Freight Lines

Perhaps some backstory is in order. A Wal-Mart Supercenter has two receiving areas for trucks to back into and the ICS people, unloaders, and whatever other associates get shang-hai'ed for the task of emptying it of its goods. One receiving area is in Grocery, while the other is on the opposite side of the building, called General Merchandise, or GM. GM Receiving is a relatively spacious area that actually does have storage room for excess products for various departments. (So if anybody at Wal-Mart ever tells you that there are no extras of anything in back, they're either at a crapily supplied store, or just lying to you. They may not have everything back there, but there is some) When a truck comes in to GM, all the stuff on it ("freight") is essentially loose. Boxes stacked on each other haphazardly with no external wrappings to secure it, and it must be taken off piece by piece, run down a belt, and then placed on the correct pallets or carts for eventual stocking in whatever department. Until it's time to stock, the pallets sit back in GM Receiving. On the Grocery side, however, things work a bit different. The space is much, much smaller, and about all the extra we have back there is drinks, paper towels, and minimally perishable food items. Freight from the trucks comes top us already stacked and shrinkwrapped on pallets, divided by department. The unloaders in Grocery who generally consist of the Grocery ICS team would need do little to clear a truck but roll twenty-something pallets off of it, except there's not room to place that many pallets back there without both killing any walking space, and blocking the other bay doors. So, they still have to break down pallets onto carts, and take the carts out to the floor and work them.

Now, my chemicals used to come in primarily at GM, so I didn't really have to worry about it much. The night stock guys would come along and put all of it away while I wasn't there, and all I really had to do if I got in early enough was go back to GM before they started staging for the trucks was grab a couple cart-loads of bleach. The rest of the time I pulled stuff down from the risers to fill my shelves. Now, the Home Office has decided things are being mixed up a little. Most all of chemicals now comes to Grocery. And since there's no space back there to leave stuff sitting all day, those pallets have to be worked right away. If I'm not there to do it, then someone on ICS has to do it. And if ICS does it, my risers invariably get screwed the hell up. Basically I only know two or possibly three people that will do the risers well. One of course is myself, but filling risers is very time consuming seeing as I have no help, and I already don't have time in my silly little six hour shift to deal with all of my aisle and a half. Another is a night stocker who regularly works the chemicals. When he does it, and things aren't already messed up, I may not have everything available, but what I have will be arranged logically, and in a way that it's easy for me to refill empty spaces. The other is potentially my department manager, who I presume did and still does some of this when I'm off. But I have no real evidence of this, and am not exactly sure he even works to begin with.

So, my average shift now consists largely of multiple trips to Grocery to load a cart off usually two or more pallets, and go try to stock my aisle. It generally doesn't work out so smoothly. Many of the things we get we get far, far too much of, and it can go neither on the shelf nor the riser where extra goods are supposed to be kept for quick access. These items are then considered "backstock" or "overstock". Backstock items have to go on another cart and get wheeled out of the way, and sometimes have to be hauled off to GM depending which manager is on at the time. If I have two pallets to work, odds are that while I actually empty two pallets, only maybe one pallet worth of stuff, at most, will actually go on the shelves. All the rest sits in boys clothing on however many carts I fill up. And let me tell you, laundry detergent stacked higher than eye level, a half-meter wide and over a meter and a half long weighs a damn lot to then maybe have to haul all the way back to GM. And of course when I have to work the frieght, my aisle doesn't get its risers hardly pulled, which just makes things worse since the night stockers then can't really go and fix it if it's been messed up. I really need some help in my aisle for this kind of stuff.



Wednesday was an interesting evening to say the least. See, I work in Department 13, otherwise known as Household Chemicals. The main part of which consists of a Damn Bunch of laundry detergent, bleach, and air fresheners, and a lesser portion taking up half of the next aisle has things like bug spray and other low-level pest control gimmicks ( the stronger poisons seem to be confined to Hardware and Lawn & Garden ), as well as your Lysol, floor, kitchen and bath cleaners. So yes, I have ready access to flammable materials, accelerants, and all sorts of things that produce deadly vapors under a variety of conditions. Dude, I could probably kill everybody in the building either by explosion or by deadly gases released from any sort of device I could engineer on the spot. But that's not the purpose of this story, no.

