“The Store” Tell-All– The Good, The Bad & The Ugly*

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I don’t usually like quitting things. I even have an apron that says “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter!”

(But actually I gave up chocolate three weeks ago. Shhh.)

However, being able to quit my last job was…. exhilarating. Wonderful. MAGICAL, even. I had been counting down the days for two months and my lovelies, it’s finally here: I quit.

Last Thursday evening was my last shift. I think I expected a hallelujah chorus as I walked out the door for the last time, but it was strangely… surreal. It didn’t feel real, like somehow “The Store” would suck me back in and make me keep working there. It’s taken me a few days to adjust to not having to screen my calls during store hours (to prevent being called in for someone faking being sick) and I still am not used to having my Saturdays free. But I think that that is going to be my favourite part. It’s really the only day of the week that the Hubster has completely free, and I have worked nearly every Saturday since I started this job. I am going to love Saturdays from here on out.

So, I promised I would dish out the dirty details of why I disliked working there (hate is just such a strong word…) and here you are. I just want to give a small disclaimer first:

I need to say that despite everything, I was and am extremely grateful for this job. I know I complained a lot, but trying to find work last summer was the most discouraging  experience of my life, and The Store gave me a job when no one else would. It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous job I’ve ever worked, but I’ll always be thankful that they took a chance on me. In some ways it was a perfect job for me–it was close enough that I could walk, I was able to work my hours around my volunteer schedule at the high school, and I really liked working with a few of the people there.

Unfortunately there was just so much other… crap that went on it just overshadowed all the good things. So, here we go… this is why I quit my job:

The Job

This was far and away the most physically exhausting job I’ve ever worked, and emerging from teacher’s college with my two degrees it was a big blow to my pride to work here. It was a very humbling experience to have worked so hard through university to come to a job where I found myself scrubbing toilets, cleaning out freezers, scrubbing walls on my hands and knees, lugging 20 – 30lb boxes around and stocking shelves when all I wanted to do was teach. For my first four months there I often spent hours working in a huge freezer in temperatures below -20°C (-4°F). It’s an extremely fast-paced job and I came home with sore legs and a sore back almost every day. There were days when the job was so hard that I wanted to quit on the spot–I vividly remember a night last January where I hurt my already tender back so badly that I found myself curled up in the fetal position on the backroom floor sobbing my eyes out, praying for my shift to end.

Thankfully this spring and summer I sort of became the “cash” person and my work in the backroom decreased significantly. My back has improved a bit and if I never set foot in a huge freezer again I’ll die a happy woman. :)

The Hours

When I was hired last September I was promised 10-15 hours a week. It wasn’t much, but compared the zero hours I had worked for the previous three months it was a total blessing. My manager also told me that if things worked out that the was definitely a possibility to increase my hours there. So, for my first two two months there I averaged anywhere between 10 – 15 hours a week, which was perfect for me. It allowed me the time to take my French courses and to volunteer at a high school two or three days a week, which helped me toward my real goal–a teaching job.

However, as it got closer to Christmas my hours increased to the point that I was working 30 – 40 hours a week. This might sound fabulous, and while I appreciated the money, I basically lived at The Store. It’s a very physically exhausting job, so I was tired all the time, I never saw the Hubster (our hours were often opposite) and it became very difficult for me to volunteer and manage my school schedule. This continued for two to three months before I had to ask my manager to cut my hours back so I could balance things a little better. I didn’t ever want to make this store my full-time job. Finding a real job needed to be my full-time job.

No Breaks

When I was working all those hours I lived for my breaks. Except there were many, many shifts where they never came. They have a policy where you need to work more than 5 hours to get a half hour break, and they always schedule five hour shifts over meal-times. My usual shifts were 2:30 – 7:30pm, or 9:30am – 2:30pm (if I was lucky to get a day shift). I’m sorry, but that was a really, really long time to go without sitting down or taking a breather. I was always STARVING by the time I left and it generally just made things more difficult.

When I was working crazy hours in the winter my shifts changed to 10 or 11 – 7:30pm, with the occasional 9am – 7:30pm thrown in for good measure. On most of those days I only got that one unpaid half hour break. Once I passed 8 or 9 hours I was allowed one more 15 minute break and that was it. They were long, long days.

Tasks

I mentioned earlier a little of what my job was, but there were so many other awful tasks thrown in there. They included (but are not limited to):

–Cleaning wax build-up off the front of all the chest freezers. This meant you had to crawl around the store between customers scrubbing crap off of these freezers using an incredibly strong cleaner. The best part?  The only gloves available to use were the little, cheap latex ones used for packaging food. I brought my own in or tripled layers of gloves on my hands.

