I know, I know…

A good chunk of my frustration in witnessing others’ ineptitude as they work is based on my frustration in landing interviews or – not to be greedy – even getting a job. Still, beneath that unusual and temporary layer of frustration is the normal level of service level expectations that aren’t being met by these seemingly over-employed folks that keep catapulting themselves into my path.

Phew. Still with me?

So, I’m gonna do some therapeutic writing. But I want to get a disclaimer out there up front: this all didn’t just happen this morning. I’m not that “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” type that encounters a slight inconvenience and demands to speak to the manager.

Sidebar: OMG, they made a musical out of this camp classic movie!

Nor am I a “Sleeping With The Enemy” type customer who lets his own OCD overwhelm transactional encounters in my life.

That said…I probably need this tee shirt

Hey, I know my shit.

I felt my usual simmering frustrations starting to boil a couple weeks back, hell…maybe even a month ago when I wrote about Penzey’s Spices and then my trip to Darcelle’s after that.

Darcelle’s and Penzey’s are two businesses that are worried about more than just their bottom line. Actually, maybe it’s that their bottom line is people instead of dollars. I’ve always believed that in a service industry, if you put people first – be them customers or your employees – that the dollars will come.

So, there…a couple of disclaimers before I rail against some companies that should just. do. better. to demonstrate that I know what good service and business looks like and that I know I’m just a grump sometimes.

Anyway, I tried to recycle my cans this morning and everything went to hell.

This should be pretty simple, right? I live in a state that has a bottle and can deposit. I always recycled and I was fine paying a nickel a can for my entire life as an Oregonian without redeeming my recyclables for my nickel…back. I figured it was an income stream for industrious homeless people. But, when we triggered a deposit increase to a dime a can…I started redeeming those aluminum and glass bastards myself.

I hated it.

The reverse vending machines that grocery stores use to refund bottle deposits were dependably gross, crowded and usually broke down. It was a hassle. So when some industrious individual came up with the idea to lease the machines to grocery stores while also offering the service extension of a concierge type recycling program, I was in.

Welcome to the show, BottleDrop!

Ok, well, first I grumbled about the fact that it was gonna cost me a penny per can to drop my recyclables off and have someone else count them, because: grumpy. Then I came around.

But in contracting with a company to drop off a bag of recyclables in a secure area, have them counted for me and then have my redemption refund credited to my account within five days, well I had expectations that BottleDrop would fulfill their service commitment.

See? That’s not really too much to expect, right?

It started off small, little inconveniences like the drop area not being open when I tried to drop off my bag on my way to work. That’s on me for not knowing the hours of operation. That evolved into their 3-5 day credit window becoming a 3-5 – no, just 5 – day window before my dropped bag was acknowledged as received and then another 3-5 days before my deposit refund was credited. Then drop off centers started opening erratically or being closed because both the reverse vending recycling machines and the secure bag drop doors were broken…it’s a door.

Still, I was surprisingly ok.

Then a bag went missing.

I emailed their customer service and a few days later got a response apologizing and letting me know that they credited my account for my Average Bag Value.

That seemed pretty fair and still convenient, so I felt whole and cared for as a customer.

Then my next bag went missing. It was disturbing because my first six months with them, no issues. Suddenly, two consecutive bags from the same drop location disappear.

They credited me once again for my ABV – which sadly is not Alcohol By Volume. My next bag was credited as expected, so I chalked my two missing bags up to weird coincidence.

Flash forward to August and I can say that out of the 12 bags I’ve dropped this year – don’t look at me like that, a lot of the cans are La Croix or Diet Coke – only four have been credited as expected. I’m beginning to wonder what consistently receiving my ABV versus the actual value of my redeemables does to my ABV. Something in the back of my mind keeps reminding me that averaging averages is bad math.

I began debating just using the reverse vending machines and doing it myself. At this point in my relationship with BottleDrop, they weren’t earning their keep. So I head out with that in mind this morning.

I walk a quarter mile to the Safeway: there’s a sign posted saying the drop center is opening at 9 instead of the usual 7.

Ugh.

The struggle is real…annoying.

It’s only a little more than 30 minutes away. I consider going across the street to Nossa for a coffee but there’s already a line of dirty dudes with shopping carts so it’ll be a 30 minute plus a significant chunk of time while these recycling professionals make it look hard. Plus, as I told the Silver Fox afterward, I didn’t want everyone at Nossa feeling bad because I was rocking the Recycle Fabulous look with my green bag of cans while they sat there with their engineered pooches or in their clip in cycling shoes looking lame by comparison…

Instead, I set off on the alleged half mile to Freddy’s, still not sure whether I’ll drop the bag or recycle it manually. Turns out, it’s 8/10 of a mile. Close, Google…but no cigar.

When I arrive, there’s three employees standing around talking. I think two BottleDrop and one Freddy’s, based on polo colors. They’re talking about hot flashes. Specifically, the male is talking about how uncomfortable it is to sleep with his wife when it’s “80 degrees at 11 o’clock and my wife has a hot flash in bed” – a fact neither of his two female coworkers need to be told.

#ThemToo

The two recycling machines are propped open slightly. Even though they’ve been open almost two hours, I assume they are still just being prepared for the days recycling. Feeling like I won the lottery – since there are no ne’er do well millionaires in line – I ask if I can be the first.

“Oh, we don’t do that anymore! But if you have an account, you can just drop your bag right through that door!”

I don’t know if the BottleDrop lady’s enthusiasm is because she’s new on the job and showing her pride or if she’s just that happy to get away from her basic white guy coworker. I do know that I’ve kinda had it at this point as she keeps yammering away. When I open the door, it’s packed with green bags of recyclables.

