Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here's a word I heard earlier

I am in pain. Truly, I am suffering.

I have received an emailed communication from a senior nitwit writing from his perch someway up the pecking order within the ivory tower.

"Can anyone help we have excess stock of chilled and butchery lines at ********* due to a mix up at *********. The stock was delivered
Into store on Saturday. Your help is required to elevate this problem. Can you contact me if you can take some stock or ring ***** ****** for an update of stock?"

Superior workmanship. Finest quality gibberish. Erratic punctionation, random line breaks, curious capitalisation, misuse of the word 'can' and the contextually mysterious request for assistance in elevating 'this problem'. And all crammed into four measly lines. Truly A-grade, blue-ribbon nonsense.

No bloody wonder I'm failing to get ahead.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A collection of believe it or nots

Re: the habitual drunk

Yes, we have no spuds - new spuds (which as you say cannot be roasted) aside. And this isn't good enough. We have a HOG who frankly isn't up to standard yet (and may not ever get there), and we've cocked up and ... but what else can I say. We know it isn't good enough and we're so terribly apologetic to those customers who come into the supermarket and found that the one key ingredient for what ever they were planning isn't available.

Has that happened to you? What do you do when it does? Do you phone the chain's area manager? Does he have your telephone number programmed into his phone so that he knows when it's "That Bloody Woman" on the other end of the line and about to launch yet another tirade? Probably not.

The Area Manager's considering putting a hit squad together. If you know any ex-SAS types at a loose end (and low rates) do drop him a line...

Kiddie Capers

More ineptitude from one of the now departed (back to University!!). Said Kiddie was presented with a piece of plastic after ringing up a customer's goods on Saturday afternoon. In good faith she proceded to deduct the entire amount from the card only to be told mid way through that the customer wished to part pay in cash.

That's possible ... the card transaction was cancelled and then the operator started again with a mixed payment.

Now the woman's on the phone insisting that we've deducted both the original amount and then the original amount less the amount paid in cash. Given that we absolutely do not trust our check out operators to do anything on their own initiative (even assuming for the moment that they're clever enough to do it) what the woman's suggesting happened simply isn't possible. If our checkout took the payment of the full amount then the transaction's cleared. For the customer to pay a second time a third party (ie, the co supervisor) would have to manually recreate the transaction. But as far as we can determine that didn't happen.

Miraculously the woman's receipts have evaporated. She'll have to rely on her bank digging around and squaring it with our head office finance people. Much to her disgust.

Christmas and Halloween

Goods are intermingled on the shelves and then they're also dispersed and unlinked to the promotion(s). More very careful attention to marketing.


Sometimes we have goods arrive unannounced and without the till programming required for them to scan correctly. A recent example was a range of Chapsticks. They wouldn't scan so I sent details to the chap up the road who taps away at his keyboard or does what ever is necessary to get the damn things working. Today they're working ... sort of. Two of them scan completely correctly. One scans at the correct price but with Orange rather than Apple in the description (on ticket and till) and the fourth simply still doesn't work.

I suppose three out of four isn't bad ... and he did get my chewing gum done

Dopy Dora

The woman we park on the checkouts in the evening is doing some sort of floristry course and can't get in on time anymore. So instead of working 5-9 she's now working 7-9. Fat chance of getting her to stay on and fill a few shelves after the public sod off in the evening. Fat chance of getting her to switch to working a weekend.

God knows what she'll ever amount to when everything is so damned difficult for her.

Big rant

We've taken on a smelly woman. She's going to go down well with the customers. She's the fat woman who's too overweight to get up the stairs without reaching a state of near collapse. Can't expect that she'll be a rip-roaring success.

Clean my trolley ... I have a germ phobia

A pocket battleship came to the store after rain and found that the available trollies with baby carrier fitting were all wet. She asked for someone to come out. "The trolley isn't dry. Is it too much to expect a dry trolley?" I sent the checkout supervisor; she dutifully took out some paper towel and gave the fitting and its straps a thorough dry-off.

That wasn't good enough. "The trolley isn't clean. Is it too much to ask for a clean trolley?" The supervisor came back and I gave her some baby wipes.

"Those aren't anti-bacterial wipes. Is it too much to expect the trolley to be cleaned properly?"

This was too much for the supervisor who is quite young. She came back in a state and I sent out the senior supervisor to deal with this awkward so-and-so.

"Is it too much to get assistance without sighing and eye-rolling?"

Madam... the trollies are all cleaned at the start of the day... if it rains, they get wet. This trolley will not be germ free within an instant of your child getting in it and entering the store (where it will come into contact with the great unwashed we provide a service to). I didn't point out that in her paranoia she's condemning her child to a life time of asthma and general inability to defend herself against the stuff that's just out there, whether we like it or not.

That child of hers looked at least four months old; plump, pink-cheeked and strong. It is just possible that this child has some condition or medical history that necessitates particular care... but in that case surely she could have made some allowances for that? She certainly gave us no reason to believe her child has any special needs (apart from a less neurotic mother).

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Just today:

The Kiddie who 'does' the newspapers on Sunday morning arrives, moped about with a 'bad back' for a couple of hours and slunk off home.

The drip who we used to have on freezers in the morning and kiosk in the afternoon on Sudays is now OIC bread in the mornings and ovens in the afternoon. Which doesn't explain why a girl on her last day burned her arm with chicken fat having to take some out of the oven during the afternoon.

The newly appointed deputy HOG came in to let us know he's leaving (after one week, which is some kind of record)

The future deputy senior Lard Arse (not as big as the current Queen of Capacious, but a close second) came into the Store and boasted about how she's starting work with us tomorrow. Never mind the mystery of why on earth we'd ever employ someone to do what is a physically demanding job clearly they're in no shape to carry out, she thinks she's starting tomorrow even though she couldn't be arsed to turn up mid-week for her pre-start training. Love the attitude. We're going to get on so well.

The smelly operator didn't lose her rag with any customers today.

A customer harangued me for a minute of my life I'll never get back out our pricing structure on electric toothbrushes and replacement heads. OK the fag-end of the range Braun retails at £7.99 (and comes complete with brush head and battery) while replacement brush heads (in two pack) retail at £9.99. I'm still not sure of his point. You buy a dirt cheap and the brush heads cost almost as much? You bought a dirt cheap electric toothbrush, sir. It's a free country but you do have to pay the price of your folly.

The afternoon kiosk operator and I completed the Sunday Something general knowledge crossword.

