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Orientation, 8 am – 1 pm

Six high school students (3 men and 3 women), and I were the new employees. We received our name badges and orientation packet. Two of us are going to work at the Erie Blvd. store, the others at the Western Lights store. The woman leading the orientation, AA, seemed friendly and decent, but most of orientation was very regulatory

We first filled out paperwork: signed application, W-4, and a company form. Other forms included an Orientation form, a Safety form, a Superior Customer Service Certificate, Time and Attendance Procedures, and Minor Violations Sign Off Sheet (about those under 18 in the workplace)

The orientation folder also includes: Store Associate’s Handbook, card with Human Resources Mission Statement, Dress Code and Personal Grooming for all store associates, contact sheet with list of managers, Fire Safety and prevention, Store Lockout Procedures, Chemical Safety Rules, Knife Safety, Know About Blood borne Pathogens, Preventing Repetitive Strain, Proper Lifting Techniques

We then watched a segment of video: short edits of employees saying how great it is to work there, and a brief history of the company. Lewis Golub, an immigrant, started it in 1932 near Schenectady. It was called the Public Service Market, and was sort of a bulk food place; the second store opened was called Central Market, which then became a chain in NY and Massachusetts. In 1973 the chain became Price Chopper, still run by the Golub Corporation by the Golub family, it does have shareholders (many are employees, according to the video).

Erie Blvd. store sells $800,000 a week, with 30,000 customers a week. It is in the top ten of the company’s 116 stores. Its goal is $1 million a week.

The Golub Company Mission Statement was read, which is Customer Service, Productivity, and Safety.

AA then said the communication with the company is important, that you should let them know what you want, and that part-time is often way to full time positions. She then went over ACT- a procedure for grievances

AA then spoke about Customer Service: how important repeat customers are, that customers want products, clean store and good service. Since prices/products are competitive with other stores, customer service makes the difference in a competitive market. She pointed out that many small, local grocery stores have gone out of business (in part because Price Chopper moved in): Smith’s Peters, Sweetheart’s; and P& C is not doing well, and that Wal-Mart Super Centers are coming in

There was then a discussion on customer service, with several examples (on video) of good and bad customer service.

Customer Service is:

  • Smile
  • Be Attentive
  • Make eye contact
  • Use names
  • Empathy
  • Be Professional

Customer Service Videos

First, several examples of good customer service: a scene in produce in which an associate chats with a customer, another at the meat counter where an associate gives the customer a recipe for cooking swordfish.

Then, several examples in which we see first a scene of bad customer service, pause for discussion, and then see the same scene with good customer service:

Meat department: the employee is talking to another about how he had asked for the night off to go to the basketball game; then a customer (all the customers are women) asks for a pot roast for 5 people, then asks how to cook it. The employee he said his wife did all the cooking, and to ask the ladies in the front end since they would know, then he slammed her meat on the counter.  She says it’s too much for five, he says she could freeze it and that would save her another trip to the store later, to which she replies that she won’t be back for a long time as she pushes her cart away.

In the good version, the employee suggests a particular roast, answers her question about how to cook it, and in a close-up, we see that he changes to a new pair of gloves before handling her meat. He thanks her for shopping at Price Chopper and she pushes her cart away pleasantly.

Bakery/Cake Department: A woman asks for the cake she had ordered. The employee, seeming distracted, shows her the cake. She says that Bryan is spelled wrong—it should have a y not an i, and that she had ordered flowers on the cake. The employee replies that it isn’t his fault, the order was put in wrong. He then shows her the order and says that it says Brian. She replies that there is no dot over an i—it is a y. he replies that her handwriting is sloppy. She asks him to redo it, he says that they have a lot of other cakes and that she just has to take it, and suggests she go to the frosting aisle. She says she doesn’t know how she can get another cake, since the party, for her son, is in 2 hours. She asked if she can talk to his managers, he replies, yeah, if I can find him.

In the good version, the employee shows the customer the cake, she tells him the name is spelled wrong and that she had asked for flowers. He apologizes, and asks if she has some other shopping to do while he fixes the cake, which will take ten minutes, probably less. She returns after shopping and happily picks up the cake, and the employee asks her if she needs candles, to which she replies yes, and he directs her to where the candles are.

Front end: two cashiers (women) and a bagger (man) are talking to each other about going out the night before to some club in Albany. Once cashier has her back turned from her customer, while the other is quickly scanning things through. The customer says that she scanned the brownies twice; the cashier fixes this, but the three all continue their conversation.

