Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whys and Wherefores

I'm back!

I was overjoyed on getting home to discover that a kind soul had taken the time and trouble to leave a message. So greetings to Caramaena, who lives in Oz, and blogs here. Now I know that I have more than one return visitor so please say hello. Does that sound pathetic? Probably!.

Anyway I had a fabulous few days away, mucking about in Surrey which is a much nicer part of the country than the one I live in. It isn't entirely flat and it isn't entirely populated by poor white trash that are known as Chavs here and Bogans in Australia. We spent an afternoon on the river in the vicinity of Windsor sniggering the old woman who lives in the house on the top of the hill and so forth (essentially being drunkenly bolshie), called in at any supermarket we caught sight of and gave the staff hell (memo to self here).

I actually got back on Tuesday and went to work on Wednesday but nothing sufficiently interesting to inspire me to write actually happened. In fact nothing at all got under my skin on Wednesday to the extent that even I realised that I had needed a few days away quite desperately.

Something momentous did happen; one of the admin staff has resigned because she's got herself a job that I suspect pays cash. It means all bets are off and I might just get my Sundays back. Not entirely sure I want them, but that's another subject. Other than that, just the usual. Back when something out of the ordinary happens.

Memo to self: If I don't actually recognise the awkward customer there's a jolly good chance it's some bored supermarket employee taking a sort of busman's holiday and making some other supermarket employee's day as miserable as his or hers normally is.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bloody Kids

No, not those we pay about five quid an hour to do basically bugger all.

Last night we were visited by a young kid who spent an inordinate amount of time at the DVD stand (which is well covered by cameras that are currently not operational). After a very long time under surveillance he came to the check out I was covering (dodgy middle-aged knee and all that). He presented two DVDs; one rated PG and the other rated 15.

He was barely tall enough to see over the check-out, so short and rat faced I was almost in awe of his brass.

"How old are you" in my stearnest voice.

"Fourteen, I'll be fifteen tomorrow." What a total MUPPET.

Back he went with the two DVDs muttering under his breath all the way.

He stood at the display for a long time before sauntering off empty handed.

I little while later an almost identical kid came in and made for the DVD display. I called out a colleague who recognised him immediately as the scion of a particularly disreputable local family, though whether the younger or older son she couldn't say - they're all short and rat-faced it seems.

The pair of us kept this kid under surveillance. Every now and then I could hear her murmer "Yes, I'm still watching you." The kid kept looking over his shoulder to find out if anyone was watching him.

Eventually he came to the check out with two 12 rated DVDs. We sold them to him afer he insisted that he was 12 going on 13. Having paid for the DVDs he turned about and went down the aisle with the sweets and chocolates only to reappear a little while later clutching various suger and E-number loaded crap. I made him put the bag up on the checkout but he was prepared for that and it only contained the two DVDs I'd already sold him. I supposed he had what ever he'd nicked hidden about his person.

The colleague later admitted that the second kid was the older brother, and since a third colleague confirmed that the two were virtually indistinguishable I can only conclude that the earlier would-be DVD purchaser was the 10-11 year old.

I arrived this afternoon for my final evening shift of the week to news of early morning thieves who'd been caught attempting to make their getaway with a cat's flea collar tucked down their pants.

The would-be thieves in question were a pair of seven (YES, SEVEN) year old girls who'd left their house just after seven, cased the joint not long after before coming in a second time, fallen under suspicion and been caught red handed - all before 8:00 in the morning.

After getting a stern talking to from the GM (aka, the Stud, the Sex Pest etc) they were driven home by him (accompanied by a female colleague who isn't his current bit on the side) and handed over to mother still half asleep and upstairs with her girlfriend. The two tea-leaves (for non-Brits Tea Leaf rhymes with Thief, okay?) were pretty shell-shocked by all accounts.

Mid afternoon mother, girlfriend and two kiddies turned up for a second and more formal interview with GM. I got my chance to give this pair of doe-eyed ransackers the once over. Close up their skin wasn't clean, and their clothes were filthy too, as well as ill-fitting. Seems they've been absonding from their home as soon as the sun comes up simply to keep themselves occupied. Sooner or later social services will become involved and it must be a good bet that absolutely nothing good will come of their lives, at all.

The best was yet to come, of course. Results are out today for secondary school students who as a result this evening were intent on going out on the lash whether to celebrate or drown their sorrows.

We had them all in, attempting to buy Vodka mixers, beer, straight spirits, beer and more spirits and more beer. New records were set for sales refusals between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00.

