Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who's The Moron?

I haven't posted a rant in some time. That's because since my discussion with my assistant manager regarding my relationship with my Benedict Arnold co-workers, management has put less pressure on me, and my co-workers have stopped complaining about me, and have actually been friendlier.

Perhaps my assistant manager had a talk with them. I don't know.

I almost can't believe it myself, but I am actually beginning to like working at this Wal-mart. As Wal-Marts go, this one is one of the better ones in terms of how management treats employees. The pay still sucks but that's expected for a Wal-Mart.

Still, there are disrespectful customers. And, I still don't like them, but I have learned to more or less tolerate them.

Today, I ran across one that took an extraordinary effort to tolerate.

This particular customer was a woman with graying hair, approximately 45 years of age. She was pushing her cart along the back aisle of the store directly in front of the electronics department.

I have mentioned what I consider to be the stupidest question I am ever asked before. That is the question this woman asked me.

"Where is the restroom?"

I pointed to the rear of the electronics department in the general direction of the restrooms. "Right there", I answered.

The woman looked in that direction, and then proceeded to inform me she didn't see the restroom. So, I moved to my right about 3 feet, and again pointed, this time directly at the large sign which was situated directly below the brightly lit red "exit" sign which read, "restrooms".

"Right over there", I said, "You see? There's the sign that says, 'Restrooms' right below the exit sign".

"Well", she huffed, "If I had seen the sign, I wouldn't have had to ask." And then, as she stalked toward the restrooms, she added, "Moron!"

Moron! She called ME a moron!

Now. In every Wal-Mart in the country, the restrooms are located in the back of the store, along the back wall, in, or at least, next to, the electronics department. Everyone who has ever shopped in a Wal-Mart knows where to find the restrooms.

Even if this woman had never been in a Wal-Mart in her life she would have been able to ascertain for herself fairly quickly where the restrooms are located.

Unless, of course, she's a moron.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I have worked in 5 different Wal-Marts since 2001. Out of all the time I've worked at those Wal-Marts, only once have I been asked to work in a department outside of my own. And that lasted about 10 minutes. Other than that, I have never worked in any department that wasn't mine.

That is, until I started working at this one. It is a common occurrence in this one.

Ironically, this is the first Wal-Mart in which I am not supposed to be asked to work elsewhere in the store. At all. The Connection Center is supposed to be manned at all times while it is open. If the wireless sales associates cannot man the Center for any reason during Connection Center hours, the Connection center must be closed. For instance. If my schedule calls for me to work the hours of 8AM to 5PM, and any other wireless associates fail to show up to cover the rest of the open hours, the Center must be closed down for the day.

So, with that in mind, this is what transpired today:

I arrived at work at 8:00AM, and, as usual, began to busy myself straightening up my area. I have to do this everyday because the overnight associates continually dump everything they find just lying around somewhere on the Wireless counter and on the floor behind it. If I had a day off the day before, the mess is doubled. Obviously, no one will keep the area in order if I don't.

On the counter, behind a shopping basket someone left sitting on the counter, I discovered an open package of Febreeze air freshener refills, with two refill bottles inside. I am used to picking up after other employees, so I thought little of picking this up as well.

One of the little bottles inside was broken, and when I picked up the package, shards of jagged, broken glass scattered all over the counter and the floor. This made me angry. It's one thing to leave open packages on the counter in an expectation of someone doing one's work for them, but it is quite another to leave broken glass lying around, that could possibly cause serious injury to an unsuspecting associate.

After cleaning up that mess and disposing of the broken glass, I then began my daily tasks, which include counting all the cell phones and entering the count in the inventory book. This is when I discovered that the little chain smoking girl had failed to record the sale from Thursday evening in the logbook. I wrote about that sale in my last post.

This happens occasionally, although it shouldn't, but nevertheless, when it does, I simply record the sale in the book myself. It's no big deal. I don't mind covering my contemporary's mistakes. Except, to record sales in the book, I have to get certain pertinent information off the hard copy of the contract.

