Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just One Victory

Things are better here. It's been a good week.
Had a talk with the Manager, she agreed we could maybe spread the work around a little bit more so I don't feel like I'm doing Everything Myself, and since then I've been a lot less stressed. I even ENJOYED working about 3 nights in a row. It's amazing how much less buried I feel when all my co-workers agree to do just a LITTLE bit more -- like a 5-minute re-stocking trip through the cooler before they go home. I already left a note at work thanking all of them. We'll see how long this lasts.

Meanwhile, though the SITUATION has improved, the weirdness level at work has gone way up, especially since Washington state legalized recreational marijuana-smoking back in December. The number of stoned people coming into the store every night now is really incredible. Some of them are DRIVING. I can't be sure that they're impaired -- but either they understand NOTHING, or their attention is all OVER the place. On Saturday night, I asked one ADHD-type guy straight-out if he was driving, then told him to be careful. And he thanked me.
But he wasn't the strangest. Was it a Full Moon up there above our typical Winter overcast?
About 8 p.m., a homeless-looking methed-out guy -- chewing gum like a possessed zombie -- spent half an hour in the restroom ... but he gets bonus points because he DIDN'T mess it up. God Knows what he was doing in there. But when he came out, he gave me a hard time because we didn't have any hot food available -- something we haven't done for years. Then he took his odd-looking, emaciated, tattooed, backpack-wearing self & walked off, chewing gum a mile a minute all the way....
He wasn't even the weirdest. After 11 p.m., a young drunk guy came in, thankfully not driving, but walking around outside in under-40-degree weather, in nothing but a light coat & no hat, complaining about how cold it was.
And he was HAMMERED. He reeked of beer, could barely stand up, was wobbling back and forth from one foot to the other. Luckily, he didn't want to buy more beer. In the space of 10 minutes I sold him two packs of the same cigarettes -- he forgot he'd bought the first pack, but I wasn't going to argue with him -- plus a $5 scratch ticket ... then DEMANDED something hot to drink to help him keep warm. But he didn't want coffee or hot chocolate.
"The last time I drank coffee, I was in the Amazon," he said. "I don't do coffee anymore."
I agreed it wasn't the Amazon outside, & I POURED HIM a cup of steaming hot water out of the coffee machine -- & I warned him it was steaming hot.
And he promptly burnt his mouth on it.
"Are you KIDDING me, dude? I mean, REALLY?!"
"I told you it was hot...."
"Dude, you're crushing me, man. You've got to be kidding."
I asked him what he was talking about as he got progressively more agitated.
"I just want to go HOME," he said. And he started CRYING....
He'd been talking on his cellphone outside the store.
"Are you trying to track down a ride?" I asked.
"Yeah, well, I thought I had a ride, but I guess getting a ride ain't that easy around here. ... Is this Port Orchard? ... It's Friday night, right? ... Oh, Dude, you're just crushing me, are you kidding...? ... Did I lose my hat?"
"You weren't wearing one when you came in."
And he took his cup of hot water and left, stumbling off into the night.
There aren't that many stable people out after about 10 at night anymore, especially on weekends. Must have been a Full Moon. The best drunk I've seen in awhile. I've got to do a post on drunks someday soon, God knows we get enough of them....

On the down side, gas prices here have gone up 50 cents per gallon since the end of January. I've heard that in some parts of the country, prices have gone up 70 CENTS in 3 weeks.
As of Saturday night, we were at $3.89 for a gallon of Regular gas -- up 10 cents from Friday. Our national competitor across the street from us is a dime less per gallon, & the cheap nationwide chain across the corner from us is 20 cents less. Dropping beer & cigarette prices boosted business for us a bit, but we can't control gas prices.
...But I don't want to hear any whining until we break the old Record Price, which is $4.59 per gallon for Regular, set back in the brutal Summer of 2008. Remember those days? Let's not go back there again, OK?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Every day's a Monday!