D was in too, though now only as a customer and therefore briefly. Damn it. No sign of the Scottish charmer who was in last night. Did I mention him? No? I guess I want to keep him to myself. Finished at 9:00 suitably knackered and grateful that I'm now off until Wednesday, which is most excellent.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


No not me. Don't be silly.

New promotion period began yesterday. New shelf talkers across the shop floor. New prices to download to tills, new shelf edge tickets to be printed off and put in place. Relatively speaking things ran rather smoothly. Working the afternoon/evening shift today I only found one talker that should have been removed before the end of Sunday ahead of the new promotion period beginning. By our standards, not bad.

Insufficient staff as usual. After Monday evening's perambulation about the floor to get a feel for the new deals (yes, I missed the errant talker too, or some twit put it back up - that has been known to happen) and the state of the store before breaking down and enormous load I had high hopes things would be a lot better. No such luck. Gaps everywhere. The only reason people shop with us is because they'd have to go out of town to shop anywhere else.

I had a fancy on Monday evening for the Penne with tomato and mozarella (chilled / microwaveable) and took the chance tonight to grab the head of that section (but not by that part of his anatomy he'd rather like me to grab him by) and asked him about said product, which we're promoting via a vast blue and white poster on the main offer display wall.

Daft Dave shuffled off and came back with something that well, yes, to give him his due did involve tomato and mozarella but no pasta of any sort. Later he came back to admit that he'd found the prominently promoted product in his current listing and now ordered it, so we should have it in store before this promotion period ends. Well done Dave. Shame I'm off on holiday from Friday.

Given the HOG situation the Sex Pest (aka The Stud) was in tonight to check over the Greengrocery order before transmitting it to the warehouse. The Hairdo took her chance to get her retaliation in first, prempting criticism of the lack of load breaking down/shelf stacking done on her shifts by pointing out how few staff we have.

Little direct evidence of contrition from His Excellency, but some. Hopefully he's learned his lesson and in future Summer Vacation periods, should he go down the road of taking on the uni/college students who flood back for the duration, he won't then allow them to turn around and take, um, holidays! FFS we were down four on Sunday alone and tonight had to fall back on a couple of junior drips to get anything out of the warehouse.

Thank God I'm on leave from Friday.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More vermin

The foyer has begun to reek because a rat has crawled into the cash machine which backs into it there to die, and it has died, and it is now being cooked by the heat generated in there by the innards of the automatic teller.

The cash machine engineer was in attendance on Wednesday. But the rat had already been there and cooking for some days, so that man can't have much of a sense of smell. The pest control man has been in to investigate and gone ... because he's the guy who'll set traps for you rather than the guy to clears up the consequences.

Well the consequences might have to include a call to the district environmental health officer on Monday. We've been through a lot of air freshener but that's just masking the symptoms rather than treating them.

Saturday's stars however were human vermin.

We're plagued by shop lifters and the problem centres around alcohol. Either they're stealing booze to drink it themselves or they're stealing it to flog on - then either to under-age consumers who can't get past our scrutiny of anyone who looks under 21 or to fund an alternative habit (or both).

As a consequence we've done some restructuring of some of the corners or the shop that are most difficult to police (directly or via cameras). The illicit boozers' favourite corner has been dismantled so there's no more lurking behind the HobNobs with the own brand brandy anymore.

Not all thieves are so easily deterred and after some trouble at another outlet during the week we had uniformed security in. He was supposedly in to look out for this small gang of armed alcohol thieves: during the week they pulled a knife on a manager who attempted to stop them. CCTV images of the incident supposedly provide very good clear pictures of these thugs but we don't have them so the security guard (who'd seen the pictures) would be the only person able to ID them before they got into the store or otherwise caused problems.

The uniform is supposedly a deterrent so it was something of a surprise as well as a disappointment that the plucky guard they'd sent us spent most of the afternoon upstairs in the security suite with his feet up on the desk.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Lunatics (Pt 2)

Did I really believe that would be that. Ha....

I arrived for the start of my afternoon/evening shift to discover that in the morning my colleagues had been called by the person who'd phone and asked me to do him a favour (as described towards the end of the previous post).

They could see the paperwork, including a copy of the sent email providing all the information he'd requested...


