Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wringing wet

Spare a thought for the grunts who slaved so ineffectually over that dud £20 I pulled from the bundle during the week:

Edward Elgar is to be rubbed out and replaced by Adam Smith.

New notes are on the way, and you can be sure that the counterfeiters are already preparing to find out design, specifications and any new security devices ... or perhaps not if the quality of the dud I had in my hands in recent days is anything to go by.

One thing that is certain is that at least some of our operators when at last they are presented with the first of the new notes will cry out for assistance and present the note as some kind of mystery and possibly forgery. You'd think we didn't go to the trouble of:

(a) briefing new operators in the days running up to the launch of the new note.

(b) put a copy of the new design on each till

(c) put a copy of the new design by the clocking in machine

(d) put a copy of the new design on the notice board in the staff room

(e) harbour faint hopes that our operators are sufficiently engaged by the world about them to take on board the copious press coverage that no doubt will accompany the launch.

Time will pass and the darlings will become familiar with the new note (that is to say stop accusing everyone presenting one of attempting to pass off a forgery.)

The real difficulty will come when the old notes are withdrawn from circulation. The time will come when the old notes are no longer totally legal tender; businesses will no longer be obliged to accept them - though banks will.

For months and months and months and even years we'll get the old ones coming through the tills, unless they notes are radically different - bright yellow perhaps? We won't be able to pass them back, we'll have to extract each one and bank it separately.

And it won't stop the bloody forgers for longer than a nanosecond.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Re-programming is Such Fun

And if I say that often enough I just might believe it.

Our Under Age Sales training has been deemed inadequate relative to the climate we operate in and so every single one of us will have to sit down and wade through new, revised, updated or whatevered training material and complete an answer booklet and woe betide anyone who can't remember exactly how many painkillers we can sell at a time and what age the customer has to be.

We've got marmalade that contains a wee, wee dramlet of whiskey ... mustn't sell that to anyone under 18 and must ask for proof of age of anyone attempting to purchase the stuff who appears not to be 21 or older. The reason is of course that anyone setting out to get bladdered on whiskey-laced marmalade would die of orange poisoning long before he or she might otherwise have begun the slightest bit merry.

The same goes for boozy chocolates and the like.

But we've got solvents all over the store for the hard cases to purchase and take down to the fields or where ever it is the bored and disaffected 'yoots' go to put their lives on the line. I wish they'd hurry up and do it though because fireworks are the current bane of my life. I do understand why we keep the explosives (not to put too fine a point on matters) under special security, but why we're selling the damned stuff is beyond me.

They're going off tonight, of course and they'll continue to menace pets, livestock and wildlife for a good three weeks from now and if we're lucky nobody will be killed or seriously maimed in the meantime.

How peculiar the English are with their obsession for excessive alcohol consumption and an annual back-yard bomb detonation festival. It's not all gentle summer afternoons nursing a pint of warm beer and watching cricket here, let me tell you.

Behind the scenes things have been relatively quiet which is to say that nothing catastrophic has happened. This current offer period has been no more of a disaster than usual, no higher than usual proportion of the merchandised lines are not scanning or scanning incorrectly. That means I've largely avoided contact with the higher life forms at Grocery Towers.

The notable exception to this has to be The Uber Peasant who made a visitation without taking the trouble once to acknowledge me by name. And there I was pondering a new soubriquet after he took the trouble and care to announce himself last time he phoned. It just goes to show a tiger never changes its spots, or something

Sadly someone (possibly actually the culprit) has removed "The Attack of the Killer Apostrophe's (sic)" from the memory so I can't share it with you.

Then this afternoon Sex Pest (I'll blame him for a reasons set out later*) launched a bit of a spectacular: a fake note turned up in one of our tills. The note was put in with a bundle of notes of that denomination for signing, counter signing and sealing to be collected tomorrow. Fine.

Due to someone pulling a sicking I got roped into helping with the cash. I passed the initiative test with flying colours, by spotting and pulling the fake at my first pass through the bundle. After taking on board that three people already knew that it was a fake and were in on it's being included in a bundle to be sent to the cash depot I countersigned without giving much thought and for a few hours got on with my actual job.

Later this evening I had to go back in and finish off the cash and at that point the little lingering doubt about what I'd done resurfaced. In effect I had put my signature to a fraud. I had the chance to go back into the safe and re-jig the notes so that the fake is now isolated but a number of bundles of that denomination haven't yet been counter signed and sealed. Quite easily someone could come along tomorrow and take that note, which I've isolated, and put it back into one of the bundles bearing my [first signatory] signature. In retrospect I might have been better off as just a counter signatory, in which scenario the expectation that I'd actually scrutinise each note is rather lower and I'm really confirming that the correct number of notes is present.

*It was Sex Pest who authorised returning the fake to the bundle I counted shortly after I arrived this afternoon.

Damn it. And what a charming thought to try to go to sleep on.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Damn, damn, damn

I had hoped to serve up more splendid gibberish ... I've found something wonderful but I've misplaced the copy I printed out. I promise you though it will be worth the wait. Due to a re-jigging of the shifts I'm now not at work until Monday so it won't be before then.

Three whole days off ... shall I go shopping?