Newly recruited Head Girl (the know-it-all from hell) was set to work on the soft drinks aisle and promptly set to opening the multipacks. Jesus.

I spent another minute of my life being harangued by a woman who couldn't find the chickpeas ... because at some time in the past (since she last bought them, one would like to think) we've altered the packaging.

Hairdo has a new ailment ... nothing to do with her water-works or her reproductive bits or her haitus (spelling?) hernia, or her gall stones. Still not sure what. Not particularly interested either.

Senior clerk is still keen to be friends and brought in some towels she no longer has a use for. Perhaps she thinks we're short of them chez nous? Then again, that last suggestion presupposes she thinks. Back to the drawing board.

No Scrawny Bint, so no Sex Pest.

No Thieves either. So not a complete disaster of a day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Bicycle Thief rides again

This morning I nipped out to do some shopping. Being indolent (acutally also the weather is foul and I was reluctant to go further than essential). Our house is set below the level of the road we're on and set some way back. I decided just to walk up and over the road because we have an express version of the Great Supermarket Satan on the other side of the road and about 20 metres to the left of our front gate.

As I trudged up the path and with the limited view available under the lip of my umbrella I could see a couple of kids loitering in the car park of the carpark directly opposite (attached to another small business, not the Great Satan). Clearly they were up to something. They were nervous and worried about me and what I might do (though what they thought I might do in the pouring rain with my umbrella being buffetted and my flip-flops squelching and slipping on my feet is a mystery).

I sloshed across the Great Satan's car park and as I did so who should I see but the Bicycle Thief (and would-be Southern Comfort lifter). I'd told the Sex Pest I was sure I'd recognise him if I ever saw him again, though I wasn't acutally all that sure - spotty adolesents with a bit of bum fluff about the lower reaches of the chin all look alike to me these days. As it happens I recognised him instantly and some dim light of recognition lit up in his eyes too. I turned to watch him join his mates, jubilantly flourishing the bag he'd left the shop with. I suspected theft, but that would be the Great Satan's problem.

When I got in (and this is an express and so not at all large) the two operators who I both recognise and who both shop sometimes with us were engaged in a conversation. Seems the older one, who had served him the alcohol had rung up the transaction, bagged the goods and accepted money before asking for proof of age. That turned out to be too late; the smart-arse grabbed the goods, left what ever change he was owed and legged it saing "too late, too late".

Yup they were caught out. The kid isn't 18 years old or even, probably 17.

Still his card is now marked with them, which means he's reduced to plaguing the convenience store at the bottom end of town.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I can't even be bothered dreaming up a title for this blog. I'm under the kosh with the little warning about the scheduled outage up in the right hand corner to get this out quickly.

After 5:00pm but not that much later a woman I know from the school gate came in. I also know her because she's (and I know I'll offend some people with this) a religious nutter. By that I mean she's a born again christian - someone for whom the hereinafter matters more than the hereinnow, and never mind the fact that the hereinafter can only matter if the hereinnow does too.

Anyhow the point of this isnt' to start a debate about religious fundamentalist crackpots but to draw attention to what might seem at first glance to be an irony.

The woman was agitated about a missing bicycle belonging to a niece that her son had borrowed "a couple of nights ago" and had "left here when he came home".

Now as it happens I could recollect seeing a deep lilac coloured cycle lying on the floor outside our 'kiosk' entrance during the evening yesterday, and I told her so. It began to seem that the bicycle I could remember was that belonging to her niece so I put out a call for help, being unable to leave the main store and go traipsing about the place in search of a child's bicycle. Assistance arrived but in the meantime my S-i-C was clearly mouthing to me that the woman I was in conversation with was the mother of the would-be Southern Comfort thief of the previous evening.

Ah ha. The pieces fit together.

The bicycle had been removed by some caring member of staff to the 'back' area and was returned to the woman by the Sex Pest (on duty) who accompanied her to where it had been stored. I took great delight in informing him afterwards that the woman he'd been so solicitous towards was the mother of the would-be thief of the previous evening.

I sound unfeeling towards her an I'm not entirely. I happen to know that she went through a deep, dark period in perhaps her late teens or early twenties; drink and drugs were involved. Her path to stabilty was via a form of religosity that through it's narrow and deep channel shields her from those aspects of real life. She has saved herself from awful things in her own way.

Whether her older children (and she has six if memory serves) are either a reflection of her earlier life or a rebellion against her current life is immaterial.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Slice of fruit cake

Hands up those people who love supermarkets. Not many people, eh?

I've never been particularly keen on them so being an employee of one is a bit twisted.

But there's twisted and then there's seriously disturbed, and we had someone like that in recently. I'm not sure how to describe her except that she's the antithesis of me and the classic example of a certain sort of middle-aged woman who has all the substance of a fog.

Everything about her is limp, washed out and insubstantial. Her clothes somehow conspire to be of no particular colour or style; her hair is some non-descript shade of mousy, her complexion is dough with a superficial layer of peach and her voice is as ethereal as a gentle breeze over a river. She is the sort of woman who is never ill-tempered but always the victim of some turn of fate or mischance; she has a faint and plaintive voice which, when she is thwarted, merely becomes fainter and more exhausted*.

The previous day the Chip'n'Pin system fell over (again) and we had resorted to the ZipZaps (the old manual card swipe machines which require the card to be inserted under a voucher so that an imprint can be made). Ordinarily we obtain a manual authorisation - that involves taking the card into the back office to make a telephone call and get permission to proceed with the transaction on that card. We were doing that and so took her card for that purpose.

She'd come in to speak to The Sex Pest who, she claimed, she'd been told she could speak with. Except the Sex Pest was on Leave and not expected in; no one would have told her he'd be available to speak with.

She explained that she wanted to complain about her card being taken from her for authorisation. I tried to explain that it was policy, standard procedure but she wasn't having any of it...

She then claimed that she'd had her card cloned in our store ... eight months earlier.

NOW - no one has ever said anything to me about a single card being cloned ... no rumours of allegations to that effect have ever reached my ears. I asked her to repeat her allegation and she did. I put to one side my incredulity ... I mean to say would YOU continue to shop regularly at a shop that had cloned your credit or debit card?

I asked her what made her believe that her card had been cloned and that the cloning had happened in our store.

She assured me that the bank had told her, but she then added that the bank hadn't been able to tell her exactly when. Except your bank can tell you ... to the second.

The poor old dear is clearly a complete crack-pot. It's sad really. She's completely lost the plot, and is certifiably as nutty as a fruit cake.