I'd sent it to the wrong person, hadn't I. As you may recall the person requesting the favour didn't identiry himself. And I foolishly assumed that person failing to identify himself was the Peasant with form in this area. But it wasn't the peasant at all ... in fact it was the Flunky who knew perfectly well I can't tell one jackass from another. I would love, in retrospect, to be able to say that did what I did, in sending the info to the wrong person, quite deliberately. Alas, I wasn't that quick. But the net effect was just as I would have liked.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Colleagues and lunatics

Someone at work who is paid about twice as much as me didn't do something on Monday that she was supposed to do.

This afternoon head office caught up with that oversight and asked me to fix the problem by sending to them the document my colleague had forgotten to send. The document forms part of the set of documents generated once per week detailing and summarising the week's trading and financial figures. So the obvious place to look for the document was the box at my feet with the relevant week number and also the magical words that are the title of the missing document.

Except that the document I wanted wasn't in there.

So I called another colleague (the first being 'out' for the day) who sometimes does the Monday work hoping she'd be able to tell me where I might find the missing document. No answer. I decided to wait a short while and try again.

In the mean time another underling from head office called to let me know that the bank had reported a shortfall in our cheques for one day during the previous week. Normally this involves a rubber cheque, but on this occasion it seemed the problem might be different; an instance of someone making things up. So I hauled the same box out from under the desk and flipped through the same set of papers for last week and confirmed the cheques we'd taken through the tills on the day in question.

They matched the bank's figures but not the figures we were claiming we'd banked. Problem is we bank another set of cheques; a set on behalf of one of the franchises and that doesn't go through our tills. On the day in question we'd banked one cheque for them, and in the amount of the discrepency. So it appears that the bank has lost one of the cheques. The young lady from head office asked me to fax over a copy of my documents. I agreed, photocopied the flimsy and tried twice to get the damned fax machine to send it to her. Loads of buggering around, in other words and all so that I could stick that copy in the post to her.

At this point, just for one brief moment, I allowed myself to believe that I'd weathered the storm but then some total peasant (male) from head office called to ask where the waste report that had been requested earlier had got to. The conversation was long-winded and decidedly one sided and in no way involved an exchange of names from him to me. I did think I recognised the voice but I wouldn't have been prepared to swear to an identification.

I made another call to the colleague who'd been unavailable earlier and who fortunately now was answering her phone. She pointed me to where the document is kept (not with the rest of the week's data but somewhere else completely) and also where I could find an electronic copy which I could send by email. Less than a minute later the document had been sent on its way by me and purely as a matter of courtesy I called the young lady who'd first requested it to let her know I'd sent it.

This led directly to the only thoroughly enjoyable moment of the afternoon. You see I'm a sucker for a good voice and the guy called Guy on the other end definitely had a Good Voice. But he had no aptitude for the switchboard which he'd happened to answer in passing in the absence of anyone else. However he undertook to take a message. I've no idea what he looks like in a twin-set, pearls, simper and sling-backs but he takes a mean message. In little or no time someone, but not the young lady I'd first spoken with was calling from head office in response.

Now this particular Head Office Flunky started by explaining that what-ever-her-name-is finishes at 4:30 (lucky thing). I explained that my call was a courtesy one to inform her that the document she'd been after had been e-mailed by me since our fax machine is a pile of crap - actually I did put this slightly less inelegantly, but only slightly. I went on to point out that I'd had a follow up call but since the person who'd called hadn't had the manners to identify himself (and yes, I did put it like that) I hadn't been able to call him (or even send the damned document directly to him).

The Flunky on the other end of the line suggested an identity for the caller that matched the identity I'd have given the caller. He went on to commiserate with me on the uncouth colleagues we're burdened by (and undertook to 'have a word with Mr X') but continued by pointing out that the whole sorry saga of this afternoon would have been unnecessary had the thing been done right first time.

I agreed with him but pointed out that the person in question wasn't around to get a clip around the ear hole from me. He expressed a certain touching confidence in my ability to deliver said clip around the ear hole which I deftly parried by suggesting that either the person in question is abnormally tall or I'm abnormally short. The call ended with us on surprisingly (at least as far as I'm concerned) good terms.

About, oh, ninety seconds later the phone rang again. By this time I' given up all hope of getting my job done and I knew, deep down, this would be more hassle from head office. In view of what follows I have to suspect that the peasant was in the room with the fool when the most recently recounted conversation took place. It was The Peasant again.

This time, however, his approach was along the lines of "Good afternoon, Raspberry, its Head Office Peasant." Great start, shame about the follow up: "I understand there's some problem with [the document].

