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2/26/05

Training, 9:30am- 6:00 pm

Today I feel as if I got a better sense of how employees feel about the place. In the morning, NN, another employee whom I had seen before, talked to me. He's a very easy going guy and does a number of things. I've seen him clean up around the break room and upstairs, and later saw him bagging. (By the way, I found out that courtesy clerk is the official name for a bagger). He used to be in the military, but I sense that was a while ago. He asked if I'd seen the Furher, and then clicked his shoes together, Nazi-style. He said he accidentally did that in front of her. He said she's also known as Shirley Temple, Goldilocks, Cruella de Ville, and he used to call her Eva Braun. I am not sure who he was talking about, but I think it's BB. I guess I mark this as significant because I expected there to be some complaining about managers, and this is the first I've heard of it. During our lunch break, there were a lot of people in the break room, which has four round tables in it, 2 soda vending machines, a sink and microwave, coat racks and lockers. I recognized a lot of the employees. At lunch, NN took center stage again, joking with everyone. In training, DD made a comment about the company just worrying about lawsuits.

Training was with DD, and EE, FF, and OO were in training with me. Most of today was just chatting, I think we probably spent about and hour on actually training, which was going over something and then taking a written quiz; at the very end, we went out and each of use picked out a fruit, vegetable, and some produce we didn't know and then went to a register and we each practiced ringing these things up-- about five minutes on the register for each of us. The quizzes were on how to enter certain payments--WIC checks, if someone wants to use both EBT and a credit card, tax exempt, rainchecks, cash back. There was a section on safety, which also included the section on Shrink ( I don't really see this as a safety issue, and find it interesting this is where they put it), and the procedure when you have over or under your register. If it's between $5-10, you only get a verbal notice, between $10-20, and written notice, and over $25 and $50 there are more immediate actions. If you've had several $10-20, you are on a sort of watch, where you have to cash in and out and count the drawer in front of a supervisor, and if you have another discrepancy you could be suspended. EE commented that this policy seemed lenient--at Dollar Tree, if you were off by more than $20 you were fired. We had yet another quiz on tobacco and alcohol sales.

The chatting part of the day, driven by DD and FF, was both a little boring and intriguing. I guess I realize how different my co-workers lives are than mine. I know I'm not really the most sociable person in the world, and when I do talk to my friends it's about such different things. Today was a lot of girl talk: everything from perfume at Victoria's secrets, to the fact that female animals have periods (if they're not spayed) to cheating boyfriends. I feel like I know so much about DD's life--about her mother, her fours pregnancies and children, her ex-husband and his wife, her divorce, her boyfriend. I hope I don't sound idiotic here, but I feel like DD lives a real life, whereas mine is strange.

Perhaps the two most charged topics, in a sociological sense, were our discussion about FF not wanting to have kids, ever, and about gays and lesbians. FF stated she didn't want to get married and have kids, and part of the reason she moved away from where she was brought up is that that is what all her friends are doing. She gets a Depo shot every three months. This is a birth control method - Depo-Provera. Everyone seemed in agreement that FF would change her mind, eventually (because of course a woman wants to have kids?). DD said that she would change her mind when she starts to hear her biological clock ticking when she's in her early to mind thirties. DD then talked about her pregnancies. She had her first child when she was 15, and her last when she was 24. DD and FF also talked about having your tubes tied, and that doctors won't do it to a woman who is in child-bearing years. I had never known this, and was sort of amazed. DD said that she went to a doctor to have it done (I'm not sure if she did or not, but I think so), and that her husband had to sign a form. If a woman isn't married, then a parent has to sign it. The only reason DD was able to do this was because her last few pregnancies were difficult.