Grand Theft Auto

The town we're in is almost but not quite an overgrown sea-side retirement village. It isn't quite Frinton : it is possible to buy ice-cream or which ever frivolity it was Frinton pursued a one-town crusade against.

On the other hand the footpaths can upon occasion be a place of hazard for pedestrians, thanks to the geriatric Sterling Moss-types who get about in electric-powered sit-on scooters (mobility carts), like golf buggies or lawn mowers without blades.

Some days the footpath outside the store is almost impassable for these cumbersome vehicles parked up haphazardly by the entrance, often with some yappy creature on sentry duty in the basket or on the seat.

Recently we had an incident of buggy theft ... the mother-in-law of one of the town's best known characters could be seen on footage from one of the external camera to drive up and park her buggy under the canopy. In the final frame all that could be seen was the very last traces of the string bag at the back of the buggy. We could see her on the store CCTV wandering up and down the aisles and then coming to the customer service desk to report that her buggy wasn't where she left it.

The external camera also captured a notorious drunk (and known buggy user) reversing out from under the canopy; knowing where he lives he was pursued and he insisted that the buggy in his possession was his own; we've no grounds to assert otherwise.

Pointless post really except that running about after the old dear and reviewing CCTV footage and running after the suspected thief and getting the police in and reviewing the CCTV footage with them took up an awfully big part of that day.

Once again we were more 'drop in centre for the aged' than hard-nosed commercial outfit.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can you guess what we are yet?

My fellow retailer blogger over at Retail Record (see Blogroll, right) recently vented after an encounter with a windbag customer who monopolised his attention one busy Saturday (see Life Story). That post provoked a response from someone called George and Retail Record has now responded at length.

The whole saga and things that happen all the time have got me thinking about how people perceive the store. Clearly some customers regards us as their corner store ... never mind the queue building up behind me, I want chapter and verse on the progress of my favourite check-out operator's latest grand-child.

George is quite right in saying that "The poor woman probably has nobody to talk to." and Retail Record has responded.

For my part I know I'm not employed as a social worker, counsellor or Care in the Community Officer, but at least once a week I give an hour of my time to help a regular customer with cerebral palsy negotiate our aisles and complete his big weekly shop.

I keep the way clear while Mad Basket Kicker is in the store, put up with her rants and comfort anyone she upsets. I neither say nor do anything when Stinky Lady comes in, even though she drives other customers away, makes me want to heave and reduces which ever unfortunate operator has to serve her to something close to tears. I help the illiterate and the dyslexic negotiate their way through the blur of messages with which we bombard visitors

I carry round in my head the full medical history of every member of staff so that I don't ask anyone to do anything they 'can't do' and the full emotional history of every member of staff so I don't unless absolutely necessary ask anyone to do anything they don't want to do.

I remember customers, their foibles and do my best to meet their quirky demands.

I take crap from the Uber-peasant and his ilk in Grocery Towers, operate the shop on decrepit hardware driven by obsolete software.

We, the staff clean up the urine, faeces and vomit regularly deposited about the store by the incontinent, mop up the breakages left like a trail of wreckage by the uncoordinated. We deal with thieves, drunks, bullies and con-artists.

Thanks to the perverse approach to alcohol (and certain other age-restricted products) prevailing in the UK we act as the nation's police force in respect of the sale of these items. And when we don't do that job properly we lose our day job.

Last night a dear old lady suffering either from early senile dementia or some other deterioration of her faculties was in at about 17:30 and left her debit card behind in the card reader. There was some confusion involving the purchases being made by the next customer and by the time that was sorted out he'd forgotten he intended to pay by cash. So the operator said something about the card and he responded in a way that effectively confirmed he'd be paying by card and she proceeded on that basis.

He entered a PIN number and for some reason rather than responding with Card Declined (which is what should happen when the incorrect number is entered) it [the software] responded with Pin Pad Failure and generated a docket for signature. The customer even signed the slip before either he or the operator realised the mistake. She then endeavoured to cancel the transaction (rather than simply respond NO on the keyboard to the Confirm Signature question) and our software blithely processed the transaction.

I have mentioned that we labour with crappy software, haven't I?

Red faces all round (the second customer is also a familiar regular) and a largely wasted evening. She has a common surname and the operator gave me misleading information about which road she lives in. Then she suggested another member of staff might know her well. But that staffer didn't recognise the name. Eventually we established that the little old lady's name isn't X, it's Y and she lives next door to so-and-so. I found so-and-so's number and called her. She went round to her neighbour who will come in and collect her card, to which we'll refund the amount of the transaction.

We did our best and finally achieved a happy ending all round.

First impressions

(After the foyer where we sell news/mags, fags, sweets, snacks and lottery) ... the greengrocery is the first area of the store for customers coming in through the main entrance.

That's one reason why the situation we've found ourselves in since Sex Pest decided to take the cheap option and give responsibility for that department to the young lad who previously had been responsible for filling shelves and fridges with soft drink is SUCH a problem.

I've got nothing against young lads per se, particularly when they're personable and very passable looking - in fact I believe we should employ more young lads with such qualifications. But we've got a kid of about 20 in charge of a critical department. Does he know his beets from his greens, his swedes from his brussels? One would like to think so. One would also like to think that he grasp such basics as presentation, rotation, date and quality checking, accurate reduction, waste control and responsible ordering.