It is of no particular comfort to me that she's a senior teacher at my daughter's school.

*Yes, I have cribbed the text of this sub-clause from an author. I couldn't better described the woman.

You can F*** off too, Mr F.

I'm really very sorry to harp on about it but we had another one in tonight. Young, spotty and unshaven. He was spotted by my oh-so-reliable Spotter-in-Chief of theives.

There he was sauntering away from the check-outs with a half open backpack slung over one shoulder and a bottle of something that looked like whiskey in his right hand. I darted back to spot which way he was heading, but I lost him almost immediately.

The S-i-C co-opted a shelf stacker to keep an eye out for him in the main store while I ducked outside and headed for the alternative entrance which is to the kiosk (newspapers, fags, lottery) and which has a one-way entrance to the main store. As I headed in he was making his way out, using the semi-secret button which opens the door to the main store.

In my firmest voice I asked him politely to tell me what he'd done with the bottle of whiskey I'd seen him take from the shelves and walk out of the drinks aisle still holding.

He tried to have me believe that he'd put the bottle down somewhere else in store. So I asked him to tell me where. I got just what you'd expect so I asked him to show me. Somewhat to my suprise he actually accompanied me back through the doors. Perhaps he'd hoped that sign of willing would be enough to make me believe I'd misjudged him. Misjudge him, my arse. A few paces into the store he accepted that I wouldn't buy it ... any more than he was prepared to buy the bottle he then produced from his backpack. One bottle of Southern Comfort to return to the shelves.

Upstairs in the security suite I was able to confirm that the whole thing had been captured on cctv and we've now got the boring admin. to follow through that will result in him receiving his own personal Lifetime Banning Order. Congratulations Sir.

I later learned that his name is D___ F____ and that he's got convictions for grievous bodily harm.

Lower still down the food chain another scum bag who already has an LBO was in again and when challenged resorted to some pretty horrific verbal abuse of the staff member who took him on tonight. Tonight he's in custody. Advanced scum-bagging gets its own rewards.


I wrote a long piece about our tills, working myself up into a fine old state in the process and then failed utterly to make the point I was aiming for all along.

Our all too human operators make mistakes.

Yes it is shocking, but it is true. And in response to every single heaving, sighing, pointedly looking at the watch and tut-tutting customer who's ever held up because of an operator I do, I admit, come over all Religious.

You might not have expected this of me, but its true. For somewhere in the Good Book there is a line about the casting of the first stone being the prerogative of he (or She, I've seen the Life of Brian) who is without Sin.

Our operators cannot undo anything on the tills. So an item that inadvertently scans twice be removed from the transaction but that requires someone with 'manager key' so a supervisor must be called.

Our operators cannot put through certain of the vouchers we accept and again a supervisor must be called.

Our operators cannot manually enter an item that will not scan (see earlier post) even when the item is price marked.

Our operators cannot enter vouchers over a certain value but must instead call for a supervisor to enter the amount.

So on the one hand we don't have individual till boxes or floats which would focus the minds of operators quite wonderfully; but on the other hand we don't trust our operators to do even the simplest thing on their own.

This is symptomatic of something that's gnawing away at me which is the failure of large scale entities to actually run businesses effectively and efficiently. The distance from board room to shop floor is unbridgeable. There is no prospect of realistic decision making or direction flowing from top to bottom (or centre to periphery), there is no burden of responsibiliy, and therefore the majoriy feel no sense of responsibilty.

Without at sense of responsibilty there is no engagement, and it cannot be suprising that we flounder with the consequences every day, in mis-pricing, mis-placement, rudeness, idleness and all the other symptoms of what might be called a demotivated work force - were it not for the fact that they in all probability never were motivated to begin with.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Till Troubles.

"The tills at Pizza Hut would be perfect if...some techy would put a 'return to previous screen' button on it rather than having to actually put an order through to get back to the first screen. But seriously, they are pretty good otherwise...especially when they keep telling me I was bang on the money at the end of the night! :-) I'd hate to have a checkout system with fixed buttons and just a little green screen (presumably what yours is?), as they are totally non user friendly."

My thanks to Pizza Hut Team Member who has drawn attention to the fact that for all the abuse I've heaped on their technological deficiencies I've yet to do a Proper Job on our tills.

The reason for this is that I rarely bear the brunt of the consequences of their very many failings except in the evening - when we don't have a checkout supervisor employed to act as a buffer between the customers and the shop floor staff on the one hand and 'management' on the other.

I have many times touched on the frailties of The System. The software and hardware (and possibly the firmware, but I don't know what that it) are all fragile, repeatedly patched and vulnerable. They'll keel over at the slightest difficulty or even some days none at all.

For me, trying to keep the business afloat, the absence of management data which flows from the tills is a problem. For the staff the checkouts not operating as they're supposed to is a problem of a different kind. And then there's all the problems that flow from the tills operating as they're expected to...

Card transactions

The greatest problem we face is card transaction failures. These happen All The Time - and that's no exaggeration. This is something that transends satire and belief. Essentially no card transaction works first time, every time. Those days when this aspect of the system works as we all (staff, customers) have every right to expect are rare and delightful. Most of the time the Cards are erratic and unreliable.

For weeks now we've been struggling with an entirely unpredicable Cash Back scenario. Cash back is available on some but not all cards. Where in the past Cash Back has been a given for those with a card that has this option available we're currently dealing with a 'will it, won't it' situtation. The solution has been to cancel the entire transaction when cash back isn't offered and start again, and repeat that until the 'system' suddenly wakes up to the fact that the proffered card is permitted to offer cash back.

Irritating? Certainly.

But this preamble focuses on a short segment of the transaction chain and your typical customer is currently having to confront a far longer sequence of till troubles.

How it works (or at least should work)

The tills comprise a bar code reader, a set of scales and a key pad. Most items that are presented bear a bar code. The operator wafts the item, bar code to the fore and the time is registered.

Some items don't work this way.

Some greengrocery items must be weighed. The item must be placed on the scales which are an integral part of the till. The operator then selects "Veg" on the keypad for the Fruit and Veg menu and then works his/her way through the menu to find the particular item on the scale. When the item is selected the scale kicks into action and a price is calculated based on the weight and the price per weight for that item.

We have a hot food/deli bar. Some items don't scan (ie, are not in PLU) but are on a menu.

A lot of these items have a PLU code that is either imbedded in a long bar code or on a sticker affixed to the item but most operators remain oblivious to that fact.