Chemicals, Housewares, Stationary, Pets, Domestics, and sort of Fabrics & Crafts are all connected in as much as the people who work in those departments cover for each other when others have to go to their breaks or whatever. There's usually at least one person in each department. Only this time there wasn't. Mary, who works Housewares has her usual days off Wednesday and Thursday. Sara in Domestics also has those days off this week, and Jean who I'm pretty sure also works Domestics is on vacation. Now, the person working in Fabrics can't leave that area unless there's someone to replace her, because there has to always be someone around to cut fabric for people. So, there's effectively myself and Georgia from Stationary to not only deal with our own departments, but Hosuewares and Domestics, which are both comparatively huge slices of real estate. Nobody was working in Pets until 5pm, either, and while I only came in at 4, it doesn't exactly make a difference. Pets guy never appeared to really do anything outside of his area, and since he's put in his notice in order to leave for a much better paying job at our new Office Depot, he's even more slack-assed. So I only had to cover for pets for an hour, which pretty much just consists of getting out fish for people, and occasionally pulling something off a top shelf, like a dog house. Anyway, if Georgia and I could have both been going through our extra departments together, all at the same time, we could have done pretty damn well, I think, to at least "zone" (basically prettying up the shelves) all over the place and made it look like it would have if the regular people had been there. Of course it can't work out so well. Georgia, knowing how to cut fabric, had to cover Fabrics for an hour while whoever worked there went to dinner, then georgia had dinner. So I was stuck for two hours trying to zone through Housewares, zone my aisle which was sorely neglected, and try to run as much of the returns for three departments as I could, in addition to the returns Georgia and I ran when I came on shift. I've barely spent any time in Housewares, and know where very little goes. So all I could really do was straighten stuff out and put some out of place items I recognized back in their proper places. I'm even more hopeless in Domestics, which Georgia apparently zoned while I was at dinner after skanky electronics woman with all the kids claimed to have gone through and finished it. Not even close. The upshot to this whole mess was that for one thing I wasn't bored, since I was going pretty much all over doing lots of different stuff in my attempts to cover, and for another, I finally got a manager to enable me on the Telxon, the little handheld scanner deal you often see department managers and other employees walking around Wal-Marts with. My department manager so very helpfully keeps the Department 13 Telxon in his locker when he's not on, but I at least have access options now for when I can find one of the other hidden units. And I'm debating making an inquiry to one of the assistant managers to see if we can't unlocker the Telxon I should by all rights have access to when I'm on the clock. I'm not scheduled at any of the same times as my department manager, so I can't even ask to borrow it off him since by the time I'm in, it's already locked away.

In any case, I feel sorry for Georgia today. All those people are out, I'm out, and she's gonna have to cover everything herself. We were both beat by the end of shift last night, and there was two of us dealing with the unmanned areas. Now there's one of her plus an extra department to handle. I might have to buy her a drink on Friday.

Uniform code.

Something I haven't seen posted much, if at all. Starting around January, Wal-Mart will be changing their "dress code". Now, I use the phrase "dress code" loosely, since the day I was hired, we were told that blue jeans were strictly disallowed as a single example. But pretty much every day since I started the job, several people around the store have been wearing blue jeans in various conditions. Now, they said other colors were okay, with specific mention towards black, which is the color I wear to work every day because I don't want to ruin my nice khakis. However, come January I won't have a choice. The company will be handing out a pair of blue Wal-Mart shirts for each employee, and all associates will be required to wear khakis to work. Think Target or K-Mart, but with blue. I don't necessarily have an issue with this, except that it's gonna be a bit more laundry than I do now. The thing that bugs me most is that I'll be losing all my pockets. I can't keep anything in khaki pockets. Small stuff falls out, rigid objects poke into my legs, and everything else gets crushed. I'm afraid of what will happen to my box cutter. I like my vest just since I have places to put stuff where it generally won't be falling out when I sit down. I do take some issue with having to provide my own pants, since if they're enforcing a particular style of dress, I think they should be responsible for providing at least a couple outfits worth. if they're giving out the shirts, they should hand out a matching number of suitable pants, and after that leave it up to each person to provide more if they feel it's needed. I can just imagine what my khakis will look like after an evening of scooting along the floor under all the liquid and powder detergents, portions of which over the years have built up a very thin yet seemingly impenetrable slick coating on the floor of the aisle as various spills, leaks, and carelessness have exposed innumerable combinations of chemicals that probably shouldn;t be mixed in the first place. I often joke how I could probably build a decent explosive with nothing but the contents of my aisle. I guess I have MacGyver aspirations.

My other deal here is that while I do wear jeans to work out of practicality, I wear black jeans to make it appear as though I make some effort, and I wear nice, collared shirts, always tucked in unless they've thrown me back to unload a truck, a belt, and fairly nice looking shoes. I try to look decent, and I do seem to get treated with a bit more respect as a result. Of course, I have many fewer and at least less severe social quirks than many of my coworkers, such as the 26 year old lady working on her sixth kid, engaged to someone who's not the father, and probably doesn't even know who all the different fathers are. In any case, this whole uniform business seems like it's going to mess me up pretty well in trying to project a semi-professional appearance. Maybe I should go ahead and grab a couple more pair of khakis so I can get as much good "credit" in as I can before we all look alike.