The other burden placed on his shoulders in consequence of his 'promotion' is staff management.

SO this week (again) we've had screwed-up orders, ineffectual rotation (date control, linked to reduction and waste control), mess and uncleanliness on the shop floor, squalor in the prep room, generally shoddy presentation and NO staff in the evenings.

I hate picking on this kid, or seeming to pick on this kid. How on earth could he respond to an offer of what was put to him as a promotion, but in the way he did which was to say Yes, Please? He was promised all kinds of support, but they haven't materialised. He's risen above a particularly challenging start in life that included being sent (rightly or otherwise) to a school for children with special educational needs.

He isn't the brightest bunny, he isn't as quick on the uptake as he might be, but he is loyal and willing a diligent to a fault - and certainly has the potential to assume the full responsibilities of a department head, but not at twenty, not without having put in some time in an intermediate level role and not without more support initially than he's been given.

And that's down to Sex Pest.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A-; not quite a perfect piece of work

A brief panic but I've found it now; a fine missive from one of the uber-peasant occupants of Grocery Towers.

The subject is 'plans' - which is to say the schematic layouts for sections of the store, determined within Grocery Towers rather than by anyone at the coal-face with some grasp of what customers want. The practitioners of the dark art of store design have faith in the 'science' of grocery selling the way the Pope has faith in the Roman Catholic church, ie it is total, unswerving, unquestioning and absolute.

Thou shalt not deviate from The Plan.

And so I unearthed the following gem when trawling through deleted emails:

"I have looked /checked plans today that the TradeMark reps did yesterday in some of are stores and have not found any of them to be planed correctly.
These plans will have to be done again Managers need to check what the reps are doing to your store and ensure the plan is completed correctly.
Check line by line that it complies to the plan before they leave the store.
There is a £X fine for none compliant stores. It's not going to be us."

So much splendid gibberish, here reproduced for your delectation in all its glory. Almost all the hallmarks of a sterling piece of work are present, so this has been down-graded to A-.

There are examples of eccentric, incorrect and effectively obscurantist punctuation, spacing and line breaks, mis-spelling and use of words strongly suggesting that the author is an illiterate typing what he thinks clever people are saying. On the other hand the piece is sadly lacking examples of long words used inappropriately (I briefly considered marking this piece down to a B on these grounds alone.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The shift from somewhere quite warm

It started so well, no dramas reported during the hand over, all physical faults reported and with response times attached, check-outs fully operation, fully staffed.

Then over the course of the evening I lost a key worker to dental discomfort. I failed to convince either of the two obvious replacements to stay and cover for her. I lost two shelf stackers to a car accident and a third to training. A fourth staffer had been given the evening off by someone other than me. Yet another was an hour late because she's started a college course and can no longer get in for the start of her shift.

At some point during the evening we were notified that the delivery scheduled for tonight would be late, but no indication of when it would be arriving.

Then we discovered that the evening greengrocery manager hadn't bothered to turn up or call to say that he wouldn't be in. No cover could be drummed up at short notice. We discovered that the total muppet who is our HOG* had entered the wrong order for our deli counter so the order needed to be re-entered and re-sent. The order had previously been checked and sent by Hairdo, which didn't provide any comfort whatsoever.

I went into the Greengrocery prep room and found a sign indicating that all waste had been 'done' which suggested that all greengrocery had been 'date checked' and anything now OOD had been removed from the shelves, and that anything shortly to be OOD had been reduced for quick sale EXCEPT for the cauliflowers which were in the main fridge to be reduced in the evening.

I dutifully trotted them round to be marked down. Then the dairy girls got bored.

The dairy girls were waiting for their delivery which was on our non-appearing lorry. They drifted into the greengrocery section and started turning over things.

Half an hour later we'd removed for reducing stock from among the spuds, salads, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, cabbage, courgette ... the stuff dated tomorrow and therefore to be ruduced today as well as several items that should have been reduced yesterday.

Ricky Ratshit was in again. He was part of the gang of four that threatened to kill me some weeks ago; he was at the door yesterday but stone cold sober and therefore easy to deal with. Today his eyes were like twin snooker reds and he was slurring and weaving; on the other hand he was perfectly willing to be shepherded out the door while his mate (who was less well away) queued to purchase their bottle of wine.

Sadly his spotty-faced mate could not produce ID confirming that he was old enough to purchase the alcohol so after a short slanging match across the till which I won he slunk off to try his luck(Presumably) at Tesco.

Romeo was in, too. But he's responded to being told off for pestering S. by looking chronically hang-dog and bewildered and pointedly avoiding which ever check-out she's on so I've relaxed a bit when I spot he's in the store.

What else? Er, that's it. I'm knackered.

*Head of Greengrocery

Sunday, October 15, 2006

There's a word for this

The percentage of our staff who've got their job because of who they know rather than what they're capable is lamentably high.

On the other hand a surpisingly reassuring percentage turn out for the best. Not sparkling, but adequate.

Not so the smug young daughter of our frozen goods manager who had to be on the receiving end of a verbal warning from Hairdo for slacking.

It isn't immediately clear why that particular young pup was singled out. We had extended tea breaks that lasted as long as twenty-five minutes, rudeness both to colleagues and other staff and an overall air of indolence.