Ok, BottleDrop…I’m gonna give you credit: you created jobs with your business. Ostensibly – based strictly off the two employees I saw today where normally there would be one – you’ve doubled your work force by eliminating the self-serve recycling machines.

But!

Both of your employees were standing around like they were waiting for the valet to fetch their Maserati when I arrived. They were looking fresh while I – after walking about a mile and a half in my thwarted recycling attempt – was dripping sweat.

To me, it looks like you’re wasting payroll. Not to mention my time…I want my penny back.

So, BottleDrop has a pretty big shitshow on their hands. It’s like the great idea was primarily a money grab and instead of having operational processes in place to ensure good service, they just throw money at the problem – be it in ABV credits or added payroll – to make it go away.

I’ve had two interactions with other companies this year that seemed to want to do better. That’s great, knowing your limits is admirable – like me avoiding large groups of people…it’s just not something I’m armed for and willing to deal with. Maybe I should acknowledge that using a weapons analogy when discussing large groups of people was a bad idea there…oops.

Starbucks.

Charbucks.

“Where self-hating coffee lovers go for coffee” is my unofficial slogan for them.

Outside of their Reserve Roastery that opened a few blocks from my place in Seattle, I can count the number of times I’ve been in a Charbucks in the last decade on one hand. Even if I’d had a fireworks accident as a child.

However, earlier this year – February, to be precise – I’d been forced by circumstance into one of their cafes. It was at the height of the second harassment allegation against my co-worker at my last job.

By the way, pretty sure that my last employer – Paradies – exists solely to make companies like BottleDrop look effective.

Anyway, I was on my way in to work on the day that two of the senior field managers were in town to conduct a formal investigation. I was fully expecting my peer to be terminated and was feeling a strange brew of empathy and relief for him and dread about the void his position’s vacancy would create in our operation because my boss absolutely sucked at people development…meaning their was a lot of shit only he knew how to do. So I was stressed.

But, speaking of shit…my stress manifested as an urgent liquification – Why is that not a word? – of my insides while I was heading into work. Seriously, I left the house feeling 100% ready to face the day. Twenty minutes later and two stops into my commute, I was running off the train looking for a bathroom.

Yup, Charbucks was the only place.

Now, being somewhat responsible and understanding that businesses do not have restrooms just to provide their employees with cleaning tasks during downtime, I resigned myself to buying a drink to fulfill my end of the “restrooms are for customer use” contract.

However, I had to go.

Unfortunately, I had entered from one door while an elderly couple was entering from another door, closer to the counter. We were the only customers in the store.

There were three employees behind the counter. One was making something against the rear counter with her back toward me. The other two were intently focused on this older couple as said couple stared at the menu above the counter.

I stood at the register, being ignored, clenching so hard that I was sweating.

“Let me know if I can answer any questions for you!” the cashier says to the couple.

“Can I order while they decide?” I ask, getting an “I’ll be with you in a moment” from the cashier. Her coworker is standing on the other side of her grinning at this old couple like they’re…I. Don’t. Know.

Optimistic and desperate, I go check the bathrooms. Locked.

I go back to the counter and ask too-happy-guy for the code, emanating distress.

“The code will be on your receipt!”, cheerily.

“Can I order now?”, I ask as the old couple asks something about whether they can get their breakfast sandwich open-faced. I’m afraid I’m about to make a gravy for their open-faced sandwich.

The too-happy-guy pries his attention away from the look-how-cute-they-are-ordering-sandwiches couple to tell me the cashier will be right with me.

She wasn’t.

But, having finally ordered my 16 ounce cold brew, I’m seeing a light at the end of my <ahem> tunnel.

“Did you want the nitro cold brew?”

Sure, whatever.

“And we don’t have 16 ounce cups, do you want a Tall or a Grande?”

Ok, lady…I don’t have the time to educate you on the fact that the entire world outside your cafe doors has 16 ounce cups and that they are just magically transformed into Talls and et als once they cross your threshold.

I’ll.

Take.

A.

Tall.

I pay and tip and then she starts to spin on her heel to walk away. “Hold on, can I get my receipt, please!”

“Oh, sure…I’m so used to it being in people’s app! I don’t think I’ve ever printed one!”

“That’s ok, I just really need it for the bathroom code!”

She takes a piece of scrap paper off the printer and then stamps it with the bathroom code.

Really? I’m disgusted by the unwillingness of too-happy-guy to stamp a fucking piece of paper to help a customer, but I don’t have time to go into that with him now.

I frantically make my way to the bathroom, unclenching as few muscles as possible to still be able to walk. Pretty sure that it’s just four muscles, legs are locked up and arms are contorted into claws as I do a zombie style shit stumble to the door.

You know, it could have been worse. Even success at that point would have cost 100% of my dignity, based on how desperate I surely looked trying to wait out the petty toilet tyrants working at Charbucks that day. Let’s just call the near-success Nicklecrap, since that was really all the evidence of my failure that left the cafe with me. It’s also a great riff of the way most people feel about Nickleback as a band.

I promise, that’s my last Nickleback joke.

I walked out of the cafe, briefly considering grabbing my tip back from the tip jar and leaving my coffee on the counter. I actually did try to leave my order there, but the third employee suddenly decided to be – pardon the entendres – worth a shit and reminded me not to forget. I took my drink, smiled and went home to change.

Of course, I tried the coffee before throwing it away.

Still crap.

