Category Archives: NOT ENOUGH SAND

Further Adventures in Retail

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photo credit: QueenBeesOnlineJournal.wordpress.com

 

I’ve been thinking about this post from July 2013 because I’m back in retail, although not stocking the band-aid shelves any longer. Now my job is to select the band-aids (and the cereal, and the water, and the canned tomatoes, and the bread) that the ecommerce customer has asked for.

Did you ever play store when you were a kid? We did. We would climb up onto the stove top and pull canned goods, oatmeal, teabags, cereal, and more out of that upper cabinet. Then we would go get some paper bags out of the closet, and carry it all into the living room to set up our store. There were three of us kids so we had a bagger, a cashier, and a customer. Sometimes we would strain the cashier’s capabilities and have TWO customers in line. Ah, it made for hours of fun.

I remember how fun it was to set up the store. When I started mulling over the possibility of getting a job in retail, my local grocery clerk actually asked me out of the blue if I would like a job, so I pursued it. There are some fun things about stocking shelves. Making everything look nice, filling in empty spots. The best part is being able to direct a customer to the product they are seeking.

And then the band aids happened.

Let’s just look at Johnson&Johnson, a popular brand of band-aid. The line that my local store carries includes comfort-flex plastic (60 count), medium comfort-flex adhesive pads (10 count), large comfort-flex adhesive pads (10 count), comfort-flex sheer (40 count), comfort-flex sheer assorted (40 count), comfort-flex sheer assorted (60 count), comfort-flex sheer assorted (80 count), comfort-flex extra large (10count), comfort-flex clear (30 count). And so on to the tune of over 40 varieties of type, size, and use.

Ah, but we would be remiss if we only offered 40 types of one company’s product. So we also offer another 40 or so similar products of the generic house brand.

Even if you skipped those last two paragraphs, that means EIGHTY types and varieties of band aids. And band aids don’t come in those sturdy metal canisters anymore. No, indeed. They come in paper boxes.

Paper band-aid boxes fall over at the whisper of a touch. So, the poor sod who gets the job of restocking the band-aid shelves — it’s like playing that children’s game “Operation” where the buzzer sounds if you touch the sides of the “incision.” But in this case, the boxes fall over, mix themselves up, turn their backs on me, slide, fall off the shelf, stand on their head, and turn on an angle. Anything but stay where they are PUT.

Of course people need band aids. And no doubt the magic Market Research has shown that people need band aids to come in all one size, and assorted, and waterproof, and extra large, and medium, and sheer, and clear, and flexible, and sport, and pre-treated with antibiotic ointment, and shaped for fingers, and shaped for toes, and extra-sticky, and less sticky, and the all-important travel pack.

But I don’t need to be the one who messes with the incredibly tedious job of straightening and

restocking the band-aid shelves. I felt the sand of my life descending into the bottom of the hourglass as I conscientiously did this job. NOT enough sand in the top to make this job worth me doing.

Not only band-aids, but allergy medicine, shaving cream, lotions, shampoos, vitamins, diapers, chocolate bars, hairspray, feminine products, toothpaste. They all come in MULTIPLE multiple sizes.

Not enough sand, my friends, NOT ENOUGH SAND.

As is my wont, I am questioning how I am spending my time. For a long time, i wanted to have my own business, and dabbled in a couple of ideas, but i just never felt like having my own business was a good fit. I am good at support, at following, at editing, at improving. Not quite as good at facing rejection, setting boundaries, pursuing self-care in the face of the needs of others, persevering through the difficulties, waiting for the business to grow, dealing with the paperwork, and making money through having a business.

And yet, in retail, there’s this disconnect between corporate and store-level employees. Store-level employees are paid very little and are there to advance the bottom line of the company. I’m sure I can’t solve the many management/labor issues that plague our society, but I can certainly observe that they are there. So even a store-level employee who loves their job is faced over and over with ever-increasing demands from corporate. And me being the frog that I am, I was quite comfortable in the pot of cold water I started in and didn’t really notice the heat being turned up and up and up until finally my physical self started to rebel. Even then, I ignored the symptoms in the name of doing a good job at my work.