What really gets on my tits is that these Kiddies seem to forget that I have it within my power to make their lives truly miserable, and I will if they slack off and let everyone else down. If I have to come in on Sunday and put up with Hairdo I will take that out on anyone who gives me a half decent chance.

So the freezer-loafer who I caught skiving down the cereals aisle got to clean up the crap (yes, real warm smelly shit) some toddler left behind, and another slacker got to clean up the piss a drunk left by the photobooth in the foyer.

Had there been no-one to pick on for such a matching pair of thankless tasks I might, just might, have had to do them myself; I never worry about such a prospect because there is always a slacker to single out.

Accidents will happen

I hadn't intended to post today, but then I hadn't intended to work. I was supposed to have a second Sunday off in succession, but then a late change of plans meant I had to go in. The person who told me I'd have to be in on a Sunday when Hairdo would be in overall charge also and very considerately told me where she keeps her secret stash of valium.

While our schedules are so 'up in the air' these things will continue to happen I suppose. Popping valium is so 1970s, which I guess is given the image I've given myself of resolute middle-agedness is so fitting.

Anyway I wasn't going to post but then Mrs F came in. Mrs F has featured before in connection with the sale or (double) return on sweet peppers which you can read about here. She was in again today and caught me completely unawares. Bitch.

The first I knew about her visit was a call that someone had returned a packet of dodgy green beans. Green beans are Mrs F's latest wheeze and it works like this:

Buy a slightly dried out looking packet of green beans of the cheaper variety they day before you need them. It is important that you plan ahead if you're thinking of pulling this trick on me, okay?

Come back in on the day you are actually planning to use the beans and, if we have a really decent looking replacement pack demand them plus your money back.

If we don't have the cheapo beans but do have the expensive (trimmed, washed etc) version which is less than half the weight and a more than half the price per pack then demand two packs of those as a replacement.

Don't forget to grope the manager who's agreed to let you have them by way of compensation and call her sweetie on the way out.

My God I detest that woman!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Odds and ends

A short shift today, and a strange assortment too.

The yardman puked in the warehouse on an industrial scale. Now we know that there's some kind of stomach bug doing the rounds. By rights we should have been shut down by health and safety or trading standards or someone else (by ourselves?) but we remained open for business and did brisk business for the remainder of the afternoon.

A presumably male customer failed to aim accurately in the sit down area of the men's toilets; leaving an unfortunate (and by the end distressed) member of staff having to clean up the crap.

Just after lunch the ISDN line that carries card transaction traffic threw a fit and had to be re-booted or whatever it is that BT boffins do under such circumstances. The cards were 'down' for the best part of an hour, but the cash machine had been re-stoked and was particularly popular.

One of the supervisors managed somehow to achieve the impossible and get a finger jammed inside the manual swipe machine which we were left having to use while the cards were down. Have a look at one if you ever get the chance and try to imagine fitting an adult sized finger into a space designed to take a credit card and three sheets of paper.

The Grape Thief was in. She's a scawny woman of indeterminate age who comes in with a basket. She picks up two bags of red grapes and a bit of milk plus perhaps one or two other items. She then wanders about the store for about half an hour consuming the grapes from one of the bags, transfering any tell-tale empty vine to the other bag. Then she gets to the checkout, discovers she's got hardly any cash on her and leaves behind all but the tiny residual bag of grapes and perhaps a pint of milk.

Our Bakery manager spotted her and reported her. Nothing was done. I had to listen to him complain about that for about an hour.

Then he went off and bought a scratch card from the lottery kiosk and won £100. So I had to listen to him boast about that for the rest of my shift.

Our syndicate did not win a bean in last night's massive EuroMillions draw so there's some chance that some staff will turn up for work tomorrow - on the other hand nobody else has won all that filthy lucre so there's still that very faint outside chance that none of us will have to turn up for work next week.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I did chronicle the wave of thieves we suffered a few weeks ago ... the reason the 'shoplifter' storyline dried up is that the supply of shoplifter stories dried up, and quite abruptly too. I've been thinking about this a bit over the course of what has turned out to be a fraught week due to a plague of a quite different sort. I guess the theives are all banged up for the moment.

In the meantime a new and rather peculiar form of idiot has emerged to try our patience. I don't know why it is than in the past couple of years I've seen nothing like it and now they all seem to have come out to annoy us.

I'm talking about, for example:

- the gentleman we'd never seen before who came in armed with his cheque book and no form of identification let alone a cheque guarantee card and wouldn't understand why we wouldn't accept a cheque as payment

- the gentleman who came in with his mother's cheque book and cheque card and couldn't understand why we wouldn't accept a cheque signed by him as payment, and wouldn't understand when we declined his offer of a cheque on which he'd, um, signed with his mother's signature

- the woman who came in with her husband's chip and pin card and when she couldn't remember the pin number insisted that we could force the 'system' to generate a docket which she could sign!

Amazingly that's just a selection of these idiots who seem all of a sudden to have completely lost the plot vis a vis cheque and card security. Ladies and gentlemen you may well love your parent, your child or your spouse (as the case may be) but the cheque books and cards are theirs, not yours. Get your own.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why I'm flattered and other related matters

Mr Tesco-Complaint wonders why I might be flattered by his attention. The explaination is quite simple: an old bird like me ;) - is or at least should be flattered by any attention.