Today, I could not do that. Why?

Because the little chain smoking girl misplaced the contract. Both copies. They are supposed to be filed in the appropriate carrier's file in the file cabinet, but they weren't there. I spent the better part of the next two hours searching in vain for the missing contracts.

Because of my fruitless search, I didn't get to the inventory book before I opened. It took me longer than usual to finish my inventory. My morning routine consists of dong the inventory book first, then stocking the shelves and peg hooks in my department.

About 11:30AM, before I was halfway done, our section's Zone Manager came by and requested that I go to the Stationary department to stock the shelves, which hasn't been done for at least a couple of days, if not all week. The woman who manages that department has been absent for weeks, except for a token appearance a couple of times a month.

I didn't argue, and I didn't turn her down. I did, however inform her that I need to finish putting up the freight in my department because it is my first priority. She looked over my shoulder and observed I still had quite a few boxes of freight on the floor behind my counter. She asked what was in them, and I replied, "Most are pre-paid phones that need to be stocked but there are a couple of boxes of electronics items here, too."

She told me she would get a certain smelly old lecher to help me so I could get the stationary aisle done. I've mentioned him before, also.

He came over and inquired about the contents of each box. After I told him, he picked up the two boxes containing the items from the Electronics department, saying, "The other boxes are yours. I'll let you do them."

I continued to stock my product for the next thirty minutes, and then, broke for lunch.

One hour later, I returned to my department and finished the rest of the stocking. My "help" had only put up the items that were in the electronics department and ignored the items from the Connection center.

Just as I finished the last of the product, the Zone manager returned to inquire why I hadn't started the stationary department yet. She stated she didn't know I had gone to lunch, and then, I made the mistake of kidding her. I said, "Everybody goes to lunch here."

This angered her. On reflection, I suppose she was under no small amount of stress. Apparently, someone higher up had levied a deadline on the lower management. Anyway, she summoned me to the office and shut the door behind us. Sitting there in the office was my assistant manager. The same one who once told me I should refuse to help customers if by helping them, it would make me go overtime, and who told the chain smoking girl she wasn't supposed to finish a transaction for me so I could leave on time.

Both managers began to upbraid me about my attitude, and it was at this time that my assistant manager pointed out that other associates had complained I don't help them in electronics. This is a blatant lie.

Well, since he had breached the subject, I took the opportunity to inform him that I knew my so-called co-workers complained that I don't help them, and that they are lying. I then told him they never help me, but instead complain constantly that I don't help them. I told him they are hypocritical, complaining about me when they never lift a finger to help me. I also explained to him that I work in the electronics department probably more than twice as much as I work in my own department. I suggested he sit down and watch the security tapes to see for himself whether I help out in electronics, and if my hypocritical co-workers help me. I said he could pick any time during the day at random, and watch the tapes and see for himself. "Don't take my word for it", I said, "See for yourself".

He actually seemed surprised.

Then, he assured me he would talk to them, to which I replied, "No, don't. I don't want their help. I would rather do it all myself. That way I know it's done right". And then, I added, "Have I ever complained that they don't help me?"

He agreed that I hadn't.

I continued, "That's because I don't care if they do anything or not. I only worry about what I do. I mind my own business, and if they want to work or if they don't, it means nothing to me. Every job in this store pays the same. It doesn't matter what I do, it all pays the same. That's why I never complain about being asked to do work that isn't in my department. Can you say that about my co-workers?"

Of course, he couldn't. The smelly old lecher guy never gets asked to work in other departments specifically because he has such a bad attitude. Management has long since quit asking.

My assistant manager knows this, and so does every manager in the store.

I made my point.

But he didn't abide by my request not to talk to my co-workers. Later, as I walked through electronics on my way to my last break, I spied my smelly co-worker trying to ascertain where the cell phone cases were supposed to be stocked. That's my department, and it's probably the first time he ever even attempted to do any work related to the Wireless department.

