Diary of Jo Public

A recount of some of the true incidents that Jo witness's during her anything but normal day

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1. The Curse of the carrier Bags

With a crisp and new uniform that is meant to ensure you blend in, but in reality actually makes you stand out more as the colour is slightly brighter, the creases slightly sharper, and no nasty bleach stains, there is one thing above everything else that you learn very quickly when working in the hustle and bustle of a supermarket, When Management have been thinking you all run for cover.  Pound to a penny its you the hard working individual that will spend time and effort in trying to make the latest hair brained, half concocted idea work, only to be told after you've spent days on it and when you've almost achieved the object of the exercise, that they've had a rethink and didn't you know they scraped it about 2 hours after they very first told you.  As an example with this train of thought in mind let me elaborate.  Last Easter, a time most shop keepers rub their hand with glee, while looking like modern day Ebenezer Scrooges, our newest Store Manager descends upon us.  Having quite a reputation does our Brian, I use the word 'our' in the broadest sense, well he is one of our happy little band now, another word used in gigantic proportion.  The store under the previous leadership seems to of been floundering, having been there a while, and having picked up some idea of the jargon everyone talks in, I'd even go as far as to maybe renaming the store Titanic, Our results could be likened to that of the path of a submarine, downwards and fast, any how Brian appears, clipboard in hand, his first task is to inform us all of this years pay increase. Whoopee do, oh don't get me wrong, any pay rise is great but with the government changing the tax laws we actually take home less now than before the increase, but thats another story.  Brian then goes on to tell us the great changes he has in mind and how we 'all' will play our part in refloating the store. Recently there has been alot of news coverage about the freebie bags we give to customers to take home, ideal for rubbish bins and making kites out of.  If you try to put shopping in them they usually break just outside the store.  Well, it seems that 1 create of these bags, no idea exactly how many to a create before you ask, costs the store £1,000.00.  Seems our store goes through about 4 of these a week. Brian's idea is very simple, we will as a team, reduce the number of bags we give out.  Now this sounds great, great for the environment, great for the store P&L (profit and Loss), great for customers who will suddenly want to pay for bags, yeah right, and best of all great for the cashiers who have to monitor them and now have to take the abuse from Mr. or Mrs indignant demanding their free bag.  Having been called alot of things in life, I thought there's not alot more they can add. Oh how wrong I was.  I won't go into the exact details but I'm sure you catch my drift.  I will admit having to monitor bags was a real eye-opener, in my 20+ years in the retail trade never did I think you could surprise this old dog, ha understatement or what.  Little old ladies with the baskets on wheels putting everything in bags before into their trolley, Mr. I'm on a lunchbreak and popped in real quick, using 2 bags for 3 items, all of which could of fitted in his pocket.  Mr and Mrs snobbery, well I bye my shopping here, but I do recycle the bags.  Ms bubblehead, pay for a bag? why?,  and the best one of them all Mr. Rice, this is the best customer of all, buys a big bag of Rice that would give Geoff Capes a run for his money, and then demands a free bag to carry it in.  Having explained that he doesn't really need a bag as the packaging is bigger than the bag, and also there is no way in a million years it will hold the weight, he turns bright read and screams until I give him not 1 not 2 but 3 bags. He promptly puts them in his jacket pocket, for the bin at home you see.  I have also drawn the conclusion that people who actual bye peddle bin bags haven't worked out the free bags are also the right size.  A few customers actually crow about how good they are by bringing back the bags they took last time and putting them in the recycling bins outside so can they have more.  I lost count of the times they told me that there was nothing wrong with them, but although they remembered to bring them back, it never occurred to them to reuse them. This wonderful practise continued in a hap hazard way for 3 days.  The night crew however seem oblivious to this as every morning the tills are littered with free bags, so first job was to remove them all from sight.  Anyone who shops on a regular basis in the same store knows when they are likely to be at their busiest, well Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday's are ours.  It was around midday on day 4, Thursday, that the call went out, all colleagues that are till trained to report to checkouts, the tills are under strain.  