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3/6/05

10:00AM-5:45 PM courtesy clerk (aka bagger)

I woke up still a little sore from yesterday, and tired, so today was perhaps the least fun day at work so far. AD, another bagger, even mentioned that I looked tired.

I was assigned to bag for WW, and VV was cashiering next to us. They are both about the same age, in high school, so I felt like I was in high school for a while. VV has attitude, usually in a fun way, but sometimes not so nice. One time while her bagger, AE, was away getting something, VV complained how slow she is and saying "where did she go?" After a little while WW turned to me and asked me how old I was and do I have a boyfriend. I told her 34 and no, I'm divorced ( I almost never say this, but I thought it would make more sense for some reason). Later on I asked her the same thing, trying to make conversation. I don't think I've ever asked anyone these questions before, I usually wait for someone to tell me. When I punched out, WW then asked me where I lived, and then told me that NN had asked her to ask me, which made her first set of questions make more sense. Uh oh.

It was slow in the store most of the day, even though we still had a fairly steady stream of people. My sense is that the beginning of this month, in general, is slower than usual. A lot of meat and frozen food seemed to pass through. I found myself in disbelief at the amount of food people bought, sometimes two carts worth. I think I was overly aware of this because my back was really hurting all day and I hated the thought of bagging all that food.

For a while, I worked with AB, a young woman (maybe just out of high school?) who is six months pregnant. Her family is from Bosnia. I'm not sure if she ever lived there, but I think so. At the very end of my shift, I bagged for EE--this is the first time I had seen him since training. He wasn't very talkative, but he seemed fairly quiet before so this wasn't surprising. I didn't mind. In general, all the employees are friendly with each other (and to me), the first topic of conversation is how long are you here today, and then sympathy if it's a long time. Some, like WW and VV are definitely more chatty than others, but there are many who seem quiet and just keep to themselves.

During my lunch break, two men were talking at another table. One worked in Seafood, I don't know what department the other guy worked in, but both were manager-types. They were talking about automated inventory the seafood department is transferring over to automation this week, and the seafood guy wasn't too happy about it. He said that computers make mistakes and don't adjust themselves, and that computers won't know how something will sell or when to order more. He then said that they always hire more people, but there is a limit to how much he could sell because of freezer space, and he felt the company would never invest in building another freezer. He then talked about a list that comes out comparing departments from all the stores. This store is always near the top, but they're always beaten by 2 or 3. He looked up the sales of these stores, and they sold $12,000 a week, whereas he sold $49,000 a week. The comparison had something to do with budgets, but I didn't understand the rest of it or what the list was comparing, exactly. My break was over, so I missed the rest of my eavesdropping. I was struck, however, by how much he cared about this.

In the afternoon, OO was bagging next to me. I wasn't really paying attention until a woman on his lane started complaining and insisted on bagging her groceries herself. She went on and on about how he was putting things together all wrong, and couldn't believe he'd put milk in with chicken, or something like that. She said that she'd had QQ bag her groceries before, and she did a good job--that women were much better at it than men. Another bagger took his place after that.

There actually where more men in the store today, often with a wife or girlfriend. A couple of middle-aged men who were alone commented that their wives usually do the grocery shopping.

I also learned that MM is the least favorite Front End Supervisor among the cashiers, and that BB is definitely not liked. MM doesn't seem to respond as fast to the register's flashing light as the others. I am not sure yet why BB isn't liked--whether it's because she is more of a manager or that she isn't good at her job. People seem to blame her for things like not having cleaning supplies/paper towels at the register. The two co-mangers of the store were also in today. I've never spoken to either one of them. One seems more well known among the employees than the other.

 
3/5/05

1:00- 8:30 PM regular cashier

Today was a long day, but it went by very fast. I can recall only one moment (lasting 10 seconds) in which I had no customers. When I arrived, there was a front end supervisor I hadn't seen before, TT. He is young (in his twenties) and very clean cut. PP, LL, and MM were also working as supervisors at different points. I was put on register 15, which is closer to the express lanes, cigarette lane, etc. Previously, I had been put on registers at the far end of all the lanes.

I had so many people go through today, it's all a blur of packaged meat, frozen shrimp and chicken wings, cases of soda, eggs, cereal, and packaged prepared food. About less than a quarter of purchases seem to be produce, but I am slowly learning all the codes--today I picked up the codes for cucumbers, celery, plum tomatoes, and almost both green and red bell peppers. I had to ask a coupe of times what the produce was-- I feel kind of stupid for not knowing. As a vegetarian, I have never been around so much meat, but I'm starting to learn a little what different cuts look like.