So what the job of operator boils down to is 'mostly wafting, occasionally keying in, very occasionally asking for help'.

Age Restricted products

First of all, and in our effort to appear to comply with the law dealing with sale of underage products (including Booze, products containing booze such as chocolates and jams, lottery, cigarettes, lighters, matches, lighter fuel, knives...) any operator who is underage (ie, less than 18 years old) or hasn't yet passed the Sale of Restricted Goods test cannot sell such products unsupervised.

You might be familiar with an underage operator yelling to an adult operator something along the lines of "okay to sell alcohol?". You won't hear that with us. The operator must call for a supervisor - and we only have one on duty at any one time, who must come out and personally supervise the transaction. That involves giving the customer the once over and then entering a code to release the till.

That all takes time.

The bar code

With a few exceptions (such as some greengrocery/deli) all items carry a bar code which is linked to a database (see how it works, above). The process is known as Price Lookup and when a bar code scanned at the till doesn't link to an item in the database we have a situation known as Not In PLU. The 13 digit number is linked to an item description and a price.

Regularly we are issued with products that have not yet been entered into the database.

For the moment I shall leave aside the process failure that results in products that are Not In PLU reaching our shelves. Suffice it to say they do. Customers see them and think "oh goody, I'll have some of that" and in all innocence put in their trolley and present it at the checkout.

When this happens two things must happen: the correct price must be established and the price must be entered manually.

Typically our operators don't know the price of an item so will call for a shop floor assistant who will go to the shelf and look for a ticket.

That ought to be it, but it isn't

The operator must then call for a supervisor to enter the price. Our operators are not permitted to enter prices manually.

That is such an extraordinary statement I shall repeat it: Our Operators are Not Permitted to Enter Prices Manually.

When I was growing up the tills were manual rather than electronic and the operators sat behind them bashing away at those keys while remorslessly shoving items off the belt and into the space behind them to be bagged. Thus ladies and gentlemen is the full impact of 'technological progress' revealed.

So that's two calls, and two causes of delay.

A third source of delay arises when the Not In PLU item has reached the shelves without a ticket. When that happens, frankly, we make it up (unless it's a 51" digital TV in which case we might actually try to phone head office and get a price)

Flash Packs

A similar problem arises with flash packs. These are items bearing their price irrespective of what the shelf labels says. In a way they are a lesser problem since the necessity for someone to go to the shelf and check the price does not arise. But still the operator must call for a supervisor to enter the price if the item doesn't scan.


Or voiding as we refer to it. The reader can be sensitive. It is all too easy to scan an item more than once. The operator doesn't have the facility to delete a mis-scanned item. Each and every time an operator makes a mistake a supervisor must be called out to correct that mistake.

Each and every time a customer picks up something they then decide they don't want or cannot afford a supervisor must be called out.


Our operators are less than 'grunts'.

They are not trusted and they know they are not trusted. Under the circumstances it can hardly be surprising that they individually behave as if they've not a pair of brain cells to rub together.

They earn their pay not by thinking but by sitting till, mute and accepting all the scorn that radiates down on them from the customers they serve. How would you regard a person who could not even correct their own mistake, key in a price they know or some other such example?

You would regard them with contempt. And we conspire to set the up for this ignomy, may God forgive us.

Lanes and boxes

Some years ago we abandoned individual till boxes. Each lane (and we have twelve) has a box and over the course of a day and a week any number of operators might work a given lane. A check is not run on the contents and the expected contents at change over. If a problem arises we have absolutely no way of identify where and when the problem arose.

Our operators are thereby insultated.

Other business place responsibilty and consequences on the shoulders of operators. We've removed both.

Where do I stand?

Very simply I'd issue each operator with his or her own box and return to each operator some of the responsibilty that has been removed from them over recent years.

On the one hand this increased sense of responsibilty would, I believe, enhance their feeling of being valued and at the same sense translate into far greater care and attention to detail.

I believe that enhancing the role of the operator would heighten the regard of customers for the person they're dealing which would further fuel in operators a sense of appreciation and worth and commitment to their role.

None of this is likely to happen soon.

As for who I work for - that isn't something I'm going to divulge but I am intrigued by _ _ - _ _. I shall keep working on it and probably be up all night as a result.

Corporate challenge

The HR Director of BT has just referred to "the DNA of our corporate", in the context of home (flexible) working conditions.


No prizes on offer but kudos for a plausible translation into English.

Ricky Ricky

Thieves may be prosectuted, but that prosecution invariable results either in a slap on wrist or a badge of honour.

Ricky S was in today - again. He arrived on bicycle as I was dashing between entrance and exit; took one look at me, recognised that I would do something if he attempted to enter and cycled off. Five minutes later he'd back tracked, snuck in and made for the booze aisle.

He's shorter than me, considerably shorter than me, which makes it somewhat easier to tackle him. If his family reputation runs even partially true in him he's perfectly capable of making serious trouble but at 11:30 in the morning he hadn't had time to take on any fuel.

So I stood my ground in the aisle and told him to leave. How courageous. I only had about fifty very interested spectator customers within 10 feet or so. At first he tried "I only want to buy some alcohol" then I got a chorus of "Darn [don't] hassle me, Man" and "Yer making a fool of yerself" then "Darn follow me" and finished up with the rather sweetly plaintiff "Darn make a fool of me!" as he crossed the last few steps to the exit.

He actually looked rather deflated as he cycled away in search of alternative prey.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Technology and other failures

I could devote this entire post, nay this entire blog, to the rather narrow subject of deficiencies in the software and technology which supposedly were introduced (possibly last century, more probably during the one before) to, um, make our lives easier and the business more efficient and effective.

I could also devote this entire blog to the subject of big corporate inability to run a business; any business.

I could bang on and on and on .... about the fecklessness (indolence, incivility and illiteracy) of so many of the people who turn to us for employment.

I could rail at the system which makes it worth someone's while declining more than 15 hours per week - because the Job Seekers Allowance pays better than we do.

I could bitch about customers.

The saddest thing though is that even if I could get a baby sitter tonight I couldn't be bothered getting dressed up and heading out for a night on what tiles this town has to offer.

Our software is chronically and possibly terminally ill. This morning we struggled for a prolonged period to process credit / debit card transactions. The only mercy for us was that the supplier did finally get around to filling the ATM outside and so some customers could withdraw cash to cover their transaction.

This evening one of the check-outs 'fell off the system' which meant that I couldn't process the back off financials properly. The checkout that fell off the system isn't the same one that was falling off a month or so ago, but it will need an engineer to come out and coax some life into it. That might happen tomorrow, but tomorrow is Sunday.