Our conversation on gays and lesbians was more uncomfortable for me, but I just tried to listen. DD talked about gays and lesbians who came into her bar. She liked gay men, but "dykes" disgusted her. She joked that her boyfriend would find the reverse true. Both DD and FF couldn't seem to understand why a woman would want to have sex with another woman, since they are "strictly dickly." DD said that lesbians use a dildo, which is the same as a dick , so didn't get why they just didn't like men. That said, she also said that if her daughter told her she was a lesbian, she would be okay with it. DD also said she could understand one drunken night, and also that she didn't understand how a 15 year old could know that he/she was gay, saying that people used to not really know until they were in their twenties and thirties. She sort of tied this to the fact that it is more accepted now, but didn't feel that a teenager was sexually experienced enough to know and shouldn't be labeled so early. FF commented that "they" thought it was a bad gene. EE said he knows a lesbian and they looked at girls together--he was sort of making a stand and saying it was okay. I probably should have said more, but I didn't--in part because I wanted to hear what people said, also because I hand 't been saying much throughout the day, mainly listening, and I felt my views would just make me seem weirder than I probably already seem. Perhaps I am just a coward. What I found was that there is an interesting mix of trying to be accepting, but not really being comfortable with sexuality beyond a sense of the norm.

There was also a little talk about the economy of things--what is expensive, how much every dollar is watched. DD's ex-husband makes a lot more than she does (even though she works two jobs--both almost full time). She compared his house and lifestyle to hers--he can afford to buy more things for their kids--designer clothes, etc.. She's tried to show her kids that the material things in life can come and go, but they all want things, and he will get it for them. Actually, in the discussion of perfume this came up, in how much a little bottle of designer perfume is. DD, FF, and EE have all bought it, or gotten or given it as gifts. DD talked about her daughter trying out different sports, and that all the stuff for lacrose cost $500, and the next year her daughter wanted to try something different. FF talked about how much a leotard and point shoes cost (she is a dancer). I can empathize in some ways, but felt the most like an imposter, because for the first time in my life I don't worry about this too much, even though I don't think I am an extravagent spender.

 

2/25/05

Bagging/Training, 4:00- 8:00 pm

I was assigned to work with KK. LL and MM, two front end supervisors whom I had seen before, where working. KK didn't talk much, but that's okay. We worked lane 20. Tonight's sales seemed to be Edy's ice cream, Price Chopper Orange juice, in addition to the chocolate chip cookies, Sun laundry detergent, and Pepsi six-pack bottles.

It was a busy night, we had a constant flow through the register. A lot of prepared food, especially fish was being bought (Lent?), and earlier in the night we sold at least 4 birthday cakes. In the beginning of the evening, a woman realized she had mixed up her cart with someone else's, and so we when through her order and I ended up going out and picking up some things she didn't have. After we rang her up, packed her bags, etc., she realized she must have left her cane in her other cart. I walked through the store looking for an abandoned cart with a cane, but couldn't find it. I felt bad for her, and ended up leaving her with BB, who was also working. another time, I was asked to get infant formula, and then found out it is kept with the cigarettes (it is also on display in a locked case in the baby food aisle.) I don't know why infant formula is restricted like this--will have to find out. I felt like I got much better at bagging. I'm still not lifting things right-- I think I'm twisting my body, because my lower back is sore, and at the end of the night I could feel it in my left knee.

Whenever I was away from the lane, many people asked me questions, and of course I never knew the answer. Once, in the lane, a woman wanted to cash a check for more than the amount, and for some reason KK couldn't do it. The woman started to complain to me-- I think she thought I was KK's supervisor or something. Luckily, KK saved the day and explained why--the woman's Advantage card was in her husband's name. If she was also on the card, she could do this. I am hoping that people aren't asking me things because I look like a supervisor, I don't want to stick out like this

For a little while in the evening, we were having computer problems--trouble using people's driver's license # instead of their Advantage card, and some registers couldn't do EFTs. This didn't seem to last long but seemed like a potential nightmare, as there were long lines at every lane, and the Customer Service line was almost to the door.

I saw JJ again and he was as playful as usual--always joking with me about getting to stay in every time he was sent out to do the carts.

During my break, I checked next week's schedule (posted every Friday). I'm going to be on a register for real next Saturday all day, and on Sunday I am going to be a courtesy clerk--I don't know what this means. I'm scheduled for 22.25 hours.

As I left work, a muzak version of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" was playing-I didn't notice it until I was in the parking lot.

I have to say that after working both last night and tonight, I left in a good mood. I am not sure why--I'm finding I really like the work.

