Speaking from Experience, Work

No News is Good News…

Welcome back blog readers,

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Life happens, and sometimes not much happens that’s worth sharing.

During the last month, I have been keeping myself busy with work and have been hooked on playing Diablo 3. The game has provided over 100 hours of entertainment thus far. The fact that my brother, his wife, and their oldest son also play makes the experience more enjoyable.

As far as work goes, things have gotten a bit busy/chaotic now that we are in the summer months and the kids are out of school. You might think that we’d be fully staffed since the high school kids are off for the summer. You’d be incorrect. The summer means more people taking their vacations.

Back in the day, there was a limit/restrictions as to how many associates were authorized Time Off within the same department. There was more coordinating involved as to not approve everyone to take their time off at the same time. Seems things have changed and we are left continuously short-handed, this time it’s not just one week, it’s the entire month of July.

Due to my pre-existing health conditions that will never get better (scoliosis), I’m only supposed to work 3 shifts per week, 4 at most as long as those days are split allowing me a chance to rest in between. For the most part, that has been happening and things (my back and the ability to work) has been manageable.

What people may not consider is that working in the Bakery department is physically demanding. Climbing ladders, reaching for the products in the freezer, lots of bending and squatting, loading up carts and pulling them through the store with more bending and squatting as you stock the shelves.

I did expect that I would be put on for an extra shift while our department is short-handed, to be expected. Four shifts over seven days is my maximum as long as they are spread out with a day OFF in between. It took a while for my manager to get it right, even though it’s not that hard to figure out or work with. I can work any 3-4 days, while closing shifts are better for me, I can open. What used to happen is that I’d get scheduled the last 3 days of the week and then the first 3 days into the following week. That doesn’t work for me, 6 shifts in a row, no time off to rest.

Right now I’m in what I call the Calm before the Storm. I’ve already worked Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th, Monday 29th and I’m not scheduled again until Monday, August 5th. Seems like a pretty sweet deal considering that I didn’t request anything special, it’s just how my manager created the schedule.

Here’s my schedule for the following week:

  • Monday 5th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Tuesday 6th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Wednesday 7th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Thursday OFF I have my Chiropractor Appointment in the afternoon. Good thing, I’ll be needing it.
  • Friday 9th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Saturday 10th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Sunday 11th, 3:30 – 10pm
  • Monday 12th, 3:30 – 10pm

I was asked to cover Tuesday 13th, I only agreed if the person asking could take/switch any shift of mine from the 9th-12th, adding another day would kill me. She opted for the Monday 12th for her Tuesday the 13th. Still, a very grueling schedule for me considering my limitations and restrictions.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if we were looking to hire more people for Bakery/Deli as we need help. Nope, no job posting for either department. We have one associate out recovering from surgery, one high schooler going back in September and two attending college when the next semester begins in less than 35 days. That leaves me (part-time evenings) and one full-time opener to bake, stock, clean both Bakery/Deli. It’s just too much to keep up with.

While looking through the job postings, I noticed there was one for the Cash Office (part-time). I decided to apply for the position as an Internal Transfer. I’ve been in the Bakery department long enough to know that for whatever reason, the Fresh departments are always short-handed, if not Bakery, it’s Meats, Dairy, or Produce. I also have to be realistic about my situation (health-wise).

As much as I love what I do and take pride in what I put out, I know that I can’t do it much longer. I’ve been told to take it easy (by my manager) and not lift/move things I shouldn’t, in which case I wouldn’t be as productive. I move in ways that I shouldn’t and I will continue to do so because things have to get done and I’m a team player. Knowing this about myself, I have to do things differently and not put myself in a position of risking further injury or early disability.

From what I’ve been told from an associate that did work in the Cash Office the schedule seems to be set with rotation weekends 7am-11am and Monday/Tuesday 7am-3pm. So I’d either get two shifts or four, and they would rotate. That would work well for me, especially since I can’t imagine that there would be much heavy lifting and I’d have the chance to sit. While I do need at least 18 hours/week, I could always pick up one shift for Bakery on Thursday.

The associate I talked to said that chances are good that I would get that position since it’s hard to keep filled. The only reason why I would not, my manager doesn’t allow me to transfer because he’s already short-staffed and doesn’t want to lose me. I haven’t talked to my manager about this as it was very last minute and I rarely see him. The Store manager knows, and he accepted my request, so we’ll see how it plays out. Hopefully, I can cover both departments, make a little more money while ensuring that I don’t cut my workable years short.