So, now, here I am, questioning. Is what I am doing worth spending the limited sand in the hourglass? In some ways, I still say yes. In other ways, I say, not a chance. If I believed there was really a chance to be successful, that is, to provide excellent customer service, then the answer is yes. But I don’t know how to lead a team to provide excellent customer service, at least not in the petri dish of my employment. Talk about sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent.

Everything is urgent in my job. Time deadlines from morning to night. Some are reasonable, and some are not. And when they are not, mistakes are made, customers are dissatisfied, and metrics are not adequately reached. In my very, very humble opinion, the ENTIRE reason for my job is customer satisfaction. But that is a slippery, slippery slope.

Customers have learned to express their dissatisfaction. They have learned that they will receive monetary benefit if they don’t like something. There are customers who exhibit an attitude of entitlement. I love providing excellent customer service, but I also recognize that the greater good isn’t necessarily being served in the job that i do. That’s kind of a hard thing to acknowledge.

I believe in accepting what comes my way. There are plenty of times when I have to work hard to get to a place of acceptance (note: several issues occurring as I write today), but I believe with all my heart that acceptance is what brings healing, and health, and unity, and hope, and peace.

The Universe seems to be offering me another opportunity to accept things as they are. I’m not sure yet what the ultimate outcome is going to be, but I recognize at least that I want to be true to the deepest values that I hold, and that could mean making some different choices about how I spend my time. I’m thinking …

Joyfully,

Siouxs

 

This Electronic Life

Have you ever called a company and been frustrated by the phone menu? Ever tried to login and forgotten the answers to your security questions? Ever wondered if we might not be better off having personal relationships with the people we do business with?

Square the phone menu, add in a quadrupled set of websites, all with their own login, password, security questions, and blasted captchas.

And what do you get?

A REALLY LONG TIME on the phone, navigating the very complex phone menu, entering digits and passwords and account numbers, waiting on hold, finally reaching a person, and then confirming all of the same digits and account numbers, and then ending up with answers like: “Your husband will have to call us or write to us to grant permission for us to discuss your account.”

I admit I find this whole thing exasperating. I don’t see it as an opportunity, but maybe it is. An opportunity to write down every last detail there is for every account we have ever had?

The irony here is that my very capable husband has NO interest in talking with the XXXX Insurance Company about this claim or that coverage, and is so very happy that I am able to and interested in handling these details.

As much as I try to simplify things, the sheer vastness of the internet just makes it very challenging to stay on top of the details. I always thought of myself as a detail-oriented person, but the volume of details has increased to the extent that I dread trying to call someone, especially the insurance companies, to solve a problem or get information.

And then there are the places that require authorization EVERY SINGLE TIME from my dear husband. Not that he is working or otherwise busy or anything. Aargh. I love how they ask if he is right here with me so they can get approval from him. Ha.

Do you have any tips for how to simplify things? Because I’m all ears, here.

Testing out the Creaky Writing Fingers Again

Hello? Hello? Anybody there?

I guess you can’t see all the blog posts that are in my mind, because they never got written down.

Remember? I started working at the grocery store in June. Two times I crept home from the store and wrote about my experience. Most other days, I collapsed on the couch and pondered the state of my aching knees, hips, feet, shoulders, arms, and hands. Even with that, it took me four months to quit the job, in tears, and begin to heal.

At first, I dreamed about the store. I missed it and had to clothespin my lips closed when I went in to shop lest I blurt out my desire to come back to the familiar pain.

A month of recovery later, my knees could bend without constant pain; my hips went back to their normally schedule programming; and the knot in my back had loosened.

Two months of recovery later, I can walk in the store, buy my pomegranates and cereal and grass-fed beef, and have but a distant memory of stuffing product on shelves, cleaning up after customers (such messy people), and rushing, rushing, rushing to get the unending and unreasonable to-do list a little smaller.

I do miss T., one of the store co-managers, and L., my remarkable boss, and N., a co-worker.

In the quiet of my home, the memory of the non-stop sensory stimulation continues to become more distant. No longer does the advertisement for Forever Stamps echo in my head. The ache in my hands from baling the cardboard has faded. Straightening hundreds of bottles of shampoo and body wash no longer takes up any space in my life.