I'm not even going to start tonight on the inability of corporations to run businesses ... something I read last night got me thinking but I made no notes and will come back to that later when I'm in a more suitable frame of mind.

Tom Tom the senior clerk's son decided to hand in his notice because he couldn't change his weekend shifts so as to give himself free time to play football, with the particular team he wants to play with. Like all general assistant staff he's expected to work his notice period which is one whole week. That week ended today for him with a 5-9 shift. He didn't turn up but I had to endure a conversation with his mother who went on and on and on about how difficult it is to get a 16 year old to do what he's told.

When I was sixteen I went to school, I came home, I practiced tennis/violin, I ate, I washed up, I did my homework and then I went to bed. That was it. Five nights a week. Then I did lots of tennis and music practice and housework on the weekends. I wasn't expected to go out to work but on the other hand I wasn't treated an adult in any other way. My reading, music, tv, movies and friends were subject to scrutiny and my mother held the power of veto.

The message was really simple. When you're an adult and you have a place of your own you can do what you like. Until you're an adult, and so long as I'm responsible for you, you will do as you are told; this is not your house and you may not do as you please within it.

We fuck kids up I guess. We treat them as adults part of the time and then scratch our heads when they won't behave like kids when we want them to.

As for the Job Seekers Allowance and how it acts as a block to perfectly employable individuals seeking full time employment, I could say lots and lots of complex stuff but what that boils down to is 'scrap the social welfare system as it exists and starts again'. Each successive administration since the end of WWII has added a layer of administrative complexity until we've reached the point at which nothing short of the 'nuclear' option could eliminate the faults and failings in the system.

I'm not sure what should be built over the ashes of Nye Bevin's dream but it sure isn't a cradle to grave, free at the point of consumption type welfare system such as that in place now.

As for the jackass who walked out leaving his paper and 2 pints of milk behind I have three words: "Go to Safeway". At the time I was short staffed and struggling to nurse the check-out software through its nineteenth nervous breakdown. Safeway, as far as I'm aware, are no long trading in this country (at least under that name) and to the best of my knowledge the nearest ex-Safeway store is a good 25 minute drive from us. I think that even in the worst case scenario waiting at the checkout would have taken less time.

Damned fool.

Damned fool me for putting myself through this for a pittance.

Money for jam

One evening recently a middle aged woman came into the store bearing a jar of jam. She caught up with me as I was sorting out a problem of one sort or other at one of the check-outs.

She must have been in a tremendous hurry, perhaps had a plane to catch or a funeral to get to, or life saving surgery to perform. She couldn't wait her turn and when she didn't get my immediate attention (NOW!) she poked me in the upper arm with one of her bony fingers.

Now as it happens I have a deep-rooted and powerful aversion to being poked in this manner which goes back to my childhood (my mother is a 'poker').

With no preamble the woman thrust the jam at me with a hastily delivered explanation that it had been bought from us (our store) in error and wished for her money back.

We're entitled to require proof of purchase (though not necessarily a receipt) and I asked for something. That request is effectively a reflex reaction but I was also on edge by virtue of the woman's approach and the fact that I couldn't recall ever seeing the particular jam.

The hatchet faced cow wasn't having about to offer any proof that she'd bought the jam, let alone from us. She got louder and ruder and louder and ruder and of course she hoped that I'd give her a refund on the grounds that the small price of one jar of jam is worth paying to get her of the store.

Sometimes that approach does work. Sometimes it doesn't. It tends not to work when I'm pissed off, tired and contemptuous. I stalked across the store to the jam section in search of a jar of the same jam. I hunted high and low for that damned jar. I really, really wanted to be sure that it was a variety we didn't carry. Scrawny Bint came past and I explained what I was doing. She looked at the jam and the shelves and confirmed that it was a variety we've not ever to her knowledge carried.

Hatch-faced Bitch got her jar of jam back but not a refund. She tried a bit more bluster, of course, before accepting defeat. Eventually she slunk out clutching her jar, off presumably in search of some mug retailer to give her money for jam.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I do so detest being taken for a moron

We have an electrical goods department. It isn't large, and the goods we sell are predominantly low quality whether bottom-end 'brands' or bottom of range from makers of better quality goods.

But if your iron goes bust and you haven't got time to go out of town and you need that shirt ironed now, we've got something that will get you through the crisis and probably not by starting an electrical fire that burns down your house.

One less than enjoyable by-product of selling shoddy goods (oops, did I say that) is the high proportion that are returned. We pretty much don't quibble; we will give the returned item the once over particularly if it is brand new - a lot of our customers don't have the patience to read the instruction manual. I guess they just assume that the new one works exactly the same way as the old one and bring the new one back doesn't ... or something.

Some stuff packs up after a short time, we refund or replace where possible.

One recent Sunday a notorious battleaxe came in to collect a deep fryer we sell at about £35. About three hours later she came back complaining that it wouldn't work; that the lights would come on but the element wouldn't heat... She swore she'd cleaned it as best she could, and of course she still had her receipt.

We took the thing into the office and unpacked it; it certainly looked clean, at least at first. The lights did come on but the element failed to heat, just as she'd said. Except that when we were rearranging things to get them back in the box we noticed quite how use-stained some less obvious parts of the fryer were.

Naughty, naughty Mrs F.

She's one of the richest women in town and one of the tightest. Seems she wanted a brand new fryer without the burden of actually having to pay for the damn thing.

Knowing quite what a stink the ghastly old witch can make we gave her her money back. She left in her battered old mobility cart with the satisfaction of a good (rip-off) job well done, while we could console ourselves with not being quite as stupid as she continues to think we are.

As for valour .... well I'm afraid that's another matter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quite partial to Pizza as it happens

I'm quite partial to Pizza as it happens ... so I'm very pleased to say hello to Pizza Hut Team Member who has a blog called ... Pizza Hut Team Member, which is new but sheds a light on another corner of the UK services/retail sector.

I've been wondering where the readership is and why ... caramaena also links here which I hugely appreciate and blogs here.

If you're passing through please consider leaving a comment. Thanks.

Every once in a while I do the right thing

I answered the telephone late one afternoon recently during a period when we were frantically recruiting both to cover those who'd left at the start of the summer (and been covered over the summer months by the returning students) as well as those who'd subsequently decided to move on for one reason or another.

