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Oh, C’mon People: A few requests from your local grocery store manager…

“”Hello.  I help manage a grocery store.  I’ve worked 17 of the last 19 days (and 26 of the last 30).  I’m worn down.  Mentally and physically.  Kicking high but slow.  I’ve been thinking on it, and I have some thoughts.  Requests?  Yeah.  Requests.  Here are a few requests that I have from the public, when they go shopping:

  • Get back in the habit of shopping just once or twice a week.  Whether you believe in Covid 19 or no (and that’s a discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, there are a fair number of you that Still don’t think things pertain to you), we’re seeing far too many of you every day.  We appreciate the business, but for the sake of cutting down lines in the store, try just shopping once or twice a week.  We’re not on spring break here, guys.
  • Make a list.  If you know how the store’s laid out, make your list in a logical order.  Also, for your items, try to have a plan B and a plan C for what you’re looking for.  Truth be told, 4 weeks in, the supply chain is still trying like hell to recover.  We’re at the mercy of the warehouse, which can only receive so much itself, on top of being able to pick and stack a finite amount.  We’re likely to be out of something you’re coming in for.  Depending on the day between trucks, it might be many somethings.
  • It’s just fine to ask if we’re out of something.  In fact, that’s the best way to phrase it:  “Are you out of French Cut Low Sodium Green Beans?”  It’s not insulting.  Just be prepared to get a yes.  Just don’t beat around the bush.  It’s possible you’ll get lucky, and we’ll have it in back, especially if a truck’s recently arrived.  But chances are, if you don’t see it on the shelf, it’s not here.  (A minor point…even before this, most stores don’t keep a large amount of stuff in back, if they can help it….it ties up dollars).  Don’t ask “can you check in the back.”  I know it sounds ludicrous, but a few of us have a pretty good idea of what’s in the back, especially now since we’re somewhat depleted of stock status.  If we think there’s a chance it’ll be in the back, we’ll check.  But there’s a good chance we know.
  • No, we didn’t forget how to order. At this point, we don’t know if you’re serious, or just trying to lighten the mood.  In my store’s case?  There’s a 99% chance that it’s being ordered, and it’s either out at the warehouse or it’s being time-prioritized behind a more “staple” item.  Anyway, stop joking or thinking that we’re just not ordering enough.  We’re regularly ordering 5500 case grocery trucks, and receiving 1000 pieces (or less) of that.  While that’s a bone of contention I have with the chuckleheads at my warehouse, it is a truth of how things are going right now that All the stores serviced by the warehouse are coping with this, and it’s an impossibility to keep up with it all.

