Confessions of a Retail Worker: Voices from the Street ..Redux

by: Lightbulb

Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 17:55:03 PM EST

Hi everyone! Great place you have here. Love the coffee. Let me tell you a bit about my life and work. The best way to do that might be to utilize the intro piece I had at a different place. :) So here it is.

Let me tell you a bit about my workplace.

I do manual labor in retail. (Note: Some details here are deliberately changed to obfuscate my workplace. Because the last thing I want to do is be unemployed right now, but all of these things about the workplace have actually happened  either to my coworkers or myself.)

Our work day is challenging. One of my coworkers cries and hides in a stockroom for the entire break period. Another had a nervous breakdown and is in therapy because the stress of the work got to him. A third co-worker who is now switched to On-Call, has lost their home and moved in with the newly married adult child. Another was out on official leave, because OSHA compliance is a joke and he was injured very severely. Our stock rooms and our dock areas have never been painted, much less heated or air conditioned and all environmental controls, including lights are controlled by computers out of state. You don't know fun until you're trying to unload stock and the lights go out mid-lift. The fire department actually came out once and made Retail Store hire an electrician so that our emergency lights would work. Yay for fire departments!

There's no middle class workers here at my Retail Store. Well, there might be, but I've never met them. There's us, some salespeople who are fired if they don't make quota (lots of turnover there), and Senior Management of Retail Store. If we have a work problem we can't resolve, we go to someone with the title of Vice President. We've never met anyone from Human Resources, because Human Resources is run out of another state. Our performance review is based on a computer generated set of statistics that have absolutely no relation to how effective we are. For example, one of my coworkers (I'll call him "Dude") had a performance review a couple years back that commended him for his highly productive work in spring of 2008, but criticized him for his lack of efficiency during the holiday season of 2008.

Difficulty: Dude wasn't hired until 2009.

It's a fireable offense to share our performance reviews and raises, if any, with each other but Dude thought this particular one was so hysterically funny that he did share it. Even the VP had a laugh and said "I don't control how the performance reviews are done."

Every morning Vice President stands by the employee entrance to let us peons in the store. We usually share fun stories about how many rodents we saw the previous day and or how many dead rodents we stepped on by accident when the Fire Drill was called.

Ah, yes. The Fire Drill. This is Senior Management's way of telling us They Care About Us and Do Not Want Us to Die in A Fire.

Our fire drill requires us to meet at Popular Coffee Shop in the neighborhood when we evacuate. Senior Management take attendance, and also take turns popping in for Fancy Coffee Drinks that cost more than we earn in an hour. Usually a few of us Peons will go in to buy a large coffee with two espresso shots. Any of us Peons buying  "One Large Coffee" when we're there as a part of Fire Drill is served exceptionally well by the owner. The Peon purchaser ordering a simple iced coffee will receive: A very large iced coffee usually used for sodas, four empty cups, a cup of milk "for creamer", enough sugar to excite a class of children, and a zillion napkins. The coffee shop owner will ultimately charge Peon only for "One Large Coffee". That way, it can be shared among us at a price we can manage. Senior Management  gets a glare from this owner, and a Fancy Coffee. Senior Management doesn't notice because they don't pay attention to service people. But I tell you, we notice it.


So that was my introductory post about retail. Hasn't changed much, unfortunately.

Lightbulb :: Confessions of a Retail Worker: Voices from the Street ..Redux
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It's been awhile since i've posted a diary anywhere... (2.00 / 40)
Hope it came out okay.  

Sounds awful. I'm familiar with your work from another site (2.00 / 26)
most notable with its resemblance to John Boehner's tan.

Good to see you in action again, hope all is well with you.

btw, is "Fierce" good? The opposite of 'Fail', I hope.

We walk in beauty.

Yes, I think that fierce is good. :) (2.00 / 22)
Doing okay. Found a farmer's market last fall, and was therefore to eat better. So that was terrific!

[ Parent ]
Farmer's markets are awesome (2.00 / 5)
There's one not too far away from me where I can load up on fruits and veggies (several shopping bags worth) for $15.  What I can eat fresh, I do.  What looks like it is starting to go bad before I can get to it, gets made into soups or stews and frozen.

[ Parent ]
Wow. (2.00 / 18)
Quite a powerful diary. I know retail sucks here in Canada as well, but not this much. Employee reviews out of a can? I guess this explains why so many American companies hadn't come here though. Until recently that is.

Minimum wage In Ontario is $10.25 which really who can live on, and I was just shocked when I googled levels in the US. HUGE ranges from None (Alabama) to $9.19 (Washington)... Crazy.  

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

The hardest part is the scheduling. (2.00 / 16)
But that's a whole other story.

Thank you for reading the diary!

