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7/17/05

4:15 PM -10:00 PM Express Register

It seemed sort of slow tonight, and for a while I was pulled off the express register to help bag. I was bagging next to BX and he was telling the cashier I was bagging for about the concert he went to last night, and then started talking to me about coming to Price Chopper afterwards. He said he hated shopping in the store, it was weird for him. I told him I agreed. I miss this when I'm on the EZ Scan-- I feel more a part of things when on a register or bagging. But in some ways I'm not really. Many of the younger cashiers are friends and hang out together, even at work. The older cashiers tend not to do this. I saw CF briefly, and we are planning to get together for coffee or something this week.

I overheard HH complain about all the people calling in tonight, and I was sent over to watch the EZ Scan, because the person scheduled for it hadn't shown up. I was only there for a few minutes, and then SS came to take over. I couldn't help thinking that it was probably okay that some people hadn't come in to work today, because it really didn't seem busy until later in the evening, and that was probably only because less registers were open. Both HH and AO were front end supervisors tonight. I have a lot of respect for both of them. AO always seems to get tired of all the questions by the end of the night, but he also seems to have a lot of customers come through who know him.

My register was near the security room door, and every once in a while I would see one of the security guys come out. I decided to make an audio recording tonight, and so was wearing a mic taped to my chest, and had a mini disc recorder in my back pocket. Even though I knew everything was well concealed, and there was no reason for anyone to think I was recording, I still felt slightly paranoid about it. Two friends came through with a hidden video camera, which I had asked them to do. I was happy to see them, but also suddenly very self-conscious about how geeky I am about being a good cashier. I am sure the tape will be embarrassing.

After my break, I was on the express register for the rest of the night, and mine was the only express open, so I had a steady line. A woman came through who said she didn't know many of the people here. She said she had worked here, and had worked for Price Chopper for 18 years, and had retired in August. I told her I had been here about five months, and that there were always new people. Later, a man came through who told me he worked at P&C, and talked about what a pain it was--people didn't have their card and wanted one, etc., and that you always had to be nice to them anyway.

I had a lot of customers with WIC checks. I can usually spot WIC customers even before they pull out the checks, because its the only time you see milk, Juicy Juice, and eggs together. WIC also covers cereal, infant formula, dried beans, cheese, and carrots. When I was bagging, a man came through with his son and two carts full of groceries, half of one just WIC stuff. He said he had a lot of kids. Later in the night, an older woman came through with a young girl (granddaughter?) and part of her WIC order was for 26 ounces of Tuna Fish, but she had 6 cans, which where 36 ounces total. I pointed this out, and she seemed slightly upset that the amount had been changed, and so I just rang up all six, because I don't really care if I get in trouble for this, and it seemed like they needed it.

A woman came through with a bunch of junk food--potato chips, cookies, popsicles, candy, which totaled a little over $26.00. She said it was for all the kids hanging out at her house, now that school was out, and also complained how expensive it was. I asked her how many kids she was watching, and she said 2 of her own, and 2-3 others. Earlier, another woman came through buying a lot of candy, for her grandchildren. She looked like she was only in her late forties, and I told her she didn't look old enough to have grand children.

People were buying a lot of ice cream, Pepsi products, or else specific dinner things. One group bought some live lobsters, and the guy behind them seemed a little shocked--he didn't know you bought them live and then cooked them. It was sort of weird to scan a plastic bag with a living thing in it. I guess I am also surprised how much some seafood and prime cuts of meat cost--usually this makes an order easily over $50, and I had several like this tonight.

As the night wore on, one customer said to me that all the weirdoes were out at Price Chopper tonight. I said that every night was like that. He replied that maybe all the weird ones go through my line. Actually, I am not sure who he was referring to, because no one ahead of him seemed very odd to me.

CB came by to clean out the other Express register drawers. She said is was strange to see me on a register (because she usually sees me on the EZ Scan).

I turned off my light five minutes before I had to punch out, with three customers in my line. In between ringing these people up, I turned several people away. But one guy complained, loudly. He said the other registers had lines three carts deep, and he had complained to customer service, but they didn't seem to care. So I said all right, and took care of him, and he responded that I was a good employee. I would have much rather helped the other people who were nice enough when I told them I was closed.

