So, we rapidly approach the end of 2014. What sort of year has it been?

It has been a year of struggle at times, especially on the personal front, for reasons that I won’t go into great detail here. Suffice to say, what happens in my family will stay firmly within my family (I will never understand why some people choose to air everything online).

My daughter finished her year at nursery and in September started school, in reception. I really can’t believe how big she’s gotten – she now babbles away excitedly, and continues to make tremendous progress – being with other kids her age, and with some loving encouragement from mummy and daddy, she is astounding me.

She has had a busy year. in June she went on holiday abroad with mummy and daddy, nanny and grandad, her uncle and aunt. We went to Ibiza, to the very same resort that I went to with my mum, dad and brother back in the late 1990s.

It was weird – the place was familiar in many respects, yet obviously, with the passage of time, it had improved and changed. At one stage we were sitting in the lobby, and I could vividly recall sitting there, playing card games, the first time around. The pool looked exactly the same, the weather was gorgeous, and the hotel food was very good for what it was. After what had been something of an exhausting spell at work, the holiday was very much needed!

My daughter loved it – she was babbling away for ages about how she went on a plane, and how she went swimming every day, and how she danced every night. It was wonderful for her, and I hope to one day repeat that holiday – it would be great, when she is older, to revisit that same resort.

Work has been, at times, a real headache. Again, I will not go into all the details, but suffice to say at one stage I felt stretched to breaking point. There was a spell, in July, that tested me greatly, but, I dare say, it was the making of me. Since then, I have felt stronger as a manager, and whilst I know I still have work to do, I have taken some great strides forward.

As far as my beloved Liverpool FC is concerned, they came agonisingly close to winning the league title, but for heart-breaking results in the final few games – and sadly, this season is proving to be a disaster! Still, seeing the scum that is Man Utd flounder last season as a joy to watch!

Watching Lewis Hamilton win the 2014 F1 championship was also pretty special – after the troubles he’d had earlier in the year, it was nice to see him get the glory – he deserved it!

Finally, the World Cup provided some amazing entertainment – not for England mind (I watched one England game on holiday, and wish I could reclaim that time), but watching the hosts Brazil capitulate horribly against Germany in the semi-final is something I won’t forget in a hurry. That wasn’t the only memorable moment – but it was certainly the most memorable!

As one, last footnote – 2014 is the year this website began!

What does 2015 hold? I have no idea. What I want it to hold is good health and happiness for my loved ones and myself. Anything else is a bonus.

So this morning, a surly-looking bloke comes up to the till. He’s wearing a face like thunder, and pulls out a £10 note to pay for a pencil. He pays, takes his pencil, and leaves. A few moments later, he returns, with a car park ticket in hand.

He’s trying an old trick. He’s gone across the road to get cash out to come back and buy stuff. He’s a customer of the store so therefore he shouldn’t have a ticket. Oh, and he won’t let me get a word in edge-ways.

Well too bad – not only are you factually incorrect about your claims of car park terms and use, your sour attitude ruled out any chance of me being sympathetic to your position. Enjoy your fine, asshole!

Today I ended up doing an all-dayer at work. This is not the first time this has happened and won’t be the last.

Why put myself through that? The bottom line is, if I don’t, I will never get through everything I need to do. It sucks, and and I am loathe to do it, but considering the ongoing workload placed upon us by an unsympathetic head office, it becomes a requirement of the job.

This is the requirement of management. It requires you to put in a shift. It is tiring, it is stressful, and it is uncompromising. You have to make tough choices. You are expected to work long hours. You need to be proactive. In retail, you need to be juggling several balls in the air, all the time.

It is though, rewarding. Going home at the end of the day, knowing you have worked your hardest, knowing that you’ve achieved most of your goals, and served customers and helped take in the cash, is very important to me. As long as I can keep that belief that I am working hard, doing my best and achieving my aims, I can come home, perhaps totally shattered, but ultimately happy.

Back on the 7th of August, I wrote this post about a guy who just didn’t understand how his warranty (or it would seem, laptop) works. The guy isn’t English (not that this automatically means he’s a crook or a bad guy, I hasten to add), and I wonder if he’s playing up to the language barrier when it suits him.

Anyway, he came into the store last week, and we arranged for it to be sent back for repair. Owing to a problem with the details on file, the laptop was picked up earlier today, a little later than hoped.

So, just a short time ago, he comes into the store, operating under the curious idea that his laptop being collected today means it’s also ready to take back home today, and insists he spoke to someone who told him this was the case. He certainly didn’t speak to anyone in store!

So, either he has A: spoken to someone at our repair team who has given him incorrect information (possible, but unlikely, and not the store’s responsibility anyway), or B: he’s lying.

He muttered stuff about the store/company being crap, yadda yadda yadda. What he needs to realise is, this has come about due to his complete and total lack of understanding of… well, everything.

So there I am, thinking to myself as the working day slowly draws to a close, that the day has gone well, that the store will be tidy and that everything is upstraight.

I could not have been more wrong.

Having been rocked by the news that a thoroughly nice man I knew had died, I didn’t think anything would happen to rival this. Instead, four chavvy scumbags swept into the store, stole three tablet PCs and tried to steal two more. I tried to stop them but four against 1… well, the odds were not in my favour.

I wonder if thieving little shits like the ones who struck last night realise just how scummy they actually are. They’re cowardly chicken-shits, too afraid to get jobs or be civilised men so they resort to smash-and-grab raids for drug money. I hope they get caught, and that the book is thrown at them.

