Customer Service, Just the Facts, Speaking from Experience, Work

The Life-Cycle of Retail Returns

Have you ever wondered what happens to the items that get returned? Does it go back on the shelf? Does it get sent back to the vendor? Does it get donated? Does it get thrown out?

It depends on what the item is and how the vendor wants us to process their merchandise. What I hope to accomplish by sharing this information, is that you the consumer will make better choices in the future because you may be surprised to learn about how many perfectly new in box items get thrown out.

First, let’s start with food items. All food items that leave the store and get returned get thrown out. It’s not just the expired, moldy, stale items or the items that have been opened and you didn’t care for it after one bite. It’s also the food items that you buy in excess of for parties, BBQs, family dinners that are perfectly fine, unopened, or simply bought the wrong kind. That all goes right in the garbage. Do you really need that $3 for the pack of hot dog buns that bad? You know that you can freeze them, right? You could offer them to a friend, a neighbor, or donate it to your local food pantry.

While there is a lot of perfectly good food being wasted, it’s not as bad as all of the infant and baby products. All strollers, car seats, cribs, bassinettes, high chairs, beds, walkers, formula, baby food, diapers, pretty much anything that an infant or toddler would use or consume is an automatic garbage item. Yes, even if it is brand new in the box that has never been opened. Why? Liability.

What if the item I bought was not the right color, the item on the box looked teal, but when I opened it, the color is more of a powder blue. It’s new, never been assembled. It gets thrown out.

What if the item is the wrong size? They grow so fast and are in the next size up in diapers. Diapers, Pull-Ups, Little Swimmers all get thrown out.

What if I ordered the changing table online and I received one at my baby shower before my order arrived? The answer is still the same, it will get thrown out.

We know those baby products aren’t cheap, the store will still give you a refund. We just can’t put that merchandise back on the shelf.

When you’re putting together a Gift Registry for a baby shower, make sure that your friends and family know the importance of clearing any items they purchase off of the list to avoid duplicate items. If you are creating multiple Gift Registries at different locations Babies R’ Us, Target, Wal-mart, Sears make sure that you are not including a crib from each store, unless you do need more than one.

Thanks to social media, many areas have set up Buy/Sell/Trade pages to allow local residents the option to make personal sales with each other. If you find that you have a duplicate item that is brand new in the box and you don’t want it to get thrown out, why not list it for sale to recoup your money. Thus allowing another family the opportunity to make use of a perfectly good item that would have gone right in the garbage.

Food and baby items are the biggest contributors to unnecessary waste. Please consider an alternative before returning these unopened, perfectly good items to the retailer.



Customer Service, Educate Yourself, Health Care, Speaking from Experience, The World We Live In

How I’m surviving through Covid-19

Before I get into this post, I will preface by stating that at this moment (Saturday, March 21, 2020) I have not been tested or screened in any manner to confirm whether or not I actually have contracted this virus. Nor am I feeling ill to prompt me to seek testing.

Due to the fact that I work in retail/grocery, I am now considered an “Essential Worker” and my responsibility to show up as scheduled has not changed. If anything, I am picking up more shifts.

Our store, as I suspect with many businesses that are still open, are understaffed. That’s not a complaint, just the fact considering many parents can’t work while their kids are home. Some are home taking care of their family members that are at a higher risk due to their health concerns and some are probably home, self-isolating for their own concerns.

For me, my life hasn’t changed dramatically since last Thursday when the panic in my area (just outside of Ottawa) set in. I’m an introvert by nature, I go to work in town, I don’t leave the 2-mile radius often.

Am I concerned about contracting this virus? I’m realistic in assuming that it’s very likely that I will get it, but I feel that I’m healthy enough to recover from it. My husband works from home and we are stocked with enough food and OTC meds to get by should we have to self-quarantine.

The act of disinfecting the kitchen/bathroom counters, knobs, handles, and switches have been an additional chore that I have incorporated into my morning routine.

On social media, I’ve been encouraging the public to help us (retail workers) practice Social Distancing. Help Us Help You. We understand that you have to restock, you have errands to run, the kids are home and they’re getting cabin fever. This is not the time for a family outing to the store. Please allow ONE family member to do the shopping if you can help it.

Obviously, we are aware that some customers need assistance, some customers are single parents and have no choice but to bring their child(ren) into the store. We get it, no judgment, we are not policing the situation.

I had to clarify my statement when I suggested that one family member should do the shopping while leaving their family in the car. The comment was meant in the scenario that both parents or a responsible adult could remain in the vehicle with the child(ren). But people misinterpret and thought I was suggesting that a single parent leave their toddler in a car seat unattended in the parking lot… I didn’t think that I had to spell it out, but clearly, I do.

