[MY DAY] Retail, Behind the Scenes – Saturday Edition

Note: Currently unedited, since I’m tired. I will edit this blog entry later. Good night~!

Do you know what, I wasn’t going to reveal where I work, but I will. I work at Walmart. I don’t mind that I work at Walmart. No, the pay isn’t as fantastic as some other places, but I like most of the people I work with and I have a much bigger incentive – I want the store to do well.

The Walmart I work at suffers largely from a ghetto atmosphere. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se, I feel like it’s most likely a turn off to most of our customers. The store feels muggy, crowded, and dirty. Different parts of the store smell musky, while other parts smell like an animal crept between the items and went to the bathroom or like someone left their lunch out for a few hours. Not all Walmarts are like (I’ve been to many and they’re much nicer), but the one I work at is.

Our store is being turned into a Walmart Supercenter, which most customers seem to be excited about. I’m pretty excited too, though it’s annoying with all the construction going on outside. As the store continues to be broken down and prepped for expansion, we lose space and everything has to be switched around. I was probably stopped 5 or 6 times today with people asking me where the hair care and dog food products were moved to. Our seasonal items, usually stored in an indoor Lawn & Garden space, had to be stashed in the hot, choke-inducing, fans blazing Lawn & Garden.

I’m hoping when the store is completed, it loses its ghetto atmosphere. I can only hope!

I had two days off – Thursday & Friday – this week, which was pretty dang awesome. I felt all relaxed and rather awake. In fact, I woke up at all 11:30 PM Friday night and stayed up since I had to go in at 6:30 AM today. I did some artwork this morning, which I mentioned in this post which gave me heavy satisfaction, and a breakfast from Dunkin’ Donuts that left me a bit disappointed. Perhaps the first indicator that this wasn’t going to be a super awesome day was that I had about 20 minutes left to waste this morning before I had to get dressed and head to work.

I completed reading the second to last chapter of a book called Reality is Broken and ended up with about 10 minutes left. I first started playing Puyopuyo (it’s a game that is sort of like Tetris with blobs), but quickly found myself watching WheezyWaiter videos on YouTube, since I hadn’t watched him in a long time. I found him as hilarious as ever! So hilarious, that I got too absorbed and ran late.

The first sight I was greeted by was a black fence, the same one the construction workers were using to block off their area. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me from far away when I was turning down the slope entrance from the nearby mall’s parking lot, but it became evident when I got closer that they weren’t – the construction area really had become that big. When I went over to my usual parking area (which was near the entrance of the building, a bit of a ways from the construction area), I glanced at the fence area, and honestly can’t (and still can’t) figure out why they had to make the new area so big! IT TAKES UP MORE THAN HALF OF OUR ALREADY SMALL PARKING LOT.

I parked, ran inside, and clocked in about five minutes after I was suppose to. This was fine. The CSM (don’t ask me what that stands for because I don’t remember – basically, they’re the supervisors for the front end (a.k.a. cash registers)) didn’t start placing the bags into the registers yet and I had walked past them to clock in. We went and started putting the bags away and the mostly tired CSM with her eyes partially closed and heavy bags under them pointed out that there was suppose to be one other person at 6:30 AM with us and that whenever we (me and her) open, nobody ever seems to show up.

Yeah, you see, we have this problem where people just don’t like to show up for work. I’m sure it happens everywhere. It’s just really annoying, ESPECIALLY mid-day when the store starts to swarm with customers, when employees don’t show up. We end up understaffed, so we have to scurry to try and make sure everybody is run out fast enough…and we almost never catch up!

Apparently too, nobody scheduled a service desk person this morning. Oh boy.

I was asked by the CSM if I wanted to go down to Lawn & Garden. I could hear my subconscious tell me “no”, but my mouth spit out a semi-enthusiastic “yes!”. Oh geez, the universe must have wanted to punish me a little for not listening to my subconscious.

For the first two or three hours, it wasn’t really that bad. I was asked to zone Lawn & Garden while waiting – which means bringing items forward so people are more likely to grab them – which I did as far as my childish brain would allow me. At first I tried zoning the microfiber sheets, which I sort of stopped on after several of them nearly toppled on me. I then walked over to the gardening supply items and tried sorting those.

The first items I really actually sorted were the gloves. Initially I put the gloves back where the same type of gloves were located, however, when I thought back to the number of times customers come up with items that were on the wrong rack (and therefore the wrong price), I started reading the price tags and the UPCs listed on them, as well as on the glove labels, to make sure the matched. I started to get rather irritated – a large majority of gloves I was hanging back up didn’t match any of the labels missing. Not to mention, there was a bunch of gloves with labels missing in general! I personally think they should be thrown out, but I don’t think the store will do that unless it’s put into claims. After realizing all of this, I just tided up the glove area a tiny bit, paced around for a break, and went back to sorting.