  • In some cases (for my store, dairy, produce and most meat categories), the folks at the warehouse ordering have done an amazing job of meeting demand.  In others (beef, dry grocery and frozen), they’re struggling.  They’re working as many days as I am trying to rectify it.  This is hard, on a lot of levels.
  • I say that to say this:  we know we’re out of a lot of stuff.  Please stop being surprised or annoyed by it when you come in.  It’s not due to laziness or lack of planning.  In almost every case, it’s beyond our control.  And we’re even more frustrated by it than you are.  (My manager, and department managers all feel about the same about all this….it’s stressful to look at these empty shelves…we’re trained from early on that a good looking store is of the utmost importance, and we’ve gone a month almost without having a good looking store…it’s psychologically impactful to the point of being mentally exhausting, believe it or not).
  • Absolutely, you can ask when trucks are coming.  Just know that they give us a window, not an exact time.  It’s like a cable repair man…it’ll be here between 6:30 and 8 PM, depending on traffic.  I’d say many, if not all, chains are this way.
  • While you’re in the store, don’t dawdle.  You’re not there to visit.  You’re not there to browse.  Use your shopping list and get in and out as quickly as possible.  We’re not your destination to soothe your cabin fever
  • When you get to the checkout, follow the social distancing requests we have in place.  They’re there so we can try to wipe down and sanitize what we can between customers.  Use that time that we’re cleaning to do a couple of things:  Find your store loyalty card (if your store has one), and get your payment method ready.  Most times, you’ve got a couple minutes to do that.  When you fiddle fart around, you’re making folks wait, possibly exposing more and more people to this thing.
  • I can’t stress this enough:  Get off your phone.  It’s rude, even if there’s not a pandemic on.  Right now, cashiers will have a couple specific requests or questions.  Get off your phone so you can focus on that conversation.  You’re not the great multitasker that you think you are.
  • That said, you can use your smart phone for a couple of things.  If your store has an app, use that app to call up that mentioned store loyalty card.  You can also use your phone to pay in most places without having to touch anything….
  • Don’t get annoyed when you have to wait.  I’m sorry.  That’s just a reality.  Lots of people shopping at the same time will do that.
  • You don’t need to bring the whole family to the store.  Just bring you.  Truth be told, it was kind of annoying pre-pandemic.  It’s irresponsible now.  Especially if you have a lot of young children.  Please don’t bring them, unless you don’t have any other option.
  • No, you can’t go in the back room.  We’re working back there.  You will be in the way.  It’s not a secret space for us to do magical things.  We’re just trying to work.
  • Don’t park in the fire lane.  Just park in a space.  We’re not at Thunderdome yet.  Just park in a space and walk the extra steps.
  • If you see a store employee or vendor pulling a pallet, please don’t stop them to ask a question.  Those pallets are heavy (especially the ones with water or soda on them).  They don’t stop on a dime.
  • If a stocker, vendor or other worker is working in an area you’d like to shop, don’t crowd them.  Either wait until they’re done, or say “excuse me.”  I prefer the latter.  I want you to shop.  There are only 3.4 million other things I can do in the interim.  You wouldn’t think a refresher in manners was required here, but judging by the family of five that crawled over my back on a Saturday to get to the Chef Boyardee, we’re lacking a little bit of common sense, courtesy or some combination of the two.
  • We don’t always have time to answer phone calls.  We’re trying.  But if you’re in the habit of calling to find the cheap soda price in town, stop that.  And if you’re calling to try to find toilet paper, I understand.  Be patient if the phone keeps ringing.  I know this contradicts an earlier point, but it’s probably quicker to just wander in to see yourself, some days.
  • The number of people that seem honestly perplexed and annoyed by seeing the shelves bare rankles me.  “I just don’t understand what the problem is,” is a variant of a statement that I’m getting a few times a day.  I’m sorry you don’t.  I guess that’s part of my attempt here, to try to lay a couple things out.  For the time being, you’re probably going to have to change your shopping patterns.  I know that’s inconvenient, and even difficult.  We’re doing our best to make it as easy as possible…you have to have that faith in us.  The truth is, you might have to change these patterns for a while.
  • I wish I knew how long.
  • Be patient.  I say some variant of this around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Be cool out there.  We’re all going through this.  Not just you.  Do not yell.  That’s important:  Do Not Yell.  Or cuss.  For any reason.  Be patient with us.  I’m tired.  My crew is tired.  We’ve all worked our asses off under what’s an unusual and difficult set of circumstances.  Truth be told, it wasn’t until this week that I really started to understand the anxiety of some in my crew beyond my own.  That’s on me, and I own that.  It’s easy to get blinders on and just keep trucking for the finish line.  Too easy, especially since I need to keep putting a foot in front of the other, sometimes, to keep from thinking too hard on things….
  • That said, this week will be the first week I’ve had 2 days off scheduled or taken since the first week of March.  And it’s not guaranteed:  if a huge grocery delivery does make it our way, it’s likely that I’ll end up working my day off again.
  • A couple small things tangentially related to this:  it’s still Service Dogs only inside this store.  You don’t need to bring your dog with you.  And there’s a special place in Hell for you if you lie about your dog being a service animal.  Also: it’s starting to get warm out there (82 yesterday at the Big Stupid Tompound).  That’s actually too warm to leave the dog in the car, even with windows cracked.  Just leave the dogs at home.
  • If you’ve applied for a job with us (and we are looking for help), answer your phone when we call.  Set up your voicemail.  That’s how that phone number works.  And be prepared to be interviewed at an odd time.  (I had one balk when I asked him to interview on Sunday.  Sorry chief…we’re open Sunday, and that’s the only day we’re not receiving any deliveries).
  • Last thing:  Thank you.  Most of you, the overwhelming majority of you, have been very cool about this.  Most of you seem to understand this thing without my having to bullet point it.  And that’s awesome.  We’ve been thanked, which is always nice to hear.  A couple folks called us heroes, but I don’t think of myself that way.  I’m just doing my job.  It’s all good.  Besides, wearing a cape would only be a distraction.