For the most part, residents in this area are practicing social distancing. I see others are not. Both parents and their 3 kids in the store running through the aisles, NOT social distancing. A group of teenagers wandering the store because it’s something to do, NOT social distancing. Four college bros shopping together, NOT social distancing. A resident that just came back from Florida, coughing claims they were “tested” at the airport, NOT social distancing or self quarantining for that matter.
Being screened at the airport (temperature is taken) is NOT the same as being tested for coronavirus.

Again, I get it. You’ve been away and just now returning home from abroad, you need food and to restock. Ask your community to help. Social media pages are set up in this area for that purpose. There are healthy people offering to assist with running errands and picking up groceries to drop them off at your door. Let them.

I know that social media is being flooded with all sorts of information, some helpful, some misleading and only creating more panic. Choose to get your information from the source, not some third party and certainly not through memes.

While I do have plenty to say, I will refrain. Lately, my opinions encourage others to treat me as their virtual punching bag.

I’ll leave you with this…
We are in this together, doing the best that we can. While most people will recover from Covid-19, many are at a huge disadvantage. If you have already started the self-isolation process, Thank You. If you have not because you feel it doesn’t apply to you, You are part of the problem. That last bit doesn’t apply to all of the essential workers that are being asked to put themselves at risk.
Stay calm and wash your hands 🙂



Customer Service, Venting, Work

When a Code Adam is reversed.

Welcome back blog readers,

I know that it’s been a few days since the last post was published; there hasn’t been much to report until a spark of inspiration hit me last night.

During the last five months of working part-time at a big box retail store, I have encountered 3 calls for CODE ADAM (lost child) to all of which were reunited in under 2 minutes, as that is what tends to happen most often. Last night I experienced my second encounter of a child that lost their parent.

My first encounter was last month when two young girls (sisters) approached me to ask if I have seen a lady with black long hair walk by. I ask if this lady with long black hair was their mom, it was and I brought them to Customer Service as we are trained to do so, figuring that is the most likely meeting place for a parent to start searching for their kid(s) in this situation.

The girls follow me and I tell them not to worry, this sort of thing happens all of the time and we’ll make an announcement to have their mom come to customer service to meet them. The announcement is made and the mom arrives with in a few minutes. As an associate, this situation is common and we don’t judge as we have probably been on either side of this ourselves.

What bothers me is how the parents respond when they are the ones being paged to meet their kid(s). This mother scolded her girls in front of us and made them apologize to us for basically doing our job and reuniting them.

Last night a little boy, maybe 7 years old approached me, he had 2 toys in hand and he looked scared almost ready to cry. I notice him and his behavior and ask him if he’s okay. He said he lost his mom and wanted help to find her. I told him the same thing I told the girls, not to worry, this happens a lot and we’re going to walk to customer service where they will make an announcement to find her.

I arrive at customer service and the associate immediately recognizes the situation and asks the boy, “Did you lose your mom?” he replies, “yes I was in the toy area, went looking for her and couldn’t find her.” We get mom’s first name and she is paged to meet her party at Customer Service. Mom arrives in under 2 minutes and comments how embarrased she was to have been paged as a missing mom. Her son is still clearly shaken up and mom doesn’t offer a hug or words of comfort. His effort to seek help went unnoticed. At this point, mom and kid are reunited, so I go back to my department to resume where I left off. Mom and son walk by me and he thanks me for helping him which felt pretty good.

Here’s what bothers me….

There is no need to feel embarrassed if you lose sight of your kid(s) in a large retail store. Trust me it happens at least once a week, we’re not judging your parenting skills. Parents please make sure your kid(s) know your first name, not just mom or dad. Please give your kids credit when they seek help from associates to reunite with you. I know kids are warned about “Stranger Danger” and please realize that most kids are scared and they don’t have a great sense of direction. You might have told them to meet you in a specific department, they might acknowledge what you’ve said, but getting there once they panic is a different story.

Showing that you’re upset about being paged gives your child the wrong impression about whether or not seeking help to find you is what they should do if there is a next time. Instead, acknowledge that they used good judgment/common sense to ask for help instead of wandering around the large store and putting the entire store on lockdown for a Code Adam. The fear/anxiety you as a parent feel when you have to resort to that call, is what your kid feels when they have to call for you.

We are there to help, while in most cases there is no real threat taking place, just thank the associate(s) that helped to reunite you and offer your kid(s) a hug. There is no need to apologize to us, or any need to make your kid feel worse than they already do. This is a HAPPY ending 🙂

Rant over, as I have to get ready for my next shift…

Happy Tuesday!

Cake Decorating, Customer Service, Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

Work related pet peeves

Welcome back for another round of venting. As the title suggests, I will be covering pet peeves in the workplace. Not just pet peeves at my current place of employment, but also former jobs to give you a sneak peek as to the things I’ve witnessed/encountered over the last 20 years in the world of retail.