Less than two months later, I’ve quit my shit company and the whole Starbucks Bathroom Debacle unfolds and I’m just sitting there reading about it and thinking, “Really, Charbucks? Really?!?”

I have some time to kill on my way home and then back to work.

I invest that time in distracting myself from the stressful day ahead by emailing my complaint to Charbucks. It’s a…sanitized version of what I just wrote. By the time I’m headed back to work, they’ve responded.

Ok, this is kind of impressive.

They are – of course – sorry. Not as sorry as they’ll end up being a couple months later. They want to give me a $15 gift card. Since I don’t have a rewards card with them – the only one they found for my email address hasn’t been used in years – so can they get my mailing address and they’ll just send a physical card.

That’s really nice of them, but really, just let the district manager know so that the bathroom Nazis at this store can be addressed.

They insist.

I give them my address and ask if they can send three $5 cards so I can use them as incentives for my employees, pointing out that my rewards account hasn’t been used in years.

The response was that they were super sorry, but the order had already been put through.

Ok, now that’s a fucked up reply. My request came through with my mailing address, so how could the order be “put through” before getting the information needed for the putting through?!?

You know what?

I let it lie and just say thank you. I’m not going to bitch about a company doing something nice for me.

You just thought to yourself, “Yet here he is, bitching about it”, didn’t you?

It’s okay. The same thought would have popped into my head, too.

But you know what else?

The cards never came.

Swing and a miss, SBUX.

My last story is similar yet hopefully quicker. I’m including it in the Grumpopotamus Diaries because this company did something over the top different in their pursuit of good customer service and good PR.

I was using my Kuhn Rikon peppermill to add pepper to my lunch back in June when the grinding mechanism dropped completely out of the bottom, adding not only whole peppercorns to my lunch but also some gears, springs and washers.

Ok. It was probably six years old. It had a good life. Ironically, I had a back up. I like the spicier peppercorns, which is what was in my now dead peppermill. My spare had regular tellicherry peppercorns in it for when I had company.

Basically, it’s lightly used.

Still, I’m a considerate enough host, right?

I take a self-congratulatory pic and post it to Instagram, pleased with myself for having a back up. I’m a regular boy scout in the kitchen.

Here’s the impressive part: Kuhn Rikon actually has a PR company that looks out for crap like this on social media. They reached out to me that day to offer a replacement.

I mean, I’m no fool…I said hell, yes!

They told me they would set it up and get me a new grinder. This was happening over a weekend, too!

Guess what?

Yup, never came.

It’s been two months. That’s probably a reasonable timeframe to expect fulfillment, right?

Here’s the deal, though. I’m pretty whole as far as this pepper grinder situation goes. I had my back up – which, truth be told, I got for free back when I worked for Sur la Table. I’m good.

What rubs me the wrong way is the overpromise/underdeliver aspect of this – and SBUX – customer service. I think any company worth a crap wants their customer experience to be the exact opposite. They want to overdeliver on customer expectations.

If they know enough to say that they need to farm these extraordinary types of customer service out so they don’t drop the ball, great! Do it! But don’t go snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to follow through once your customer service team or your agency has made a commitment.

You lose all the points.

And then some bitter crank bitches about it in his blog.

Luckily, I don’t work for Bon Appetit or Business Insider, so no real jeopardy of my experiences going viral here…but if you know someone who does, feel free to let them know that I can write without cursing. J/S. End shameless plug.

Nope, wait…don’t forget to like and/or share! Now, end shameless plug.

Also, if you’re ever bored, google Bon Appetit Memes. So…disappointingly hilarious.

I know, I know…

Spice Force

Well, Portland shut down its OccupyICE camp last week.

It was time. Actually, it was over-time. I’d been watching from the sidelines, as is my style, for the last couple of months while Little Beirut did what it does.

Protest.

In many ways, we did good things that made me nod in appreciation. Then there was the OccupyICE movement which started out fine, taking our protests from the streets and parks to the front door of those we protested.

In past years, this has led to marches that shut down freeways and damaged property. That was avoided this time, but I was still disappointed in the evolution of this protest. When I would watch video, the protesters were not behaving in a way that made me proud to be associated with their message. While their actions were not violent or destructive, their words still were.

Shocking no one, words are important to me. Maybe we’ve learned as protesters that actions speak louder than words, but I think our next evolution needs to ensure that our words are matching our non-violent and non-destructive actions.

This was not the case with the OccupyICE protest at the ICE facility in southwest Portland for the last several weeks. Just like the Occupy Wall Street movement from years ago, what started out as a hive of like minded social activists morphed into a homeless camp.

Ironically, the Garden Party I attended over the weekend had two radio hosts at it whose offices were right in the thick of the OccupyICE imbroglio. They echoed my relief that the camp had been shut down. However, while I was relieved that it was shut down and would no longer be a threat to our collective credibility, they were relieved that it was no longer a threat to their personal safety.

We come by our Little Beirut nickname pretty honestly here in Portland…unfortunately.

Meanwhile, though, elsewhere in the city we were staging protests in a much more constructive fashion.

The Silver Fox and I had occasion to mix with folks in our collective front yard last month as they held a rally in the park to protest the separation of immigrant families.

It was extremely peaceful.

It was organized.

It was huge.

The rally was set to take place in front of the former US Customs House on the park block just diagonally across the street from The Fox’s and my homes. It ended up spilling over and filling half of the park block in front of our houses as well as on the other side.

It was a simple enough affair with a good mix of the usual local politicians and activists speaking as well as former military people and just parents spreading their heartfelt message of resistance. There were roving petitioners circulating to garner support for whatever ballot measures they were advocating for and even someone there with resources to help get voters registered…just in case.