[ Parent ]
Can't wait... (2.00 / 14)
To read about it :)

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

[ Parent ]
Thanks! I'll write it up soon then. :) (1.93 / 15)

[ Parent ]
look forward to it. eom (2.00 / 13)

[ Parent ]
We have a federal minimum of $7.25 (2.00 / 7)
So that's the minimum in states that don't have minimums.  The states can make it higher if they choose (mine doesn't).  

[ Parent ]
Wow (2.00 / 22)
Lightbulb, I am so glad you are posting these.  I never missed a single diary you wrote at GOS

Hi Auntie! (2.00 / 16)
I have a batch of 'em. Some will be updated, as some minor things have changed for the better. But most procedures are the same as ever.

[ Parent ]
Yes, please repost (2.00 / 12)
Important stuff is never old news: and most of us here would have missed them the first time round

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Will do. (2.00 / 13)
Modern American retail is unjust to its most vulnerable workers.

[ Parent ]
good evening Lightbulb (2.00 / 17)
it's good to read you again.  

Hello raina. (2.00 / 15)
It's good to see you too.

It's also terrific to be here on the Moose. Really looking forward to hanging around in this space more.

My schedule has been erratic lately, but should calm down soon.

[ Parent ]
still the same (2.00 / 14)
Kind of knew it wouldn't be different from when you originally posted this but.....

Yep. (2.00 / 8)
Some things are better at the companies, but not a lot.

[ Parent ]
Hey! With a few modifications that's where I work. (2.00 / 19)
Although the boss goes the long way around to his car just so he doesn't have to meet the employees on the way out.  We didn't get the Thanksgiving turkeys we usually get but management was taken to lunch, given holiday cards and framed group photos of employees.  Apparently I'm good enough to be in the picture (won employee of the month at the function at which the photo was taken) but I'm not good enough to get a copy.

But I'm so happy to have a job.  ::eyeroll::

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

when i hit the lotto (2.00 / 15)
...i'm going to give you a TON of money.



Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
Hi (2.00 / 10)
Yeah, that doesn't surprise me about the boss hiding from the staff. Sorry you work for a similar employer though. May 2013 be a better year for both of us.

[ Parent ]
Hey Lightbulb. After I retired from my job with a major corporation I got bored (2.00 / 21)
and went to work for a well-known bookstore chain, alas now defunct.  I was the early person, arriving about 6 am to prepare register drawers and do the bank deposit.  If I was duty manager I also had to receive deliveries of book pallets.  For some reason the team responsible for getting product sorted and onto the sales floor had not done their job and when that mornings delivery arrived, I was the only person in the store so I refused it because there wasn't an empty square inch in the warehouse.  WELL, the roof damned near fell on my head.  My refusal landed on the CEO's desk!  Not my fault there was no room but was expected to accept the delivery anyway.  No one could ever tell me what I was supposed to do with it.  Put it in the parking lot, I guess.  I love it when rules are made by management who hasn't a clue about what is actually required.  Made me nuts.

"I base most of my fashion sense on whether or not it itches"  -- Gilda Radner

Sad, but not surprising. (2.00 / 11)
That sounds just like modern retail.

[ Parent ]
What is so sad about the closing of Borders is how bloody (2.00 / 13)
awful the management was.  They had no clue about what it was like in the trenches but kept cutting hours while asking staff to do more and more.  Fools.  I suppose the executives made out like bandits after throwing the company into bankruptcy.

"I base most of my fashion sense on whether or not it itches"  -- Gilda Radner

[ Parent ]
So glad to "see" you Lightbulb (2.00 / 15)
I was a huge fan of your work at dk and was so sad when all of your great work was deleted.  I am so happy to know you kept copies and hope you share them here.  

Why deleted? (2.00 / 16)
Or am I opening a can of worms?

Either way it makes the imperative to post them here and have some record even more urgent and necessary

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
More like a can of snakes (2.00 / 19)
A particular group, one which you've tangled with a few times, decided to not like Lightbulb or his/her diaries. They cast aspersions, doubted his/her stories, raised suspicions about his/her authenticity. There was bullying and taunting involved. Lightbulb chose to delete his/her diaries and leave. A prudent move.

[ Parent ]
Yep, I caught some of that. Nasty stuff, and accompanied by (2.00 / 15)
a threat to out him, iirc.  

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
Indeed. The articles are important and should be online. (2.00 / 14)
It is good that Lightbulb has found a place where the series will be treated with respect.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
I'm glad Lightbulb landed here (2.00 / 11)

[ Parent ]
I echo the others: So thrilled to see you again! (2.00 / 13)
I'm looking forward to reading your posts again, too - even though I tried to read them all.

aka translatorpro

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

Hi translator! Good to see you! (2.00 / 12)
Yep, I saved my writings.

[ Parent ]
So happy to see you here. (2.00 / 14)
I read your diaries at GOS and was very sad when you were pushed out. I've often wondered how you're doing and if things have improved. It's good to hear you found a farmer's market.