On the other hand I do think that having me chundering on about the minutiae and mundanities of real-life in the darker recesses of a retail outlet would obscure the central message of his blog which has a very, very specific purpose even if blogger (and I haven't yet switched over to the Beta version) did make back link available.

That said his singular blog does serve a very valuable purpose. I only noticed today that the tesco store over the road from me is still promoting a "two for" deal on large (1.5l) bottles of a certain well known brand of soft drink. The fine print on the shelf talker makes clear that the offer expired some time in mid-September. If it were not for the fact that I'm well known by staff there to work for the only rival in town I'd be over there tomorrow feigning an innocent enquiry as to the price for two bottles of said fizzy pop. The reason for my reticence: we couldn't afford to get into a war on inaccurate pricing with The Great Supermarket Satan - though in our case mis-pricing is ineptitude rather than malice.

Still I don't have to shop there. I can wait and go to the other supermarket in town, which happens to be the one I work for and which offers me a 'staff' reduction on my purchases. I only go into tesco out of sheer desperation or indolence and get my just desserts when I'm ripped off or mucked about. I do have an alternative and tesco will get the message about its behaviour when more of us are less passive.

Our Daily Bread

The man in charge of the bakery section is responsible not only for the in-store bakery but also the bagged bread (your familiar commercial pre-packs) and on top of that all the other baked goods which includes the cakes and biscuits.

Bread being a staple and having a short shelf-life his is a demanding and high profile role. Having been in the job for about four years his is a familiar face too. He can't plead ignorance or hide down one of the aisles.

What he doesn't need is the type of person he had to deal with one day last week, a middle aged gentleman who approached him and asked:

"Do you have any fresh bread in the warehouse?"

Bakery mgr: "Yes, what would you like?"

[nb there was of course fresh bread on the shelves but the Bakery mgr knows through bitter experience that some people are not to be argued with]

Customer: bread

BM: yes, what sort

Customer: FRESH

BM: Any particular type of fresh bread?

Customer: A LOAF

You won't be surprised to learn that the Bakery Manager is a little thin on top.

Monday, October 09, 2006

We're not really a supermarket outlet...

This is sort of another Crappy Customer of the Day Award post, but since the person in question hasn't actually bought anything yet they don't technically qualify.

Her behaviour got me thinking about how we're perceived and I have to conclude that there are a lot of people out there who don't look on us as a business, and an outlet of a large corporate entity at that.

Instead they see us as an overgrown and still rather old-fashioned corner store. And from that flows an assumption of a rather more intimate and personal relationship with the store and its staff than a city centre Tesco (for example) might have to endure.

Would-be customers, or some of them, feel they have carte blanche to telephone at any old hour and discuss at length the possible causes of an absence from the shelves of a favoured variety of a specific drink line.

Which brings me to Mrs H. champion moaner who would be today's Crappy Customer of the Day if only she'd been able to buy her preferred cordial ... but she couldn't ... and that really was the point of her telephone call.

Mrs H has a cast in one eye, which is rather unfortunate but not her fault, and a frightfully frightfully accent that is entirely manufacturered. In stentorian accents she hectored me (sorry about the mangled homeric reference) and when I'd grovelled sufficiently she informed me (in Best Matron tones) that "Young Lady, your computer system needs seeing to".


And I'm that stupid I can't work that out on my own.

Even the Young Lady bit wasn't going to appease me. I happen to know that she's 80 if she's a day.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crappy customer award

Today's Crappy Customer of the Day is Mrs F.

By way of background Mrs F is a woman in her fifties (possibly) with that hideous tousled, streaked crop so beloved of would-be outdoorsy, horsey, yachtie types (who would be if only they could be if only they had the requisite family background, social circle, aptitude or money).

In moments of stress her carefully cultivated vowels are apt to slip; one day, we hope, she'll choke on 'em.

In the mean time she thinks she's up to each and every move on the board.

Today she turned up in the express lane demanding attention. She prefers to get her attention in such situations - a quiet corner simply doesn't offer sufficient scope for heaping humiliation down upon the head of whatever hapless flunky is unfortunate enough to have to deal with her. Today that hapless flunky was me.

She clutched in one hand a bag of mixed sweet peppers and in the other a receipt confirming that she (or at least someone) had purchased a bag of sweet peppers from us yesterday. She waved the bag of peppers at me and announced that she'd gone to use them when she got them home last night only to discover their condition. I looked at what she was showing me and could see through the CLEAR CELLOPHANE WRAPPER that of the three the green pepper looked well, slightly imperfect.

So I did exactly what she wanted me to do, I apologised and agreed that she could have the replacement pack she'd already selected and placed in her basket. I turned to walk away and as I did I heard her say as clear as a bell "And a refund. That's the standard, you know. A replacement and a refund."

I didn't acknowledge her, I was too slow and as yet unsure of my ground. I knew only that I was surrounded by a shop floor full of mildly interested spectators. I got the woman her refund which amounted to £1.59.

She went away convinced she'd scored yet another mighty victory. Meanwhile I had a moment to examine the pack she'd given me more closely. The mucky green bits I could see at one end were not as I'd initially assumed from the less than perfect green pepper, but were trapped there during the sealing process and possibly from an entirely different item. The pack itself had not been opened. The imperfections were not deterioration but the natural imperfections found in real fruit (rather than fruit grown in hot houses, shielded from the elements as they are).

