Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Retail Detail – Food, “Fun” and First Impressions…The Second Time Around

Well, I’m sure everyone’s no stranger to the fact that I have left my old job and returned to…my old job. You see, before my stint as an office jockey, I was a coffee shop girl – albeit less coffee, more food. The company I worked for – and now work for again – specialises in selling hot foods and coffee. The good news is that I’m back in full time employment again. This means that I can grow my savings, help out at home and still have money left over the treat myself once in a while.

Get in!

The bad news is that the branch I’m working for was quite famous during my previous dealings within the company. I distinctly recall my ex colleagues saying that the shop was old, busy, dirty and had a monster for manager. One had a rather affectionate name for her. This didn’t bother me at the time because I wasn’t working there, but as I drew to the end of a my first tenure with the company, my final four days were spent working in that shop and I saw firsthand exactly what they’d be talking about. Fortunately for me however – at the time – it was only four days and on the fourth day, not only was I leaving the company but I was to travel to Spain for two and a half weeks so I didn’t give a flying monkeys.

Now however, I’m stuck in it until further notice because somebody from higher up in the company remembered me. They remembered that I was a barista in training and decided that despite the year and six months I’d been away from the company, I must have retained all that previous knowledge and couldn’t possibly have undone it all. Thus, I was shipped into the very fires of hell themselves with the devil incarnate laughing in triumph.

Maybe it didn’t help that I went in there fearing the worst, but my memories served correctly in remembering that despite management, the team from way back when were pretty decent people. In fact, some of them are still there but there are some new faces as well. For the most part however, there are two things that are important to me in the workplace…

        a) my team must be awesome.

And not awesome in terms of efficiency (even though that does help) because during the olden days, I was moved to a new shop with a new team who knew virtually nothing. And I grew to like them a lot; we would chat and laugh and we even went out a few times. My team just need to be cool – people I get along with. And generally, I find it very easy to get along with other people, but in this case, there are at least a couple of people that get on my tits.

Now I’m not perfect. I’ve forgotten a lot of things and in addition, a lot of new rules have been implemented. But what really irritates me is that just because I’m the new guy all over again, people make assumptions about my work etiquette. They think that just because the hole in the icing is bigger than normal, I must have been the one who cut it that size. Or they think that just because someone shouted out for a latte too quietly, it must have been me – it couldn’t have been anyone else now, could it?

The thing is, if I do make a genuine mistake, I will put my hand up. I have made mistakes and I do make mistakes, but all I ask is that the mistake made is truly attributable to me before someone decides to give me a bollicking. And all this, in the space of six days. Wut?

The second thing that’s important to me in any workplace is:

        b) management must be tolerable.

I can’t even begin to understand what it feels like to be overseeing the running of a shop. The highest position I’ve had in any company is that of a senior team member…and in all cases this has been unofficial. But I do understand that it must be stressful. At the same time, however, I believe that we’re all adults here and that we should be treated as such. Eighteen months ago, I witnessed my current manager speaking to a member of her staff like he was a child. Today, I got it in the ear – it was a group bollicking – but I still got it nonetheless – and it still reaffirms the initial concerns I had when I was handed the envelope with my current shop’s name on it.

The consolation however is that I’m not alone in my thinking in regards to management. Most of the team have their concerns as well, while others are desperate to transfer or to leave. Therefore, I feel at least somewhat included even though I don’t feel entirely welcome yet.

Nevertheless, it makes me think back to when I first started with the company. It makes me miss my old teams terribly and my first manager who, while easily stressed, was potentially the best manager I had in my company; his floor manager was equally sound. Even when I was transferred to a new shop with a new team of fresh rabble whom I had to help train up to standard; I miss these guys too (even though the management there was partially the reason why I left the company in the first place).

I also, have a thing about lady bosses anyway. I think it’s better to work under a man than a woman because let’s face it ladies, they’re a lot more level headed than we are.

And then of course, there are the customers. The calibre is a lot better than my previous place of work in the training and employment company. The clientele are mainly businessmen and women who come once or twice a day to get that coffee in the morning or that soup for lunch. The amount of people that use their debit cards is ridiculous however and it leads me to believe that these are the kind of people that have money to burn. For me, if I pay for something utilising my card, I have to check my accounts later to make sure there’s something still in there, but at the rate that these people spend money, I’m under the impression that money must grow on trees for them.

What’s more, is that while some of them are really lovely – some will talk to you or smile at you or even thank you for the service - others are really up themselves. Some of them walk in with that pouty expression as if nothing’s above them; they're glare at you from behind their spectacles and drop their items of the counter muttering minimal words to you. A couple of people have even purposely waited for another cashier to become free despite my till being free. Some clients will refuse to put the money in my hand even though my palm is out-stretched to receive it; a lot of them do this actually, now that I think about it. But don’t get me wrong, I had those who were up themselves in my old shops, but the amount in this one seems to be insatiable; clearly they don't like change. Maybe they see a new face and think "incompetant until proven otherwise". But I have to wonder if it might be because they need that coffee in the morning to perk themselves up; it’s like a drug that must be administered daily in order to function properly. Without it, they turn into zombies, crawling into the workplace on a missing limb desperate for sustenance. Or maybe they're just the kind of people that would throw a hissy fit just because someone forgot to get them a fork for their cake.