I patiently explained to him that there was no problem, that I'd called as a matter of courtesy and blah blah and would he like me to send him a copy? "No don't worry", he replied. Then a couple of minutes of desultory conversation and then a repeat (stupid, stupid me) of my offer to copy him the document in 'the next little while', this time accepted. I honestly thought that would be that.

As it happens all kinds of IT issues* blew up right about then and I was rather distracted. So a little while turned into about half an hour and then the phone rang again. And it was The Flunky once again, calling because The Peasant had expressed concern to him that I hadn't sent the document he'd been so un-anxious to receive. The Flunky and I had another conversation involving much delicate trashing of those around us. The minute the receiver was back in the cradle I was at the PC sending a copy of my earlier email to the pair of them.

Once more I was lured into thinking I was done with the lunatics who run this particular asylum, but they had one more treat in store for me.

The phone rang and it was the Peasant again, reverting to type in failing to identify himself but launching instead straight into some half apologetic half demanding 'request' that I do him 'a little favour'.

Seems we've had a new range of products sent to store and not one of the nitwits at head office involved in that exercise has taken the time or otherwise had the wit to record our own internal codes for these products. So could I please find the time during the evening to go out onto the shop floor with a list he's about to fax to me and hunt down these products and let him know what our codes for them are.

In between the phone line that carries the credit/debit transactions crashing (something that led to pandemonium) and some dodgy engineer tinkering with the cash machine on which we were suddenly so dependent, and dealing with aimless feckless floor staff who can take half an hour to empty a box onto the shelves and the moaning check-out staff who can't last two hours without a break (and then need a loo break half an hour later) ... I did manage to get those codes for the Peasant. But I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of a thank you.

* Franky I'm bored by the past fortnight's succession of IT/hardware/software chaos, summed up neatly by one customer last night: attempting to purchase someting for about three quid, card transactions not going through, tills on 'go-slow', no cash, unprepared to walk out to the foyer and withdraw cash to pay - "I don't shop here very often and everytime I do there's a problem." I thought for one moment I would be wearing his shopping around my head but he dropped it and walked away.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


What you don't want early-ish on what is supposed to be your one untouchable DAY OFF per week is some fool ringing you ON YOUR MOBILE to ask 'WHAT YOU DID WITH THE CHEQUES?" But that's what HAIRDO did yesterday, via an intermediary. Bloody woman.

I was too much like half asleep (insufficient caffeine) to shoot back with ... I ate them dear, they're more nutritious than the crap we've got on the shelves. Damn it, I'd only gone in to do the banking to get someone out of a hole. I could see myself putting the damned things in the safe along with the rest of the day's banking for collection in the morning.

After a typically round-a-bout and accusatory conversation she found them, where she'd put them, among some papers to be mailed off to someone in head office. I guess that's why she gets paid more than me. I'm not actually capable of being simultaneously so stupid and so offensive.

I guess I must have rung off before she got round to her apology for disturbing me on MY DAY OFF!

While near the subject of Head Office I had a wonderful conversation with SIMON who is a paper shuffler in Mock Ivory Towers.

As a result of the technological melt-down we've been enduring for the best part of the past fortnight our grasp of our trading position is well ... tenuous. Weekly figures submitted for the previous week (during which the problem emerged) were laced with caveats.

Simon called on Wednesday asking for a copy of the main summary document produced and submitted on a weekly basis. I produced it for him and sent it up.

Simon called back and told me that wasn't what he wanted, so could I please send to him some other document instead. I must have missed his apology for the waste of my time involved in the earlier work.

Simon called a third time to announce that 'our figures agree'. Well gee, Simon, there's a surprise. The figures for the week produced by THE COMPUTER on Sunday agree with the figures produced by the same machine a few days later. Can I explain the discrepency between what the figures should say and what they do say (a matter of a little over SEVEN GRAND)?

I sure can: our entire IT system is a decrepit heap of shit that breaks down with consequences catastrophic for financial and stock management.

Simon went away to have a natter with his manager SAMANTHA, leaving me hanging on and more than a little frustrated. As an aside I would wager a small sum Simon does that to all the girls.

Samantha eventually came on to ask for an explanation of the figures: I patiently went over with her the long history of our ten days of software and hardware failures that have prevented us from gathering in a timely fashion the data from tills with which we assemble our trading reports. I relayed to her the advice from the software management company that the figures would sort themselves out at the end of the following figures; that the discrepency essentially represented 'trapped' sales figures held over from the previous week which would now wash out.