 

2/24/05

Bagging/Training, 4:00- 8:00 pm

I punched in, but the time clock said I wasn't on the schedule so I had to fill in a log sheet--this is used whenever there is a discrepancy between the time clock and whatever you do.

HH was my supervisor, and she paired me with II, who is a really sweet high school guy. He's been here for five months. About an hour and a half into my shift, HH say the gray hairs on my head and asked me how old I was. When I told her 34, she and II seemed surprised. Later, II asked me if I had any kids. They both thought except for those gray hairs, I looked like I was in my mid-twenties.

II said he used to cashier a lot, but lately they've had him on other things--he also mentioned that the men are always put on carts, etc., and that the women don't have to do this. I saw GG and waved to her, and later FF was in picking up her check (today is payday) and so waved to her. JJ, another bagger was joking with me all night about my cart. II suggested I do the two cart switch (I don't remember what he really called it)--you have an empty cart in which you put the bags, and then give it to the customer and take theirs when they are finished checking out. The only times you wouldn't do this is when there is a kid in the cart or something, so they don't have to move them around. I know I've said this before, but really everyone I've met here is very friendly, and really don't show much disgruntlement ( I wonder if that will change, sort of expect it to). It's not that everyone thinks what they're doing is awesome, just that they know they are here for the job and don't show any bad attitude.

So I started bagging. The beginning of the night was very busy--I worked up a slight sweat trying to do it fast. II helped and bagged things. He said not every cashier does this--not to show he was nice, but just to let me know. I started trying to organize things, following what I remembered from the computer training, but really this is not entirely possible. I felt like I was overfilling bags, but I think I was fine--putting all the frozen stuff together, bagging chemical things separately, meat separately, fragile things on top, paid stickers on big things. I think I'll get better. II showed me some balm stuff that cashiers and baggers put on their fingertips to help separate the bags, and also to help because your hands get really dry. I messed up a little--twice I forgot to but a bag in someone's cart. I apologized to HH, she said don't worry about it, she's done it. II told me that they leave it out for a while, and then log it, so that if the customer comes back later with a receipt, they can look it up and have the person go get whatever was left behind before. I wonder how many customers do this. In training, I remember DD saying that if a customer forgets to use their Advantage card, they can come back and someone will look up the receipt, and someone has to enter all the product code numbers, but ultimately, the customer will get all the savings they would have if they had used their card before. Tonight, many of the customers said they forgot their card, but didn't give their driver's license number (this works as a substitute), but II had his card and would just use it.

The one thing I noticed were things that must be on sale: a lot of people were buying 6 packs of Pepsi plastic bottles, these single serving Reeces ice cream things, ground turkey, Scott toilet paper, some laundry detergent ( I can't remember the brand-Sunlight or something), Friedhoffer's chocolate chip cookies, and Friskies cat food. In fact, I saw a lot of the same things in each order.

The customers, in general, were very nice, and even the ones who seemed very tired or checked-out really responded to me just telling them to have a nice night--I was practicing my customer service skills.

After our break, it seemed slower in the store. About ten minutes before the end of my shift, they called II and me and two others to do re-shelving. I only got a basket, since I was leaving soon. When putting things back, I noticed that the shelves were a mess. The things I did return did have some kind of special on them, so I guess it was just a lot of people going through and grabbing them.

After I punched out, I went to the Customer Service desk and picked up my first paycheck--for $33.75. I will try to go to the bank tomorrow and open up a savings account for this.

 

 
2/22/05

Training, 5:30- 9:00 pm

Tonight went much slower, perhaps because I was fairly tired, and also because we spent a lot of time today just chatting. We were all tired--EE had school and FF and I had just come from our other jobs. DD didn't sleep well either. DD talked for a while just about her family, her mother, daughter, etc. She's very funny, and is that sort of person who is tough but very sweet. It's strange that this made the time go slower, when really it is nice to think that we can just talk and don't have to be always "working." But my fellow trainees and I were all looking forward to just being out on the floor, because it would be so busy time would go by fast. I also learned that EE has worked at Blockbuster, Dollar Tree, and many other places. He and DD discussed the Blockbuster test-- I've heard about this, it seems sort of like the Walmart test--hard to get the answers right if you're not telling the truth yet at the same time they are looking for certain ways that you answer. EE also brought in some gel and massaged FF's forearm--FF has carpal tunnel syndrome, and EE has trained to be a massage therapist.