But in addition to the words spoken, what was left behind has peacefully influenced passers by in the park blocks for weeks after the rally.

Sidewalk Protests.

The sidewalks around the park blocks as well as the brick paths through the park blocks themselves are covered in chalk. Literally hundreds of messages scribbled out to remind us every day that our government has committed these horrifying acts against immigrant families.

Committed.

Not supported or ignored, committed.

And that’s not ok.

But what’s even heartened my heart more than Portland getting its protest act together has been the activity of a certain business – and namesake inspiration for this post – in recent months.

Penzey’s Spices.

If you talk to business leaders about mixing politics or religion with their businesses, I’m sure you’d get a high 90% of them saying that it’s a bad idea. Indeed, when it comes to politics, most businesses usually play both sides of the fence by donating within the mandated maximums equally to political campaigns.

Then Citizens United happened.

That decision resulted in limitless spending by corporations to advance their agendas and support their interests. Obviously, this benefits Oil and Pharma more than retail business interests. Corporate spending follows those same divisions with retailers having little to no interest in changing their political spending, for the most part.

However, Penzey’s has done better than just doing what they’ve always done. They went out on a branch and literally risked putting their money where their mouth is. In recent months, their email marketing – written by Bill Penzey himself – has flat out declared its opposition to the actions of our government. Specifically calling out the Republican – Ratpublican – Party for its continued endorsement of Trump’s actions, whether it’s open approval or tacit through lack of condemnation.

Their stance is simple. They are a spice company and spices are used in the most basic demonstration of familial bonding – meal prep. Therefore, it follows that keeping families together would be a natural interest for them to endorse.

Boy, howdy…have they ever!

The picture above is a giveaway they did back in April. It was a shareable promotion for their email followers. Sallory – who lives way out of town- asked The Fox to pick hers up. He then signed up for their email list and invited me to go with him. Of course, if I’m walking four blocks, I want the free gift, too!

I’ve shopped at Penzey’s off and on for the last decade or so since they opened their Seattle store. I was living with a culinary student and working at Sur la Table, of course I’m going to a spice store! When I moved back to Portland, I just happened to end up living practically around the corner from their store. When I need something for my turn cooking for Monday Night Supper Club, I hustle over to Penzey’s. When it’s not my turn for MNSC, I usually go over to buy something to sprinkle on my popcorn…I cook for other people, not myself.

But I’d never signed up for their email list.

Boy, was I missing out!

Not only do they have great promotions, the free giveaway actually had laminated recipe cards in it with ideas for using the free spices, but the emails themselves are inspirational.

Bill’s words have actually motivated me to nurture my own spirit through cooking…just for me. As a person who famously hates leftovers, that’s really something. I have always enjoyed comfort food leftovers. Lately I’ve been reminded that all food can be a comfort.

In today’s US of Hey, How The Hell Did This Happen we can use all the comfort we can get.

And for Penzey’s their stance is paying off. Their words encourage resistance with a reminder of what values are core and important…people are important. We are urged to take care of people versus interests through their occasional emails. I can only imagine that their subscription list has swollen considerably in the first quarters of this year. They ran out of the April giveaway within hours of opening and their online fulfillment wasn’t far behind in being depleted.

Instead of pulling out the whole “while supplies last” chestnut, they fulfilled every last online order and store raincheck they had. The same thing happened earlier this month, even though they had significantly increased their on hands for their next promotion. I think they even put a minimal purchase requirement on the second promotion…like $5.

After both events you didn’t hear from them for several weeks while they caught up with orders. Sure, that’s what it’s all about, right? They’re a business. Marketing – especially with a giveaway – costs money.

But I can’t tell you how happy I am to get an email from a company that bravely stands up and says “This Is Wrong” to its customers that reinforces the fact that Americans vote.

Even if it’s just with their dollars. I’m glad that the rewards justify the risk and horrified that I just acknowledged that a company supporting an obvious truth – families should not be separated by government – was a risk. Their business has increased 80-fold.

That’s not 80%, it’s 80 times better year over year.

To illustrate:

An 80% increase on $100 in sales equates to $180.

An 80-fold increase on $100 in sales results in $8000 in sales.

Nurturing people is good business.

Facilitating a place – mealtime in this case – where people and families can come together to discuss what’s happening in life and the world is good for people, regardless of culture. But right now, America needs that safe place to talk.

Spice Force

New Chrisism

Is it a bad sign that I’m chilling before a phone interview and decide five minutes before the call that I should find my headset, make sure it’s charged and, “oh, hey…why don’t I work on that draft from last week while I wait?”

Knowing that I’ll totally keep typing during the conversation.

Hoo, Boy.

Is that literally phoning it in or figurative since they’re calling me?

The thing that has been tickling my fingertips is the Chrisism I coined last week: Psychophant

Obviously, a portmanteau of psychotic and sycophant.

It was my response to reading the resignation letter from that nitwit Scott Pruitt. If you haven’t had the surreal displeasure, take a look.

My second thought was how BreitBarb is doing on her Trump administration bingo card…she must be getting close to a blackout card by now!

Ok, did you read it?

I’m really not sure I should be writing about resignation letters while I wait for a phone call about a potential job.

But, here I am…

Side note: the call just began

I really don’t have much to say about this resignation letter. It’s just so obsequious! Seriously, you’re quitting. Why do you care about your employer’s feelings?

You’re quitting because your family has been – allegedly – unfairly attacked. Did your employer defend you or try to correct the situation?