I went to sort the grill items next. This was pretty much where I gave up trying to zone anything that didn’t seem “obvious” that it was meant to be there. There were items with missing tags, there were lack of price tags in general, there were clearly incorrect price tags with incorrect items hanging underneath. It was a huge mess! Heck, it still is a huge mess. It irritated me just seeing this because this isn’t just confusing for me as an employee trying to put back items, but it’s confusing for the customer as well! Honestly, I wish the store would shut down for a month (or at least a week) and just overhaul all the price tags and sort out the items without having to worry about customers coming in. If they did this every two or three months, the store would probably be a lot nicer inside (minus the loss of money…).

I ended up zoning some really gorgeous solar powered garden lights. I’ve seen a few customers buy them before – I’m particularly a fan of the mosaic ones that alternate between small squares/triangles and larger ones. There’s numerous colours to choose from too – I was particularly fond of the turquoise looking one. Kind of makes me wish I had a garden to put them in. One of the garden lights did bump me on the head as I was bringing them forward. It didn’t hurt – it was just a light bump, just enough to feel it.

I wandered back to the cash register and signed myself in again, since the register kicks me off when it hasn’t been used for a while, and started to wander around again.

At some point, this guy, probably in his late twenties or early thirties comes in with a highlighter yellow-green t-shirt with some writing I don’t remember. I sort of noticed him when he initially walked in, since he was walking pretty fast when he entered. He ended up coming back to Lawn & Garden, exited, then came back in. First he asked the People Greeter about something, in which the People Greeter directed them to me. The guy comes up, sounding a bit frustrated.

He briefly showed me his phone with a picture of a cooler and a web page of data related to the cooler, including the UPC. He told me that according to the website (presumably the Walmart one), we had the cooler in stock. However, he went to go look and he wasn’t able to find it. He asked if I knew where it was and I said I didn’t know. Then he asked if I could go look it up on the computer and I exclaimed “I don’t know how to do that!”. Frustrated, the guy zoomed-stomped off, mumbling under his breath something along the lines of “you don’t know how to do your job”.

I am a cashier at Walmart. My job is to ring people out when they reach the cash register. My job isn’t to help you find the item you are looking for. If I happen to know where it is, that’s great! If not, then move along little doggy, I can’t help you. The least I MIGHT be able to do is call somebody who would know, however, I am in Lawn & Garden and it takes the rest of the staff member a billion more years to get down here.

Now, I wish I could have helped the guy. I really do. I am one of those people where, if I had the power, I would help customers in anyway I could. I would totally check to see if we had the item in stock and where it was located. If I couldn’t find it, then I would call a nearby store and find it. If they didn’t have it, then I would ask if they would like us to order it. I would aim to go above and beyond. However, I am not in a position to do that.

I am a cashier, which is a low position. I am “trained” (i.e. forced to watch hours of computer-based tutorials and then thrown onto a register for real, on-the-job practice) to ring people out – from bagging items to printing checks. What I am not trained to do is walk over to one of the computers that appear to have an inventory search and search for that item. Do I wish I was? Heck yes. Am I though? No.

Time goes on, I sorted out some CoolGear cups (which are were really cool – they were shaped like soda cans). Then customers started pouring in. I had mostly neutral interactions with them, with my simple “Welcome to Walmart” and wishing them a nice day.

One customer though was a middle aged man with lots of gray hair and a long gray mustache. He was purchasing an air conditioner in addition to some wall clocks, wall hangers, motor oil, a laundry basket, and a few other items I can’t really remember. The air conditioner kind of surprised me a bit when I saw it, as it was in a yellowish brown box instead of the usual white ones I often see. I scanned it as usual and went to scan the serial number…which of course didn’t scan.

For some reason, a majourity of the serial number barcodes we have don’t scan, which is annoying and inconvenient. It requires us to type in the serial numbers (which are sometimes stupidly long…not to mention they also contain letters, which I hate typing on the keyboards at work because they’re in alphabetical order and not qwerty). I had to write down the serial number.

When I looked at the serial number, I immediately frowned – some of it was scratched off and I couldn’t tell if certain ones were letters or numbers. I made notes where I thought the serial number differed and went to try it. By the time I went to type in the serial number, the register told me the “Product Serial # is invalid” and I needed to call a CMS. I just pressed “clear” a bunch of times, rescanned the product, and went to type in the serial number. The guy asked couldn’t I just scan the serial number, which I responded it wasn’t scanning. I typed it the first way I thought it was twice by accident, then I tried two more different combinations before the guy, clearly irritated and almost in a mocking, unbelieving way, asked if I was just going to continue to type in the wrong serial number all day or call someone to help. He then, still in the irritating, semi-mocking, unbelieving tone told me three options…which I was having trouble processing.