I spent the first 15 years of my career in the automotive industry, mostly as a Parts Advisor but I was also cross-trained in Service, Warranty and Cash Office. As you might expect, being a young female in a male dominant field was a challenge in itself. I had my fair share of customers who refused my help and they quickly asked for the “guy behind the counter” which was usually the manager. To which my manager would often reply, “she’s more than capable of looking up the part you need” just to make a point.

Not only was I expected to look up parts, but my job also included testing various parts and installing parts. One particular customer who was also one of our wholesale customers was a real piece of work. The type of guy that runs his own towing company/repair shop in a hick town and thinks he knows everything about vehicles. The type of guy that never knew the name for most parts he was looking for, refusing to give us the VIN so that we could verify what he was working on, because not all parts from one year are compatible with the next year. The VIN was also helpful in knowing which engine/transmission/driveline was used, but this guy naturally knew and by knew I mean made his best guess which was often wrong.

His constant guessing and ego caused him to make more trips back to return parts that were not compatible. While he was quick to blame us (me) for not knowing what I was doing, the truth is it was his ego that was the problem. Give me the info I need and I’ll give you the right part. If you guess at what engine you have, and you don’t know what you’re looking for, chances are I will not look up the proper part that will fix your issue. So frustrating! Especially when he loved to throw “The customer is always right” BS in my face usually followed by some insult within earshot of other customers. Real professional, right?

This guy treated me like garbage for the first two years, always insulting me in my place of work and assuming that I didn’t know what I was doing, why would they let a girl behind the counter when I belonged in the kitchen. I can’t stand that sexist mentality. As an employee, there wasn’t much I could do about it, except take it. Avoiding and ignoring him was made difficult when he would go out of his way to insult me. At this particular DIY auto parts chain that I like to call Autohole, we accepted used oil that we had to dump into the big recycling tank in the back.

This guy always waited until he had several gallons saved up and brought it all in at once. He never took a minute to wipe down the containers, they were always covered in dirty oil dripping everywhere and sometimes the oil was still hot as it was just drained into the recycling bucket and brought in. Guess who had the honor of lugging all of his nasty used oil containers to the back? In his mind I was unfit to look up anything he needed, so he’d call my co-worker over to look up his parts and order me to carry in all of his dirty oil to be recycled.

One day his idea of me changed. If I had to guess it was the fact that a few of my younger male co-workers were not as experienced and often asked me for help looking up what this jackass needed. He had experienced this enough to realize that this girl knows what’s she’s doing behind the parts counter. From that point on I was his main point of contact when he called or came in. I should mention that I guess in his small closed mind, I was the lesser of two evils. Our store had changed managers and this jackass didn’t want to deal with a person of color. His tune had changed to, “Let me talk to the girl behind the counter.” Some might consider this a small victory, I might have if he didn’t treat everyone else just as horrible and the fact that he always smelled like he peed himself.

Moving right along…

I really enjoyed my days as a cake decorator, especially when I was given the creative freedom to decorate it without restrictions. Keep in mind that I wasn’t creating Cake Boss level cakes, but rather a Big Chain grocery/retail bakery department style cakes. Our smallest size was an 8″ single round layer up to a Full Slab double layer that served up to 72 people (give or take depending on how generous the slices are cut).

Just a tip: If you are considering pre-ordering a cake for any occasion, Please know (roughly) how many people you intend to serve. Believe it or not, the question of “What size cake do you need?” seems to stump many customers. If you are unsure, it’s always a safe bet to order larger and have extra, than it is to order smaller and not have enough; especially if the cake is for a child’s birthday.

Also, keep in mind that most employees are not “professionally trained” when they are hired on as a decorator in a large chain bakery department. While some may accept special requests/custom orders because they may have more experience, not all associates will be able to accommodate you. Insisting that so and so has done it for you in the past and so and so no longer works there, please keep in mind that when an associate declines your custom order, it’s because they know they can’t give you the quality that you are asking for. Trust that they know their limitations, don’t take it as a sign that they are being difficult. If you want custom work, go to a custom bakery where they offer that service normally, but expect to place your order well in advance, not the next day. It’s safe to say that if you don’t see what you want from the 3-ring binder of visual examples, then expect that we can’t accommodate your 3-tier custom order as we do not have the packaging for a 3-tier cake.

Being the people pleaser that I was a few years ago, I did offer to create a custom cake for a customer. She brought two pages of random images that she wanted to incorporate onto her kids’ 1st birthday cake. By random I mean an image of a penguin, music notes, stick figure kids dancing, and I can’t recall but I know there was a fourth image. There wasn’t a theme, but rather just images that her 1-year-old enjoyed.

I went the extra mile, I drew up a rough sketch and showed the customer what I had in mind as far as the placement of where the images would be, to give her an idea as to how the cake might look. She agreed that what I had in mind would be acceptable. I confirmed the order form, size, cake flavor, icing, the image placement to make sure she was still onboard, and I was given the green light and “creative freedom”.

