"Customer service is needed in the liquor department."

Yesterday's entry was way too long, sorry. Today I pledge to keep it briefer, if only because my bus to work is coming in 45 minutes.

The tedious training continues at Walgreens, where Friday's only moment of contact with any form of management was when I first arrived, and poked my head into the office. One person was counting cash and two others were talking, and I'd never met any of them, so I waved and said, "I'm Doug, new guy, and I'm here."

They all looked at me blankly and said nothing, so I went back to the hallway, sat down and logged in, and spent another day watching videos and reading long-winded policies and corporate philosophies.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The day's most interesting moment was something overheard in the hallway, from around a corner: "I'm done listening to you tell me you're sorry. You want me always there for you, but you're never there for me, so apologize to someone else. Have a lovely life, but we are finished."

And then, the same lines again, with a few words changed or rearranged. Someone — I never saw who — was either rehearsing for a breakup, or learning lines for a play.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

All the store's announcements are broadcast over the public address system, even into the basement, where my butt was in that chair in the hallway.

"Customer service is needed in the liquor department" is by far the most frequent announcement. It's about 70% of all announcements. The liquor department needs customer service at least fifteen times hourly.

Maybe the store should staff the liquor department?

♦ ♦ ♦ 

As for the training, there's still nobody from management available to answer questions, nobody checking my progress, and the chair is quite uncomfortable. The software is difficult to navigate, stupidly put-together, and most of what it's explaining is off-topic or counterproductive.

And the computer automatically logs off after 60 minutes, even in the middle of watching a video, so all day long I'm logging in again and again.

To whatever extent any of this was amusing on day one, it was lots less on day two.

• A few of the videos start by telling me, "You've already met your store's leadership team, and been assigned a 'buddy' for training," but no, I haven't met anyone, at least not formally.

A couple of workers have said hi to me as they pass in the hallway, and everyone seems fairly human, but the only people I've met from the 'leadership team' are the guy who conducted my job interview, and the woman who showed me the computer on my first day. Never seen either of them again.

• The Republicans' much-despised "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" is called exactly that in the training materials. It's a series of lectures — What is diversity? What is equity? What is inclusion? — all very left-wing and utopian, and I didn't disagree with a word of it. It's my favorite part of the training, but I do wonder whether it's actually reflected in day-to-day operations.

• Having sat through too many corporate videos from too many corporations, the one constant is bad acting and bad scripting. All through all the videos, workers and customers keep saying things no worker and no customer has ever said.

"Why hello, Mrs Jenkins. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, Phil, and how are you?"

"Just delighted to see you at Walgreens again, that's all. And how may I help you today?"

In the videos, at least, it's always "Hello, Mrs Jenkins," or "Good to see you again, Mr Jackson." Apparently, the company wants store employees to greet regular customers by name.

So let me simply say, no. If I work at Walgreens for twenty years and every customer becomes a familiar face, I am never going to ask a customer's name unless it's legally required for selling a money order or something.

Shopping is not a personal relationship with the company or its workers. If employees say "Hello, Mr Holland" when I walk into a store, I'm walking right back out.

• Except for videos produced by outside companies, all the Walgreens training videos have the same insipid musical soundtrack, which consists of about twenty seconds of jaunty xylophone-heavy music, repeated very softly, over and over. It's obviously been psycho-engineered to see who can handle repetitive insanity repetitively.

• I actually want to do the job well, so I appreciate training videos and materials that train me to do the job, but there've been very few of those in my first sixteen hours. And the videos that do show me how to do something are full of unexplained acronyms.

There are lots of detailed training videos about esoteric tasks, like how to ring up Western Union wire transfers, how to package hazardous waste, how to secure helium tanks, how to do a daily inventory of FedEx packages awaiting pickup, how to inspect the delivery truck's interior for proper cleanliness and temperature... 

These are all tasks I'll almost certainly never do at Walgreens.

