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It’s like a switch is thrown in the brains of every managing director, CEO, shop owner and store manager. November 1st is go time for Christmas!

Cue festive streamers, signs, lights and even music. The most wonderful time of the year is now the most wonderful two months of the year (and now Christmas is bleeding into October too, with supermarkets and shops getting their promotions and deals on the shelves, complete with wrapped presents and pretty, gold red and green tinsel). When did this happen???

It’s been the case for years of course. We’ve become obsessed with the bargains and sales that drive the build up to the big day, unable to resist the assault on our senses. Here in the UK, the phenomenon that is Black Friday is starting to take hold more and more, and in the USA, it is a full-fledged day of absolute pandemonium (ironically taking place the day after Thanksgiving).

To me, Christmas should be a family affair. My fondest Christmas memories are of the gathering of my family clan, introducing my wife to the idea of going to a pub on Christmas Day, and of course, the look of absolute wonder and joy on my daughter’s face when she spots the presents under the tree. Whether or religious or not, Christmas should always be about spending time in the company of people you love, and about making your loved ones smile.

Now, I am hardly adverse to buying presents and like anyone, I enjoy receiving gifts. What I resent is the steady transformation of Christmas from a special, magical family occasion, into a corporate money-making exercise, with our eyes and ears bombarded (earlier and earlier every year) with festive songs in shops, adverts on TV, and leaflets through the post. Kids in particular will look at all the toys and gadgets being advertised and will work themselves into a frenzy, bubbling over with excitement for two months, placing merciless pressure on parents to treat them. The parents also have to deal with hyperactive kids more or less bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the 25th December.

It isn’t fair on the kids, or the parents.

There’s also intense pressure on the employees of retailers. Having worked in retail, I have often had to work both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, not usually getting home till quite late on Christmas Eve, as I’ve been rushing around trying to get the store ready for the Boxing Day offers (and naturally, there is a lot of work to do). The people at the top seem to think the people at the bottom have nothing to do at Christmas, other than work to the bone at their behest.

Mind you, a lot of retailers (my former employers in particular) regard their staff as little more than faceless numbers anyway, doing little to encourage loyalty and showing very little either. It hardly surprises me that they see employees as a means to an end, and they probably resent letting them take Christmas Day off!

So to recap. Christmas starts too early. It’s placing enormous pressure on parents and kids alike. It burdens employees of big retailers with the expectation that work comes before family, even at Christmas. What should be a wonderful time for families to gather has become a huge marketing machine. I say Christmas needs to be reclaimed! Make it a family occasion once again. No Christmas decorations (and especially no music!) until 1st December! If a store absolutely must be open on Christmas Eve, it should close at 4, no later. Who is with me???

Timon4Anyone who knows me will be aware that earlier in the year life threw me an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, one that did, for a short time, knock me for six and left me feeling very angry. That anger, whilst dampened, is still there, though what I am trying to do is sharpen it into a tool, that I can use to more constructive ends. I had the chance to put a few things into perspective during this time, and I’ve emerged on the other side of it stronger, more focused and more driven.

My new job is at once both familiar to me and very different. It is a sales role, not unlike some of the work I did at my previous employer, only I don’t have the burden of managing a store without any head office support, I don’t have to worry about stock, or banking, or finishing late because there’s no one else available to close, etc etc. Whilst I am dealing with products that, prior to this job I knew very little about and never expected to be selling, I am finding myself enjoying it, and I can focus a lot more on individual customers, offering my full attention and care.

So, I face the future with a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm!

So yesterday my new job began. It marks a fresh start and opportunity, even if it also means a steep learning curve. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little outside my comfort zone, but sometimes you need to take yourself outside of it, in order to push your skills and learn new things.

It’s actually quite exciting and the job comes with the opportunity to earn some good money. Having only just finished day 2, I can’t give a full evaluation of the job, but the people are friendly enough and it’s a small team, so they appreciate the value of supporting each other and working hard.

On a small note, I also have a new phone! My provider (Vodafone) rang me on Friday to tell me I was due an upgrade, so I now have a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. So far it’s a nice little phone!

Typically, my comments on work on this blog have been ones of frustration and irritation. Today’s post is not like that.

Once in a while, you get a customer who is truly lovely. They are kind, friendly and put you at ease. It’s a genuine pleasure to help them and they are so grateful for your help, as though you’re somehow putting yourself out for their needs (even though it’s my job to help them!). I had such a customer today, who had to refund something, but was almost apologising for doing so, as though it were his fault! (it wasn’t, by the way).

It’s customers like him who make up for all the snarky, miserable ones. He is more than welcome in the store!

As February slowly gives way to March (crawling slowly on its belly as it happens), I look back upon the first two months of the year with… well, I don’t think regret is the right word but it’s the only word that springs to mind.

The two jobs I was especially keen on landing both didn’t work out. Several other applications and interviews in that period didn’t work out either, which is quite frustrating.

I suppose what’s been frustrating me more than anything is that my current job has been getting quite stressful during this period. My manager, whom I have a lot of respect for, resigned in the middle of January and I can honestly say I don’t feel that head office have been overly supportive (and certainly haven’t moved their arses when it came to finding a replacement). This has of course led to extra work for me and my colleagues, and though we’ve had support from other stores, sickness has taken its toll on us as well.

Add on endless tasking from head office (they seem to forget we have actually have customers to tend to), and it’s getting on my nerves. There are endless collations, training exercises, pogs and promotions to do – on top of stock, and on top of reports. I thought we were supposed to be a customer-facing environment?