Retail2It seems that customers are under the mistaken impression that I can alter the system – including the company website – if they complain about it long enough. They are also under the misguided belief that showing up to collect a reserve-and-collect order before they’ve had confirmation it’s arrived is going to mean the order will be available anyway.

I fear that I will be ranting at length about work as this blog evolves. It certainly isn’t my plan to do so, but work, sadly, forms a large part of all our lives, dominating our daily routine, so it’s inevitable that, as and when problems arise and stress builds up, rants will appear.

Time for a deep breath, and here’s to de-stressing a little at the weekend!

angrymeerkat

I would like to consider myself to be a patient man. I don’t get angry easily, or often, and am quite easy-going. However, the customer who came into the store today was sorely trying my patience.

He bought a laptop from us over a year ago now, and at one stage ran into trouble with it. The laptop had to go away for repair (at this point it was under the jurisdiction of the manufacturer’s one year warranty – industry standard stuff), and he kicked up a huge fuss, insisting we, the retailer, were responsible, that we owed him a new laptop, blah blah blah. Heard it before, that’s not how it works, and no amount of foot-stomping or whining will change this.

After a time, his laptop came back, he collected it, and off he went. Case closed.

Or so I thought.

Today, he came into the store again. He wanted me to deal with a software issue. Being the easy-going person that I am, I began to have a quick look, thinking it might be something I could deal with easily. However, as I explained to him, store associates are not trained technicians and we are not qualified to fix serious errors.

After eventually overcoming the language barrier (he is eastern European and English is clearly not his first language), I realised that he wanted the icons and programs that kept booting up with the laptop to be turned off. He didn’t want them. I explained that some of them (such as anti-virus software, volume control, battery status) always come on at start-up and that, to be honest, that’s a good thing. The other stuff that he’d installed… well, given that half the info coming up on screen was in a foreign language, I had no idea, and nor did I have an option to disable them.

Cue the customer becoming irate. ‘You just want my money, you are no help’. ‘I have extended warranty, you should help me, you are not helpful’. Well, the extended warranty covers hardware, not software, and we are not responsible for user misuse creating problems. He wanted me to phone the manufacturer too (never going to happen, they would probably refuse to help, since almost no manufacturer deals with software problems, and certainly not ones that happen outside of warranty – at least not without charging a fortune).

After informing him thus, he stormed off, got into a van, ranting to his (presumably) wife, and drove away. He did not come back.

whatifItoldyou

Unfortunately this sort of thing is not uncommon. People often think they know more than we do about the operation of our shop and business than we do. They think that we, the store staff, have the power to make decisions about our own stock file – sorry, but the heads of the multi-national company I work for decide such things, not us.

We get similar grief over our opening hours. Our hours are 9am to 7pm, which is marked on our website and also by several signs both outside and inside the store. A few years ago, our hours were 8am to 8pm, and when they were due to change, we placed several signs at prominent locations around the store for a couple of months to make sure everyone was aware of the change. On the very first day our hours changed, the first customer in the door (who happened to be a regular who went to nearly every one of these locations) complained we hadn’t advertised the change very well.

We still get customers come up to the doors as we’re closing, reacting with shock that we’re closing. ‘But the site says 8pm!’ Actually, no, it doesn’t, and I know it doesn’t. Some third-party sites still give out the old hours, but we’re not responsible for those.

I can’t help but suspect the laptop guy will be back – or we’ll get a call from customer services about the whole sorry affair. He’s wrong, I think he knows he’s wrong, but I doubt that will stop him.

A lot of people operate under the mistake idea that retail is easy. It really isn’t. For starters, in supermarkets like ASDA or Tesco, the staff never stop – the tills are always busy, and if the staff are not serving on the tills, they are dealing with the never-ending flow of deliveries and re-stocking shelves. Oh yes, then there’s the promotional material to put out and fill up.

In places like PC World (and my own employer), you’re not dealing with the tills and deliveries so much (though this is still an ongoing job), but rather, you’ve got promotions to do, and you need to be on a constant watch for possible customers (and thieves). You’re expected to be a jack of all trades (especially if, like me, you’re part of the management team).

Most customers to step into the store have absolutely no idea what goes on to keep the store running smoothly. We have price changes nearly every morning. Shelves to fill. Urgent collations, a print and copy centre that occupies a lot of our time, and stock control processes to complete.

We also have lots of daft questions to deal with. ‘Do you sell ink cartridges?’ You’re standing right in front of an entire wall of them. The phone rings, ‘good morning this is <store> in <town>, how can I help you?’ ‘Is that <store>? In <town>?’ Grrr!

There are people who insist on ripping open packets of paper to see what the paper is like – it’spaper! Unless you’ve lived under a rock since birth you’ll know what paper is! And if you reallyaren’t sure, actually ask us instead of tearing open something we’re hoping to sell!

Then you get the aggressive customers. The ones who think shouting and threatening staff is somehow going to result in a favourable outcome for them (such as the bloke who had clearly broken his laptop but demanded we change it for him because the physical damage to the unit ‘just happened’). Belligerence is not an acceptable substitute for good manners!

I could go on at length about this, but to be honest, it just makes my blood boil. I wish the general public could spend at least a week working in retail, and then, maybe, just maybe, they would have a better appreciation for the job they think is ‘easy’.