Hi there Born in NOLA! (2.00 / 11)
good to see you. Yes, I can't say enough good things about farmer's markets.

[ Parent ]
I SO missed your diaries! Now that (2.00 / 10)
We are "moosacks", I am looking forward to your diaries. I am blue collar also, and I agree that generally, management doesn't have a clue as to how long a task takes, or how to do it.

You should write diaries too! (2.00 / 8)
The more blue collar truth that we can tell about the realities of labor today, the better.

[ Parent ]
I do janitorial work in an office building, so (2.00 / 8)
I have been giving some thought to a diary series called, "The view from under the seat" which would actually have a double meaning. Besides looking at life after a day of lifting toilet seats and cleaning, it could also mean that sometimes blue collar workers are treated like the stuff under the toilet seat (although most days I DON'T feel that way. Hey, it's a union job).  

Sorry to get so graphic.  :-P  

[ Parent ]
No problem w/ graphic. Truth is truth. (2.00 / 6)
But glad you're union!

[ Parent ]
It's a dirty and (mostly) thankless job (2.00 / 7)
When I worked in an office, the cleaning crew were mostly Central American women, and they did a darn fine job, and were cheerful when we encountered them.  Since I worked late hours, I often saw them.

One young woman became pregnant.  When it was close to time for her to take leave to have the baby, our small office whipped together and bought her a set of baby clothes; a small gesture, but we all liked her and wanted to show our appreciation.

She was blown away by the gift.  I daresay most of the people she cleaned up after in that building didn't see her as HER.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done subjunctively.

[ Parent ]
I am fortunate that (2.00 / 7)
The office workers in my building are friendly and often strike up. conversations with me. A story similar to yours: when a co-worker had her baby, some of the office people bought her some nice gifts

[ Parent ]
This is the MOOOOOOSE! Let's carry on... (2.00 / 8)
Lightbulb, please tell us more about the farmer's market you have come across, or will you be writing a separate diary about it?

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

Oh that will be an extra diary for sure. (2.00 / 9)
I'm hoping to see domestic goddess around too, because she knows so much about how to use healthy vegetables in low-cost recipes. I'm still a newbie to some of that cooking.

The intersectionality and politics of food is complex. I will certainly write about my own experiences, and food deserts, but I think there are many who know much more about this subject than myself, Monsanto, organic foods, etc.

[ Parent ]
Ohhhh! Really looking forward to those. I'm very interested in food (2.00 / 9)
issues, and just came across a very interesting study from Harvard, discussing the connection between soda and violence - quite fascinating. Here's a link, in case you're interested:

Harvard Study

ALREADY IMPLICATED in the obesity and diabetes epidemics, soda may be linked to violence in young people, new research suggests. In a study of 1,878 students at Boston public high schools, heavy soda drinkers were much more prone to violent behavior than other teens.

So guys, stay away from that sweet stuff, it might help avoid pie fights! :-D I wonder if Bloomberg had read this when he banned the giant-sized cups of soft drinks in NY?

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
Hi Lightbulb! (2.00 / 14)
So happy to see you here and am looking forward to repeats of old and some new diaries.

I haven't worked retail since I was a teen, but my kids and "adopted" kids have more recently.

One of my adopted kids had an incident last year with the most-well-know chain store. She worked night shift so she could attend college. She worked in produce and there was a guy who worked in dairy (connecting back rooms) who sexually harassed her. It moved from verbal to physical and one night she called me in the middle of the night on the verge of hysteria and I went down to talk to her manager. She was sobbing and her manager refused to talk to me. She asked to please be allowed to go home and was told she could but it would be marked as an unexcused absence. I drove her home.

She was told to toughen up. She asked if she could be please not be scheduled the same nights her harasser worked and was told they would try but couldn't promise. A couple of weeks later she was fired for being a scheduling problem.

My youngest worked retail during college on the sales floor and was continually scheduled on her "permanent unavailable" times for classes/labs. She worked at the jewelry counter at a major retailer and was the top salesperson by far, even as a PT'er. Being conscientious, she skipped classes and labs for a couple of weeks then had to quit. Their total disregard for her legitimate needs killed their golden goose.

And people think your diaries are fiction?  

Hi there 1864 house! (2.00 / 13)
Scheduling is a tremendous issue in retail, for sure.

From the study "Discounted Jobs", we have the statistics:

Scheduling practices at major retail employers in New York City reflect nationwide trends toward the creation of a "just-in-time" workforce. Almost 60 percent of the retail workforce is hired as part-time, temporary or holiday, and only 17 percent of workers surveyed have a set schedule. The vast majority, seventy percent, only knows their schedules within a week. For workers with other primary responsibilities such as family or school, childcare and the pursuit of education become a significant challenge.