Been running my ass off at work this past week. As usual. And it's starting to catch up to me. My co-workers are leaving most of the stuff they don't want to be bothered with to me, trusting that I will clean everything up and make us all look good -- and after 9 years, I'm starting to resent it. It's starting to piss me off.
And sometimes I take it out on customers, which is Not Good.
Every day lately when I've come in to work, EVERYTHING has needed to be done. Coolers haven't been stocked, counters haven't been cleaned off, floors are a mess, the restroom is usually unspeakable, nobody's re-stocked beer, sometimes a dozen bags of ice need to be bagged. I KNOW the folks who work mornings don't do anything before they go home -- I can SEE it when I step into the cooler upon arriving at work.
I can't remember the last time my Manager cleaned the restroom -- and that used to be the one thing she DID do before she went home.
It's true that I have 8 hours at night to get all my work done, and it's true that my shift is usually much less busy than the other shifts during the day.
But I don't think it's right or fair that everything should be left for me to take care of. That allows everyone else to just chat with people and take money and do whatever the minimum requirement is for their shift.
And then I come in and clean up after everybody else.
Maybe I brought this on myself -- maybe this is what I get paid for. But would it kill my co-workers to at least make a 5-minute re-stock run through the cooler before they go home? It would mean less work for me later....
Currently, the folks I take over from at 5 p.m. all do different things during their shifts, some do more work than others. But none of them apparently believe in re-stocking sodas or beer, or cleaning spills up off the floor, or cleaning the coffee counters or the restroom. It could be worse -- at least someone's emptying the outside garbage cans every day. I could have those to do too. As is, it's still usually not 'til after 9 p.m. 'til I can slow down and catch my breath.
I KNOW nobody is applying the pressure but me. But when the place looks like a pigsty and it's half-empty to boot, I gotta keep workin'. And I KNOW I'm the only person stocking sodas and energy drinks and bottled-water and beer -- because I SEE it every time I step into the cooler.
I have TRIED to find things I can skip that aren't an emergency, things that can wait a day or two to get done -- so I let them go, and nobody else does them ... and then I end up doing them anyway before I go home Sunday night for my weekend.
I am already purposely not doing some little things as a minor form of protest. I can't remember the last time I mopped the entire store after closing -- these days I tend to only hit the rough and well-traveled spots before getting out of the building before 1 a.m. under the Owner's "Watch The Overtime" policy.
Y'all may be thinking I take this crap too seriously, that I should lighten up, play more music, find more ways to let the stress roll off. Nobody else is busting their ass around this place to Do Things Right.
And you'd be right.
But you try doing this 5 days a week -- feeling like you're doing EVERYTHING every day, running your ass off -- and see how soon you stress-out.
And of course after I get everything done each night after 9 p.m. or so, then I can heave a big sigh of relief and everything is ALL BETTER.
Until the next night, when I start all over again.
But I still resent it. I'm being taken advantage of. And I know it.
So, a Showdown is probably coming between me and the Manager -- who won't hear me. I can hear her responses now -- "We all work hard, we all do more than our share, if you don't like it you can quit, maybe it's time you found something else to do."
Maybe she's right, but I don't see it. I'm being used, and I know it.
Besides, what other options do I have?
Would more money help? It's been a couple years since my last raise, but I think I'd probably still resent it, even with more money.
Besides, business has been flat since at least Christmas, if not since last June. It's really the wrong time to ask for a raise. If I expect to GET one, that is.
And I think I'm probably topped-out for salary for this kind of work.
Nevertheless, Some Kind Of Discussion is Coming. Soon.
I'll keep you posted. And I'll try not to get fired....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Don't Get Me Wrong....

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I've made a lot of them in 9 years of working at the gas station. I make customers angry every night -- often without even realizing I'm doing it. Sometimes I do it and just don't care.
But I think my mistakes are minor, compared to what I've had to put up with at times.
I've been called useless, been told I suck ass. I've been screamed at by people who should know I can't fix what's making them angry. I've been called rude -- many times. Usually by people who could write a book on the subject.
I've been messed with by tweakers, had things thrown at me by drunks, been hit up for change, asked countless times for "a break" or a loan or free gas. I've given people more than $100 in "free" gas in 9 years, & been paid back exactly twice. I'm still waiting for the last woman who promised to come back and re-pay me. I'm tired of being a sucker.
I've been distracted by others while people stole cigarettes from behind the front counter. I've had people ask to borrow the phone, then steal beer when I've gotten distracted. I've been screamed at because our cigar prices were "too goddamned high -- you can't rip off the people like that!"
I've cleaned up after other people's shit explosions in the bathroom. I've been asked -- or my co-workers have been asked -- a dozen times if I'm gay. Because I'm "too goddamned happy."
I've had people in a hurry ask me a question and then talk over my answer -- many times. I really hate getting interrupted.
I've been screamed at by people who think our gas pumps "don't work" when their overdrawn credit/debit cards get declined. Anybody who uses a card at my store knows more about their bank account than I do -- but I'm the guy who gets screamed at.
Ain't people wonderful?
There was the falling-down-drunk guy who threw burger parts when I wouldn't sell him any more beer. There was the tweaker who spent 2 hours looking at every sparkly thing that caught her eye in the store. There was the drunk who came in at closing, took 15 minutes (in the dark) trying to find the beer he wanted, then couldn't pay for it and asked me "Do you think I'm a stupid man?" I had to lead him out of the store by his beer -- which I paid for.
I'm still waiting for the little old man who exploded in the bathroom to come back.
I don't see too many tweakers anymore, but I still remember the guy who thought he was Clint Eastwood -- every word he said was uttered through clenched teeth: "HOW'S IT GOING, DUDE??"
I remember the guy who came in asking to use the phone at 11:30, and spent the next 45 minutes -- past closing -- babbling and raving into the phone. I don't think he was even TALKING to anybody. At about 12:15, when he finally took a breath, I reminded him that we'd closed 15 minutes earlier and that's why all the store's lights were turned off....
I remember the woman who came in to by scratch tickets, clutching her money in her hand, and after she picked out what she wanted but before I had a chance to ring her up, she put her money in her purse, then immediately accused me of stealing it. I had to tell her FOUR TIMES that she'd put the money in her purse -- then she finally opened the bag, saw the money on top and said "Oh." No "Thank you," no "Sorry." Just "Oh." Thank God she's never been back.
Thank God all my customers aren't like that. Most of them are pretty good folks. And the drunks and druggies have mellowed lately. Or maybe I have.
But the stories I could tell you.... And probably will....