Other than that, there is nothing new going on with me.

Thank you for your time and reading and your interest if you are following me.

Happy Wednesday ~ Hannah

 

*** Update***

Shortly after posting this, I noticed a missed text on my phone. My presence is being requested to close tonight. The high schooler that was scheduled, called in and seems to be making a habit of that at least once a week.  We are prepping for Inventory tomorrow and someone is needed to work in the freezer to count our products. Awesome!

Guess what I’m doing this evening? Working beyond my limitations and taking one for the team. I’m going to leave a note that lets my fellow co-workers know that they should consider me UNAVAILABLE until my next scheduled shift. I expect that I’ll be getting another text for me to cover for someone in the next few days.

Too Bad, I’m not coming in anymore until Monday. It’s great that I’m considered reliable, dependable but I will not allow this workplace to be the death of me. Hire a few more associates that want to work because I can’t cover for everbody all of the time while nobody covers for me.

 

 

 

scoliosis/subluxation, Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

Workplace Woes

Depositphotos_46236205_m-2015

Welcome back blog readers,

I’m feeling the need to vent about workplace frustration this morning before I go in for my scheduled shift in a few hours.

Why do I seem to end up with a manager that doesn’t take my physical limitations seriously? I have a doctor’s note that was requested by him within the first week of my employment in June 2018. This note explains my medical condition, Scoliosis, and Subluxation as well as what my physical limitations are and the fact that I should not be scheduled more than a 6-hour shift. I have also explained that due to my condition, I can’t work more than 3 shifts in a row without a couple of days in between off to give my back a rest.

How my manager arranges the schedule, is up to him. While I prefer the later closing shifts (3:30pm-10pm), I do have open availability. I can be scheduled 3 shifts on, 3 shifts off or 2 shifts on, 2 shifts off, 2 shifts on in that rotation it doesn’t matter to me. What does bother me is when I’m scheduled the last 3 shifts of one week and then schedule the first 3 shifts into the next week. Like I am now, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. While my manager did mention to me before he left yesterday, he would allow me to leave 2 hours early tonight and tomorrow because he scheduled me for an 8-hour shift both days. While that helps a bit and I appreciate that he has made a small effort to relieve me, I’m still on for 6 days in a row.

Honestly, by the end of day 3, my back has had enough, and I really do need a day or two just to get off of my feet and relax. It would be one thing if I had a sit-down job, but as it is, this position is physically demanding even if I’m taking my time. There are aspects that I do but shouldn’t, just as there are aspects that I avoid because it’s just not worth the risk. Things like climbing an 8ft ladder in the freezer and pulling heavy frozen food from the top shelf, that’s a hard pass from me. The same thing with using a pallet jack/pump truck to move skids/pallets, I won’t do it. If I need products and skids are blocking that area, too bad. It’s not because I’m lazy, I just know my limitations and pulling a load with that kind of weight is well beyond what I should be doing. Yes, I could ask another associate for help, depending on who’s on with me, I will.

We have another associate that has a doctor’s note for working shorter shifts (4 hours) for the next six weeks, she has been accommodated. My note is for life or until my back gets worse, yet it often goes ignored, and I find that incredibly frustrating.

It feels like the first time I worked for this company ( May 2016) and was bullied into performing tasks that I could not do. I was asked to a note to explain my limitations, I got one, and it went ignored. I blew my back out a few days later and needed a few days to rest, spent a few hundred dollars on x-rays and treatment that lasted 6 months. During that time no accommodations were made to my duties or my hours as the doctor’s note suggested. I went back to work only to be bullied by my manager and a co-worker who got in my face, screamed at me and told me to stop being lazy.

I felt this way in October 2017 when I reentered the workforce after taking time off. I was happy to be back to work, doing something I loved. I quickly realized that most of the movements and duties were putting me at risk again. During my 3rd week, my back was really giving me issues, my mandatory 15 minute breaks made matters worse. Once I sat down and got back up, it’s like my back was worse for resting and trying to move again. Toward the end of a shift I needed to get off of my feet, so I pulled the stool over to sit while decorating a cake. Another (older) associate has been allowed to sit while she worked, I didn’t think much of it. My manager let me know that I wasn’t allowed to sit, if the owners saw me, we’d both get in trouble.