 
7/16/05

6:00 PM -12:00 AM EZ Scan

I had coffee with CF yesterday, told him about what I was doing and asked him to be on the board. He said yes, but Ieft our meeting feeling like I had taken advantage of him. CF is a very intelligent, interesting, and kind person, and I feel that I rushed into involving him in this project before establishing a friendship, which I would like to do regardless of this. I have no doubts that he will be a good board member, but I also realize I have put him in a position of giving away money, when he is just making ends meet.

I also came to a decision, in part through my conversation with CF, about my ideas for interventions in the store--re-editing the safety and orientation video, and making a pamphlet in response to the anti-union poster in the hallway. I have decided not to do these activities. For one thing, since I am leaving, doing these things may only cast suspicion on other employees. Secondly, my work so far on these projects was geared towards providing more information: about the history of safety and occupation laws, the history of unions (pro and con), the food retail industry, and minimum wage. This information is really geared towards upper management, and I don't feel it will really help workers to know why they are paid so low, they already know they don't have much money. I suppose if I had done this earlier, openly taken responsibility for it, and then followed up, it could be done right. As I think I've said before, I don't have any major problems with Price Chopper per se, EXCEPT for the low wages and dependence on part time workers, and this is an industry standard. I don't wish to absolve the Golub Corporation of their responsibility for this, but it is part of a larger system.

This doesn't mean I am not going to make work around these issues. One of the main reasons for my undertaking this project was to gain experience of wage jobs, from which to make work which examines them. I guess, with this particular job, I would like to work from the outside--to take these experiences over the last five months and use them to shape responses and public awareness.

So, back to work. It was busy, chaotic, in the EZScanland. One of the consoles is still down, and so there was a line for much of the night. The only moments of quiet were around 10:30, and again around 11:30, but for the most part, a lot of people came through, and many with kids.

One man was shopping for his mother, and he was sort of particular about everything. He was buying several rotisserie chickens, and the grease from them had spilled into his cart. He asked me to get him a new cart, and also new packets of some gum, which the grease had spilled on. A lot of people were buying chicken ($2.99), and several didn't know how to scan it, since the bar code was on the side, until I told them that the upright glass plate was also a scanner (it's a 360 degree scanner).

A woman, whom I have seen before, did all her shopping, and then told me she had spent the day cleaning out her garage. I commented that it was a hot day for doing that. She said her son then asked her about dinner and told her to go shopping. I told her I hoped she could go home and relax, but she said that she had to go make dinner. I wondered how old her son was, and if he was older, than he is definitely a jerk.

A man asked me how much corn was--.33 an ear. He bought a steak and three ears of corn, which came to $8.58. He had $8.66.

A lot of people were paying with checks. This is only a problem when there are others on the other scanners, because while I am running a check, I can't help them--my screen is just on the one register that the check is being used for. One woman asked me to run an Advantage card for her, which I did, and then she paid with a check. At first I told her she couldn't use a check, because check cashing is tied to the Advantage card, but it turned out she did have one, I guess she just didn't want to bother having me enter it for her. As I was dealing with this, another woman had coupons, and another customer needed to be ID 'd. I asked if I could take care of them first before running the check, and the woman came me a hard look, so I just ran her check and told the others I would be just one minute. One of the people waiting was a colleague/professor from school and his wife.

I heard someone fall behind me and turned to see a woman splayed out on the floor outside the cleaning closet. I asked her if she was all right, she didn't answer, but got up and ran over to the men's restroom door and almost went in, but then turned and I told her where the women's room was, and she ran there. I few minutes later, CH was calling TT over, because this woman wanted to speak to a supervisor. The woman then told TT that they should put a sign on the cleaning closet door, that they could have a lawsuit. TT then mopped up the water on the closet floor. The sign for the restroom, hung from the ceiling, is right above this door, but the restrooms are on either side of it. I have seen many people go into the cleaning closet thinking it is the bathroom. Later, CH asked me if I had seen that woman fall, and I told her I did, or rather I saw her right after she fell.

A man asked me to watch his orange juice and ketchup while he used the bathroom. he then came back, and while talking on his cell phone, telling someone he was buying orange juice and ketchup, he asked me to ring him up. I told him this was the self-serve area, and that he should get in line, since there was one, a long impatient one, since a couple cancelled their order and I was waiting for AO to come and void it for me, so only two consoles were working. They guy didn't seem to understand, and so I rang him up using the register that was down. He then wanted to use his debit card and get cash back, but I told him I couldn't do it--the reason this register was down is because it wasn't running credit cards. He seemed pissed and paid with cash, and then told me, sarcastically, that he was sorry to impose on me so much, and that I should just relax.