In the interests of accuracy, I should note that -- in the "Normal Night at Work" post below -- my Manager also spent much of her week re-pricing all the beer in the store's cooler, a job she could easily have left to the rest of us. She spent at least 6 hours getting the work done. Just because she hasn't finished the project yet doesn't mean I shouldn't give credit where it's due. She's not a bad person. And I'm sure I have no idea of all the crap SHE has to put up with....

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Normal Night at Work

...Well, not COMPLETELY normal....
I arrived at work at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday to discover our gas price at $3.65 per gallon for Regular -- up 28 cents in 8 days, & 20 cents more than our national competitor across the street....
...And to learn that my Manager had injured her right wrist somehow during her weekend, couldn't lift any weight with it, was ringing-up customers left-handed, and as a result basically did NOTHING during her 8-hour work shift. Nothing was stocked, nothing was filled. She MIGHT have run the vacuum cleaner, couldn't really tell. The outside garbage cans were emptied earlier, apparently by somebody who could actually LIFT things.... The parking lot looked like an ashtray, as usual.
I've been fighting a cold since Sunday morning, didn't sleep well Tuesday night, and don't feel all that great either, so Wednesday night had the possibilities for being an Absolute Classic. And it was.
What follows is mostly from my notes during the shift....

Arrived 4:50 pm. Mgr hurt right wrist, couldn't lift. Takes me a few minutes to actually notice this.
Into the cooler -- low on beer, energy drinks, water, as usual. Beers haven't been moved forward -- Mgr's hurt wrist explains why nothing's been done. Don't doubt her, but if it wasn't this, she'd find some other lame excuse.
Cooler has looked way worse, but I'm in there stocking for 15 minutes anyway. Lots of empty boxes to throw out.
Freezer's low on ice, I guess about 14 bags would fill it. Possibly nobody's bagged ice since Sunday....
To the restroom -- grungy, but not atrocious, as it has been before when I've come back from my weekend. Garbage can's full, hasn't been emptied since I did it Sunday night.
Onto the cash register by 5:10 pm. Most of rush hour is a blur, as usual. Notice we are low on sodas in the out-front coolers. Low on Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew. As usual. Between customers, I start stocking us up on these.
The Pepsi fountain machine is almost out of ice, possible nobody's filled it since I did Sunday night. As usual.
Mgr is gone by 6:15, tho she did stay long enuf to help get me thru the 6 o'clock rush. She offers to do nothing extra on her way out the door. Another rush begins immediately after she leaves.
Front-cooler sodas are stocked-up by 6:30.
Pepsi machine is re-filled with ice by 7. Inside garbage cans emptied by 7.
Rush continues.
Have carpets vacuumed and inside of store swept by 7:15.
Started taking apart & cleaning the cappuccino machine by 7:30. Cappuccino machine isn't COMPLETELY empty, maybe somebody filled it during my weekend. Get a chance to sit down as I dry-off all the parts before putting it back together.
Rush continues til 8 -- "rush hour" runs a bit late tonight. But after 8 it dies.
Cappuccino machine done by 9, took a little longer than usual due to number of customers in store.
I feel like CRAP and have already decided I'm NOT going to mop the floor, sweep-off the front porch, or fill the sugar canisters -- 3 of which are empty. Let somebody else do it.
Business picked back up starting at 10, including the first of the hoods & drunks.
Get thru it somehow, am not talking much, am losing my voice, have no energy.
I break down & sweep-off the "welcome" mat right outside the front door, so people don't track in the outside grunge.
Lock the doors at 11:59, so sue me.
Hit the bathroom, then fill a dozen bags of ice to throw in the freezer. Some smart-ass employee -- the last one to bag any ice, apparently -- stocked just enuf ice to make the freezer look fuller than it really is. Being the dedicated martyr "lifer" employee that I am, I fill it to the max.
Do paperwork, count money & drop it in the safe, stock the cooler again, mop the bathroom -- but I'm running slow & feel like crap & am already 10 minutes into Overtime, so don't mop the rest of the store -- which would take at least 10 more minutes & give me 20 mins of Overtime under our boss'es recent No Overtime policy.
Out the door at 1 am, pass out at Home before 2....