I realize how interesting the social aspects of this job are. DD talks about race fairly often, but always in humorous ways--not bigoted or offensive, but really honest. She is Puerto Rican, and her boyfriend is "half black and half white." A lot of her stories are about food--how her best friends growing up were black, and she loved one friend's grandmother's food--fried chicken--and her friends loved her mother's food--chicken with rice and beans. This is the most racially diverse place I have ever worked, and it is diverse age- and gender-wise as well. At the end of the evening, again just in talking, DD said that men are seen as able to be a cashier, bagger, cart person, and bottle person, whereas women only do cashiering and bagging. DD said that one woman did ask to be trained to work in bottle returns, because she didn't feel she was good at customer service, but then she left shortly after for another job.

We did do some training tonight. DD said that when she started, five years ago, training was done in 8 hours. You got about fifteen minutes on a cash register during this time, and then on your next shift you were on your own. In addition to tonight, we all have 8 hours on Saturday with DD, and then we have "buddy days," when a cashier is our bagger and so is around to help and ask questions. She said we'd be on the regular lines for the first two weeks, but then we will be put on the Express lines as well (which I guess no one likes because you're on your own.)

So, first FF and I finished the computer part--a section on the register. This was mainly about forms of payment and some other procedures. We then moved into the training room and took a written quiz on alcohol and tobacco. We had to first read the law again, as well as 2 pages on the ill effects of smoking, which we were quizzed on. It's interesting that this seems to be part of the law about tobacco sales--that to be certified to sell it, you must know about its health effects. No mention of the effects of alcohol were anywhere.

We then started a little on the register keys, using a model keyboard. This was on how to log in and out of your register, how to show a price for a customer, and how to handle coupons, which you should do last. DD also talked a while about making sure your slips are in order--coupons, bottle returns, and EFT slips, about how change is given--there is a standard amount for coins, in $20 increments and then 100 $1 bills, which are wrapped by the bank, and fives and tens, which we should count and get in $200 increments, I think. She stressed that we shouldn't open up all our change unless needed, because all the money is counted by hand. There is one person who does this, and if there is any difference in the register above or below $5, she has to go through the computer and register to find it. This person also has to count all the change for the self-checkout, which have 4 coin baskets in each amounting to $250 dollars, and it takes her two hours to go through one machine, and then all the registers as well.

Another cashier, whom I have seen on the floor, GG, came in. She had clocked out and was waiting for the bus. At this point, FF was saying that she was nervous. DD said it looked hard in here, but that it was easy once you get on the floor. Mary said is was easy. She grabbed the keyboard and said all you do is "subtotal" "EFT" "Enter" "Enter" again and again and again. DD said that it's really just swipe and beep (pantomiming scanning). GG then went through al the keys and explained it all to us in about five minutes-- different payments (EFT is EBT (food stamps), Debit, credit,etc, personal checks, WIC, rebate checks), tax exempt, key entry, coupon entry. GG also joked about learning all the produce codes--she learned bananas first. She was great. She also works another job,I think as a school bus driver and joked that no one wanted her as a driver--FF had mentioned there was an opening in her office, and was going to get GG an application.

At this point, we had about a half hour left, but we just killed time--walked around the store until time to punch out. FF wanted to look at the produce, which I was glad to do as well. We agreed that the different lettuce, greens, and some of the apples were hard to tell a part. DD just said ask the customer.

I also noticed that the clocks in the store--the public ones, have the right time, whereas the time clock is five minutes fast.

 

2/21/05

Training, 5:30- 9:00 pm

I punched in and noticed that the time clock is exactly 7 minutes faster than my watch.