The gentleman at the other end of the phone was enquiring about progress by him up our recruitment list. We tend not to receive curricula vitae. Instead we have people drop in; we take down their name and a few key details and get the rest if and when we call them in. As I couldn't find the recruitment book which was in someone else's office I took down his details on a piece of paper with the intention of checking and calling him back.

The moment he gave me his date of birth I had a pretty good (and as it turns out accurate) idea of why he hadn't been called in for an interview. Even he must have been harbouring his suspicions. "Is it an issue?" he asked in the silence after giving his year of birth as 1942.

I insisted it wouldn't necessarily be a barrier and at the first available opportunity I mentioned him to the Bulldog who, as it happens, had been tasked with dragging likely suspects in to be given the once over.

She admitted that she'd passed over everyone older than herself.

Now as it happens I'd heard a story about a bloke celebrating his 100th (yes his one hundredth) birthday with his colleagues at the depot where he is employed to clean out commercial vehicles of one sort of other - I didn't get the details, and they're not the point here.

I went into bat for the applicant, insisting that his age couldn't be grounds in and of themselves to disregard him. We spend most of our time moaning about the Kiddies - their stupidity, laziness, lack of practical common sense, rudeness, incompetence and sheer unreliability; then when someone older comes along do we show ourselves to be stupid, lazy, lacking commensense, rude and incompetent.

What really floored me though was the Bulldog's admission that she'd seen a TV version of the story I'd heard on the radio.

Within 12 hours the bloke had been in to be interviewed by the Sex Pest and offered a job with us. Of course if it all goes pear shaped I'll be blamed for sticking my neck out for him; but I still believe I did the right thing by insisting that he be given his chance.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Stop it ... okay?

Stop with the thieving will you ... like now! Chasing thieves about the shop is seriously getting on my tits.

Today's criminal was some spotty youth who slipped a bottle (or perhaps two) of whiskey into his backpack and legged it. The bloke (sorry pharmacist) who runs the, um, pharmacy concession alerted me right when I was in the middle of trying to find some poor old dear some mixed peal. We wandered up and down every aisle in search of a young man with a back pack. Do you think we could find the fucker. Not even a perfectly innocent young man with a back pack. What would the odds be?

What really fucked me off (do you get the picture, I'm annoyed?) was one of the Gang of Four from Tuesday's escapade back in the store, dried out and down from what ever narcotic induced high he'd been on and looking sheepish. Which only goes to show that these tawdry fuckers do know right from wrong.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Plague of Shoplifters

On Monday evening we had a scruffy looking bloke come into the store and something about him rang alarm bells; I followed him round to the hot food counter, and there served him a couple of the few remaining items bagged up and reduced.

On the way back in the direction of the check-outs I was very briefly distracted by another customer and as a result I got back to the check-outs in time to be told by the only operator on duty that he'd strolled out of the store without paying for anything, but with something that rustled under his sweater.

I hope the ham he knicked poisoned him.

The same operator and I were on duty yesterday late afternoon when we were approached by a customer who believed that he'd just seen someone secrete a bottle of whiskey about his person. Unfortunately we were only in time to get a glimpse of the thief legging it around the corner. On the way back I was passed by a scruffy looking and very young couple with a baby in a push chair who set my alarms off.

As judgemental as it might sound fake Burberry, extensive tatooing, copious body piercings, lanky unwashed hair and pallid complexion combine to create the impression of someone lacking self-respect and where there is no self-respect generally there can be no respect for others (or their property).

They seemed however to dutifully queue up and pay for their goods; I put them from my mind. A little later in the evening after I'd finished the admin. and begun to get stuck into straightening up the shop floor I was informed that the whiskey thief had returned, this time drunk and accompanied by a skinny youth with pustules all over his face. By this time of the day the shop is fairly empty and it is correspondingly difficult to have a pair of suspected thieves under surveillance without them recognising what's going on.

A bit of abusive language later they left.

I suppose we had vague hopes that matters would rest there but a short while later they returned with reinforcements, one of whom I recognised from a past visit as an aggressive little loud-mouth. He attempted to enter without a shirt on which gave me a pretext for stopping him. He gave me a bit of lip and swagger and bluster, then retreated to the foyer to use the pay phone, surrounded by his mates in a tight cluster.

A couple of times they attempted to break back into the main store and each time I stood my ground on the question of not entering until fully dressed. Each time they got further into the store, pushing to find out quite where the limit would be. Hairdo had entered the fray by this point and tried to make them stay together in one place while what they wished to purchase was brought to them, on the grounds that they were clearly under the influence, dishevelled, loud, intimidating and generally unwelcome.

They weren't having anything of it. Once inside the store (the semi-naked yobbo having donned the coat of the whiskey thief) they split into two groups. The newly dressed yob and the other new member of the gang headed for wines and spirits protesting that they only wanted to buy a bottle of drink for the Shirtless One's birthday. The other two, the original whiskey thief and the pustule covered accomplice, headed for the hot food counter where I had no option but to hand over a couple items. Determined not to have happen what had happened the previous night I stuck to them all round the aisles with them laughing at the way they were making us dance to their tune.

That something was happening must have been perfectly obvious to anyone in the store but that didn't stop a middle aged couple way-laying me for help in finding the steralising tablets for baby bottles. They were standing facing the baby food, the sterilising tablets were on a shelf on the other side of the aisle (ie, to their backs) alongside all the other. I snatched a packet from the shelf and thrust it at them before heading back in pursuit of the trouble makers. I hope they were left thinking me quite as rude as I thought them stupid.

After purchasing the cheese and bacon slice and the other hot food item (I can't even remember what it was) they left the store accompanied by the other pair.

Yet again they hoped that would be it. Hairdo patrolled the main entrance and back they came. This time Hairdo stood her ground as they attempted to come back into the store ... as I joined her the pustule covered youth pulled out his phone and feigned calling the police. There was lots of swagger from them about their legal right to enter the store, of the "I know my rights".

Since both Hairdo and I had serious doubts that he'd called the police and the pair were still outside making threatening noises about being prepared to enter the store whether we permitted it or not I dialled 999 for police attendance.

In the meantime a male customer intervened to send the pair packing.

Calm didn't last long. They'd only gone around the corner, doing damage to external fixtures as they went, and they'd linked up with the Chav couple and their baby. My instinct about them hadn't been completely wrong. The young couple drifted away as we watched, we turned around to go back into the store only to stop to the sound of breaking glass. For a brief moment Hairdo and I stood face to face with (and only a couple of feet from) a drunken youth waving a broken bottle and chanting "your dead, your dead, your dead etc".