At last, I am vindicated, and my Benedict Arnold co-workers have been busted.

We'll see how it goes in the future.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Epitomy of Stupidity

The combination of the incompetence of Sprint PCS' customer service department and the stupidity of my Wal-Mart's management team had my blood pressure pumping up higher than usual today.

In addition, my two week paycheck was directly deposited into my checking account yesterday, and because my bills are too high and my pay too low, one day after payday, my bank checking account has slightly more than four dollars in it, and has to last me two weeks. How that will happen will depend on whether God will be granting any miracles in that much time.

Back to the Sprint fiasco.

Before I get into this, let me explain Wal-Mart's overtime policy:

We aren't supposed to get any. If we accidentally, or on purpose, get a few minutes overtime, we can be disciplined. I've explained this policy before in a previous post.

So anyway, a customer came in about 4:30PM, approximately 30 minutes before my shift was to end. She wanted to purchase a contract phone. Now, under normal circumstances an entire cell phone transaction should not take more than 30 minutes. I figured I had time, because I was about 5 minutes under time for the week anyway. That would give me approximately 35 minutes to complete the transaction and still not go overtime.

But, of course, something screwed up in the Wal-Mart or Sprint computer system, and an error message popped up on the screen stating that I would have to call the carrier (Sprint) to finish the credit check over the phone.

Anyone who's ever had a Sprint PCS cell phone contract can probably tell you horror stories about Sprint's customer service.

Those stories are true.

The CSR (customer service rep) had to have the customer's name and social security number, which is standard operating procedure, but this particular csr insisted the customer provide her with a PIN and a security question and answer as well. I've conducted dozens of these carrier credit checks and never before has any csr ever requested this additional information.

Long story somewhat shortened, the csr gave me all the information I needed to complete the transaction except one thing. And, this has often been the problem in call carrier mode: A little thing called the credit class. I have to input the credit class before I am able to complete the transaction. I cannot skip it. I cannot ignore it. It has to be provided by the carrier before I can continue. If not, the sale can't be completed.

As has happened in the past, the csr refused to give me the credit class. They can give it. They have the necessary information. But, they are either woefully misinformed, or willfully stubborn. I hanged up and called back. The next csr I got gave me the same run-around. So again, I disconnected and called back again. The same number and department as the first time.

In the meantime, While in this battle for dominance between myself and the Sprint representatives, I have gone overtime. I cannot just halt the process. I cannot hand the transaction over to another associate. None of the associates who know how to sell cell phones are present yet, anyway, although the chain smoking girl was scheduled. She was just late. As usual.

Finally, already 20 minutes late to clock out, The third rep I talked to provided me with the pertinent information that I needed. She explained there is never any problem providing the agent with the credit class number. Apparently, that news hasn't matriculated throughout Sprint's Customer service department yet.

Now, the chain smoking girl arrives, and I asked her if she could finish the transaction for me so I could clock out and save Wal-Mart an additional payroll dollar or two.

Nope. She informed me that she has been told by our erstwhile assistant manager that she is not allowed to finish the sale for me. Well, that was news to me. He never told me that.


But if my assistant manager calls me in to discipline me, I swear I will go to the store manager and lodge a formal complaint. And if he backs the assistant, I will go over his head, if necessary. I will not take this treatment lying down.

I've mentioned this before:

I fail to see the logic behind not allowing me to get overtime to save a few bucks even at the loss of several hundred dollars profit to the company. If I get in trouble over this, I don't know what I'll do. I can't find a better job in this economy. Believe me, I've been trying.

So, I don't know what I am liable to do if this ends up biting me in the backside.

But it won't be pretty.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Incompetent Management

I was conversing with my A,T&T rep today. We were discussing why common sense decisions don't get made on a local level at Wal-Mart.

The impetus of this conversation was a recent sale of 11 Blackberry Torches by our little friend, the chain smoking girl.

The Blackberry Torch

They were sold without contracts.