Many people shop together, usually mother and adult daughter. There are a lot of food stamps, but in all the training they always talked about how busy it is in the beginning of the month, because that is when all the checks go through. Actually, it's not a check, but an EBT card, which is run through in the same way as a debit or credit card. I've learned that all governmental benefits (except WIC) use this card--Medicaid, there is cash EBT as well as food stamps. Yesterday, as I was driving to work I was listening to NPR on the radio, and a story was coming up on how the government currently pays for 46% of all health care in this country, and this percentage is expected to only increase. All the talk about the United States being about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, privatization, and pure capitalism seems like bullshit to me--we refuse to acknowledge that this system does depend on social welfare. I have no problem with this, I only wish it was acknowledged.

I had one customer who patiently waited as I called the front end supervisor to give a rain check for some spray-on butter product for the customer ahead of him. He was only buying two packages of fish. He told be he grew up with the Golub brothers in Albany--that they celebrated Christmas and Hanukah together. He told me they were a good family and ran a good company. I told him I had only just started, but it seemed like a good place. I have no idea if I was telling the truth. My only real problem with the company so far is the low wages. I can't really tell, otherwise, if they are good or bad.

Many customers have told me that this is the best Price Chopper store--better than the one in Western Lights (which I must visit now because I'm intrigued). I also had some disgruntled customers--one woman who felt that her total was too much (over $200). I didn't quite know how to handle this, so when I gave her the receipt, I encouraged her to look through it and if anything was wrong, to let me or a front end supervisor know. Many customers have also said to me that they only planned on picking up a few things, but there total purchases were over $100. I guess that's good marketing and product placement in action--although it's clear that many people buy things because it's on sale. I joked with one young couple that they should never go food shopping hungry--they both had eaten things while shopping and asked me to scan in the wrappers. I really like the challenge of trying to strike up conversations with total strangers. I think that's part of the reason I am liking this job--not only for the people I am meeting because I work with them (whom it is hard to really talk with during days like today), but also because the customers are so diverse.

I punched out a few minutes late-- I had a mother/daughter combo with three carts between them as my last customers. I was sort of tired--my lower back was sore, I think because of all the twisting I do, as well as lifting groceries, which I do totally wrong. My fingernails were also all chipped and my hands felt sort of grungy. But, I still left in a good mood.

During my lunch break, I checked my schedule for next week. I had asked for Sunday off because my mother is coming to visit, and I got it off. I was nervous about this because even though they say they are flexible with scheduling, I didn't know if this was true, but so far so good.

 
3/4/05

10:00AM-2:00 PM "Buddy Day"

I felt better coming in today. It was busy when I first arrived, so I did some bagging until LL was ready for me to open a register. BB asked me how it was going, and I said I thought it was fine, that I had made a few mistakes, but felt I had already had to deal with a lot of different things. LL then assigned SS to me as my bagger/ buddy. I set up on register 20.

SS was chatty, I probably should've spoken with her more. She is going through a divorce and has 2 sons. She was telling me the ins and outs of things--what to look for, how to deal with certain things. She also knew all the produce codes and would just tell me how to ring things up, which was great. I think I've learned peppers (almost) and green beans. I also know the UPC code for Grade-A large eggs-- these don't scan and everyone was buying two or three packages of them. SS told a customer she's been a cashier since 1998, so she knows how everything works. She did really know a lot. She told me to make sure I let them know that I need a break, or else I may not get one, and that if I felt I needed more time with a "buddy," to be sure to tell them when I punch out tonight and they'll set it up for me for tomorrow.

I think I only had one really grumpy customer. She was in a hurry and was buying hot deli stuff, and also wasn't too happy about the price. Besides this, everyone else was nice, and I loved having that "Cashier Training in Progress" sign because everyone s much more forgiving and told me I was doing a good job, etc. Another customer told me he loves this store, that he's tried all of them, even the other Price Chopper, and this one is the best. A woman and her adult daughter were in together, and I had messed up twice scanning in something (they were both giant packages of paper towels and toilet paper, and the scanner rang each one up 3 times. I had to void them, but this put me over my void limit and I had to call the front end supervisor each time to fix it). I joked that I just wanted them to stay longer, and the daughter joked that they really don't have a social life and just come to the register line to meet people. I replied that this was the reason I was working here. I little joke for myself, I suppose.

I got yelled at (not really yelled at, but she wasn't happy) by a woman who works in customer service for telling a customer to apply for a Price Chopper card and that they'll go through and give her the discount of what she would've gotten in today's purchases. I was told to have the supervisor enter in her card so they don't have to go through and find everything by hand. SS was actually the person who told the woman this, but I should have gotten the supervisor. I was starting to get mad (not really mad, but perturbed) for getting blamed for this, but then I put myself in check, because it's really a minor thing, and it's better if I was to blame--both because I'm new and am probably expected to make mistakes, and also because I don't need this job. It's just funny because it's so easy to get mad at someone.