RTWT AT Big Stupid Tommy: A Request From a Grocery Store Manager

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • James ONeil April 8, 2020, 1:47 PM

    “Get back in the habit of shopping just once or twice a week. ”
    “While you’re in the store, don’t dawdle.”
    “82 yesterday … too warm to leave the dog in the car, even with windows cracked. Just leave the dogs at home.”

    Read it half way through before deciding he’s just some crybaby whining, about how noble he is and if only his customers would change their lives and shopping habits to suit him, everything will be right, mate.

  • Heine O April 8, 2020, 2:04 PM

    I’m with James. Just be happy you have a job pal.

  • Stargazer April 8, 2020, 3:31 PM

    They have a very difficult job these days. Be thankful their job provides you with most of what you need, pal.

  • MIKE GUENTHER April 8, 2020, 3:40 PM

    I wouldn’t be too hard on him. I work in retail construction/remodeling. A lot of times, we are working during normal operating hours when customers are shopping.

    Like the guy said, most people are courteous, but there is always the idiots who get upset when the item they want is out of stock…or the store stopped carrying a particular item because it wasn’t a big seller. They get bent out of shape because of any inconvenience, such as my crew working in an area they want to shop. We, of course, try to be as accommodating as possible.

    I don’t consider his rant too much of a whine. And I feel his frustration a lot of the time.

  • Auntie Analogue April 8, 2020, 4:59 PM

    Having worked various posts in a chain supermarket I can tell that in normal times quite a few customers can be a royal pain in the ass – discourteous, and even rude or insulting, not just to employees, but also to other customers; and don’t even get me started on customers who let their brood of little brats run amok in the store, or on the ones who imagined that I didn’t know what was “in the back.” I understand perfectly where that manager’s coming from and he has my sympathy.

  • Casey Klahn April 8, 2020, 5:09 PM

    Holy fucking shit! He was so restrained I almost wonder if this isn’t a bot writing. Any blood-filled sentient retail worker whose ever worked at busy time suffers the contradiction of having to both succor his customers and want to beat them to death for coming into the store at all. I ran the large-scale logistics of a major retailer in Seattle, and have worked at probably a dozen retail stores in my lifetime. I. Want. To. Kill. You. You sucking fuck, you stupid SOBs.

    How would it be, Mr. Boeing engineer with his belt woven through his belt loops and missing a couple of those, if I were to come down to your place of business, and torment you while you are up against your next high tech deadline? Can I complain about stupid shit like stock shortages and make you personally responsible for my desires and problems? You ucking fidiot! Did it ever occur to you that we are glad to be zero on the items we buy and stock, because if we are over by 2 that is wasted dollars?

    I can tell stories. Hoo boy can I tell stories. Just know that when you are confronting a retail worker, at this crisis time, he is overworked, underpaid, unappreciated, and in normal temper if he wishes to choke you to death. One word of kindness to this sort of worker goes a huge distance.

    There. I fixed the letter.

  • ghostsniper April 8, 2020, 5:37 PM

    I see both sides of the aisle in this one.
    In general, people are real assholes.
    Plus, that looks like it was written by Aesop after he did some blood pressure lowering exercises. lol

  • Gordon Scott April 8, 2020, 6:04 PM

    I’ve been working in chain drug stores the last two weeks, as all other retail support work dried up. Starting next week I’m doing some in Walmart, Target and big grocery stores. But I stopped by one of those grocery stores on the way home today to talk to a manager about building a display.

    He sounded exactly like the guy who authored this piece. Did you know ketchup is in short supply (at least in the upper midwest)? Flour and sugar are also. He can’t even order toilet paper as the system won’t let him. He asked me, “What’s the deal with pancake mix and syrup?” I reminded him that kids were home, and in that neighborhood, the kids would be eating breakfast at school. Now they’re at home.