A Blackberry Torch costs $500.00 without a two year Contract, and about $148.00 with a contract. So this customer paid $5,500.00 in all for cell phones that don't work without a contract.

What's wrong with this picture?

Black marketeers are known to buy up massive amounts of expensive cell phones like the Blackberry Torch at retail prices, and then turn around and sell them in Russia and other countries for a huge profit. Many people in foreign countries will pay enormous amounts of money to obtain these phones on the black market, where Blackberries can bring up to $1,300.00.

There is something illegal in this, probably stemming from dodging tariffs and taxes or some laws in the other countries that prevent the selling of contraband on the black market. I don't know, but someone walking into a Wal-Mart and offering to buy up every smart phone the retailer has without contracts should send up a red flag to whoever is working the cell phone desk. Regardless of their inexperience.

If this practice was legitimate, they would purchase their Blackberries from the factory at wholesale prices, and make a much higher profit. The fact that they don't, tells us it isn't kosher.

I was present when the man was there  offering to buy the phones, but one of the assistant managers was bugging me insistently to come up to the front cash registers and help them out because they were busier than usual, and hadn't scheduled cashiers properly. (I might add here, that Wireless associates are not supposed to be called to work in other parts of the store)I was trying to explain to the chain smoker girl why she shouldn't sell the phones, but the assistant manager was getting agitated that I wasn't moving fast enough, so I had to leave, and hope the girl would make a common sense decision.

She didn't.

When I finally got a chance to break away from the howling mob in the front of the store, I returned to find she had sold all 11 Blackberries we had, and the customer was long gone.

OK, so now you're probably wondering why I should care?.

This is why:

When we sell a phone without a contract, Wal-Mart makes about 25-40 dollars profit. If we sell it with a contract, Wal-Mart makes about 400-450 profit. The amount of profit the store makes in a year has a direct influence on the size of our yearly bonus. $4,400.00 would naturally have a more positive impact on a possible bonus than $440.00.

Before the sell, I grabbed the opportunity to try to tell the security manager (asset protection) that we shouldn't sell the phones without a contract, but all he did was call an assistant manager. The assistant manager on duty was occupied at the time on one of the cash registers up front, so she couldn't respond, so they got an assistant manager who was the manager over the grocery department.

She arrived and promptly approved the sale without even considering why she shouldn't.

This is one example out of many why I say local store management is incompetent.

Incompetent and apathetic. They just don't care.

Management at the corporate level cares. Their paychecks depend on Wal-Mart making as much profit as it can. The more profit, the more they make.

Local management gets about the same pay regardless of profit margin, give or take a couple of hundred.

The rep told me whenever he makes a complaint to corporate representatives at Wal-Mart about some bonehead local management decision, the corporate people express amazement at the level of incompetence the local management demonstrates on a continual basis.

Of course, he wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Apathetic Attitude

I walked into my department this morning and found it hadn't been closed last night. Not only that, but all of the cabinets that should have been locked overnight had been left unlocked all night long. And this is a 24 hour Wal-Mart. One of those cabinets has about $30,000.00 worth of cell phones in it.

Any dishonest customer strolling around the store in the middle of the night could have easily made a major score. I guess we dodged a bullet this time. But what about the next time?

Speaking of dishonest customers, the first thing that caught my eye this morning (after the discovery that the evening shift associate hadn't done his job), was a pre-paid cell phone package that had been torn open lying on the counter. Nothing was stolen, so I have to assume the perpetrator must have opened the package to see that the phone inside looked exactly like the picture on the front.

Just thinking about what must go through some people's mind just boggles my mind.

later, I discovered a cell phone car charger package that had been torn open. The charger that had been inside the package was gone and a different charger left in it's place. This had come to us from the returns department.

I speculated that the customer who had perpetrated this switch got a new cell phone but the old charger didn't fit the new one, and he had no further use for the old one, so he thought it would be a bright idea to just remove a new charger from it's package and replace it with his old one, thus saving himself the expense of buying a new charger.