In all we placed three 999 calls for police; eventually a lone female officer arrived, took note of the youths, spoke to them (from the safety of her patrol vehicle) and promised us she'd remain until the last member of staff had safely got away.

The Sex Pest somehow managed to find out something was up and come in, which was appreciated as it happens. He wanted to know why one of us hadn't kneed one of them in the groin, but I suspect that only would have landed who ever had been proactive with the threat at least of an assault charge. He wanted to know why the police hadn't turned up more promptly but the police wanted to know why we weren't calling local police rather than the emergency response service.

I've got two more evening shifts to get through this week, and an interview with the police this afternoon.

I don't get paid enough for this.

On the same theme, I found
The Dividing Line's The Forgetful Shopper
A Police Officer's perspective
New blogger Bob's anecdote
I also found this blog, from the persepective of the political Right-of-Centre, discussing Proposed Shoplifting Guidelines, and a self-selecting group of commentors.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What the hell ... more Sex Pest

But first ....

Monday through Saturday the store opens to staff at 5:00 am but to the public at 7:00. The check-out supervisor, who puts together the roster when she arrives, doesn't start work until 8:30am. Between 6:00 and 8:30 those of us who have to make decisions about the deployment of staff resources somehow manage to scrape by... And even when the supervisor does pull together a list of who's in and when they'll be taking tea breaks and lunches we're no better informed as to who's working on the greengrocery, deli, bakery, dairy, chillded, meat/fish, booze, bread etc etc sections.

But Sunday? Oh, no Sundays are different. Quite why is less than abundantly clear but our Lord and Master (aka the Sex Pest, etc) has spoken and it was noticable that today both Scrawny Bint and The Bulldog (yes, the gang were all in) were singing from his hymn sheet in respect of the preparation of Sunday's staff list a good 48 hours in advance. Scrawny Bint patiently explained to COS that otherwise they don't know who's in and who's not... because they're in at 8:00 and the staff are in at 8:00 but the Sunday supervisor isn't in until 9:00 so for a good hour they're flying blind.

Hmmm ... If there's a good reason for all the trouble we're being asked to take over Sundays I'd back 'us' versus the COS and her Sunday counterpart. I just can't see the difference.

Quite why Scrawny Bint and Sex Pest both had to be in the store and working the same section escaped me, too.

The only exciting thing to happen before I escaped was an audacious thief who had the temerity to ask for help - for me to serve him some food from behind the hot food counter. I handed requested items and followed him vaguely in the direction of the checkouts. A quick word with a member of staff and when I round the corner he's already legged it, rustling deli bags hastily shoved under his shirt.

I hope that the ham he bought, that was cooked first thing this morning, poisons him. Or if not that, I hope it burned him shoved up against his bare flesh as it was.

Only when I got home about an hour ago did I learn from someone who was working this morning that the entire store knows of Mad Mrs Sex Pest's histrionics of yesterday. How? Not from me. So either from Hairdo or more intriguingly from Sex Pest himself.

Though I initially favoured Hairdo telling either her administrative pest (who is an inveterate gossip) or her only other friend in the entire building (the warehouseman - well placed to spread stories).

My source however favours the theory that Sex Pest himself has had a high old time of it sharing (in total confindence of course, and only with a select few) the story of his wife's moment of madness yesterday.

Sex Pest Spectacular

I have a long week of night shifts ahead of me, but I better cope; I stuck my hand up and offered to take them on, on a long term basis provided I could ditch the Sundays.

My employers being what they are they've heard what they want, which is to say they've heard the bit about me doing week-day nights but not the bit about giving me back my Sundays. New admin manager has come in and is flexing her muscle; put my preferred option on the table and explained how we'd work it and she said 'umm' and 'errr' and 'weeeelll', and then proved she's a total corporate girl by adding the standard-grade clincher, which is "I'll have to ask..."

This will all sort itself out over the next four weeks.

I've stood my ground before. They fold like a house of cards when subject to even the slightest force.

Mean time Sunday wasn't funday this week. Most of the management were in, the remainder are on sick leave. I walked in to the worst atmosphere I've known ... Hairdo and Scrawny Bint at their desks, back to back. Had they been suitably armed they'd have drawn swords and shot each other.

Having been out at a Hen Night the previous night I wasn't in the mood for their, well, moodiness; so headed onto the shop floor to get things ready for opening. Eventually Scrawny Bint hit the shop floor too, round on the other side and I could get back in and do the stuff I need to do in the office ahead of opening.

Hairdo had hardly opened her mouth to say good morning when I arrived, but after a while she began to talk. Turns out she's going back into hospital in a couple of weeks for further investigation of some problem in her abdomen; she's been on symptom-masking medication since the beginning of the year but has had to come off in the run up to the procedure and as a consequence is increasingly uncomfortable. She certainly looked genuinely and significantly unwell.

That was only half the story, of course. But before I got to that I had to negotiate the Sex Pest. Not my Sex Pest (aka The Stud or The General Manager), but Scrawny Bint's. It's almost but not quite entirely inevitable that when she's in he's not far behind.

Which only adds to the general stressfulness of Sundays... I am not sure I fully understand why it is but Sundays are the worst day of the week for Stress. We're all in two hours before the shop opens, except check-out staff who have the luxury of strolling in at (theoretically) five minutes before opening. We've oodles of time to get the load broken down and distributed, the newspapers assembled and the kiosk generally prepped. We've also at least until the summer kiddies drop out got sufficient staff to get us through.

All things are relative of course and we get through the last couple of hours of Saturday night with a skeleton crew than can be as low as four or five (management excluded). That's a total of four or five staff covering the entire store, shop floor, warehouse and at least two check-outs. So yes, we have staff coming out our ears on Sunday.

We've got two on greengrocery, two on dairy, two on deli, two on bakery, two on frozen and perhaps a dozen covering the rest of the shop floor and check-outs. And we're only open for six hours, because the law says we can't open before 10:00 am or remain open after 4:00pm on Sunday.

Somehow the simple task of selling to the general public for six whole hours induces panic in the Sex Pest. He has to know at least 48 hours in advance exactly who will be working any Sunday he's on duty. And all the information has to be presented to him on a special form of his devising and which is totally unfit for purpose (and omits a couple of key departments as well).

My first inkling that the Sex Pest might be in the building was a request for said form from Scrawny Bint; which at first I thought peculiar but lat realised was just her dealing with her master's Sunday morning Panic attack.