I explained my situation, to which she understood and when I asked about the other associate, seemed she was “grandfathered in” and management has made an exception for her. This associate walks with a bit of a limp and uses a cane, where my medical condition is not seen by others, only felt by me. Clearly, that still bothers me as I’m getting emotional just writing this.

It’s tough when you’re 5ft tall, and most work areas are built with the height of the average person in mind. An average person that can use the 3-compartment sink and not have to stand on their tiptoes and stretch to reach the On/Off knobs or lean into the actual basin to get the decorating tips and other utensils out. The average person that can easily load the top oven without balancing a baking tray wearing oven mitts on their tiptoes because you have limited space and you have something baking in the lower oven. Sure you can use a ladder in the walk-in freezer to reach items on the top shelf. For the average person, that’s not a problem, for me, I am continually overreaching, which is a no-no.

Anyway, I do need to wrap this up so I can grab a bite to eat before heading out to work my day 4 of 6.

Just because you can’t see my S-Curve (unless I bend over, then the hump at the right shoulder is noticeable) doesn’t mean I’m not in pain. Just because I have performed specific tasks unassisted, doesn’t mean I should.

Please hear me when I raise my concern about needing time to rest between shifts. It’s not because I’m lazy, it’s because I don’t want to end up paralyzed.

 

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!

Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

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Welcome back blog readers,

Those of you that follow me know that I’ve been working part-time in a bakery department in a big chain retail store. I have been working there 90 days at this point and I’m still not not able to gain access to direct deposit for my payroll checks.

Before getting officially hired on in June I was instructed to bring a void bank check and submit that to the human resources manager for the purposes of setting me up with direct deposit. I did just that and the same void check still sits inside of my cell phone case with my work ID card.

There have been many changes to how things are done since my employment two years ago. Back then I was able to hand it the void check and fill out a form for Direct Deposit into my bank account and be done with it. Now everything is done online which is convenient when everything works as it should.

This time around the HR manager tried to set me up for paperless pay and was unable to set me up. She said she’d try again later as she knew there would be a phone call involved and I would have to be present to provide information. The HR manager took time off for her honeymoon, so I approached another manager to assist me in this matter. This manager went through the process, asked the questions to verify my identity and the system was unable to verify who I was based on the questions and information I provided. The manager gave me a phone number and suggested that I needed to call and talk to them myself and that should sort things out.

I called earlier and the questions being asked were the exact same as what I had been asked before. After providing my social insurance number, loan information, address, and phone number the lady on the other end still could not verify my information and claims that whatever “Big Retail” corporate office has on file is not the same as what I’m providing and I’ll have to talk to corporate to fix it.

I mentioned that I was a former employee two years ago, I was living at a different location then, and that might be what corporate has on file, my old address and phone number. That is the only thing I can think that is causing this hiccup as my old employee number was reissued. That didn’t seem to matter to who I was speaking with, it was no longer in their control to set me up with log in information for paperless pay.

Why do corporations insist on making things more complicated than they need to be? I’ve tried handing in my void check to the HR manager last month and asked for a direct deposit form to sort this out, it was suggested that I call and talk to the third party company directly. GRRRRRRRRRRRR….

I have shifts scheduled over the next three days; hopefully I’ll be able to catch the HR manager and I’ll hand her my void check that I’ve been carrying around for the last three months and tell her to sort it out. My paychecks come with the phone number attached for me to sort it out (passive aggressive) and we see how well that ended up. I should be grateful that I am getting paid, sure it’s a slight inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to be if managers took a little initiative. The lady I spoke with eariler said I could try calling this phone number and maybe somebody there can help me. She proceeds to give me the phone number and I let her know that’s the phone number that I did call and it lead me to her.

On a similar note, I seem to be cursed with not being able to login to certain programs. I’ve talked to three managers to let them know I can’t log in to record temperatures and I can’t complete the cleaning log for out department. They were all going to talk to whoever is in charge of giving me access, so far nothing more has come from that. I have to rely on produce associates to complete those tasks for me. I can tell that they are getting frustrated, I understand that as it is equally frustrating for me. Their advice is for me to keep hounding managers to give me access otherwise it will not get done.