I suppose you have to admire someone who's willing to risk jail to save fifteen bucks.

Of course, these incidents only scratch the surface of the wanton theft and vandalism that runs rampant in nearly every Wal-Mart store in the world.

And why is theft and vandalism so common at Wal-Mart as opposed to other retail stores?

I believe it is because of a prevailing apathetic attitude on the part of Wal-Mart management. They just don't seem to care that customers have such disrespect for their store.

A news story appeared in our local paper a few months ago. A Wal-Mart Customer Service Manager in Wichita, Kansas was actually fired for stopping a shoplifter from stealing a $600.00 computer. He carried the computer out of the store, and the alarm went off. She followed him outside and asked politely if she could see his receipt. At that point, the man dropped the computer, hit the young woman and ran away.

The next morning she was called into the management office and fired. Believe it or not, there is a strict Wal-Mart policy against preventing shoplifters.

And that apathetic attitude is carried over by the management in every store. The message is quite clear: Caring about your job or your store is an exercise in futility.

Wal-Mart doesn't care. Why should you?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vacation Time. Just A Minute There, Son.

I have worked for Wal-Mart off and on since 2001. Because I've always hated working at Wal-Mart, I don't usually stay very long before I manage to find another job that pays better. And, has better hours. And has more competent management. And is a job of which I can be proud. Something always happens after a year or so which puts me involutarily back into the job hunt. If i don't find work soon enough, I usually wind up back at Wal-Mart until I can find something--anything better, which usually doesn't take more than a few months.

I hired into Wal-Mart this time after 3 months of unemployment. I was unemployed this time because I had moved into another state. I had worked more or less for myself as an independent contractor doing door-to-door fundraising for volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. I was pulling down sometimes over $600.00 a week take home. Life was good, Working at Wal-mart was the furthest thing from my mind.

Then the recession hit. Federal housing corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed and homeowners across the country went into "bunker mode". If they hadn't lost their jobs already, they were afraid they might soon, and fund raising attempts dried up. People were, by and large, afraid to donate any money. My income dropped from over 600 a week to oftentimes under 100 a week. I had no choice, I had to find a job more dependable.

Because companies also were affected by the housing bust and ensuing recession, jobs were all but impossible to come by. For every good job opening, there were hundreds of unemployed hopefuls.

At last, out of sheer desperation, I applied at Wal-Mart. I knew from experience that I could get on there, although I also knew it was a last chance bottom-of-the-barrel type job, but the bank account was growing thin and I realized I had no choice.

I was hired in September as a temporary worker to help turn the store from a regular Wal-Mart to a Super Wal-Mart. In November, The remodeling finished, I was offered the chance to go permanent in the wireless department. Of all the possible opportunities I could have been offered, this was my third choice, behind the personnel department and the cash office. So, I wasn't altogether displeased.

Until I found out about earned vacation time, that is.

About 5 months into my permanent employment, I casually asked the personnel associate about when and how I could apply for a vacation. She told me I wasn't eligible for vacation until after November 11th.

"Wait a minute", I protested, "I thought I was eligible for vacation after a year of full time, continuous employment".

"No", she replied, the time you were a temporary associate doesn't count".

But I had read the benefits book. I knew what it said, and it didn't say that. It said an associate is eligible for vacation after one year of full time, continuous employment. It said nothing about having to be a permanent associate. So I told her that.

No, it doesn't matter what the book says. It only matters how our personnel department interprets "Full time, continuous". I considered her argument for about a month, and then went back in with my department manager to discuss the disagreement again. This time I was told that she tried to explain it to me before but I got "mouthy" and she wasn't going to spend any more time explaining it to me. So, I guess that's that.

Well, that's enough of a reason to hate Wal-Mart right there.

But hang on. It gets better! So, now I have to wait until November for vacation. Think again. No associate at Wal-Mart is allowed to take a vacation between October 31st and January 1st because of the holidays.