Overall, I feel like I crossed out of one hell hole into another. I’m not fast enough for this shop and I don’t think I ever truly will be. Using initiative seems to be banned when you’re on the tills as well as we’re not allowed to move from them during busy hours. Thus, we’re dependant on backup to get us what we need and more often than not, they do get a back log of stuff to do meaning that at times I’m twiddling my thumbs while a customer is waiting for their produce and I can’t move from my spot to help just because those are the rules.  So I’m just biding my time and waiting for that customer who complains about me directly just because he didn’t receive something fast enough.

When I returned, nonetheless, I was under the impression that they wanted me to be a barista. As I am now, I’m not sure whether they want me to become one again, but if they do, I’d rather not. I don’t even like coffee and I’m of the opinion that with the amount of basic rules broken at those coffee machines by other members of staff, it’d probably be physically impossible to pass the exam anyway. In fact, I did hear that somebody had actually failed it so I’d like to save myself the embarrassment…even if I do make a good cup of coffee apparently

I know I need to be patient nonetheless. I’m only working where I’m working in order to have something of a life and to save money for the future. I hope to hear good news in April from the Jet Programme but in all honesty, I’m not so sure I will. I’ve been following the forums and I seem to be one of the few people who felt like her interview could have a gone a whole lot better.

I’m just hoping that as time goes by, things will get better and this will be a turbulence portion of this rollercoaster because if I keep feeling this way, I’m going to forever hate myself for not accepting that other job offer I had received. It would have been less pay but would I have been happier I wonder?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Adult Status - When the Clock Starts Ticking

This week marked the end of an era for me.

On the Wednesday, I turned 25 years old thus renouncing my young adult status and stepping into the world that is bonafide and certifiable adulthood. In the UK, the 16 – 24 year-old age bracket has a bit of stigma attached to it. Individuals leave school, bypass the age of consent, enter into that famous rite of passage that is university – if they so choose to - before crossing out over the other side into the real world.

Therefore, if you’re lucky enough to pass your driving test during this time, car insurance is usually sky high because younger drivers are statistically more likely to get themselves into an accident. And let’s not forget the underage or irresponsible drinking habits of the young elite which is also, equally more likely to land them in trouble – or in a hospital bed…or smashed in the middle of the street somewhere. And of course, the infamous sexual promiscuity of these young folk which has prompted the National Health Service to screen young adults every year for STDs* – currently one of the epidemics on the increase is Chlamydia.

But despite the obvious transition, I’m not exactly where I expected to be at 25. I possess a whole host of qualifications and yet I’m not really making use of them yet. I have a student loan the size of a mortgage deposit. I never did finish off learning how to drive. I’m single. I earn peanuts and I still live at home with my mum. Miss Independent? I don’t think so.

But I guess when I finished school, I had a very Mickey Mouse perception of the way life would go for me. I believed the hype – anyone remember AimHigher – which said that going to university would enhance my job prospects and pretty much set me up for life. (And I guess they weren’t entirely wrong; without my degree, it’ll be physically impossible for me to go and teach English overseas). But we weren’t to know that a Maths degree or going to medical school would be in higher demand right now as oppose to a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology or a degree in Spanish. And naturally, no one could have predicted the recession and the amount of graduates fighting each other for jobs which are few and far between; and these aren’t even the jobs with the prospects and the higher salary either. These are unskilled jobs in retail, food and the like.

I expected that I’d be living alone by now or at least with a good friend. In fact, it was a friend of mine who had expected that she’d have acquired her driver’s licence by now. I guess I expected that I would feel like an adult, but even though I’ve graduated and I’ve made the transition from adolescence, I still very much feel like that kid who was just starting out at university. Certainly, I have responsibilities. I contribute to my household in any way that I can. I have bills to pay…etc, but the clock is ticking and even though I still feel young enough that I’ve got time (I think that if I’d just turned thirty and was where I am now, I’d be borderline depressed), I’m still concerned about my future as I always have been.

But I’m taking steps. Because one thing I’ve realised about myself is that I’ve always been a bit of a late developer. As an infant, I was speech delayed. My overall self esteem didn’t surface until after college. My femininity developed late – heck, it’s still developing – so maybe this is the course I’m destined to take in life.

Fortunately for me, however, I’m not lost anymore. I have a goal and that target is still very much in plain sight. I just have to stay positive. And in actuality, in addition to this, I also, left my job at the training and employment agency today so you can call it a "double end of eras" if you will. It was quite a touching goodbye nonetheless. I guess I hadn’t realised how much they valued me there, but I had no choice but to move on. I was only working there part time and my new job – which in effect is just my old job – will be full time meaning that I can earn a bigger salary so that I can save towards teaching overseas and actually have a life. Thus the sacrifice I mentioned in an earlier post will greatly recede over time.

So, my message today is for those of you who feel a little lost or can’t help but watch the clock in worry at the way your lives are developing. Because believe me, I understand. I’m a massive control freak and I get really bent out of shape when things don’t run smoothly. But as adults - young or old - sometimes we just have to accept it. Because maybe those bumps in the road are necessary; and maybe its necessary to experience circumstances that make you want to tear your hair out. After all, for every obstacle you overcome, it definitely makes you stronger. And maybe, just maybe things are supposed to take a bit longer in life because eventually, you'll arrive at the destination that is really and truly meant for you.

*Sexually Transmitted Diseases