Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dispatches from the Land of Negativity

Working with the public is always an adventure. You never know what the attitude of the day will be. Large corporations usually work hard to please all of their customers to keep a steady customer base. Some companies become overzealous in trying to make all customers happy at any cost. I work for an overzealous company.

Remember this slogan, "The Customer is Always Right?" That is an untrue sentence. It cannot be at all times. Yes, products are shelved wrong, tags are missing, or something is damaged. Mistakes are made, everyday and several times. However, there are also cranky people with personality disorders who come in looking for a fight. They shout, spit, and throw things. Some feel that every store clerk is out to cheat them. Some want every rule bent just for them. They will swear that everyone else allows them to use a starter check, or that the other clerk took a Dannon coupon for a Yoplait product.

Some workplaces are incredibly positive. Management is polite, workers are encouraged and all is right in the world. Other places can be a tad on the negative side. When walking down the hall to the time clock at my workplace there are several bulletin boards. One side of the time clock has notices and reminders. "You must fill out this form correctly or else." "You must be in proper dress code at all times, or face termination." "Discussing pay rates with other employees is an automatic termination." "This is how our store is ranked according to our customer surveys. You must do better or we will hire new workers to replace you." On the other side of the time clock is a chart showing cashiering scan times among other things. They list the bottom performers here with their names. On the opposite wall is a bulletin board with a sign above it that says "Wall of Shame." On this they place mistakes cashiers have made with their name. They also have a list hanging next to this with workers names on it that says "Top Offenders." This list is for people that make more than one mistake.

There was an incident recently where an employee was almost terminated. A young employee noticed his name at the top, right under "The Wall of Shame" header. It amused him so he snapped a picture of it and posted it on his Facebook page. The office manager snooped about and saw it online, called corporate, hauled him into the office and made him remove remove the photo. He said corporate wanted him fired immediately but the manager said other than this he was a good worker and she wanted to give him another chance.

This company is striving to please every customer and build a loyal fan base. They make use of those surveys attached to random receipts. After shopping a customer can call in rate their service and then leave feedback on a machine. Some people call in with genuine compliments, and occasional complaints. Others just rant about some random weirdness. Of course corporate takes everything seriously. There is another list that makes it to the wall occasionally that is titled "It Had Better Not be Happening Here!" This list is the details of customers complaints. Several people have called to complain they were turned away from a ten item or less lane. Another complained that someone refused to take his four dollars in loose pennies. One complained that the air conditioner was too cold.

Working here makes me feel as if I am taking part in that old fable about the old man and his son taking the donkey to market. People complained the old man was walking while the young boy rode the donkey so they switched. Then others complained so he made his son walk. At one point he carried the donkey. The moral was you can't please everyone at the same time. When will this company realize this, make some rules and stick to them. As it stands now, the place is teeming with negativity. So many changes need to be made. As I put that uniform on I feel a cloak of dread wrapping about me. It doesn't need to be that way, but that is their corporate culture.

Hey big companies, treat your employees well. You know the ones your customers see every day, the ones that help you bring in lots of money. Make a positive environment for them, train them well, and don't let a few unruly customers mistreat them. Your sales will go up and you may be able to keep some of your workers longer. Just a thought. You can make a positive change or keep carrying your donkey as usual. Your choice.


  1. They should be ashamed of themselves. The morale must be at an all time low.

    My company just prefers to remind us on a weekly basis that the economy stinks and we are so fortunate to have jobs. Duh! I know that. Poor management is rampant these days.

  2. Yes, I have worked for morons like these! Lucky for me I had the option to quit. Told them off and walked out. I have a job that I LOVE now and am respected! CJ

  3. My parents ran a 'mom n pop' grocery in a small town for years. What they taught me about customer service was something to be treasured.

    Pity the Big Boys can't duplicate that kind of care and concern.

    The biggest, quietest example of the way my dad treated his employees was when one of them, a young mother of 5, passed away after a short illness. My dad shook hands at the burial with the new widower. When the widower pulled his hand away from that handshake, he realized my dad had pressed into his palm the receipts for months of grocery purchases marked, "Paid In Full."

    My folks NEVER mentioned that to anyone. It's just how they rolled...

    One of your biggest fans

  4. I know this company. I worked there for three long years, or some like it. What people like this don't understand is that you are the face of THEIR company. When they make you miserable, it will show and the customer will see and feel it. I hate working as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head. It breeds fear, resentment and anger. Then when you leave or are fired you'll tell everyone that you know about the company.

    They're lucky no one sues them for a hostile work environment and causing stress.

  5. It sounds like a terrible place to work but I appreciate gaining a new perspective. It makes me thankful that my place of work is very different.

  6. Diane, unfortunately we are lucky to just have jobs at this moment. My husbands job is MUCH worse.

    Anon #1, So glad you had the option to leave. Many people are hanging onto dreadful jobs right now because there is so little available.

    Anon #2, Wonderful story. What a terrific boss and father.

    Sandy, I'm glad you made it out of your nightmare job too.

    Adam, it is terrible but not permenant. :)

  7. "Cloak of dread"--what an incredible image. I too wore that cloak for 15 years under a dept head that disliked me. What a happy day when she retired. 5 years ago, yet I don't think I'll ever get over it.

  8. Frugalscholar, you must have enjoyed the job to stick it out that long. Was there a big party after she retired?

  9. I well remember being in that sort of position myself but the more important thought (to me) I'm taking away is: what am I doing now to bring positivity to my workplace? What will I do on Monday to make sure my employees know they are valued and their contributions are important?

    Thanks for sharing. I forget that I have some ability to do this now, and it's really important for those of us who have any modicum of control over our environments to be very mindful of the fact and to do our best to bring out positive energy to our teams.

  10. Revanche, I'm so glad you were able to pull something out of this. Thank you for commenting.