–Organizing the Big Freezer. On the “Workplace Safety” sign in the backroom it recommends not being in the freezer for more than 20 minutes at a time because of the extreme temperature. When we organized and cleaned the freezer we were sometimes in there for over 1 – 2 hours.

–Emptying Chest Freezers. This sounds easy, but it is killer on your back. Imagine bending over into a freezer hauling heavy boxes of frozen food for 10 – 15 minutes at a time. This wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t done 2 or 3 freezers every. single. night in order to defrost and clean them. I’m all about cleanliness, but oh sweet mother. My back hated this job.

The Manager

I actually had two managers in the 11 months I worked there. My first manager was very dedicated to the job. The Store was her store and she worked us hard to keep it up to shape. I was expected to be available at a moment’s notice to come in, and I was always to expect to extend my shift at the last minute if need be. She was a hard boss, but the store ran smoothly while she was there. She showed us hard work by example and even though I hated many of the tasks I had to preform, I took comfort in knowing that everyone else was doing it too.

In January she was offered a job as a manager in a location closer to her home. The owners decided to offer the open manager position at my store to a 22 year old coworker, who is very nice but has no managerial experience and has yet to complete her high school education. At first things were great–we were still running the routines of the previous manager, but slowly but surely things began to fall apart.

First it was small things–she was deliberately assign the tasks we hated to do on shifts when she was not working, or she would make excuses for why she couldn’t be involved. Where my last manager got right down and dirty with us, she side stepped everything. Then when she realized that she was controlling the schedule she began to enjoy many 4-day weekends while the rest of us covered the weekend shifts. In the mean time she changed the orders to make delivery day easier (so she could leave earlier) but this meant that we were constantly running out of everything making for very unhappy customers. Then there was the hiring–this store has the highest turnover of employees I’ve ever seen. Between January and now she has hired at least seven new employees and only one has stayed. She just has no experience and is too proud to ask for help with anything because she is confident that she knows best.

I could go on, but I don’t want to be cruel. As a person she’s a great girl, but she is more interested in her social life and isn’t ready for this type of responsibility. If it’s any testament to the truth of this, two other long-time coworkers quit around the same time I did. One had been at The Store for three years, and the other for two. They just couldn’t handle the environment anymore and it’s so hard to work for someone that you don’t respect.

The Owners

So, now you’re probably wondering why we never did anything about it if we were all so unhappy? Oh my lovelies, we tried. We tried first with the manager directly, talking to her one-to-one offering advice and assistance but that went no where. Next, we brought up issues of concern at staff meetings where we were promised things would change. When it became clear that she just couldn’t handle the position, we tried talking to the owners instead.

For example: One day a delivery truck was backing in and somehow completely destroyed our loading ramp (which attaches to the back of the truck) in the process. You can’t unload trucks without it. For weeks it went unfixed. We asked over and over for our manager to ask the owners to send someone to fix it, but after just one email she gave up trying. Instead she had us rig the ramp up with a pole that someone had to be out holding while the truck was backing in. Umm… holy unsafe, no? I flat out refused to have any part of it. After a while we all decided that enough was enough and after asking again we went over her head and contacted the district manager and owners about the issue.

We were completely shut down. We wrote a very nice email explaining the situation and received a prompt response that it was our manager’s responsibility to contact them and that we were under no circumstance to ever contact them directly again. It was a huge “We don’t give a crap about our workers” message.

It got the ramp fixed though. :)

Customers

I’ve been ranting about customers forever, so you already know how I feel about this issue. The thing that bothered me the most was constantly being talked down to. I have never felt so… small. With the exception of a few wonderful people and my work grandpas, I was basically invisible. I will be nice to cashiers for the rest of my life.

The Outfit

Last but not least, the most superficial aspect of this rant. You all know how I feel about shoes. I love pretty, fun, exciting shoes that warm my heart.

I had no love for my work shoes. I had to wear huge, clunky black steel-toes shoes that were the most unexciting things I have ever put on my feet. Combine that with a sexy black apron and I was one hot cashier. ;)

————-

And there you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s been a long year, and I’m glad that I no longer have to dump all my frustrations with this job on the Hubster, who has been so supportive through the entire ordeal.

So, thank you for the job… but good riddance.

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4 Comments

  • Jetanou

    Hello,

    i happened to read your post and feel so connected to your situation. I work in a place I can’t stand and waiting patiently for the day I can walk out of there with all my pride and a much better job in my pockets. I feel happy for you, and can totally understand how liberating you must be feeling. I am like you a Teacher, with 2 degrees and been in a school where I am not appreciated for my efforts. I am holding on, until I can eventually walk out that place. Cheers to you!

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