Still, on the horizon is firstly my wife’s birthday, followed by her going to see Spandau Ballet in concert! Next is a trip to Bristol for a gathering of the ‘clan’, for my mother’s birthday and also for other relatives’ birthdays. Following on from that, my brother’s birthday and a family trip to Great Yarmouth for a week! So, even if the job hunting isn’t proving to successful right now, at least there are prospects for R and R!

complaining

 

So a man comes into the store. He notices that we (regrettably) have 2014 calendars still out. Obviously, we shouldn’t have them out. It’s an unfortunate oversight. He tells me he’s taken a picture of them and will make head office aware.

Aware of what? That we’re human beings, trying our hardest to do our jobs, without nitpicky arseholes making it harder with their minuate approach to life? Piss off!

 

So it’s apparent to anyone reading this site that the main site hasn’t seen an update in a little while. This is not because I am not working on the site – I have plans in place – but rather because real life takes precedence and right now, there is a lot going on as far as that front is concerned.

I recently had an interview with a very prestigious company based in London, but unfortunately that particular set of interviews did not result in the job. I freely admit to feeling somewhat gutted by this – the job would have involved considerable travel, but it would have been worth it, of that I am certain.

Still, I have another option. I did not come at this with only one move. On Monday I will have another crack at a different job, but one that just so happens to be with the same company.

What with work itself being a hectic, stressful environment right now, and with interviews here and there, it is fair to say I have not had much time to devote to the site. I will post some updates as the year goes by, but honestly, at this point, I cannot say how frequently. Real life comes first, in all things.

So, recently I have been doing some searching. As part of this, I have had to twice travel into London, and not just to the immediate corner of London, but I’ve had to make my way across the city. Cue a voyage on the infamous London Underground.

Last Sunday the journey was diabolical (the result of engineering works that turned the main line portion of the journey into a prolonged nightmare), but today’s trip was more in line with what I expected – 40 minutes into London, then another 20 minutes or so on the Tube (but this doesn’t include the walk to the station, which is about 20 minutes.

So, factoring in any delays or problems, we’re looking at an hour and a half – so a three hour round trip all in all.

Contrast this to my present situation, where I can walk to work in about 20 minutes, so of course, I spend 40 minutes per day ‘traveling’, as it were.

I won’t lie – I feel shattered tonight, and doing this on a regular basis is bound to see that trend continue – mind you, I have a stinking cold (to the point where my right ear feels bunged up!), which isn’t helping the way I feel. At full health, I might not feel so tired!

The new job (should I get it) will be mean less time at home during work days. I will have to leave home earlier and won’t get home till much later – this in turn means less time with my wife and daughter. This is by far the biggest stumbling block for me – I don’t know how well I will take to that set of circumstances.

The other main consideration is of course, money. The potential new job will certainly pay better (and offers commission, which my current job doesn’t), but of course, some of this will be offset by travel expenses. Then of course, there’s potential changes to tax codes and whatnot.

All in all though, when I think of what the new job could mean for my CV, and where it could take me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I just can’t afford to pass up. Should I get the job, I can’t begin to properly explain what it would mean for my career. It’s completely stalled with my current employers – but this, this could really change things. I could afford to treat my family far more than I can right now, including nice holidays and surprise treats.

I have one other interview lined up, sort of a ‘Plan B’, which I feel is only prudent. Plan B is actually quite a good prospect in itself, and one I would be quite happy to land – I’ll certainly give it my all in the interview, because I cannot and will not put all my eggs in one basket. Still, for all the hassle of travel, and for all the time away from home, Plan A is what I want.

So it’s clear that I haven’t made any serious updates to this site for a while. Between the ever-hectic job (where the pressure is currently unrelenting) and having a snuffly, restless four year old (who is more keen to sleep in mummy and daddy’s bed than her own after waking up at stupid o’clock), it is fair to say I feel knackered!

I am in the process of seeking a better path for myself, career-wise. To that end, I have two particularly intriguing prospects that I obviously cannot name on here, but both have their distinct perks and both promise better financial gains.

One is as a salesman, with team leader responsibilities, which is similar to my current job, except with a greater emphasis on the sales aspect. The other is as a manager, with a company on the up, in an industry which is quite secure.

I might not get either job. I might be offered both (in which case I have a tough decision to make). I really hope to hear from one of them soon!

On Friday my manager (who has been my boss for seven and a half years) left the store (and the business) after seventeen years service with them.

It doesn’t feel real yet, but on Monday the reality will begin to set in that he won’t be in charge – that someone else will end up in the big chair, so to speak.

If I were to describe Friday as an emotional day, it would be an understatement. Not only do I regard him as being the best manager I’ve ever worked for, but I regard him as being a good friend too. I always knew where I stood with him, and everything at work was clear and straightforward.

Not anymore.

His departure creates horrible uncertainty. We have a strong team, with great people, and I love them all, but the culture of the company is such that it will drive out the people who work hard and contribute the most to the business. Head office and the area managers operate under the impression that store management have all the time in the world to stand around watching the staff, rather than contributing to things like stock, availability etc. Given how small our payroll is, this is not a reasonable or realistic expectation (especially given all the other tasks we need to do), but the area managers and head office never let realism (or common sense) interfere with expectations.

I think my (now ex) manager has gotten out of the company at the right time. I am extremely sorry to see him go but happy for him too. I aim to escape soon myself.