Nah…

As I recall, he’s more helpful in an inciting rage kind of way.

Of course, this tends to bother most of his employees recently in their attempts to dine peacefully at nice farm to table or Mexican restaurants.

I literally cannot bear the ironic idiocy of a Trumpster Fire employee trying to eat in a Mexican restaurant. That family pictured above that released Farah Fuckabee back into the dumpster and refused her service needs a medal. Of course, the voters using their brains as paperweights – are their brains even heavy enough to secure a piece of paper?!? – retaliated against the restaurant, causing it to close down for a period…all the while, administration employees stand on the sidelines.

But that poor psychophant Scottie P and his family have been so harassed by the media and protesters that he had no choice but to quit a job he was grossly unqualified for as head of the EPA.

Fine, he did plenty of damage in his too long a tenure.

So, quit.

Your work here is overdone.

On behalf of the media and protesters, you’re welcome, Scott. You don’t – or do – realize the size of the favor we’ve done you, your family and the planet…off of which I’d personally prefer to throw you.

What was really incomprehensible to me was the level of religious fervor he brought to the resignation.

Seriously…

I count what I consider to be eight separate incidents of religious reference in those three unctuous paragraphs.

You seem to be piling it on rather heavily, Scott. And I don’t even consider you to be at significant risk of needing a pardon in the too many remaining days/weeks/months of il Cheetos’ reign.

But, I guess from your perspective, it’s better safe than sorry.

Me? Instead of dwelling on it, imma focus on who’s next and go check the news for what I hope is Meuller’s latest indictments.

Oh, and guess who paid half attention and just got invited to Seattle for a face to face interview next week?

So, now I gotta go buy a BoltBus ticket and cancel plans…

New Chrisism

The Great Job Hunt 3.3

Last week was a tough week for me. Looking back, the couple of drafts I started were kinda negative, if not downright delete-able.

Maybe I can salvage one of the two…I really should have started my own business a couple years back at the urging of my friends during the 2.0 version of TGJH.

Alas.

Anyway, the prior week, I’d participated in various stages of the interview process for four different jobs and expected to hear back on job offers from two by week’s end that week or Tuesday of last week at the latest.

Following along? Maybe I should just use dates…

Without making you read all the way to the end – I know you’re busy! – I came away from the experience fairly depressed and musing about the value of a Silver Medal.

$320 is the scrap value of a Silver Medal.

I wonder if implementing a runner up prize for job searchers would change how employers conduct themselves during candidate searches.

Especially if you employed an incentive for applicants similar to the US Olympic Committee’s incentive for its athletes. The USOC provides cash prizes to its medalists. In this case, a Gold Medal’s prize of $45000 would be replaced with a salary.

Obviously.

But I would imagine the Silver Medal incentive of $22500 would change the way I felt about learning I was just a figurative heartbeat away from a job offer.

Ok, if you’re busy – it’s Monday – go! That’s the meat of it.

If you’re up for grisly details…read on!

Worst first?

If you’ve been following The Great Job Hunt, you’ll know the scenario of a really bad interview experience from a few weeks back. Basically, receiving a text 10+ minutes after my appointed interview time telling me whereabouts she was sitting.

The Where’s Waldo Interview.

And it pretty much got worse from there. I left feeling both like there wasn’t a shot in hell of a callback and relieved that I wouldn’t be working with this person.

I got a callback.

The call actually came as I was a quarter into a 10 mile hike. They wanted to meet me at a hotel by the airport in an hour. I explained my situational location and the guy replies with, “How about two hours, then? A half hour to get home, then shower and then an hour to get here?”

Plenty of time.

Apparently, this job I didn’t want really wanted to meet with me.

I made it with 5 minutes to spare. After something that could scarcely be described as a step up from an Hobo’s Shower and stealing the Silver Fox’s car…MAX was not going to cut it. So you can appreciate the epic-ness of the sitch, I was leaving downtown Portland to get to a 5 o’clock appointment.

I met with the Vice President of the company and his national customer service manager for about an hour and 15 minutes.

The stress seemed to be placed most on being able to run an outfit on the opposite side of the country from the main office. I’d be the only salaried manager at this location, supervising four junior managers and 75-100 employees across four different jobs.

These guys had flown out to do a job fair to fill the hourly positions. This was the end of day two.

It wasn’t going well.

I was not surprised.

But, given the scope of the work and the geographic situation, the VP stressed heavily that he needed to be able to trust the selected candidate to let him sleep at night. He really hit that hard and each time he came back to it, I felt like I nailed it. I even shared with him why trust in a work relationship was so important to me.

First, because it’s a relationship and there should at least be trust.

Second, my last job.

When it came right down to it, their big hurdle with me was that my salary expectations were $2k over their high end of the range.

I met this with a neutral, “You called me” attitude.

When I probed about benefits to see if there was any wiggle room in my position, I learned the company didn’t provide a 401k, which actually made it worse, since I’d be giving up employer matching and a tax break on my retirement savings.

Nonetheless, I came away from this interview wanting the job. I really liked my conversation with these two.

The VP told me that they’d be making an offer the next day – Thursday – before leaving town and that having made it this far in the interview process I would definitely hear from them one way or another.

That’s a sense of urgency that I can appreciate. However, as a hiring manager, I’ve learned to only ever – ever – say that to the candidate I know I’m either hiring or absolutely not hiring. Any candidates in the middle…well, if your first choice doesn’t accept right away, you’ll need a back up, right?

What stressed me slightly about potentially getting their job offer on Thursday was that the Port job I’d had my final interview with the day before wouldn’t be job offering until Monday or Tuesday of the next week.