Later BX, AI and another cashier came through. BX was wet and muddy. They told me they had been at a concert. They bought cigarettes and munchy type food.

During my break, I got my schedule for next week. It seemed a little odd: I am scheduled for the EZ Scan one night, "Misc" another night, and then as a bagger. I don't know what Misc means. After I punched out and said goodnight to AO, he asked me if this was my last night. I told him no, I put in my two weeks notice, and I would be here for two weeks. He said many people don't show up after they put in their notice, and I replied that I wouldn't do that, that I have pride in my work (ridiculous but true).

The parking lot was full of cars, a line of cars was at one of the exits. Earlier in the night, someone had mentioned that the drag racers were here. The police had shut down an entire section of Erie Boulevard, luckily for me in the opposite direction from home, and were at every corner. There were people tailgating in cars in parking lots all the way home. I also noticed that the Midler Ave. bridge looked open again.

 
7/14/05

6:00 PM -12:00 AM EZ Scan

I quit today--or rather I put in my two weeks notice. I first told HH, who told me to write a note to BB. So I wrote a "resignation letter" during my break on the back of a dental insurance form, and then told AO who told me to put it on BB's computer in the little office behind the front end desk. AO was sort of bummed--he said that all the good people go. I told him that I didn't think the place was so bad, just that the wages were low. He said he was looking for something himself, and that perhaps he work days and then get a night security job 2-3 nights a week. He said you couldn't make a living just working here.

I felt good doing this. I decided that it was time, and I need the time to organize the grant. But I must say I think I will miss working here. Even thought lately I haven't always wanted to go to work, and haven't liked working on the EZ Scan, I have really enjoyed people around a lot of different people. Even though my contact with people is superficial, I have gotten a tiny glimpse into everyday life.

I also saw CF, and told him I would like to have coffee with him. We are going to meet tomorrow. He asked me to bring my work to show him. I am going to ask him if he would help to select the artist to get the grant from the Foundation, and of course, tell him all about this project. I am a little nervous about this. I do think/hope CF will be receptive, but I wonder if I am somehow being insulting to my coworkers, or I guess just that fact that I am privileged, and haven't needed this job, while working around people who do need the work and can't so easily move about, I am somehow shoving that in their face. But this is an inherent ethical problem with this entire project.

The night went fast, mostly. Now that I know I will not be there much longer, I am a little bit more distanced and can focus on what I'm doing, and enjoy things more. It was also busy most of the time, so that made time go by fast.

I did come in ten minutes early to pick up my check, and waited in a long line at customer service. While waiting in line, I helped a woman who needed to get a refund, and ultimately had to leave the line without getting my check in order to punch in on time. I woman behind me offered to save my spot, but I told her I had to punch in. VV was on the EZ Scan and shouted over to me that I had 8 minutes left. I thought to myself that I will not miss her bossiness.

It was constantly busy--one of the consoles for the EZ Scan was closed, and so there was often a line. One woman told me that she thought it was weird in the store tonight, like there was " a swearing contest" going on that no one told her about. It did seem a little odd. People were aggressive towards each other, but no one was rude towards me, unless you think that being called "hon" and "honey" which many people said to me tonight, is rude.

A little after 7:00, a woman asked me for help. She had dropped her keys in between the ATM machine at the bank and the counter. I could see her keys and could almost get to them from the front, but then some of the bank guys, who were closing up, came by and tried to retrieve them from behind the machine with a ruler, and only managed to push them under the machine. The woman ended up having a spare set with her, and later came through my line. A while after she left, a few of the bank guys were still trying to figure out how to get her keys.

Two men came through (I thought they were a couple, and when they paid with a check, both their names were on it, so my thoughts were confirmed), and they ended up with different opinions of the EZ Scan--one thought it was convenient, the other disagreed. Shortly afterward, I woman told me she thought they should give us chairs, and that it must be hard to stand on your feet all day. I couldn't help thinking of the Seinfeld episode where George ends up bringing in a rocking chair for a security guard so that he doesn't have to stand all day. The guard ends up falling asleep, fails to catch a shoplifter, and gets fired.

The rabbi, who I haven't seen since March or April, came through. He told me that once again I was very helpful and should get a promotion, and that he would speak to Richard (Rich Cargen, store manager?) about me.

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