  • H April 8, 2020, 6:15 PM

    Well, God bless him and all his people. The only problem I have with letters like his is, the people who need to change their behavior are not the type who would read it in the first place, much less see their own bad behavior in it if they did. But if it makes him feel better, I’m good with it. My credentials: I grew up on wrong side of a hotel front desk (that’s the back side) and worked in a grocery thru high skool, just shy of 50 years ago now, and I still remember some of the hit sheads that come into those places. Not everybody, of course, but there were plenty of “people of Walmart” running loose before there was a Walmart. Not for all the N95 masks in China would I want to go back to working with the general public like that guy does again.

  • Joe April 8, 2020, 8:45 PM

    What the manager forgets is that it is a two way street.

  • James ONeil April 8, 2020, 8:53 PM

    The comments, after I denigrated the shop keeper were, pro & con, about what I expected. I have by the way, spent time in retail and wholesale during my working years, none the less I still consider that guy a self righteous, pompous, whiny little pup from a mother that barked at the moon.

    Just sayin’… -grin-

  • Mike Anderson April 9, 2020, 4:29 AM

    Two items give this (incredibly restrained) rant instant credibility with me:

    (1) I can’t stress this enough: Get off your phone. –in public, smartphones should be for suppository use only, and not just during a pandemic.
    (2) You don’t need to bring the whole family to the store. –too many people believe in “Love me, love my kids/dog.” I hate your frickin’ dog, and your kids act like looters at a riot.

    In the Before Times, I made frequent market visits for fresh produce, but now it tires me out almost as much as our beleaguered Store Manager. Cut these guys a break.

  • Gnawbone Jack April 9, 2020, 5:25 AM

    As mentioned before, I work weekends in the only hardware store for miles and it’s one of the “old fashioned, if you can’t find it here, you can dam well get along without it” hardware stores: plumbing, electrical, paint, pets, livestock… you name it. I can empathize with the grocery store dude, big time. Do please stay off your phone and leave your dogs at home.

  • John The River April 9, 2020, 5:51 AM

    He left out the one big reason I have for limiting my visits to the store (any store), hand sanitizer.
    I had one bottle (count it, one) when this started and haven’t seen any to buy for a month.
    When I leave a store, I use the one bottle I have to sanitize my hands (and wash them when I get home). And it’s getting low.

    I’ve pawed through the cabinet in the bathroom for anything with a high concentration of aloe and nada! Not that I’m swimming in 91% rubbing alcohol either. And there has been no sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, or aloe to buy in the last month either. So when I do empty my little bottle of sanitizer I’m putting a bucket of water in the trunk of the car, with soap and towels. Hope I can find a cover for the bucket.

    Now getting ready for the online Good Friday service from my church, Happy Easter!

  • Snakepit Kansas April 9, 2020, 6:09 AM

    Through high school in 1980 I started working at the local grocery store in a small all white town. It was a great job paying $3.25/hr. and it polished my work ethic and taught me greatly about the general public. Of course you get the full array from normal to weird. Fellow workers would commonly come up with nicknames for some of the regular and weird clientele. Being high school boys, the names were often brutal. Madam Mange and Dr. Death were an older couple that were both extremely skinny and the only air they breathed appeared to come through burning cigarettes. The Crisco Twins were a couple “welfarers” that had hair attributes that earned them their name. They got caught shoplifting Niquil once. Stinky was an old guy that lived in a tent by the river and smelled of campfire smoke and body odor. We would occasionally drop a bar of soap in his grocery bag, thinking it was funny. We found out later, with guilt for lack of compassion, that he had been a WWII combat veteran. He got got hit by a car while he was riding his bike around town and died with a large roll of 100 dollar bills in his pocket. Then there was an older couple with no nickname that were very friendly to me, and I saw them at the store regularly. The woman was a bit heavy but had pretty eyes. I noticed at one point that she was losing weight and some of her natural beauty began to reappear. About the same time she wrote me a letter and said I reminded her of her son lost in Vietnam. I didn’t grasp the whole thing immediately, but she died of cancer a short time thereafter. I worked at that store for five years paying my way through electronics school. Lifetime of memories were had there.

  • ghostsniper April 9, 2020, 7:25 AM

    “…said I reminded her of her son lost in Vietnam.”