There has to be a better way, is my thought. When my manager knows, the HR manager knows, two other assistant managers know to which one said she’s sort it out personally and nobody gets back to me, what am I suppose to do? Maybe I should ask the guys in produce to not record the bakery temps/cleaning log during my shifts as that will get attention. Right now the managers probably think things are sorted out when they are not because the notification isn’t alerting them. I know those tasks are important, just as the guys in produce know as one in particular likes to remind me when he has to login on my behalf. The assoiciates care more about things than the managers do, we are the ones making them look good and the managers are completely oblivious.

I did have my 90 day evaluation during my last shift. That process has changed from a few pages being filled out with comments from the manager and the associate getting scored in various areas to a simple form online with a place for comments. My manager surprised me with Exceeds Expectations as I was sure he was hoping I’d quit or he was going to let me go before my 90 days was up. He acknowledged that I keep the department cleaner than how I found it and that I recognize the importance of making sure the tables/shelves are full.

There was a place on the form to fill in my current hourly wage and a place to fill in if a raise was given as well as a place for me to initial as a sign of acknowledgment and none of those sections were filled in. I am not expecting a raise as the minimum wage is expected to go up to $15.00/hour in Ontario.

Anyway, this concludes my venting session for today. Hopefully I can get things sorted out with my direct deposit situation. I’ve never been the squeeky wheel, maybe it’s time that I am.

Happy Monday ~ Hannah

Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

Will management ever learn?

0

 

Welcome back blog readers,

In a recent post I mentioned that I was handing in my resignation as my manager was not accommodating my schedule (length of shift/ number of shifts with time off in between) as per my doctor’s note that was requested upon my first shift and the letter I wrote to him last month explaining a second time what I needed.

Having been a former associate of this company two years ago at a different location, I know what the company hopes to achieve. The company would like to have their “Fresh Department” associates cross-trained to work in any position and have open availabilty so they can be scheduled to rotate from opening, midday and closing shifts.

For example, The morning baking shift 5am-1:30pm, stocking shift varies from 7am to 4:30pm, a closing shift can start as early as 1:30pm until the store closes at 10pm.

When I was hired on the job posting was for the baking shift and the closing shift that was advertised as 3:30-10pm. I applied hoping to land the closing shift because I know what my body can handle.

The reality is that most people have other commitments, appointments and prefer a set schedule. Some people, like myself, have limited/restricted movements that prevent them from stocking from the freezer to the sales floor for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week.

At this location we have:

  • One associate that can only work 5am-1:30pm Monday- Friday (she is a single mother with 2 kids)
  • One associate that prefers the morning stocking shift and can work up to 4 days a week
  • One associate that prefers the 3:30pm – 10pm shifts and can only work 3 days a week as long as it’s not the last 3 days followed by the first 3 days making it 6 days in a row.
  •  We have 2 younger high school students that now don’t have open availability, but can work one or two closing shifts during the week (5pm-10pm) and any shift on the weekends.
  • We are still in need of another associate that can also work rotating open to close shifts a few days a week.

I do understand wanting to have all associates to have open availability, but what the company wants versus the availability of those looking for work are two different things. They should stop trying to force their associates to constantly juggle shifts, which tends to be only me at the moment. The company is not permitted to schedule you for a closing shift followed by an opening shift, but it happens. I’ve been a part of the scheduling process at the former location when a new manager took over.  I know that the program alerts you when you’ve done that with a message that says there are not enough hours in between shifts, but it seems the message gets ignored and then forgotten.

Seriously, how hard is it to pull the sheet of paper from the week ending to have with you when you create the next week’s schedule so you know NOT to schedule a “CLOPEN”? As a manager for this company for 7 years, I expect better from him. Of all of the responsibilities of an assistant manager, why is scheduling so complicated?

At least with steady shifts of either 5am-1:30pm, 7am- 3:30pm/8am-4:30pm, 3:30-10pm you can plan your life around that in advance. Granted we do get our schedules 3 weeks in advance, but when your shifts are all over the place it really screws up your sleeping schedule. It’s difficult to go from getting home at 10:20pm, staying up for a few hours before going to bed at 12:30am/1am for two weeks to forcing yourself to go to bed at 7:30pm because you have to wake up at 4am for an opening shift.