Retail is kind of brutal, when all is said and done. Local store personnel, dedicated and committed, are constantly dealing with choices made by distant corporate types. Distant corporate types who occasionally come by, unannounced, and see that their minions are doing it all right. The pay is low, the hours are long, the work is hard, and the workers are faithful. Not all of them, of course, but the core group at my store were committed to providing the customer with a great shopping experience. And they did, as great as it can be when the shelves are mostly full of highly processed products, all crying out for attention — Buy me! Extra roll enclosed! See my colorful packaging! New! For a limited time! 

Plenty of other women my age, in my season of life, don’t have the luxury of deciding the job is too physically demanding. If nothing else, that brief foray into working in the retail grocery business opened my eyes to what many people have to do to earn minimum wage.

Testing. Testing. Check 1. 2. 

I may have spoken too soon

“If you will recall,” the reason I decided to look for a job outside our home is because I am just a LITTLE too good at solitude, and I thought this particular job would meet several needs:

1. Sounded like fun. As my friend called it, “the zen of shelf stocking.”

2. Money could change hands. Me doing work in exchange for a few pennies every so often.

3. Gives me a reason to go somewhere and see people. Talk to them. Listen to them. Ask questions. Be seen by people outside my home, so they know I still exist.

Then came the bandaids, which are something I don’t want to have to pay a lot of attention to, because there’s NOT ENOUGH SAND.

But, please refer back to #3.

See, I realized a couple of things. At home, there are also mundane things that I do. Pick up the toys. A hundred times. Handle the extra packets that come with takeout food. (There’s an important job!) Figure out if we need more tissues. Flatten and roll the plastic grocery bags. You know what? Those are mundane things, but I do them because they need to be done. And, not that I need to get paid for everything, but I don’t get paid for any of those things. That’s ok.

I didn’t take this job because of the money. And everything I said the other day was true! If I had to deal with those bandaids all day long, I would definitely run screaming the other way. But, that’s not all I do. While I am doing these mundane tasks, some of which are quite zen-like, I am also being in relationship with the people I work with and for, the customers who shop at our store, and my co-workers. None of those people and I will have a relationship if I am at home.

Many of these relationships may be just a small step more personal than online relationships I have with people, but they are a small step more personal. I need people. People need me. So, I’m staying for now. And I’ll bring my kindness and joy to my work and to the people I work with, and I will be the recipient of the grace and poetry that is people in all shapes and sizes.

My boss was happy when I called and asked her to tear up my resignation letter. And so was I.

What do you find satisfying in your work?

On my Further Adventures in Retail

I gave my notice yesterday.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to give my NOT ENOUGH SAND speech, which I think is a good thing, considering how the folks who are working there are also spending their sand, and might not have taken too kindly to my pithy phrase.

As it further turned out, I realized that all the nifty box opening and box breaking down and whatnot has been making my poor little hands hurt — inside and out. Inside, I think I have some arthritis lurking in there, and some tendon issues as well. Outside, the cardboard keeps on biting me, giving me paper cuts (cardboard cuts?), ripping my fingernails below the quick (and THAT is jolly good fun, let me tell you), and generally just drying out my skin, and leaving me filthy to boot. The filth washes off, but the pain from the tendons and joints doesn’t go away so easily. So, I had the perfect reason to give for why this job is not a good fit for me.

I DO remember there are many people in the world who would love to have this job, who would be glad to be in such a well-lit, well-stocked place, and who would find my pay to be simply fabulous. May they find their way to my store and apply for the job!

Yesterday, on my second-to-last day, I had to face down the bandaids again. They were ornery as ever.

Yesterday, on my second-to-last day, I had a big aha moment. My passion is about simplifying life. Retail is most definitively, definitely, confoundedly NOT about simplifying life. Advertisers want us to buy MORE, MORE, MORE! Merchandisers set things just so in order to capitalize on our impulse buying, our attention span, our desires for gratification. Those are all honest jobs; I do not fault the people who do these jobs.

Even in such a short time, I got a very interesting glimpse into a job and a business that I was only familiar with from the outside. I am grateful for the opportunity to have tried this. And I am keen to discover what is going to come next.