I knew going in that this cake wasn’t going to be easy and that it would be very time consuming. I made sure to complete the order on a shift that I didn’t have anything else pending. Once it was done, I placed it in the freezer to stay fresh until the customer picked it up.

Since I don’t have a photo (I wish I did), I’ll do my best to describe how this cake looked. To start it was a half slab double layer covered in white icing so the colors would show up better. I placed the penguin at the center (top) as that was the image that was most important to display. That image took up 1/2  of the space from bottom to the top because I wanted to leave room to write Happy 1st Birthday (insert kid’s name) at the top * That was the 4th thing*  I had a stick figure dancing kid near the edge, one on each side of the penguin so there wasn’t so much white space and I placed the music notes all around the four sides of the cake. I was feeling pretty good about incorporating all of the images that were requested, granted with no theme it did look a bit off, but that is what the customer asked for.

The customer came in to pick up the cake and naturally she wants to see it before taking it home. I expected to hear “Thank You” or “Wow that looks great!” Not even close. Instead she insults my work, claims it’s the worst cake she’s ever seen, the kids don’t look like they’re dancing, to which I replied that it’s hard to show movement with icing. There was too much white space and insisted that more decorating needs to be done before she’s willing to take that home. I asked her what she wanted me to add while pointing out that I have incorporated all of the images she requested. She thought more music notes might help to show that the stick figures were dancing. More music notes were added. She was still not satified and wanted something more to tie it together. I’m at a loss because there isn’t a theme, so I suggested adding colored sprinkles to add a bit more color to the cake, to which she agreed. She was still not satisfied with the end result, but brought the cake home anyway, but not before mentioning that if she knew the cake was going to be so ugly, she would have done it herself…… Good luck with that!

Just ungrateful! If I’m to be completely honest, I’m quite sure the 1-year-old didn’t care how the cake looked. I’ve seen some bad cakes and this wasn’t one of them. I put in time off of the clock to resize the images so they fit the cake better. I gave her what she asked for, she agreed to the placement. I can’t be held responsible if she thought the image of a stuffed penguin was going to look as real in icing as it does on paper. I can’t really jazz up music notes or stick figure kids. Thanks for reminding why we don’t take custom orders.

Just to show that I’m not a hack, here are a few images of cakes that I have decorated.

wedding cakeMinion cakeFrozen CakeBasket Weavenemocake5cake

Moving right along…

I find it difficult to work with associates that don’t take as much pride in what they do or care about the cleanliness of their workspace (especially if it’s a shared workspace). Maybe difficult isn’t the right word… Annoying, Frustrating and Irritating sum it up better.

Due to the fact that we are working with food, preparing food, packaging food and there are customer that have food allergies, we need to take precautions. As a customer I don’t want to grab a container that is sticky, covered in sugar, covered in marinara sauce or cream cheese icing. As a customer, I expect better from those handling/packaging the baked goods and I make sure that I extend that courtesy when I’m the one packaging during my shift.

I wish I could say the same thing for my co-workers. I often go in for my closing shift to find that I have to wipe down most of the containers as I can’t in good conscience put them out looking disgusting. Another pet peeve of mine is finding all of the baking trays stacked in a pile on the prep table with a layer of dirty parchment paper in between each tray.

For the love of god, THROW OUT THE PARCHMENT PAPER! We can’t reuse it and leaving it there only creates a mess on the botton of the trays. If they were making pizza buns, now sauce and cheese are on the bottom of various trays which means that if I don’t wash them (nights I am not scheduled) then the next person will put those trays in the oven and what’s on the bottom of those trays will most likely fall onto the product baking below it, which might be cookies or turnovers which now has bits of marinara and cheese due to someone’s laziness.

Speaking of cleanliness, once we are finished packaging any product with nuts (peanut butter or macadamia nut cookies) those trays are to be set aside and washed before being used again. That doesn’t happen in my department. In fact nobody seems to make that connection, including the manager(s). It’s just my opinion, but I strongly believe that those working with food and managing food departments should ALL be food safety handling certified. Just my two cents.

While I’m on the topic of working in the bakery, when you as a customer see an associate pulling trays out of the oven and onto the cooling rack, please refrain from asking, “Did those just come out of the oven?” Because I know you just watched me take them out. Also, don’t ask if I can just give you one. ONE: It just came out of the oven and I am not going to burn myself or risk a lawsuit as you burn yourself. TWO: We don’t sell items as a single, we package in quantities of 6, 12, 21 and giving one away means my counts are off and I’m wasting product.

With that said, my pet peeve ranting is coming to an end. Not to say that there won’t be any more, just not today.

Enjoy your weekend and be kind to the retail associates~ Hannah