It dawned on me that this ghastly woman had come in yesterday and spotted this packet. She'd selected it with the intention all along of bringing back, knowing that in doing so she'd get both a perfect pack, provided we had one, and her money back; or her money back twice. Not one of us would be brave enough or suicidal enough to challenge her. The imperfection was clearly visible through the clear packaging, there had been no abnormal deterioration and the other two fruit were absolutely flawless.

Mrs F (for going to all that effort to squeeze £1.59 out of us) is today's runaway Crappy Customer of the Day winner.

PS: I'm reliably informed that this particular carbuncle has in the past attempted to return (for a replacement and refund or double refund 'own brand' goods purchased at another supermarket chain.


I'm no advocate of Tesco, indeed I decry the market postion it has achieved and the reprehensible methods by which it has attained and maintains that position. I'm sufficiently a free-marketeer to destest the dominance it has acquired and the willingness it has exhibited to crush life out of alternatives and the fight out of suppliers. But I'm also old enough to have seen other supermarkets occupy for a period this position of supremacy and indeed many a commercial operation collapse under the weight of its own market force - for within Tesco's success lies the seed of its ultimate demise (probably in fragmentation).

The position Tesco currently holds is unsustainable and in all probability the board knows this; which is precisely why they're making so much hay and with such gusto. The sun won't always shine so strongly on the good folk at Tesco Tower, Cheshunt.

In the mean time, though I'm flattered by the attention of Mr Tesco-Complaint who blogs here I feel I must make the point that I do not work for Tesco (and I apologise unreservedly to my employer if anything I wrote here in the past in anyway gave the impression otherwise). Okay?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Customer Anecdote No ?

I came in one morning and as I usually do if I haven't anything better to do (put the coffee on, read a magazine someone's left lying about) I rifled through my colleague's in-trays in search of anything interesting.

Copied to each of us I found the resignation letter of a particularly unloved colleague who'd decided she could no longer hack the unsocial hours. Sayonara, baby and close the door quietly behind you as you leave.

Beneath that in one tray I found a copy of a customer claim.

While run of the mill refunds are just put through the till without the burden of a whole load of paperwork to back them up, some exceptional cases demand forms ...

An example of circumstances demanding form-filling is the notorious 'foreign object'. Clearly loads of people (the very least of which are 'us') need to be aware if a foreign object has entered a product. Ineptitude or malice are the obvious two explanations and neither is acceptable. Forms are sent off to 'higher beings' who have the power to get foreign objects investigated.

If we've a run of problems with a product (fresh chicken for example not lasting until its use by date before turning green and reeking) we'll start filling out customer claim forms to support refunds in the vague and probably vain hope that one of the higher beings will take some sort of supportive and even corrective action.

The third situation in which we endeavour to fill out a claim is when the customer is manifestly at fault and we've been unable or unwilling to tell them (the customer) to 'go sit on a stick and swivel' (or insert prefered alternative at this point).

The form I found beneath the resignation stemmed from just such an instance of Customer Brass-Faced Cheek, on a par with the woman and her finger-sticking 'your ice-cream isn't hard enough' outburst.

I'm pretty sure I recounted the story of that woman who produced a tub of ice-cream (our best) that she considered 'not hard enough'. Deep down I always suspected that those words were really words she wanted to take home and say to her husband, but in her frustration she spat them at a colleague. When it was pointed out to her that the ice-cream she was complaining about would never be as hard as the ice confection we offer as an icecream substitute at the bottom end of the market (at a given temperature) she insisted on sticking a finger in a sample tub another colleague produced to show her. When we remonstrated with her, given that she'd rendered yet another tub unsaleable, she demanded a spoon.

It was as well for her that we were unable to produce the spoon because, frankly, she'd have been given the spoon in an altogether less than totally comfortable place had one come to hand.

I have wandered somewhat from the subject at hand which was the quite extraordinary tale of the woman and her tights (pantyhose/stockings). She'd returned the hosiery because they had a hole in them. She'd only discovered the hole after she'd warn them. She had washed them very carefully. She'd hand washed them, in fact. So could she have her money back please?

Being the sort of woman quite capable of making an horrendous scene she was eventually given her money back! Half the staff are queuing up (including an alarming number of the male staff) to return their holey hosiery (used, but carefully hand-washed, of course).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sex Pests and Genial Drunks

Yet again the evening shift. The load in tonight was small so the entertainment was laid on by Sex Pest and Scrawny Bint.

Before that though rumours that had surface about Sex Pest's displeasure at the widespread knowledge of the whereabouts of certain critical security equipment were confirmed. [There only very few things Sex Pest actually likes to be widespread ... and they're both attached to Scrawny Bint.]

Seems he through quite a tantrum earlier in the week though at the time the intended target of the pint-sized fuhrer's rage was absent (ferrying No. 1 offspring to Uni) and by the time she re-surfaced he'd calmed down. Indeed after being a little bit 'cross' this morning he was cheered up by a reminder from the 'Deli Girls' about some unedifying bit of TV programming they'd all sat down to (though possibly not together) that featured among other marvels a 13" penis.