Peace descended when they retreated to his office for a quick round of what ever it is they get up to behind that closed door. Later in the day Scrawny Bint boasts that there's nothing that goes on in the store she doesn't know about, which gives a certain credence to the suggestion I've heard that she's pumping him for information... Ew. At least it was in his office. What really grosses me out is the idea of the pair of them getting down and dirty among the warehouse stacks.

A little while after we opened, while we're on the subject, Mrs Sex Pest rang and I happened to be passing so answered the call. Now I've spoken with her many, many times and I'm fairly familiar with her voice. Like just about everyone else who rings us she won't bother to introduce herself but will instead launch into what ever is she wants to say. On the other hand she's normally intelligible. She sounded totally stoned. She asked some semi-gibberish question about 'who was on duty rota' in response to which I asked to be told who I was speaking with. I got the same question, or something very like it so I asked my question a second time.

Leaving aside the old saying that one should never answer a question with a question I believe my stand to be perfectly reasonable, though if anyone has any thoughts on phone etiquette and whether I'm being unreasonable or antiquated (I know I'm being antediluvian) please share them.

Eventually - I can be a stubborn old thing - she caved in and admitted to being Mrs Sex Pest. Her reward for her candour was to be told that the rostered duty manager was Scrawny Bint. I got a bit more mumbling and then the 'phone put down on me. Hairdo had been an interested spectator; when I explained the side of the call she'd not been able to hear she turned an even more interesting shade of grey and got straight on the phone to the sex pest to give him chapter and verse.

Once more peace reigned. In fact we got through to lunch time, unreliable card transaction system and all before the proverbial hit the fan. A short pugnacious middle-aged twat returned with his incomplete copy of the Sunday Times. Having found the young girl on the kiosk to be an unworthy opponent he insisted that I enter the fray. I apologised. I explained that the missing section hadn't been delivered. I apologised. I promised I'd look into why I hadn't been told about the missing sections. I apologised. I promised I'd investigate what could be done to prevent this happening again. I apologised. I offered this uber-jackass his money back.

The sad truth was the little turd hadn't come back in for a solution; he'd come in for a fight, to take his frustration over his micro-penis out on someone other than his long-suffering little woman.

Someone else called during the afternoon to complain about the Sunday Times missing sections so I vented at Sex Pest after getting no satisfaction with Scrawny Bint. He had got to her first after all.

Sex pest spent the afternoon in the office getting under everyone's feet. I took my chance to offer an apology for the conversation with Mrs Sex Pest (just in case there was anything to apologise for) and in reply I got "she's a bit..." accompanied by some tapping of the side of the head. Then some pugnacious "if she's going to fucking check up on me ... I'm not going to answer her fucking calls ... that'll teach her" type. He also got the satisfaction of slinging out some cue-ball headed notorious shoplifter type who'd snuck in with a couple of his younger and snottier nosed brats.

His son, who absolutely definitely isn't gay, wafted in mid-afternoon for a shop floor family conference which was quite sweet. The Heir Apparent (who runs a Gay Bar in London but absolutely definitely isn't, himself) has gone all dark and pretty. I'm not sure whether that's a reversion to au naturel (and I suspect I'm not likely to find out). All I can say is that he was quite fair of hair on head and stubble last time I saw him, but now he's not only got a luscious black head of hair but very dark stubble. Eyebrows and eyelashes were obscured by thick framed sunglasses in an exquisite shade of pink.

I wasn't a fly on the wall at Sex Pest Manor so can't say how the evening passed. No wailing ambulance sirens pierced the otherwise calm of the night, so perhaps they're all still in one piece. More's the pity.

Friday, September 01, 2006

We have a new cash machine, all shiny on the outside ... and just as disfunctional on the inside where it really counts.

Our tills are randomly refusing to offer people who pay using a debit card the opportunity for cash back.

On the upside we're no longer 'enjoying' the unique scent that is Eau de Dead Rat now that we have a shiny new cash machine.

Building services have been down to put new barrels in the locks of the staff lockers so our newer employees can have somewhere to safely stow their meagre possessions while they're at work.

I was away over the long-weekend so missed the minor volcanic eruption (or equivalent thereof) when the Sex Pest discovered quite how little the Hairdo had accomplished when left to her own devices running the store.

Hairdo's son tied the knot during a break in the weather over the long weeke-end, and the mother of the groom is reported to have looked fabulous.

Since the office supervisor has resigned, responsibility for the boring crap will now formally be vested in Corporal Jones. Don't Panic!

The Sex Pest had to work the long weekend and has spent the few days in the company of his Lap Top (computer, not dancer) and his laminator.

Shortly coming to a wall somewhere in the building is a notice headed "Seasonal Staff" which then goes on to tell everyone that they need to give four months notice of any intention to take leave during peak periods (for demand, he means).

We have a compulsive graffiti-ist. I'm informed that the walls of the warehouse, the men's staff toilet and the corridor from the upper warehouse to the service lift are adorned with little messages calling into question the sexuality of a member of staff who works in our greengrocery staff.

He's about to leave us to go to University. I guess if the abuser is a permanent member of staff, he or she will only turn on another target once the current one leaves.

I could be a sex pest, but I'm not that desperate and there is absolutely no eye-candy. Some mysterious line has been crossed and the younger members of staff are now too young. They look like children from the perspective of my advancing years.

The only men of more mature age are the Sex Pest, Daft Dave, Clive the Drooller (who is in charge of trollies and baskets) and Mummy's Boy. Enough said? Oh there is Erik the Viking but he's spoken for.

Posh customer called up for his wife's particular tipple and had to leave empty handed because someone's knicked the last bottles in store of that particular line of sherry. Nothing with which to ply the Vicar in that particular household this weekend.

How do I know? Because our uber-reliable computer system says we still have two bottles in stock; two bottles will not be in the warehouse so if they're not on the shelves someone's swiped them.

Summer staff are about to bugger off (back to college or university) and no-one has any idea how much recruiting we can do - or where the hell we might do it.

Takings are tailing off after what's been a poor summer. The weather was tremendous in July but less than wonderful in August; people weren't so inclined to visit us at the weekends either to sail or take advantage of our gorgeous waterfront scenes and gleaming golden beach.

The engineers have just about completed the job of installing the freezer/chiller cabinet monitoring system only a couple of months after work commenced. It will be a great comfort to everyone to hear as we probably soon will that we now have a system in place to tell us if temperatures rise towards problematic levels in our freezer/chiller cabinets.