I was surprised, first of all, that he interrupted me when I had one more combination I was going to try before I attempted to call somebody for help. And second, I didn’t expect him to speak to me in the tone he was.

My brain started knotting up. Who did I even call to help with the serial number check? What were the options he was giving? Shouldn’t I do what the customer wants?

I asked him what he wanted to do and in a very firm, almost jolly way, he said he wanted to see a manager right then. I picked up the walkie talkie and called for a CMS. I honestly was full of doubt that they were going to come. After a few minutes, the guy, clearly irritated, just lifted up the AC and placed it somewhere else. I don’t really remember what he said, but I did ask him if he wanted the remaining items. He did, so I finished scanning, being rough with them partially to get them done faster and partially because I’m actually really rough with items in general.

(Oh, at some point during this little fiasco, he mumbled, “yeah, welcome to Walmart”, which made me slightly glare at him, since I felt he was personally mocking me since it’s my greeting to nearly every customer.)

Yeah. It’s probably why my 3DS got a loose wire.

Anyway, I finished scanning his items and continued. The next lady remarked about how there always has to be that one customer and I agreed. I continued ringing out pretty quickly, went to lunch, and then came back.

They say things come in threes and I knew the third one hadn’t begun yet. Actually, in fact, the second one hadn’t even begun! The highlighter yellow shirt guy from this morning was just a warm up, oh boy. I had a few other customers get irritated with me throughout the day too – one with the propane tanks (who later came back to get more items…I’ll tell you about that, oh boy), two who were looking for somebody to learn more about some lawn mowers (they were getting irritated that I didn’t know who to call and that I couldn’t help them), and one more for something I don’t remember at this point since it was the only one I was able to get successful help on. I think it was when the CMS from this morning came in to tell me the regular Lawn & Garden cashier was coming in at 1 PM and my break was at 1:30 PM (ha. ha. ha. to both). I remember the last one was a guy probably in his thirties, wearing a baseball cap, a light blue shirt, and had two or three kids with him, probably between the ages 5 and 8.

Anyway, the second one was this lady and her husband who had bought a propane tank. I thought they were going to snap at me for not knowing anything about it. They came back later to buy some gardening items and I could see the lady with some of the gloves I put back earlier. It was one of those things where I thought it was going to be the wrong price (or rather knew it was going to be) and I really hoped they wouldn’t notice. But of course they noticed. The woman started to flip out because they were supposed to be about $6, not $10, according to the [incorrect] price tag. She was furious, asking if she could get another pair to equal the price (which I couldn’t do, as I told her), I couldn’t take it off since the order was already finished, and I couldn’t do a return at the register. She would have to do it at the service desk. She clearly didn’t want to do that, but did so anyway, asking her tired husband for his phone so she could take a picture so she wouldn’t have to come back.

I felt sort of bad, especially since I could have probably prevented it from happening. If ONLY I had moved those gloves to somewhere else, so instead of assuming they were the price on the tag, they would ask how much they were. I mean, okay, it’s not 100% my fault because all the gloves were already in that spot. It’s just my fault for noticing that the gloves in general were in the wrong spots and not doing anything about it.

The last frustrating customer was a woman and her husband, who came to buy a new tent because theirs was stolen. It was this Coleman 6-person tent in a green case that I thought someone had bought earlier. I scanned the item, which rang up for about $95. The woman was insistent that the price she and her husband saw was forty-something bucks (I don’t remember the exact price at this point). I believe her (whether or not it was actually for the specific tent or was the wrong price is a different story), but I needed a price check. She kept begging me to give her the price, especially since her car was so close! I kept apologizing, but I really needed a price check because the price difference was so big (almost a $50 difference!). She still kept begging me and told me how she & her husband had waited for people to come and help them in the department they were in, but nobody ever came. They watched me call for a price check various times over the walkie talkie, which never seemed to come (the managers on the walkie talkies all seemed to be focused on the UPCs for the onions – the yellow onions costs $2.24 and the red onions cost $2.58). The husband asked to see the balance on his gift card while we were waiting, which I was, for some reason, unable to find out. I’ve done it a few times before, but for some reason, it was functioning as a blank card. The woman and her husband were trying to decide what to do, the husband clearly growing tired of his wife’s insistence on getting the tent. He tried to make her move to allow other people to go in front of her, but she refused – if she was going to wait, she was going to make everybody wait.

I saw people starting to walk out, which always makes me feel bad. Since I knew it was going to be a while, I took a deep breath, and as loud as I could, I told people if they don’t want to wait, they can go up front. The line cut down a bit, but was still long.

After a while, someone FINALLY came…and of course it was a newbie in the store, who simply scanned the item with the gun, which gave him the same price it’s ringing up. He ran to go do a price check. Just as he did so, another guy came in and started ringing on the other cash register, thank god! Finally the newbie came back and said he couldn’t find the price tag, which probably meant it was in the wrong spot (or, my theory, other people had the same problem and someone took off the label). The guy who was ringing said that we would have to override the price for whatever the customer was saying, which I finally did.