During my break, I talked with NN a little. He asked if I was going to be here tomorrow at the "Hire and Fire," which is his name for orientation. He said people come and go fast, and that he hardly knows the names of all the new people. After I punched out, NN saw me and asked me to have a cigarette with him, which I did. He told me he was in the military for 22 years--5 years in the Army Airborne, and then in explosives, 5 years in the Navy Seabees (demolition), he took a few years off, and then signed up for the reserves for 12 years. He retired just before 911--he was nervous the paperwork wouldn't go through. His unit, out of Mattydale, was sent over to Iraq. He was in Desert Storm, but only at the very end, they flew over and flew back. He said that he knows military history, and he said when he got back from Desert Storm, he knew we'd be back, that the job wasn't finished. He said he also knew when we did go back we wouldn't have the coalition, it would cost a lot more, and more people would die. At the time, people just said to him , "sure [NN], have another beer." He is against the war in Iraq, but did support our action in Afghanistan. He said he's been abroad, and he knew why people didn't like Americans--that we're arrogant and loud; and now that there are no weapons of mass destruction, we look like assholes. I told him about the faces of the fallen exhibition at SU, he said he's seen it on the news.

On my way home, I stopped at the bank an opened up an account for my paychecks. It was cheaper to get a checking account, because you need a $500 minimum for a savings account, or else you'd have a $4/month service fee.

 
3/3/05

10:00AM-2:00 PM "Buddy Day"

Today was my first day on the register, although it was a "buddy day," one of two days I get with a cashier as my bagger. I was nervous coming in, I felt like I forgot how to do everything. PP was the front end supervisor, and assigned QQ to work with me. I logged into the register, and several seconds later, my first customer came. She said immediately, "you're new." She's been coming here for twenty years. She was nice and told me I was doing fine. I continued to tell customers that this was my first day and you're my second, third customer, etc., until around the sixth one, and then forgot how many I had rung up. QQ was great and reassured me I was doing fine. She got change for me twice. I messed up early ringing up someone who wanted cash back on her debit card, but I put on my light and PP quickly fixed it. I also turned off my light by accident once--I had switched it to blinking because someone wanted a Price Chopper card, but then she changed her mind and instead of putting on I turned it off. DD saw this and asked me why my light was off, at which point I quickly turned it on.

I was surprised how in such a short time I had to deal with just about every kind of payment (except WIC), voids, coupon problems, rainchecks, etc. I forgot to ring in a few coupons, but luckily the customers didn't notice, although I felt bad as I quietly slipped them into my pocket (how's that for a cover-up?). So far the only two produce codes I know by heart are bananas and grapes (which must have been on sale today). My memorable customers included a woman who was supposed to meet her friend at the store, her friend had the EBT card. As I was finishing ringing up her order, she called her friend on her cell phone and found out she was at the other Price Chopper in Western Lights. PP tried to enter the card number manually, which didn't work, and then tried to call it in. She then decided we would wait for the friend to arrive, and closed down my register and I bagged for a while until the friend, and the card, arrived. I had another woman who was buying a lot of shampoo and hair products (there was a dollar sale). After I rang her up, she asked for some things to be taken off, we finished the transaction, and then she bought what she could of what was left. In counting out her money, she put it on the belt, which was moving, and the change dropped below. RR, who was now bagging for me, figured out how to get a tray out which had the change in it, along with a lot of other debris, mainly tiny pieces of onion skin. Early on, I had a customer call me by name, which I must admit took me aback until I remembered I'm wearing a name tag. He also called QQ by her name. He also asked me what bill the previous customer gave me, which was a 50. He said that I should keep the bills on top until change is given, so if a customer says they gave me a 50 when they really gave me a 20, I could resolve it. He said they used to have trays for this on registers. I remember this from when I worked as a cashier when I was 16. I was also struck by how many $50 and even $100 bills I received. I'm such a cash machine person that I hardly ever have these bills.

Two things I have to remember to bring with me when I cashier: a pen and a calculator. Luckily, I had a pen with me. There are none at the register and it's needed for credit card charges (why they can't provide this seems a bit cheap to me.) I had to do some paper calculations when someone had a raincheck--this is when there is a sale but the store runs out of things, and a customer can request a raincheck and get it at another time. You have to figure out the difference between the regular price and the sale. The other time I needed it was when figuring out the difference between a check and cash back from it for a customer. Customers only have to sign a check and you run it through a printer that enters the amount and scans it, and you hand it back to the customer.

My shift went by very fast. I forgot to ask for a break and so punched out a few minutes early. PP told me to speak up. I actually don't care too much about taking a break. There wasn't much time for interaction with anyone--I think the kind of discussions I was in during training won't happen much, it's just too busy all the time while you're working.

Today was payday, so I picked up my check--for $93.32.

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