She heard me out before asking "what should the figure be?". Now the answer to this question was "we can't know until the end of the week", so I replied with "I don't know". She came back with "but can you give me a rough idea?". Well yes, a rough idea would be "a bit over SEVEN GRAND". That wasn't good enough.

We went around and around in circles for a little while; an exercise in futility that essentially amounted to me resisting her attempts to lure me into putting my name to an entirely fictitous figure that was A BIT OVER SEVEN GRAND, but wasn't the same A BIT OVER SEVEN GRAND as the one she already has.

After a time we both grew bored and she went away to make up a figure all on her own. I have no idea what happened to SIMON, and frankly I don't care what happened to the little twerp.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Live Rats, Dead Flies, Fleas

A catalogue of vermin.

The highlight of the day was answering the phone around lunch time (I wasn't very hungry anyway) to be asked by someone who wouldn't identify herself to be put through to the manager, or a deputy manager or an assistant manager or some such lofty personnage. Eventually she relented and explained that she'd seen a rat scurrying away from our premises along a gutter in the direction of the video rental place opposite.

She hadn't seen the thing actually on our premises and had no idea what we might possibly do about a rat she'd seen half an hour earlier (which for all she might know had wandered down to the railway station and boarded a train for London in the meantime), but I suppose she felt better for letting us know.

A member of the shop floor staff and I found the dead fly while we were trying to decipher a handwritten order from the woman who'd done a check of gaps in the cheeses/butter cabinets. We didn't find the products she'd miscoded, but we did find the fly. It wasn't any consolation.

I got bitten by a flea during the afternoon. So our office is hereby unofficially declared flea-ridden. How charming.

We also had a stinky customer in. Not the stinky customer all the Kiddies think must have gangrene, the one who can be smelled from one side of the store to the other. This one in yesterday was less stinky, but stinky all the same. Smell-able from one end of the checkouts to the other, with a stench which like that of the other woman lingers long after she's waddled off to the carpark. Gross

Both of them are married. Unfair as well as simply unbelieveable.

It's raining and today I have to walk to work. Also unfair. I'm sure August was supposed to be hot and sunny. Bloody weather forecasters. They're vermin too.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The wonders of modern technology

How the technology's meant to serve us (and thereby support us in serving our customers); full integration of stock control, which means:-

. computerised ordering, which feeds directly into ...
. the computerised regional warehouse(s), which generates ...
. deliveries and for each a computerised delivery note which when accepted ...
. adds the related stock into our computerised stock levels which ...
. are then reduced as stocks are put through the tills as sold or...
. eliminated electronically as wastage with corresponding stock level reductions that ...
. triggering another electronic order

The system's fallible at several points which coincide with the necessity for human intervention, and human intervention is necessary because our customers are human beings rather than automatons taking home the same things in the same quantities week in and week out.

And then there's the shop lifting... (theft).

Human intervention raises order levels on products in or going into promotion and takes weather forecasts into account as well as factors such as external events (ie, the recent World Cup)

The whole thing's currently buggered up: God knows how old the system is but it's been running on the metaphorical IT equivalent of sticking plaster, rubber bands and chewing gum for as long as I've been here. The point in the local network at which the back office and tills meet has collapsed and there's no traffic either way. Which means stock levels aren't being adjusted and draft orders are meaningless which means human intervention is essential to ensure that we do order what we need to have come in (and conversely not order what we don't actually need to have come in).

And that might explain why on a delivery this week we received a cage of baby clothing (?!) and three dozen boxes (of four dozen items each) of an item we sell 11 of each week. Much swearing (by the Stud) and apologising (by the Bint).

In the meantime the responsibilty for ordering has been lifted from the new HOG's quavering shoulders; for a month. This isn't a solution, its a deferral.

We've been promised replacement eye-candy in the greengrocery department but there's no guarantee that the Stud has a good eye for the sort of eye candy the middle aged women he employs have a taste for.

Then, to our delight late in the day today we had a visit from IT who loitered for a while and made some pretence of making some efforts to fix the problem with the interface between the tills and the back office. Happily he'd been called in on a day off and was dressed appropriately, in tight jeans and white vest...

Tucked away discretely at both entrances (where no-one who can read is likely to see them and be offended by what they say) are notices calling for customers to be fully dressed while in the store in the interests of hygiene. These notices went up during the July heatwave when we suffered an influx of topless men - oatmeal and strawberry coloured on top, hairy, obese, balding, middle aged, tatooed, pierced and unshaven.