In the good version, the cashier says hello, notices a cake in the customer’s stuff and asks the customer if it’s someone’s birthday, the customer replies that it’s her son’s. The cashier scans things more attentively, and the bagger is more attentive as well. They thank the customer for shopping at Price Shopper.

Deli: the employees in the deli are talking amongst themselves and then take a customer out of turn, causing the customers to apologize to one another. The woman customer asks for some shaved roast beef or something, and the deli guy gets it, slices it, wraps it and hands it to her. She says she asked for a pound, not a half pound, and so he has to slice more.

In the good version, the customer asks for shaved roast beef and the employee suggests a certain kind. He then slices one and offers the customer a sample (we later find out that this also is a way to tell if it is sliced the way the customer wants it). He then continues to slice the rest of the meat, weighs it and wraps it, and then asks the customer is she would like a kind of cheese that is one sale. She says no thanks, but he is nonetheless pleasant and thanks her for shopping at Price Chopper.

Front End: An elderly woman asks the bagger to bag lightly. He doesn’t look up, but removes some items and puts them in another bag. He continues to bag, and the woman says again that it looks too heavy.  He re-bags items again. I think this happens a third time.

In the good version, the bagger does a better job, but he forgets to offer to have someone help the women bring her groceries out to the car.

There was then some discussion about bagging, doing what the customer wants, and also that you should call in your supervisor if you think you have a rude customer and it is going beyond your personal limit to remain professional. If a customer is abusive, they will be escorted out of the store. You will be terminated if you are abusive or fight with a customer.

AA then quickly read through the Sexual Harassment Policy from the Associate Handbook, and we took a break.

Upon return, we learned how to use the Time Clock, that there is a seven minute rule: if you punch in at 9:06 and were supposed to start at 9:00, you are considered on time; if you punch in at 9:08, you will be logged as starting at 9:15. You have to punch in and out for breaks (paid) and lunch (unpaid). Your schedule, which is done on Fridays, is entered into the time clock system. If there are any abnormalities, including if you end up working on a day off, the clock will flash a red light and you have to write in the log book why you are working differently than scheduled. You are not allowed to work off the clock, and will be terminated if it’s found you have. You have to call in two hours ahead of time if you are going to be late or absent, and are only allowed this a few times.  You have to request specific days off 10 days to one week ahead of time. The number 1 reason for termination: absenteeism and tardiness.

We then had a discussion about Shrink, which is the term for the difference between what profits Price Chopper should make versus what they do make, due to theft, damage, spoilage and “carelessness.” The Erie Blvd. store has  $636 a day in shrink, and there is a shrink committee made up of employees from every area who meet to brainstorm ways to reduce shrink. One our tour of the store, various areas where we should leave things we’ve noticed out of place (like frozen food left by the dog food), and how to return them to different departments.

We then put on our nametags and took as tour of the store. Usually, we would meet the store manager at this time, but he had a “rare” weekend off, so we didn’t. The tour was very short and mostly involved learning about shrink, as described above.

Upon return, the personal appearance/ dress code was read to us. We have our choice of an apron of “cobbler,” which is a vest-type thing (I choose the cobbler). We have to wear a white collared shirt and dark or khaki pants, not jeans, and no open-toed shoes, sandals or high heels.

There was then a quick reading from the Associates Handbook on confidential Information, bulletin boards, employee purchases, and a statement on unionization.

We then watched two different safety videos. One featured Price Chopper’s new box cutter and how to use it, it features guards and guides so that you won’t cut yourself or the merchandise (causing shrink). The next segment was about fire safety, the three different classes of fires (A, B, and C) and how to use a fire extinguisher. Next was lockout/tagout procedures, which is when any piece of powered equipment needs cleaning or repair, an authorized person or persons places a lock and tag on the power source (electrical cord and circuit breaker) and only they can remove it. There was a brief segment on loss prevention, featuring many deli products left in the wrong places around the store.

Our final video for the day was a 20 minute Grocery Store Safety Video. This featured things such as keeping the front ice free, politely telling customers to buckle in their kids if they are sitting in the child’s seat of the cart, proper lifting procedures, and what to do in case of emergency.

There was then a brief discussion of proper lifting, blood borne pathogens, and preventing repetitive injuries.

Our last activity was speaking on the phone to some government person to see if we and Price Chopper qualified for some federal work credit program.

I received my schedule for the week and my cobbler.



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