Canadian gal and I briefly touched on retail schedules upthread, so I will definitely post a diary about it soon.

[ Parent ]
And If She Works (2.00 / 7)
You know, like, to pay rent & things...

At some community colleges, instructors are required to take attendance in class...and are evaluated on class attendance, so there will frequently be penalties for not attending class

Of course, it actually came down to money...the Legislature started making government support to colleges depend on actual attendance rather than class enrollment...

[ Parent ]
Moderation has deleted a comment in this thread. (2.00 / 16)
It was deleted for blatant disregard of our Posting Guidelines. Unfortunately, all replies to the comment were removed as well. We do not tolerate flagrant abuse of our hospitality.

In reply to the deleted comment was the following from Brit that we feel is important to remain seen:

Why bother following Lightbulb, registering, and making this comment: why not leave and make others (who seem to know him better) make their own judgement

Your claim is extraordinary, and needs extraordinary evidence to be sustained. In the absence of that it, it's just a fly by night hit-job.

We don't tolerate content free invective on the Moose. If you've got a case (as Rasheverak had with Linfar many moons ago here) you've got to make it much better than this.

In the absence of that, it's just a nasty hit job

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Thank you, Blog Moderators. (2.00 / 16)
This is a BHD.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
There's tolerance, (2.00 / 15)
and then there is naivete.

The Moose keeps as open a door as is possible, but you cannot have a conversation without basic rules of civility enforced.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
And if your first comment is to attack another Moioz (2.00 / 15)
... Well wiser heads than mine have collectively decided


The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
My apologies (2.00 / 12)
Peter, my apologies for my two highly reactive comments in response to the nasty attack on Lightbulb. THere's a long story here, much of which I'd be more than willing to share with you privately and keep off the blog, with relevant links. Right now, I'm feeling awful that I encouraged Lightbulb to participate here and that he is now being hunted again.

[ Parent ]
Nah, don't worry about it. (2.00 / 18)
If someone is going to be hunted the Moose is a good place to be. We don't brook a lot of bullshit and have developed a pretty reliable way of dealing with it.

When the founding herd met we were on two sides of a presidential primary, battling it out in text primarily on another blog (not DKOS). The signal-to-noise ratio was tremendous, and the lack of willingness of anyone responsible to simply get rid of unreasonable voices was frustrating.

Achieving the shared goal of getting a president elected was the overarching reason to bring us together to try to carve out a forum where we could do our little bit of doing that, but for all of us the exercise was also to see how such a forum would work. That second part has always been more interesting to me than a political purpose.

What is most interesting after all these years is that we have done very well to that end without any fancy technology. All of the mechanisms have been social. Keeping enough of an off and on-blog conversation about tone to maintain it among both the founders as well as the expanding community has worked remarkably well.

It just goes to demonstrate the point that simple civility is capable of achieving what draconian structures cannot. There are subtleties to be managed to maintain that civility, but these can be handled inside the context of that same civil framework. The many Moose who were not part of the initial conversation but who actively participate in that Civility Management effort - commenting spontaneously in a civil fashion when someone (including founding Mooz) gets a bit too worked up - prove even more that this can be done in an open fashion.

Instances like the one at hand show the other side of that function. Civil society isn't foolish. Just because there isn't a lock on the door or a burly bouncer standing next to it doesn't mean that any numbskull can swagger in and start banging pots and pans together without finding themselves suddenly back outside in the cold.

I'm glad you encouraged Lightbulb to come over. Primarily for the purpose of adding another interesting and sane voice to the conversation, and as an added benefit providing us the chance to deal with a troll. We don't get a lot of those here - they don't get to have their fun so they just tend to give up before they even try - but it's always satisfying to give one a swift kick now and then. ;~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Thanks for that reply (2.00 / 9)
I appreciate it very much.  

[ Parent ]
sent you email (2.00 / 7)
got an auto reply that said "ping". ??

[ Parent ]
Dunna wtf that is. (2.00 / 9)
I just got that domain back up, must be a setting somewhere.

I will reply, it's all good. :~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I completely understand (2.00 / 11)
...especially if you encouraged lightbulb to post again. You don't need to explain what happened - I've seen this kind of personal trolling before, and questioning someone's whole persona and authenticity is the most damaging allegation you can make.

Just for the record: the admins at Motley Moose completely accept Lightbulb's bonafides. Lightbulb has been vouched for by someone we collectively trust who has met the diarist face to face.

Now this has been established: any more questioning of Lightbulb's authenticity will be met with an immediate banning.

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
B-b-b-b-bannnnnnnn!!! (2.00 / 9)
The Moose doesn't sleep.  

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

[ Parent ]
The clarity and decisiveness (2.00 / 8)
very much appreciated.  

[ Parent ]
I am so glad to see you here. (2.00 / 11)


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