Tonight's training was all done on the computer-- we had to go through a series of web-based info and then take a test for each. Throughout the fist sections, after information was introduced, we would answer questions. At the end, we would take a quiz, which had the exact same questions on it.The scores for each test were printed out and a tally sheet was made for each of us There was also a certificate filed in for alcohol and tobacco sales. After the first three, we each got a "certified" sticker added to our name tags.

Before I describe the training itself, I have again met some very nice people. Even though there's already been jokes about the drudgery of work, everyone does seem to be fairly upbeat. DD, our supervisor for training, is also a bartender. My fellow trainees were EE, a high school student who will graduate this year, and FF, who works in an office during the day. Both of the other trainees are really smart and directed people. FF is a dancer, did go to school to be a nurse for a while, and is very outgoing. She took this part-time job because her theater/dance group is in between productions. EE has already completed coursework to be a message therapist, and paid off the loan for it already. He is anxious to be done with school and has plans already for life afterwards. EE also went through all the training components really fast--he finished well before the rest of us. In fact, I was always the last person to finish. EE and FF already had bagging training, and had orientation a week before me.

The training components were:

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Loss Prevention (shrink)
  • Bagging
  • Safety and security on the front end
  • Scanning
  • Understanding UPCs
  • Sexual Harassment

I may be forgetting one. I still have one more to finish--about the Register, EE finished it tonight but FF and I didn't.

Okay, so now for the actually "training."

Alcohol and tobacco training basically said that anyone who looked under 40 years old should be asked for ID. It presented a few situations in which someone would try not to show ID, in which case of course you wouldn't sell them anything. It went over forms of acceptable ID, and also the penalties for you, the person buying stuff, and the store if anyone was caught selling to an underage person. The most extreme example had the result that a woman was in an alcohol-elated car accident, and a receipt from Price Chopper was found in the car.

Customer Service re-iterated many of the things presented during orientation, but with a few more facts: the average customer spends $5,000 a year in Price Chopper, it takes 5 times as much effort to get a new customer, most customers who have an unpleasant experience will tell 15 people. And finally, the cashiers are often the only people customers talk to, and it is their last experience in the store. Employees tell us that being friendly makes the time go faster, customers are friendlier, and customer service skills are valuable for any job.

Loss Prevention: this was about shrink, again something gone over in orientation. Shrink is the difference between what he store should make and what it doesn't. This component stressed that employees are largely responsible for it: ringing up something wrong (white mushrooms at 1.99 a pound rather than Shitake mushrooms at 6.59 a pound; carelessly leaving coupons around to be re-used, and employee dishonesty, which apparently account for most loss.

Bagging was perhaps the most fun. You aren't to use paper bags unless the customer asks for it, but also to bag whatever way the customer wants as well. You should plan how to bag with larger orders. You are to use boxed goods around the sides, then heavier items like jars (putting items between jars), fill in with small items, and then put fragile items on top. A well packed bag should be able to stand on its own, and bags should not be overfilled. Any chemical products should be bagged separately, and any wet items, like ice cream, should also be put in a separate bag. Frozen items should be bagged together because they will stay frozen longer. If there are special items like cards, videotapes, etc. the customer should be asked if hey would like it bagged with his/her groceries.

Safety and security at the front end was about keeping the place neat, picking up things off the floor, and how to deal with shoplifting both intentional and unintentional (meaning little kids grabbing something) and "quick-change thief's," as well as robbery. If we see someone we suspect as a shoplifter, which apparently could be anyone, we should approach them and ask if they need any help since apparently shoplifters do not want to interact with anyone or be noticed.

Scanning was about how to use the scanners: there are surface scanners, side scanners and 360 scanners (which seem to be both surface and side scanners) I think along with this one was more about proper lifting, as well as saying that you should use your whole arm to scan things through, and not to bend the wrist.

UPC explained what they were and how the whole scanning system works. It also went through various products and where bar codes would be located. there was a lot of quizzing on this. I learned that bottles packaged with a firm plastic cover is called a cone pack.

Sexual harassment defined its different forms: verbal, non-verbal and physical, and went over how to report it and what the procedure for investigating it is. It had several scenarios of sexual harassment. It prefaced it by saying that the Supreme Court defined it and says its against the law.

I was really sort of fried at the end of all of this.

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