More on that below, but I would have felt better getting word from these guys on Friday and being able to “take the weekend to decide” to see what happened with the Port job.

Thursday comes and goes, and I think maybe I’m getting my wish. Still, I flash back to how intently the veep had hit on trust, reliability and integrity during our talk. Hopefully, this wouldn’t be another situation where standards only went one way.

Friday: nothing.

And I’m back to not wanting the job.

Monday at 3:30 I finally get a call from the customer service guy.

From a Vancouver number, not the Florida cell he’d called from before. He’d left town and was back, they’d been staying at a Portland hotel the week before, which would have a different area code than this one.

I’m quite a sleuth.

He was sorry to not call me last week, he’d gone home and been sick.

Terrible excuse since I’d assume me going incommunicado as an employee would be…frowned upon.

They’d offered the job to someone else.

Sure, from where I was sitting at this point, that was absolutely fine…but I was hard pressed to imagine their alternate candidate was better suited to this than I versus simply more in budget.

Fine.

My eyes were really on the Port job. It was well below my salary expectations, but I’d figured out my floor and was ready to negotiate. With my airport and retail experience, I felt hard to beat. Plus, I knew I was one of two finalists, so I was pretty damned confident my big problem wasn’t getting the offer but more compensating for a $15k annual shortfall in my personal budget.

I got the call on Tuesday morning while at coffee with The Fox. I stepped outside for ten minutes to take the call. When I walked back in and sat down, I raised my hand for a high five and said, “Guess who got a job?!?”

“Alright!!!”, he exclaims as he returns my high five and I say, “THE OTHER GUY!”

See, what I hadn’t counted on was the dreaded internal candidate.

This interview had been a five on one round table: the HR manager, my would-be peer, my direct supervisor and then two would-be higher level peers.

Or should I call them would-not-be peers?

My would-not-be boss was someone I knew professionally from two different jobs, including my last. He was super excited about me as a candidate because of what he knew of my capabilities and what I could contribute. Most of which was also outside of the scope of this position’s job description.

This also reinforced why I wasn’t the best fit for this job: flight risk.

Not inasmuch as it would mean quitting – and that’s a reality in this job given the 5 AM start time – but rather, promotability. I knew the requirement was to serve a year in this position before being considered for other jobs and was ready to accept that reality. I also knew that Port jobs are notoriously rare and was ready to spend more time in this role.

I had a plan to offset the income differential!

However, they were really looking for someone where this job was an even longer term fit. The HR manager even went so far as to say she saw me as a replacement for either of those wouldn’t-be-higher-level peer jobs. A nice compliment…I even suspected my wouldn’t-be boss was eyeballing me as bench strength for what I assume must be his imminent retirement, I’ve known him for 15 years and he wasn’t super young then!

Plus, of the two wouldn’t-be peer positions she was talking about me being a good fit for, one was probably five years from retirement himself and the other was earning a good reputation as a flake. Both would be bad candidates for my wouldn’t-be boss’ job.

But she encouraged me to keep an eye out for jobs with them and told me that they all come through her, which gave me hope. She also took some time to talk me through interpreting posted requirements so that I didn’t disqualify myself from any potential opportunities. That was really nice.

Nonetheless, I spent much of the rest of the week wallowing in my disappointment.

But, after a week of support from my friends and family – culminating yesterday with Mom-donna tickling my chin whiskers and telling me to keep my chin up – I’m ready to dive back into the job search.

The Great Job Hunt 3.3

The Great Job Hunt 3.2

Here I am, smack dab in the middle of a busy interview stretch. Four interviews in a seven day period.

I’m really happy to have some traction in my job search…hopefully, one of these opportunities bears fruit. Right now, I’m sitting on the MAX on my way into the airport for a final interview with the Port of Portland.

I’m one of two finalists for a position that would put me – potentially – in daily contact with my former employer, so that’s sweet.

I mean, awkward.

Still, of the four potentials, this one is my fave.

It’s a Sunday through Wednesday schedule, 5am-3pm. Three day weekend every week? Yes, please!

I believe this also puts me into the PERS retirement program, which is the Portland Employee Retirement System. That’s a sweet deal, as far as benefits go.

But…because there’s always a but.

As I was leaving the first interview – a five on one panel interview, which I nailed – the HR Manager walked me out. Between the conference room and the elevator, she apologized for not reaching out for a phone interview prior to setting up the panel interview. There was only about six business days between the interview request and the actual interview, but maybe I was low on her list of priorities. Anyway, she goes on quickly as we walk to make a circular gesture around the pay range in the job description she’s holding and say that they were looking to bring someone in around the low end, since that’s where the peer position was at in the range.

A) overshare

B) the bottom of the JD says DOE, and I’m pretty “E”

So, I stopped walking.

I told her that the low end was about a 25% pay cut for me and I really didn’t think I could take that kind of financial hit.

“Well, I’ll see where your peer is and maybe there’s some room to work. Anyway”, she starts walking, “we should be making a decision by Friday.”

Friday comes and goes and then the next one does, too. I decide that I was disqualified for salary expectations and was bummed.

However, that following Wednesday, I get a call from the Director’s Admin wanting to set up an interview. She said that she was sorry that apparently I hadn’t been kept in the loop.

Ten minutes after that call, I get a voicemail from the HR Manager.

It’s 4:50.

“Hi! I just wanted to let you know that you’re going to be getting a call to set up an interview with the Director. You’re one of two final candidates! Anyway, I’ll be leaving the office in a few minutes and won’t be back in until July 2nd, but you’ll hear from me then. Good luck!”