Which, OF COURSE, needed a CSM override!

Surprisingly enough, I got a CSM to come right away for that. Once that was squared away, I mentioned to the CSM that I was suppose to have a break at 1:30 and she said that’s true and she wondered where the Lawn & Garden regular cashier was (I WONDER THAT TOO – WHERE THE HECK WAS HE).

After that, the day went mostly smoothly. I thought that I was going to end up going into overtime, but luckily I didn’t have to because someone from the front end came down…after I asked for help with cutting down the line several times (THE LAWN AND GARDEN LINE WAS LONG).

Overall, the day was rather rocky and there’s most certainly some big dents in my armour. Thank goodness I’m not near an emotional breaking point, because I probably would’ve cried today.

Retail Behind the Scenes

Our cash registers are about as advanced as a graphing calculator. Somewhat advanced, but they are no computer. If you need a price check on an item that has a UPC or a “Universal Product Code” (a.k.a. a bar code), we can do that for you. However, if you need us to look up the price of an item that does not have UPC, you are out of luck if you are at our register.

What if you do want the price or to find the item location though? To be honest, I really, really don’t know. I can have an educated guess (which would be places like sporting goods and site-to-store with computers that look like they display inventory), but if you’re looking for a firm answer, then you’re out of luck asking me.

I am a cashier, strictly trained to the front end. I am trained to bag, to count and hand back change, to do WIC, to change receipt tape, things like that.

What I am not trained to do is locate items, either on the actual store floor or on a computer. I cannot do that. I wish I could do that, but at this current point in time, I am not trained for that.

I am also a front end cashier. Yes, I volunteered to cashier in Lawn & Garden primarily because I like how much space it has – it feels like there’s more room to breath. However, that does not mean I know anything about Lawn & Garden. You’re lucky that I’m good at finding items even if I’ve never seen them before.

Speaking of which, I am a cashier. I do not know the store! Listen, when we’re trained, we are given a brief and I mean brief tour of the store. We are not given time to go around and explore each individual aisle to find out what’s there and how to direct customers to what they need. The tour is brief and not detailed, making it easily forgettable after the first month or so at being at the store. The only way we would even have a chance to explore the store is on our own time…time that we can spend doing other things. Also, can I mention our store is constantly changing around because of the construction? Now, that’s not a permanent excuse/reason, but it is the current one.

Some people might ask why we don’t spend some time after work exploring the store. It’s probably because we don’t want to. It doesn’t mean we don’t like our job – we just don’t want to spend more time there than necessary. I actually like my job as a cashier, for instance, however, when I am done with work, I want to be done with it so I can come home and work on other things – I do have goals I am trying to achieve and only have so much time I can spend on them. I’m not going to spend it walking around the store, learning where everything is.

Also, another thing, we all don’t usually get walkie talkies and when we do, THE WALKIE TALKIES SUCK. THEY ARE TERRIBLE. The voices are all garbled and are a static mess. People talk over each other, cancelling each other out. I really wish we could all just use our cellphones to contact each other, but god forbid we have our cellphones out for more than second during work times!!!

CMS take a while to come to the front end registers already. They take even longer to come to Lawn & Garden. CMS are generally busy, which is why they take so long. Not to mention, if we’re using those crappy walkie talkies, they probably won’t hear me.

Not all registers have phones and the ones that do aren’t guaranteed to work.

Also, people, the flashing light on the register means that we are trying to get the attention of a supervisor! The reason behind it ranges though – sometimes it’s because we need to get a round of change, but other times it’s because we need the supervisor to override something.

Retail Pet Peeves

One thing I HATE is when people don’t want stuff, they just randomly put it places. This annoys me twice as much since, when I’m a customer and I decide I don’t want something, I walk and put it back where I got itIf it’s not in the exact spot, it’s at least within the same section.

As an cashier though, an employee, it’s annoying as well. I know it makes the store messy looking – customers just randomly placing items everywhere. Sometimes they’re easy to miss too when people do that.

There was a girl today who did that. It seemed like she was in a rush and she just threw some one subject notebooks on top of binder paper. I hate when people do that! I walked over there, picked up the notebooks, and put them back – I wasn’t going to let the store stay messy.

Keeping the store clean isn’t just an employee’s job, but the customer’s as well.

If you are one of those people who just randomly leave things, PLEASE try putting it back next time! Or, if you don’t want to do that, give it to the cashier. Don’t place it on top of the candy or on the third shelf down in the toys section when it belongs in the apparel department.

The worst is with frozen or refrigerated food. Did you know that, generally, it gets thrown out? Yeah, it does. I’m hoping to write a blog entry about that later.

Argh, so many frustrations. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a better day.