    I went into Circle K one evening.
    As I was looking around I noticed this older gentleman kept looking at me.
    He was a customer also.
    I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing as he walked up.
    He had a tear in his eye and he proceeded to tell me that I looked like his son that was killed in Vietnam.
    I told him that I was sorry to hear that.
    He talked to me for about 5 minutes.
    He told me how he and his son were fighting before he shipped out.
    And that he never did say good-bye to him.
    I felt bad for the guy.
    He asked me if I would say good-bye to him as he left the store.
    I said I would.
    As he was going out he yelled “Good-bye son”, I yelled back “Good Bye Dad”.
    Well the coffee had just finished and I went up to the counter to pay for it.
    The clerk told me the total was $78.65.
    I said for a cup of coffee? I think you made a mistake.
    She said “No a carton of Marlboro’s and a 12-pack of Bud, your dad said you were getting his”.
    NOW my blood is boiling.
    I rip out of the store, the old man is just starting to get into his car.
    I grabbed him by the arm and tried to lead him back to the store.
    He fell to the ground and I got a hold of him and started pulling on his leg.
    Kinda like what I am doing to yours right now. 🙂

  • Gordon Scott April 9, 2020, 7:50 AM

    John The River,
    If you go to The Home Depot paint department, find where they keep paint thinner. You will also find alcohol by the quart, for about $7. It says “fuel” on the can, but it’s just methanol. Now go to CVS. Usually in the digestive health section they have gallon jugs of aloe juice. They cost about $14. This is not gel! While you’re at CVS grab one of their travel squeeze bottles that holds 3 oz of liquid.

    Mix one part aloe to three parts alcohol. It will be runny, not a gel. But it will sanitize your hands just fine. Use a funnel to get it in the squeeze bottle. You can also use this to sanitize your countertops with a spray bottle. When it is all over, you will have a lot of that aloe juice left, but you can always drink it. Don’t drink the methanol.

  • John Venlet April 9, 2020, 8:17 AM

    I was wondering if someone was going to throw the Tom Waits Missing my son ditty in this thread. Leave it to Ghostsniper. Nice one, Ghost.

  • OneGuy April 9, 2020, 8:32 AM

    I don’t agree with the complainers here. I do think the store employees are doing a great job under tough circumstances. I am sure many of them have no choice because they need the job. But for what ever their reason our stores in our little town are open and have most things we need and I appreciate that. I will remember when this is over and buy locally.

  • james wilson April 9, 2020, 9:17 AM

    I shop once a week, if that. Did. Since I couldn’t get what I needed I came back every day or two to try to score it. That’s most of your increased volume. As to employees, all cashiers are by nature saints. I know what the see because I see a fraction of it and am ready to go Defcon 3. The other employees are probably normal people, which is to say people when they are not shopping.

  • Sam L. April 9, 2020, 10:30 AM

    Shelf-stockers are GREAT.

  • Snakepit Kansas April 9, 2020, 5:23 PM

    Ghost, you had me for a moment!

  • ghostsniper April 9, 2020, 5:50 PM

    In high school during the summer I sometimes stocked shelves in a couple grocery stores and we weren’t allowed to start until after the store closed at 9pm. Stockin’ and Frontin’, you know – turning all the labels so the they faced the front. There was never any large scale stocking during the day as that would cause difficulty for the patrons. Black dress shoes, black dress pants, short sleeved button down white shirt, black bow tie. Pantry Pride in the Edison Mall and U-Save on Fowler St. late 60’s.

  • John the River April 9, 2020, 6:18 PM

    Gordon, thanks. Cheaper than the 150 proof rum I was eyeballing.

  • Deana April 9, 2020, 8:14 PM

    James, Heine, others: The author of this piece is not complaining. He is asking for reasonable behavior out of a public that has no concept of what it takes to get certain jobs done that the public takes for granted. Few grasp the stress that our supply chain is under right now.

    And yes – the incessant jokers. I’m a RN ( and no, not a hero ) and nothing exhausts me more when I’m trying to take care of a patient than when the patient or a family member is a non stop talker and / or jokester. Would they like it if I stood next to them and joked while they were working their job? Or if they don’t work, while they are watching a favorite TV show? No. They would not like it.

    People need to be kind and respectful to people who are working. I just want to do a good job correctly. I’m not there to make you feel funny or entertained.