Come.

On!

This is why I say Human Resources is the least valuable part of any organization.

Oh well, it’s an honor to just be nominated…

I’ll take all the good vibes you’ve got to spare! Mostly because I know that the first and last (which hasn’t even happened yet) interviews are positions I’m not interested in.

The last interview – this coming Thursday – was professionally set up and I was intrigued by it. It’s an Operations Manager position with a support vendor at the airport. Actually, so was the first interview in this series, but with their competitor. Anyway, I LinkedIn stalked the guy I’d be reporting to and he’s about 27, so I immediately lost interest in the job. The last thing this grumpy old man needs is to report to a millennial!

Plus, he’s a farkle.

The first interview, with their competitor, started out ok. The woman offered me an interview at 11 or 11:30, saying that either worked for her schedule that day. I choose 11:30.

I show up at her hotel at about 11:20 and am waiting to meet her in the lobby. I begin to realize that the conversation taking place on the other side of the dividing wall in the lobby is her interviewing another candidate.

Now, I’m thinking, whiskey-tango-foxtrot…who schedules in person interviews 30 minutes apart?!? There’s no time to get it all done in 30 minutes, so I decide this is just a preliminary interview. The first of a series.

She’s 15 minutes late getting to me. To make it worse, she texts me where she’s sitting and what she’s wearing.

Very professional.

I knew when she didn’t stand to greet me that I was not going to work well with this person. She proceeds to pretty much phone in the interview and at the end tells me that she wants to have an offer out by the following afternoon. Adding that she still has one interview that day and several the next morning.

Well, bully for you, lady…now I know I’m for sure not interested.

Sidebar: I get to the airport early – because I’m an adult person – and decide to take a look around. See who I know, and whatnot. Naturally, I run right into my old boss. Speaking of awkward.

Which leaves us with bachelor number two in this round of opportunities.

It’s a network opportunity and it’s the second or third time that this past colleague has tapped my shoulder for this company. This time, the stars are lined up for us: I’m free, it’s in the right city, etc. It’s a women’s athletics company and I was kind of concerned that maybe I wouldn’t be a good fit. However, after a dynamite first interview with the recruiter, I’m super jazzed about it. We’ll see what comes of it.

Ironically, this job at the Port will move slowly enough that if I am fortunate enough to receive offers on both jobs, they’ll come around the same time!

This is a problem that I’m eager to have! Keep those fingers crossed for ya boy.

The Great Job Hunt 3.2

TIL #6: Jenny Protocol

So, this is ideally a series about things I learn from my older friends as I am initiated into the Golden Oldies Club.

Silver Nuggets, as Little Buddy likes to call them.

But yesterday I had a chance to give back!

I was out to coffee with the Silver Fox and I told him I needed toothpaste, so we swung into the RiteAid so I could pick some up on the way back. He decided to impulse buy some flossers and we were off to the checkout.

Like many stores, the RiteAid has a loyalty program. You earn points for every dollar you spend and they repay you with a discount on your purchases, based on your level of spending.

Now, it’s totally not important, but I feel like I have this unreasonable point of pride around being in the “gold” reward level. All this really means is that I save 20% on my purchases.

And that I spend a lot of money at the RiteAid.

Getting old ain’t cheap, my prescriptions are expensive.

So, I go to the register with my toothpaste while The Fox skulks around being next in line. I save my $1.20-something and pay as The Fox joins me for his turn. The cashier asks if he’s a rewards member and he admits that he isn’t.

Like with social media, rewards programs go into The Fox’s “Fer Suckas” bucket and he steers clear of them.

He’s not opposed to a punch card, but nothing that requires an email or phone number.

Probably not a bad idea, given how grumpy I get deleting marketing emails from everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

But

There’s a workaround.

Or two…

Take grocery stores. At the Safeway or Fred Meyers, for instance. Sacha and I were rewards members at both places. When he bailed, I continued to use the landline number at our house to get those discounts even though the programs were in his name.

There wasn’t a Safeway near me when I moved to Shittatle and there was only one distant Freddy’s. Interestingly, Fred Meyer is a Kroger subsidiary, but their reward programs aren’t linked so I just signed up for my own Kroger reward account.

Being back in Portland now, I go to the nearby Safeway to drop my recyclables every couple weeks and will pick up cat food and La Croix and whatever I might need for a dinner or two…I still plug in my old landline number from my Sacha days and badaboom-badabing…I get the club member pricing.

Sacha can have the fuel perk, I don’t need it.

He says I’m mean to him.

Pish.

On the other hand, that whole Kroger thing worked against me when I moved back to town, because their system doesn’t recognize my landline. Either it was inactive too long and auto-purged from the system or we used Sacha’s cell number for the membership. Hey, I’m lucky to remember my landline from 15 years ago, don’t expect me to remember my ex’s old phone number. It’s all I can do to ignore his texts versus blocking the number.

Regardless, in this instance I simply activated the Jenny Protocol.

Yup, when I go to a store where I don’t have a rewards account – assuming I don’t want one, either – I simply type in my local 503 area code followed by Jenny’s number…867-5309.

Works.

Every.

Damn.

Time.

So, there I was explaining this to The Fox in the RiteAid while the cashier stared at me in slack-jawed amazement. I was getting a good chuckle over it until I realized he just wanted me to put my number in to keep the line moving…

TIL #6: Jenny Protocol

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

PaMiDa Edition

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past. Because: neurotic. But I also spend a lot of time recently wondering if this is what it’s like from here on out.

Reliving the glory days.

