A week's review

For various reasons besides being rather beat after work every night, I've fallen a touch behind in the chronicle of my enslavement employment. So, let's go with some of the highlights I can recall right now.

::Too Many Sweaters::
Of course we all know there are those people out there who have the perhaps uncontrollable desire to make their dogs into four-legged fashion statements. I'm not saying anything bad about people who do that, since I even wanted to dress my dad's Pug in flannel shirt and overalls. But that's not the point. Wal-Mart carries a small variety of seasonally themed dog apparel. T-shirt kind of things for warmer weather, sweaters as it gets cooler, even jackets and raincoats. For Christmas, we're even now carrying printed dog-sized bandanas, collar scrunchies, and holiday themed collars separate from our Collar Wall. So one night last week, there was a big pile of sweaters and such. And I literally mean a pile - they were just thrown on top of the shelf of stuffed dog toy PDQ's directly below the clothing racks. It didn't take me long of sortingand trying to rehang these things to realize there simply was not enough peg space to have all these things hanging. So I went after the only reasonable solution. I started a small fire, and... wait, no. No, I went to the fixture room in back and got a new peg with intent to print an extra label and make myself some extra space. See, size regardless, most all of the dog clothing is the same price, so it's a small matter to set up another peg to fill with whatever assortment I decide should hang there.

The only stumbling point in my plan was that the D-8 printer had gone missing for a couple days, so I didn't actually have my own printer to use to make the new label. Uh, oops? So thus the quest began to find a new printer. A small side-story to that follows, but is not relevant to this particular tale. In the end, I went and borrowed the printer from the fitting room, and got a roll of adhesive labels from the stash in Housewares. So it was a bit of a task, but I finally got to set a new space for an item, and fill it with stuff. It was pretty easy, since I'd decided to only put the smallest sizes on the new peg, so I was able to just move a couple things over slightly to make the extra room. And once I got eerything sorted and hung back up, and then straightened the stuffed toys under them, that space was looking mighty good. Unfortunately people being the way they are, I had to go and fix it all over again three or four times. Made me wish my cell phone had a camera so I'd have been able to keep some proof of the work I'd done that night. Oh well, what can you do? Making it worse, I'm pretty sure nobody else noticed the change had been made, so I won't even get any credit for it from a manager or anything.

::"This is the way to help a customer!"::
So, when I couldn't find my own printer, I went to Housewares because I used to know where that printer was hidden. It wasn't there anymore, and apparently the Telxon had been missing as well. But normally they were hidden behind some of the small appliances, so that's where I went looking. It was a bad idea. See, associate in Housewares was on her dinner break at the time. And it just so happened that when I got there, some older woman was trying to replace her coffee maker. Now, of course we have all kinds of things on display there, but that doesn't necessarily mean we actually have said item in stock. Lady was looking for an $18 programmable coffee maker. She didn't see one in a box, so of course she yells for me to come and help her. I look, and of course I don't see one either. Somehow she seems unsatisfied that I could not magicaly make one become visible. Then the obvious question follows: "Do you have any in the back?" I explain that, no, we don't keep very much stock in the back, and it's mostly high sell-through items like dog food. Not coffee makers. I do word it more politely than that, but it was the basic gist of what I said. This didn't thrill her either. Then she instructs me to help her find another comparable machine. She's very much appaled when I point out a same-size, programable machine that costs about $35. Apparently despite the fact that she says clearly that she must have her coffee in the morning (and by the way she's starting to act I concluded that she was without her machine that morning as well), it's not in fact worth $35 to satisfy that particular addiction. So I keep looking, and there's a similar but I guess less advanced model in a box for around $25. She's still not pleased with that, but I guess her resolve is beginning to break down. Now, it looks very similar to a machine on display at $30, and she wants to know what the difference is between the two that they seem so similar but there's a $5 difference. At this point I must note that there is no boxed example of the $30 machine, nor does the product tag on the shelf carry any actual specific information beyond the price. Further, I am not a coffee drinker (and if I were, I'd care enough about it, I think, to do most of the process manually and not rely on a machine), nor am I conversant in most small appliances - I don't work in that department afterall. I explain as politely as I can to the lady that I do not know what difference there is, the tag doesn't give any information, and there's not a boxed one-of-those for me to compare directly. She's unsatisfied. She begins demanding that I read the box and tell her what the difference is. I attempt to explain again that I do not know anything about the display machine, and that reading the box we do have isn't going to give any comparative information. She grabs my arm, and at this stage I am seriously about a half second from going off on her. Still holding my arm as though I were about to run away, she again demands that I read the box and tell her the difference between the machines, telling me that she can't see the print on the box, and had some medical reason for being unable to either bend over or pick up the box to examine for herself. I'm really losing my patience at this stage, but am saved at the last moment when I catch sight of Mary in the aisle. I call her over, since she actually works there and Knows Stuff. She went on to explain that the machine on display was a previous version of what was in the box, and it was replaced because the labels fell off the touchpad style buttons. See, this is the kind of thing you know when you work in a department. Lady asks why the new machine is cheaper than the older type, which the true answer would be because Wal-Mart made Black and Decker lower their price on it. But lady asked for the box to be opened (for the first time, mind you), and of course Mary cut the tape on the box. Lady seemingly gave up and resigned herself to the $25 coffee maker, and said, "Okay, put it back together and I'll buy it." Thus began at least a five minute ordeal of trying to figure out how to get one certain piece of cardboard wrapped back around the coffee pot. A problem I fixed within seconds of contributing, but that's not really important. I felt better after the woman left and Mary told me she was about ready to scream at her too. But, the part that really bothered me was that she grabbed me like that. You just don't go and latch on to some person you don't even know like that - and I'm not one of those people who makes a big deal about personal space, either. If Mary hadn't ended up distracting her, I'd probably have ended up telling her in no uncertain way to release my arm. Also, the entire time this was going on, I was carrying around that merchandise peg, and I'll tell you what, it makes a really ineffective stress device. But lady sure came close to driving me to bend metal.