As the weather has finally warmed up again in these parts we had a few half naked men drift in this afternoon, blithely ignoring the discrete notices, nipple rings to the fore. The Bulldog, the Frustrated Author and I had a conversation about these "Polite Requests" that customers dress before calling on us. We're not the sort of organisation to get in your face on such issues but the Bulldog being the Bulldog she was all gung-ho (in the office) about pointing the notices out to these eye-sores.

Mind you she'd have taken off the IT guy's vest with her teeth if she'd been given half a chance!

So imagine my surprise when I came upon her engaged in a member of staff who, on his day off, had come into the store shirtless.

I let the opportunity to say something like "nice shirt, X" pass but I did bring the matter up with the Bulldog later ... to which she replied "yes, well" and I expected her usual line of waffle. But what I got instead was "I didn't think I could point the notice out to him when we were in the middle of having a discussion about how we're going to help him with reading and checking off the delivery note when he takes in the Sunday order. He can't read."

So that's another one, and he's in charge of the staples such as milk and butter and cheese.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

All Hope Abandon Ye Who Enter Here

That's the original English rendition of Dante's Latin rendering of what was or perhaps is inscribed at the entrance to Hell. When I started this post I was going to call it The Penny Has Dropped, but I've had time for reflection and gathered further information.

Our head of greengrocery (HOG) has left for a more senior job in a smaller store, after giving us nine years as girl and woman. She's bright but not well educated. She's energetic, motivated and will probably do very well. Okay, she's a total lick-arse too, but kudos; she's got what she was aiming for. There were tears when she signed off on her last shift.

We've also lost the no. 2 on the dairy/chilled goods department in the last week - he's off to become a web designer.

The young guy who's recently been filling the soft drinks shelves has been offered the role of HOG. Now this morning this is what I went on to say: "and been generally useful, always willing to do anything asked of him and almost inevitably getting done what's asked of him provided sufficiently detailed instructions are given... cheerfully, promptly and willingly."

I do love the guy to bits (in an entirely platonic way); I admire his persistence and his courage in overcoming certain obstacles to hold down a full time job and establish himself as one of the most highly valued members of our team. I do believe that with appropriate training and support he can take on more and more responsibility with time.

But... and the big but(t) in this isn't mine: the young guy in question has what might be called 'learning difficulties'. They're not glaringly obvious until you look very closely and spot what he avoids. So while this morning I was going to reflect on how great the challenge he faces given the paucity of training he's been offered, the brevity of the 'hand over' and the total absence of potential support within the group of staff he'll inherit ... I now have to say that the future of our greengrocery department: ordering, staff cover and all, has been placed in the hands of someone who can't read well enough to be trusted to complete the Incoming Goods Book which is the log of everything entering the store. He simply can't read well enough to cope with the demands of that task, and in all honesty I can't see how he could possibly cope with what he's now being asked to do.

No-one will be happier than me if I'm proved wrong. If by some miracle real support from above emerges that will be a godsend and it is just possible that the Lads who work shifts in the department will actually turn out to be supportive. I wish him all the best and I'll be furious with all the appropriate people if this hastily knocked together experiment fails.

In the mean time the departure of this young man to pastures new has created a vacancy in the soft-drinks-filling-department. The Bulldog offered those 'hours' to one of the young lads who's recently shown a degree of real willing. Initially he said yes, then he said no, then he said yes, but ... I still don't know where we stand except that next Sunday he'll be working on the Dairy/Chilled goods section to cover for the No.2 in that department who, as noted earlier, as scarpered.

Now, to the reason for the previous choice of title: The newest member of the management team has had an epiphany: she's discovered the downside of our relentless pursuit of flexibility through part-time working and shift-based contracts of employment.

We're not an option for someone who actually is driven and motivated and willing to work full time. There are people out there who want the responsibility and the remuneration of full time work and will settle for us and what we offer only until what they really want comes along.

Partly this arose from her experience in attempting to get some kind of commitment over the soft drinks 'role' but partly it came from a subsequent interview with someone who to all intents and purposes drifted in with the expectation of being taken on by us to do 'oh, a couple of hours here and a few hours there, to top up what I'm earning in my other job'. Oh, yes? This young woman's mind-set became apparent when she took a look at the application form she was asked to complete (name and other personal details, education and work experience) and wanted to know 'if this was really necessary?"

We were interviewing her in the first place because all the choicer prospects on our books had already secured a better offer. We didn't offer her a job, though.

I'd love to say otherwise but don't rely on us for your salad ingredients in the next few weeks.