I can see that I’ve ranted for far longer than I expected. My point is that I did hand in my resignation, to which my manager didn’t seemed to care nor did he ask to see if there was anything he could do that might change my mind. A few days had passed and I got a text from one of my co-workers asking if it was true and why. She went on to tell me that it’s a shame because I do good work and couldn’t I just ask our manager to give me 3 shifts/week to save them from finding another person. To which I replied that I have brought my concerns to his attention and for 3 months they have gone ignored.

This associate questioned our manager and suggested that he reconsider, give me 3 shorter closing shifts and keep a good employee instead of letting me go and taking his sweet time finding a replacement that will need to be trained. The manager told her that I never came to him with my concerns ( which is complete BS ) and that he would talk with me.

A few days would pass when we were both working before he stepped up and confirmed what the other associate mentioned. He said, ” I heard that if I give you 3 shifts a week that you’d stay, is this true?” I said it’s half true, it’s not just 3 shifts of your choosing, it’s 3 shorter closing shifts with time off in between so that I can properly manage my back to avoid blowing it out. While I can do the opening shift, it’s too long and too many repetitive movements that my doctor’s note clearly states  I can not do, a note you asked for an updated version of upon my first shift (3 months ago).

My manager asked if I would be able to work an occasional 4th day to cover holidays/vacation/someone calling in. On occasion I probably could, I just don’t want to be taken advantage of and I absolutely can’t STOCK. My last day was expected to be September 14th to which I have a stocking shift 8am-4pm, but the morning baker lets me take over and they stock for the rest of their shift. The associates care more about my health than the manager does.

The schedule for the week of the 15th-21st is posted and my manager wanted to know if I wanted that week off. I told him to pencil me in for 3 closing shifts because I know he’s shorthanded now that the kids are back to school. As of right now, he has yet to update the schedule, but I have taken one closing shift from the associate that spoke up on my behalf (she likes the stocking shifts and really didn’t want to close).

Hopefully things will get better, but I’m not holding my breath. Our manager isn’t really running our department, the 3 associates that give a shit are. He never stops by to see what’s going on, to ask how things are going. The only comment I hear is a quick “Hello Hannah” in passing and poof he’s gone. The only time the stocking associate hears from him is when there is an empty space on the shelf and he demands to find something to fill it, nevermind how well the rest of the department looks or offer a “great job” on clearing 2 full skids of product from the freezer by herself.

Enough venting about work on my day off.  I’m going to continue to do the best that I can for as long as my back can handle it. ~ Hannah

 

Work

Time to face the reality

Welcome back blog readers,

I’ve decided it was best for my health to call in and allow myself four days to recover. I knew when I was hired on that this job was temporary, but I was hoping that it would have lasted longer that this. It’s time that I face the reality that while my mind feels like a young 20 something, my back is screaming at me and often feels like it’s 80 years old.

For the last week my back has been spasming/tweaked/stiff which has also been affecting my shoulders and neck which aren’t normally bothered. Before I went back to work in mid June, I was able to maintain a once a month visit with my chiropractor, but as of yesterday I have been there twice in one week with another appointment in two weeks. Not cool and for the cost of each visit ($46 each) it’s not worth working part-time just to add more frequent visits for adjustments.

While I haven’t fully blown my back out again (yet) it certainly feels like it did the last time it happened. I have my resignation letter ready to be handed in on Monday when my next shift is scheduled. I hate quitting, but I have to do what is best for me and my body/health. While it’s easy to say, “Don’t work so hard” it’s not that easy for me. Maybe it’s my sense of pride, maybe it’s the fact that my entire life I’ve been told you can’t and I feel like I have to prove them wrong and that I can. I know myself enough to know that if I see something that needs to be done I will get it done because I don’t like doing things half-assed.

I will own partial blame for pushing myself too hard, but the other portion is my manager that continues to schedule me 3 shifts in a row with one day off and being scheduled 8-hour shifts when my doctor’s note clearly stated that I need shorter shifts with time off in between. Gotta love the employers that demand these notes and don’t follow them. Since my back feels like it’s on the verge of another blowout and my manager still can’t schedule the shifts that will keep me working, then I have to quit before my 90 days is fulfilled.

At least I know that I have made the effort to get back into the workplace. While this news doesn’t sound very chipper, there is a silver lining. I’ll be able to catch up on the bookkeeping for my husband’s business and take on more responsibilities writing content and other tasks for his clients as he expands his business. Working from home, making my own hours and not having the stress for working a typical job.

As one chapter ends another chapter begins. ~ Hannah

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