There was apparantly a whole entire programme devoted to the 'Male Member' and that really was all Sex Pest needed to keep him perked up all day. I brought my mobile into the office of necessity and pre-empted the telling off (before I'd got the measure of his mood) by explaining my exceptional reason for this usually verboten act. I got lots of "ooh, you've been a bad girl... I shall have to take a hair brush to you..." and lots of other sub-Carry On type stuff. He was still in the same mood at 9:00 when happily I was able to walk out and leave him to lock up.

In the mean time Robbo was in not once but twice tonight and cutting a truly folorn sight. Part of me responded but the greater part of me though 'manipulative bastard'. I took S off for the first visist (and set her for an early tea break) and for the second visit Scrawny Bint stationed herself at the checkout behind and sorted through promotion materials for the current promotion period.


Monday, October 02, 2006

The Genial Drunk

Alas poor Robbo... I intended to follow that opening with an observation to the effect that you aren't as old as you look. But then I realised how baseless such an assertion would be, and furthermore that in view of what I have to report tonight actually conceivably implausible.

Underage operators are a nightmare and I prefer to avoid them if at all possible in the evenings when we've no dedicated supervisor and trainload after trainload of commuters returning from London wanting a meal they can microwave and the cheapest 6 pack on the shelves. The problem with the Kiddies is that they can't be relied upon to do anything else.

So S**** is a godsend. She's perfectly content to sit on a chair at a checkout and basically do nothing unless a customer happens to need her to put shopping through the till. She won't let you know her till box is running low on change, or her till-roll supply is running short, or she's about to offer a needy customer her very last carry-bag. It won't occur to her to let you know about the ice-cream at the check out that someone decided they didn't want after all, until it has begun to run everywhere when she'll ask for a shop floor assistant to come and clean the mess up.

But she also has admirable qualities and these do frankly include her willingness to sit there, and sit there, and sit there right up to closing time.

She's 18 and the sweetest kid imaginable. She's also lovely looking; her hair is a gentle shade of red, her complexion is flawlessly rosy, she has a lovely shape to face, eyes, nose and lips. Between that and her lovely nature it is surprising she doesn't have a larger court.

Tonight when I was shifting the staff around she asked for a word and I took her to one side, expecting her to tell me she would be leaving. Instead she told me that last Thursday (when we were both working) she was accosted by a notorious town drunk who'd made her feel uncomfortable with what he said, how he looked at her, the extent to which he invaded her body space and finally by stroking her hair.

Mentally I processed this as: (a) she's 18, inexperienced and unassertive, (b) she's 18, inexperienced and unassertive, (c) he's always drunk, (d) when I next see his scrawny arse I'm going to kick it back to the gutter.

I laid out the options for her and let her consider them, hoping to guide her toward a middle path between one extreme which would have been back on the tills and put up with it and the other which would have been summon the law right now.

Robbo is a drunk. A rich, geriatric drunk who's railing against fate that has left him loaded and lonely. Some shred of what he once was struggles against dealing with the loneliness by drinking himself into a state of oblivion. Instead he drinks enough to loosen the constraints and then he sets about doing what he considers making himself the life and soul of the party but which most other people regard as being obnoxious.

Recently he's taken to entering the store in the early evening when we're extremely busy riding his mobility scooter and with his 'ghetto blaster' or 'boom box' or what ever we're supposed to call it this week thumping out something he thinks will endear him to the Kiddies.

The trouble is he doesn't just want to be friends though he's believed to be essentially harmless and that's why he was cut so much slack last night.* As S and I continued to talk it emerged that he'd asked her out, repeatedly and increasingly agressively; he wouldn't take no for an answer, even when S pointed out that she has a long term boyfriend and is far to young for him.

Two things kept recurring to me; firstly he's pretty much fried his brain with alcohol over the year (and lost a proper sense of proportion) and therefore, secondly, he isn't actually causing this distress deliberately. Nevertheless in terms of impact on S his behaviour constitutes harassment and border-like stalking.

As S was telling me I was keeping one eye on the tv screens and even as she reached her peroration he ambled into the store. He stood for a full 15 mintues by the entrance talking to the one remaining operator. He looked for all the world like a man killing time and the operator later confirmed he seemed most interested on where S might approach from. His brain might be largely fried but what remains is perfectly capable of retaining an imprint of S's shift.

Eventually he shuffled off and I told S she had to make some decisions. She also needed to remember that she was under no obligation to serve anyone she chose to 'black ball' and that I would keep a very close watch on her. Before we could get her on a check out the coven decended. A hard core of the evening staff are middle aged women and collectively they'd decided that S should do anything she wanted but no work the lane.

I got the other half of the evening management shift to take Robbo to one side - he went round to the other side and bewailed fate in a "I dunno what I dun to d'serve this" way (God knows what she actually said to him) and got everyone else back to work.

I still had it in the back of my mind that the guy's probably 70 but then someone pointed out he lives with his ailing mother-in-law. Now if his mother in law's alive, and looks old enough to be his wife then possibly he's not as old as he looks, and he looks as old as he does due to the effect of all the booze. Also what's to say he isn't as old as his mother in law, but that his ex or late wife is/was a lot younger than him.

Unfortunately that led me to wonder just what he has a taste for and how serious he might have been in his pursuit of S, and furthermore to question exactly why he spends so much time in the company of the town's youth.