This is what I've been doing 5 nights a week for the last 9 years, more or less -- usually more. At least they're still paying me. At least I still have a job. If some of my co-workers did just a LITTLE more than what is absolutely required, I'd be a happier guy, but apparently everybody feels OK about leaving practically everything for me. At least somebody emptied the outside garbages earlier on Wednesday, or I could've been a further half-hour behind.
Some blessings -- I didn't get any Major Assholes in the store on Wednesday night, & the drunks & hoods weren't that hard to deal with. At least it didn't get TOO crazy screaming busy, to the point where I couldn't keep up.
There was no yelling -- I COULDN'T yell, and nobody yelled at me either.
Tonight, I have a beer order I might have to price & stock. & I'm still sick. We'll see how that works out.
And the hits just keep on comin'....
But tonight will be better, just because it's not my Monday anymore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gas prices up 20 cents in a week!

Greetings, Happy New Year and Sorry Again for the delays.
I'm posting here again because the price for a gallon of Regular gasoline at my little store has gone up 20 cents in a week -- from $3.39 per gallon to $3.59.
The national news media says this price spike is due to oil refineries shutting down to switch from their Winter-blend gas to their Summer blend.
I don't know, maybe. Sounds like a hype to me, though. Is the Summer blend thinner? Thicker? Sweeter? What?
To sort-of counteract this, and at roughly the same time, my boss recently dropped prices on beer and cigarettes -- the two biggest items people come into my little store for.
Cigarette prices drop by 40 cents per pack if you buy 2 or more packs. Beer prices, meanwhile, have dropped a dime each for 24-ounce cans up to $2 on 12-packs and 18-packs.
All this happened just in time for the Super Bowl -- good timing. We reportedly now have the cheapest beer prices in town. And our cigarette prices are pretty reasonable too -- for Washington state, where there's really no such thing as "cheap smokes." Before the price change, our cheapest pack of cigarettes was $6.39 plus nearly-9-percent sales tax.
My boss has made these price reductions -- which come straight out of his profit-margin -- because business has been pretty flat since at least September -- and the Summer wasn't the business bonanza we'd all expected, either. I was surprised that we even received Christmas bonuses this year. The boss is trying to come up with more reasons for people to come INTO the store -- because that's where he makes his profit, not on the gas.
Every time I hear something on the national news about how the economy's improving, I just think about how slow things have been at work, how many people are still on Food Stamps or Unemployment, how we've all had to redefine what "a busy night at work" means.
There are still a few people out there with money ... but we haven't seen too many of them, lately.
How are things in your neck of the woods...?

In other updates, our last Real Worker left in December, and now I'm mostly surrounded by a crew that's just collecting a paycheck. A LOT of stuff is left for me to take care of at night -- when I allegedly have All The Time In The World. Stocking, cleaning, emptying garbages, vacuuming, taking care of customers -- you name it, I do it all.
We hired a couple of new people before the holidays, but on a bad day neither of them do all that much, and there were a LOT of things Management apparently didn't tell the newest of our employees. She ALWAYS has questions whenever she works, and she can't seem to remember all that much.
I can always tell when I've had a couple of days off, because when I go back to work on Wednesday evening, the store is usually a shambles and it's clear that nothing much has been stocked since I went home Sunday night.
I've complained about this a couple of times, but my manager just shuts me off. Just a little more effort out of everyone else would make me a happier guy. I know they all have demands on their time, but they sure don't seem to Do Much. And if that's the case, why do I always feel like I'm running around like a crazy person...?
Our store motto sometimes seems to be: Let the 53-year-old bald tired stressed-out guy do it.
But it's always been like this, and I don't see it changing much until I can't keep up anymore.
At least they're still paying me....
So, stop in and see me sometime!