of accepted ID is very limited. The personal consequences of being caught not adhering to this policy are rather serious ( formal discipline leading directly to dismissal for a second offence).

    The consequences of selling to someone who is underage and being caught doing so are potentially catastrophic. Trading Standards (under the cosh) are investing heavily in choking the life out of the problem from the supply end as manifested in supermarkets and other retail outlets for alcohol. Of course the business would suffer from bad publicity and potentially loss of licence, but its the poor sodding checkout operator who gets the fine and the criminal conviction if she or he gets it wrong.

  • Smelly customers. We're not talking BO, we're talking the kind of stench that can make a toughened stomach heave at ten paces and can be smelt from one end of the store to the other. This is the kind of reek that lingers long after the actual source has left the building. We have two sources, and they are both regular visitors. Both are elderly ladies, both have attentive husbands. We're mystified.

    So bad is the stench that emanates from these two ladies that we have an established alert network, thanks to which we know from the moment either enters the store that she's around. The check-out supervisor will do what she can to ensure that Smelly Lady ends up at the check-out operated by her least favourite operator.

    Rumours abound from the soft hearted that both suffer from medical conditions that are the root cause of the stench; the hard headed know, this being a small town, that both live in the midst of too many cats and too much detritus and that if they'd only clean up their respective acts they'd both smell a lot less offensive.

  • Mad ladies: We only have one at the moment. She's almost extraordinarily well spoken, when she speaks at all. Her brain though has been fried by drink and drugs. Out side the store she's infamous for stomping up and down the high street all day, veering from one side to the other for cause of something or other imperceptible to moderate drinkers, totally oblivious it seems to road users and other possible threats on her life. Come hail rain or shine she wears a heavy coat, jeans turned up to mid calf and deck shoes. In winter she adds a beanie, in summer she wears a head scarf. She mutters to herself too.

    She comes in pretty much every day to buy a small amount of shopping that she gathers into one of our hand baskets. On her bad days she won't carry the basket, though. Instead she kicks the basket around the store, keeping it just ahead, never more than a couple of feet from her. To my knowledge she's never actually kicked her basket into another person or a fixture. She must be quite practiced. It isn't easy to kick a semi-loaded shopping basket with any degree of accuracy. I tried it once out of curiosity.

    Depending on her particular form and degree of paranoia she might take it into her head either that she's being followed or that something malign is emanating from one part of the store or other; under such a delusion she'll slope about the store, basket at her feet, with her coat pulled up over the lower part of her face in an effort at disguise or self-defence.

  • Bad drivers: bad driver hazard comes in three forms. First the car park ayrton senna, determined to take someone out with him (or her). Then the trolley trasher, determined to sever a few achilles heels and take out a display stand or three. But the greatest threat of all faced by our staff (and customers too, I guess) are those geriatrics who insist on getting their bloated carcases about in what are known, I believe, as mobility carts. They're those electric scooters old folk drive about town without regard for rules, manners or the safety of anyone. No driving licence required. No thought required either, it seems.

    Easy Rider has been banned after being caught trying to make a getaway in one laden down with half a dozen bottles of hot scotch. This has caused great distress to the underage yoots who loiter outside; he had been one of their chief sources of illicit booze. Several others though still will insist on manoeuvring these damn things into and around our store.

    Clearly this is all ageist, these mobility carts transform the lives of those who would otherwise be housebound. I'm just intrigued that such a high proportion of their users are so grossly overweight. Fat so they can't be bothered to walk, don't walk so they get fatter. The arrival of the mobility cart seems to herald the departure of the will to get any better.

    One of my favourite poems is the one about getting old and wearing a purple dress and running my umbrella along the railings of the fence (etc), but please, if you ever see me get into those carts, shoot me.

I've not covered rude customers, stupid customers, work-shy colleagues, incompetent colleagues and other stuff that will come to me. I guess there'll be a sequel.


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