Why not show me how to run the register, and how to stock the shelves? That's what I'll be doing all day, every day. Don't show me the video about disposing of hazardous waste until that's going to briefly be my responsibility one day.

• One of the training materials' recurring themes is, "Be genuine, caring, and show personal interest when responding to customers."

Ah, no. I believe in customer service, and if I can help, I will help. I will be cordial, helpful, and answer questions (once I know the answers), but it'll never be genuine, caring, or reflect any personal interest. It's a fucking job. 

• And I hate the acronyms: A video teaches what to do when the store is out of the merch a customer is looking for, but it leans way too heavy on the FSWJP acronym, which abbreviates all the things we're supposed to do in such situations. And then the quiz isn't about what to do, it's about the damned acronym.

I can remember to check the stockroom and then check the inventory at another Walgreens location, and do the other things in the right order, but I want to find the MBA who's paid $200K to write things like the 'FSWJP' acronym, and strangle him with his necktie.

• And only college kids could dream up the catch phrases. In yesterday's session, I spent 40 minutes and had to re-take a quiz three times, on the topic of "Committed, Connected, Courageous, Curious."

See, we're supposed to always show the 4 C's in our work.

They show a cartoonish animated video of an employee interacting with a customer or co-worker, and then the quiz question is, "Which C was that? Was it committed? Was it connected? Was it courageous? Was it curious?" And it can't be more than one.

Click your best guess, and the screen says, "No, Jimmy-Bob's behavior was not courageous, it was committed to our corporate values."

The next video shows Huang-Lu asking a customer a question, so in the quiz you might guess that she'd been 'curious', but, "No, Huang-Lu's response was not curious, it showed her connection to the customer's needs."

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Teach me things that matter and make sense. 

And provide a human who can answer my questions. So far, I've jotted down about a dozen questions, but there's no-one to ask.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After the second day of this, my mindset was frustrated as I rode the bus home, and scrolled through text messages missed while my phone had been silenced all day. One of the texts was from the manager of a Burger King where I'd applied, who wanted to know when we could schedule an interview.

Decades ago, I was the assistant manager of a BK. I don't want to be a manager again, but I'd be happy to cook burgers and ring up your lunch and mop your milk shake when you drop it.

And the pay's the same as Walgreens — minimum wage, which is $20 an hour in Seattle. Livable, by my standards.

Plus BK would be a shorter commute, half the time and distance, giving me two hours of life every week, instead of spending that time on the bus.

Since I haven't been shown a work schedule at Walgreens, or told how to get time off, I texted back to Burger King, "We could interview any time after tomorrow." Which is now today. 

And today at Walgreens, I'll find someone to ask about my schedule, and tell them I need an afternoon off. And I'll ask all my accumulated questions about the training. And if there's no answer or nobody to ask, maybe I'll be asking if you'd like fries with that.


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  1. By coincidence, I have your essay title tattooed on my ass. Sometimes it comes in handy, but not so much anymore on all counts.


    1. Only the title? Add the entire text!

    2. How big do you think my ass is?


    3. Can't estimate your ass-size from here, but mine has the complete Bill of Rights on it.

  2. Kind of a nothing burger, that's why I print it off and read it lounging on the bed later, if I read it online then I would be a nothing burger, hold the fries ("between your legs"-Jack Nicholson, 5 Easy Pieces?) Eel

    1. I used to love lounging in bed, but then I got a recliner. Love it so much and sleep in it, so I simply got rid of the bed after my wife died. It served no useful purpose any longer.

  3. Yup, Paul wrote that after we had doughnuts. I love the article, but it's about me so I'm not an impartial observer.

    Absolutely right about Big Brother retail, and double-right about people approaching you on the sidewalk. For me, working downtown when I've been working, they're usually panhandlers, but it's creepy and wrong. "Oh, hey!" they'll sometimes say with a big smile, and then, "Can you spare some change?" It's the most reliable way to ensure you get not a nickel from me.


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