Those are the events that really stand out, but here's some highlights:

  • Taught the new girl in Domestics how to dip fish, which will come in handy very soon.
  • Got to throw a Claimsed dog house into the trash compactor, but sadly couldn't wait around to watch the destruction. What a waste.
  • One night Billy and I were both working 4-11, and the aisles were all finished before 6. Yeah, we were bored.
  • During zoning, a manager assigned me a helper while I was working in someone else's department. That was pretty cool.
  • And finally, our store has reportedly finished all their seasonal hiring, despite still having major shortcomings in a number of already high-load areas.
Finally, for Thursday and Friday of this week, I'll be alone in Pets, nobody will be working Housewares or Stationary, and Ricky over in Paper Goods has these two days off. Now see, under normal circumstances, when it's time for me to take a break, go to dinner, I tell one of the people in those areas so they can cover any calls, get fish, whatever. But now the only people that will be around are whoever will be working Domestics, and one or both of them go to relieve whoever's working the fabric table between 7 and 9 every night. The problem is greater than it may seem. Depending on the mood of the assistant manager, I may be told to cover Stationary and/or Housewares, besides which Pets has got to be worked on and the fish tanks tended to. In short, it's impossible for me to properly work two or more departments by myself, especially since I'll have to run returns for my usual three departments and probably the other two. If it does happen that I have to cover, I've already made a good plan for how to handle it, but it'll hinge on a manager allowing me to borrow the new girl out of Domestics. I can probably make everything work if I have a second set of hands. But then, I haven't been told yet that I'll have to cover either department, and I know how I'll try to handle the situation if it comes up, so I'm not gonna worry about it right now. Oughta make for an interesting entry or two, though...


Just when you thought it was safe to work at Wal-Mart...

New Wal-Mart associates are now at a higher risk of stolen identities due to the theft of a computer from a subcontracted firm in Denver.

Yesterday I and many or all Wal-Mart employees hired since February 1st, 2006 received by mail a notice that Wal-Mart learned Affiliated Computer Services had one of their computers stolen from a Denver facility. This computer is believed to contain names, addresses, and SSNs of Wal-Mart associates hired within the past eight months. This security breach is also indicated to affect other companies, but none were named. A transcript follows.

Dear [specifically named associate]:

Under a federal law created to enforce child support obligations, all employers - including Wal-Mart - are required to provide information to the government on all newly hired associates. For the last nine years, Wal-Mart has fulfilled this duty by providing new hire information to the New Hires Directory of Colorado, which compiles this information for all 50 states, using the services of their subcontractor names Affiliated Computer Services (ACS).

We learned last week that ACS experienced a security breach involving a computer stolen from its Denver office. We believe it is very important to report this information to you. According to ACS, this computer may have contained the names, addresses, and Social Security Numbers of employees of many companies - including some Wal-Mart associates hired in the last eight months, whether or not they live in Colorado.

At this time, ACS has told us there is no indication that anyone's identity has been compromised or that the computer was stolen for that purpose. Law enforcement agencies are investigating this matter. If you were hired after Feb. 1, 2006, ACS has informed us that it may notify you by mail about the incident and include precautions to follow if you believe that your identity has been compromised, and a toll-free number for any further questions. In the meantime, we have attached information about how you may check your credit reports for free. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) provides helpful information regarding identity and credit protection.

If you have questions after receiving this letter and ACS notification, feel free to contact ACS at its toll-free number or speak with your supervisor, manager, or HR director.

Thank you.


The People Division.

An interesting thing to note is that this apparently came by way of Sam's Club headquarters, and not Wal-Mart's Home Office itself. Though not clearly stated in the letter, this does apparently affect Sam's employees too, since someone I know who worked at Sam's Club in the indicated timeframe got one of these letters yesterday as well.