Now, instead of taking my vacation 1 year after my initial hiring date, I have to wait at least 1 year and 3 months. And, nobody wants to take vacation in mid-winter so I'll have to wait until abut May.

And today, I find out that our little chain smoking girl who disappears at least 8 times a day is on her third vacation this year! Apparently, management has no problem with that! And she hasn't been employed there as long as I have!

Are there more and better reasons for me to hate working at Wal-Mart?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Time For Profit

A failure to communicate

At various times during the fiscal year, Wal-Mart Corporate management, in their infinite wisdom, will decide Wal-Mart associates are earning too much money and adversely affecting their bottom line.

I understand the reasoning here. Payroll is the biggest of all expenses in business. And, one of the easiest expenses to control.

Logically, payroll expenses have a direct effect on profits and/or revenue. So, when revenues are down, steps must be taken to counter the losses. The easiest way to do that is to institute tighter controls on payroll. There are other ways to solve the problem of diminishing returns. They could raise prices. They could search out cheaper suppliers.

They could cut their own salaries and wouldn't even miss the money. After all, Sam Walton's children make over 20 billion (that's billion, with a "b") dollars a year each. And they don't do anything to earn it other than being fortunate enough to be born to Sam Walton and his spouse.

But, cutting the hours of the associates is by far the easiest and least painful (at least, to the corporate officers) solution. Simple.

However, by the time the orders to alter payroll from the corporate executives trickle on down to the local management, the purpose for controlling payroll expenses somehow gets lost in the translation, so to speak. What I mean is that local store managers often fail to comprehend the reasoning behind corporate decisions.

The result of this failure to communicate is bonehead decisions by local management that flies in the face of logic and fiscal responsibility. They seem to forget that the bottom line is profit.

Case in point: If, during the course of these "austerity programs", we accidentally go overtime, we get "coached', which is a sort of code word for a warning against allowing ourselves to go overtime ever again. Going even one minute overtime is considered a major violation of the terms of our non-existent contract.

The assistant managers in our store take the responsibility of monitoring our hours worked per week very seriously, and will invariably show up at least three days before the last day of the pay week to hammer the point home that we are 3 or 4 minutes overtime, and that we must take 3-4 minutes more for lunch sometime before Friday to avoid the dreaded overtime.

I won't even go into the fact that I am perfectly capable of monitoring my own hours without the help of a group of overpaid morons having to explain it to me.

I will instead reveal part of a conversation regarding the avoidance of overtime hours that I had with my assistant manager one afternoon:

He: "You cannot go ten minutes past 5:00 today or you will get overtime."

Me: "I can't guarantee that. If I am in the middle of a cell phone transaction when ten minutes past 5 comes around I can't just stop right there and clock out. I have to finish the process. I have no choice."

He: "Yes you can. You have to or you will get overtime."

Me: "You aren't seriously telling me that if I am not done with a transaction at 10 minutes after 5, I have to stop and tell my customer that I can't sell them a cell phone because I have to go home, are you?"

He: "Yes, I am. You can't go overtime."

Me: "What if there isn't anyone in the department that knows how to do a cell phone transaction? You want me to just tell them I can't help them because I have to leave?"

He: "That's right. Tell them you can't sell them a phone because you can't get overtime."

At this point, I threw up my hands, rolled my eyes and walked away before I said something I would end up regretting.

That's not all. I subsequently told my co-workers about this conversation and was informed by every one of them that he had told them the same thing.

I'm certain that it doesn't take a brain scientist to understand the stupidity of this directive.

The wireless department is the second highest profit making department in the store, second only to the grocery department. The sale of one phone contract can net the store as much as $450.00 in clear profit. If I go 30 minutes overtime, it costs the company approximately $7.00, give or take fifty cents or so.

Hmmm, let's see...$450.00 profit vs $7.00 loss in payroll expense.

Which do you suppose would make the Wal-Mart corporate board happier?