Needless to say I didn't share any of this with S and the rest of the night passed off without incident.

In an ideal world S would now understand several things she barely knew of before. The first of these is that she works with a team that will actually rally round when it really is needed, and I think she got that. Whether she understood equally clearly that she has certain rights that she's entitled to exercise independently and in her own name I doubt.

I'd love to send her on an assertiveness training course before she's trampled underfoot by life in general. I've never met her boyfriend and I really hope he's a very decent guy because if he isn't she's in for hell and without any fire fighting equipment.

I suppose on the plus side dealing with the side effects of a visit from a genial drunk beats the hell out of dealing with an abusive shop 'lifter'.

*This passage has been subject to a certain amount of quite important redrafting since I first posted this story.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Ukraine (and other places)

I confess to keeping an eye on the number and location of visitors to this blog. The numbers frankly are static and not of particular interest me. I can think of a number of ways I might go about bolstering the numbers, but all of them leave me exhaused in the abstract let alone the execution.

As to the visitors, I know who some of them are and some of them have either explicitly said hello or linked here. Very welcome and delightful they all are, I do my best to reciprocate and certainly keep a weather eye out for new posts.

But what an earth would a visitor from the Ukraine make of tonight's rant about sociology misfits and theives? I wish they'd (you'd) leave a comment so I'd know!

I've found my Beatles No. 1s CD (long-since thought lost). That's me gone for the night to the strains of 8 Days a Week (which is pretty much what my working week feels like, come to think of it!)

To thieve .... or merely shoplift

Last night for want of anything less unworthwhile to do I wiled away an half-hour or so listening to late night talkback radio. It isn't something I make a habit of doing - so don't shout at me, please.

The host was some ulsterman or other and he seemed to be juggling a multiplicity of topics, which particular aspect of his programme was what ultimately drove me to switch over to something worth and even improving.

In the meantime he'd done quite a good job of engaging my attention, so good a job in fact that I was actually moved to drop him a line to the address given for email comments.

What prompted me to write, or rather what infuriated me to the point of writing was the limp-wristed pinko cow with her hand wringing over the fate of those poor, under-educated, generally benighted souls who resort to what she insisted on calling 'shoplifting'; driven through poverty leading to ignorance leading to desperation culminating in one or other form of chemical dependency.

In whatever world it is this dreadful woman inhabits sending these people to prison is not an appropriate response because well, prisons are full of drugs and bad people who will teach the desperate 'shoplifter' to er, take drugs and be a bad person. And anyway these people are only 'shoplifting' because they're drug addicts so they need help, not prison.

This is the sort of circular argument indulged in by bearded sandal-wearing refugees from the real world who live in places like the LaTrobe 'university' sociology department or the more obscure corridors of Whitehall. Just the sort of bloke this cow would be shacked up with I suspect.

This woman proceeded, from her frankly perilous stand-point to argue that in this day and age we should have advanced beyond any societal requirement for retribution anyway, though at one point she seemed to argue that the particular crime of 'shoplifting' does not warrant retribution - leaving of course the reasonable expectation that even on her particular planet there are some crimes so heinous as to merit 'retribution'.

What I suspect she was referring to and had her capacious knickers in a twist about is the very concept of retributive justice; something most people rather lazily refer to as punishment. I wondered rather idly quite what a human being might have to do to earn punishment rather than rehabilitation.

At this point I should confess that the idea of rehabilitation in response to criminal behaviour has always caused the metaphorical hairs on the back of my of my neck to metaphorically stand on end. I believe the reason is my inability to discern a significant distinction between rehabilitation in the context it is herein being used and re-education as widely and freely used in such disparate cultures as, er, stalinist russia, maoist china and whatever-will-workist Viet Nam.

At some point the program broke to a news bulletin featuring the discovery of a body in a church in Scotland which police and (under their direction) the media seemed quite definitively to regard as the culmination of a search for a missing young Polish woman last seen in the company of a 'known sex offender'*. I longed to ask the hairy-legged troglodyte being given so much and so totally warranted air-time whether this offence might just lie the other side of the dividing line that separates those acts meriting re-education from those offences that merit what I chose to call punishment.

I suspect the answer is that in this case she'd cheerfully skewer the perpetrators testicles on pike (and preferably while still attached) and set the whole kebab up on Tower Bridge for the masses (of dungaree wearing harridans) to chuck rotten fruit, vegetables and eggs at.

The point I really wanted to make, and I wanted to make it as much to the BBC that was giving this woman a platform as I did to the woman herself, is that there is no such thing as shop lifting. Don't believe me? Try it. I have absolutely no idea what the average shop weighs, let alone the smallest or the largest but outside the very small coterie of side-show freak 'strong men' even the ablest bodied could not lift the smallest shop.

What this woman insisted on calling shop lifing (and which the BBC continually allowed her to get away with) is theft, robbery or stealing. These are synonyms; shoplifting is a euphemism designed to disguise or mitigate the act to which it refers.

Ownership of 'shoplifted' goods vests in the shop owners until a legally binding transaction occurs to transfer ownership. Without such a transaction removal of goods from the premises constitutes theft. It's simple.

Twenty four hours later I'm not sure who I'm most disgusted by: the cow, the presenter or the Beeb itself.