Now this is great as it gets more bums on very uncomfortable seats and opening more checkouts, to push the customers through quicker.  Give management credit where its due, Brian does get on a till when there is no one else, how we all dread it if he's on the till in front of behind, it's like running to tills at once, his and your own.  Only good thing is he usually lasts about 15 minutes.  On this particular Thursday the call went out, all department Managers hit the tills, probably looking forward to a brief sit down,  I'm sure, no I'm convinced, they didn't realise how much the customers were revolting.  Yes I know they are usually, but I've been brought up to ignore their choice of hygiene products.  The customers were in an angry mood, having to wait 5 minutes to be served, I swear I saw some swop queues to get a Manager, and boy was it nasty.  Ever the diplomat Howard, the checkout manager, trying to restore peace in his queue by letting the customers have as many bags as they want, Tony, the produce manager just laughed his way through with his usual coolness, he'll make a great store manager one day, once he's got his banana's straight, he's leaving our raft soon for a promotion to a store nearer home, but swopping to Bakery, wonder how many currents are in a bun?  Brian having read every scrap of paper on how to manage your way out of a paper bag, was struggling.  I couldn't hear exactly what was being said, but one of my skills is being able to read gestures.  I learnt a few more that day.  After a while I escaped to lunch.  Most checkout staff keep themselves to themselves or they have their own little click, me I'm in neither gang.  I have 1 or 2 people I will join for lunch the main being Carla from Italy, long way to commute I know, but Thursday was her rota day off. So I ate alone apart from a newspaper for company. Calm had been restored in the afternoon.  Friday had bearly dawned before I was back behind my post, but to my delight we were allowed to put the bags back on display, it seems that Management had had a rethink. Several weeks later we get an official notice from Head Office, oh joy, they have remembered we are part of them, oh heck more thinking.  Someone, no no prizes for guessing who, suggested to the big guns that as a company we can save so much money by limiting the free bags, so guess what?  yep we are once again staging war on the free bags.  Shilpa, one of the checkout supervisors, has been in a group meeting, lucky girl, and it has been communicated down that the free bags will stop ahead of the government guidelines, to the fact that ours will stop 1st of June.  3 days away.  Oh the joy, the ecstasy of the rows that will follow we can hardly wait, I'm so glad I remembered to take my Nurofen this morning.  To cap it all, we are currently out of free bags, someone, probably James, the sometimes another checkout manager forgot to order any.  Howard somehow manages to scrounge some from a neighbouring store, I think it just gave him an excuse to escape for a while, while picking them up.  As responsible cashiers I and several others try to tactfully inform our customers that there will be no more free bags after this weekend.  Sharon, who just seems to know everyone who shops with us, complains constantly about anything and everything, I know more about her family than I do my own, takes great delight in telling everyone that its not her doing it, its the law, and don't take it out on her she's just doing her job.  Tact? somehow I don't think she's ever heard of it.  The day before the cut off is Saturday, our busiest day depending on how many staff actually work.  Alot show up but usually can be found wandering aimlessly around for 7 hours.  I am perched on my branch at my scanner, I started off with good intent but by 10am after being abused for 2 hours solid, I took refuge in the canteen for breakfast break.  Thank God for Bacon Rolls.  Fed and watered I decide enough is enough.  The bags are ending tomorrow, when I clock out in 7 hours time, I'm on holiday for the week, so Am I bothered?  NOPE.  I decide I will tell my nice regular customers but thats it.  I get through the day, Something that has surprised me is that for every 3-4 horrid/nightmare customers there are the odd 1 or 2 that actually I look forward to serving.  They seem to sense this as they will join my queue, even if there are shorter ones.  I am not the only cashier who has this effect on them, Sharon is the main one, Eastenders has nothing on her.  Watching her in action is like going to the dr.  Everything they tell her is in the strictest of confidence, well until she gets upstairs to the canteen that is.  Then it is open season with whoever she descends on.  Hence why I also grab the smallest table going.  Just room for Carla and me.

Against my better judgement I 'pop' in on day 1 of my holiday, not that I miss the place, I'm just avoiding the builders at home.  Any normal mortal would of been shocked, June 04 and guess what?  Did I want my free bag?  I guess Management have been thinking again.

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