Although, humorous as my stories can be, surely one life shouldn’t provide so much schadenfreude. That being the case, perhaps gory days is a better way to describe my life of one bumbling mishap after another.

It really has been fun being me, so I hope there are new misadventures in store for me yet!

Maybe I’m just noticing my tendency to reflect more with my extra free time since quitting my job. When I go back to work, things might change.

Until then, maybe it’s an escape? Don’t bother asking what. Before I get into the fun stories from this PaMiDa outfit, I’ll tell ya what from what I require escape:

1) Honestly, I think I give a job search in retail management the attention it deserves. There aren’t a lot of appropriate jobs out there. As a matter of fact, many of the positions I’m interested in end up frustrating me. Sometimes the posts are for companies I’d like to work for that don’t actually have the opening for which they are advertising. Whether this is the unlikely scenario of looking to fill a job before “at willing” the person currently in the job or just a – more likely – way to pad their EEOC coffers, just in case. Since I have never gotten a call from someone that wanted to talk to me about a job I applied for six months earlier, I’m thinking that whole “keep your Application on file for future openings” schtick is a bunch of BS and don’t see the value of this practice…other than to tick me off.

Another frustrating thing about my current search is employers demonstrating their incompetence up front. That’s really kind of them, but frustrating since I see a position I’m qualified for with a company I’d like to work for and then I see something like this when I click on the link to apply

or, better yet, a link to a job in another city instead of a post for the specific city where this job search is occurring. I know it’s hard to believe, but I live in Portland, Oregon and would rather not move to Auburn-friggin’-Washington to work. Little known fact, the landfill in Auburn gives the place an aroma that makes me wish I was at a dinner party with rotting corpses, versus anywhere near that dump of a city.

One of the most aggravating things about being unemployed – even by choice – is seeing incompetent people with jobs that they do poorly.

2) Thinking about funny good times from “the old days” is an effective offset from the uglier parts of your past.

Case in pointing saw this as I was heading to bed the other night.

Sacha has never liked the idea that he gets mentioned in my blog occasionally.

At first, I was surprised he read the damn thing since we aren’t in contact these days. He insists that our mutual friends inform him about his occasional mentions. This kinda tracks, since he takes exception to entries he appears in in what I would consider a positive manner.

Because it’s not like our relationship was six years of bad times, I challenged his assertion to react based on what our mutual friends were allegedly telling him about his starring role in the blog with the idea that if they were feeding him negative information, maybe they weren’t as good a friend as he was thinking…cuz like I said, I don’t set out to write negatively about him. Today aside, virtually all of his mentions are from over a decade ago and from my perspective not terrible.

And he still cares…or our mutual friends do, as he’d have me believe.

But, I could see him having a reasonable objection to his original blog name since it was quasi unflattering…unless you actually read the blog post, then it’s just awkwardly cheeky. Still, to spare his ego – er, feelings – I shortened his blog name to Sacha as a sort of acronym for his original moniker.

Plus, Sacha is a lot easier on my fingertips.

He tried commenting early on in my blog some petulant BS, but he wasn’t a wordpresser, so publishing his comment would have ruined his anonymity by broadcasting his email – and, ergo his name – to any reader who cared to check my comment threads. I explained this to him in a text after he accused me of being “too scared” to post his comment but just got more bluster for my attempt to shield his identity from his own spin control.

His comment the other day was breathtaking. It takes a special kind of bastard to kick a guy when he’s down – he was commenting on my entry about basically being punished at my last job for being a whistleblower – but add to that the extra layer of bother he went to by creating a wordpress profile just to be able to make a petty, vitriolic comment “anonymously”.

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because I try to keep my stories about him and our relationship about that time in my life. I know nothing about his present day life, aside from these occasional and unwelcomed glimpses of his present day efforts at charm.

I dunno…maybe if I’d changed his blog name to Huge Dick, he’d have been happier. He was generally pretty proud of being a show-er. Maybe that hint at flattery would have blinded him to the double entendres. Or maybe apologizing for his original moniker – Sucks At Cheating Ex – since he seemingly didn’t get the cheeky entendres behind that name.

<ahem>

Let me try that now…Sacha, you don’t suck at cheating.

What kind of sociopath is proud of that skill? If any of us are going to cheat, I would hope we suck at it just to speed shit along.

I guess I did have a little more to say about that…

However, onto the fun stuff!

I was originally wanting to share some memories of one of my first jobs.

That was the point of this entry, although a little context had seemed appropriate to demonstrate the allure of my visit to Memory Ln.

I had had jobs before, picking berries in the summer, delivering papers, shagging balls – shut up, Diezel – at a driving range – still shut up, Diezel – but my first real job was at a place called PaMiDa.

I started working here shortly after my family moved to Atchison, Kansas. PaMiDa is/was a big box discount retailer, much like Target or Walmart and it was close enough to home at the time to walk to, a perfect commute for me in my sophomore – no, wait…junior? – year of high school, since I didn’t always have wheels at my disposal.

Legend had it that the owner had named the outfit after his three kids, Pat, Mike and Dan…Dave? It’s been 35 years, I forget.

My department manager there was a nice enough curmudgeonly greaseball of a guy named Doug.

(Hidden irony)

Hygiene was not high on his daily to do list. I could usually depend on seeing him in the same short sleeve button down shirt with pit stains and ring around the collar, black clip on tie and his red PaMiDa vest lurking around the department. I say lurking, but he was usually making the rounds, creating a to do list for us as he monitored the goings on with his trademark heavy lidded, shifty gaze. For his caricature-making hygiene and habits, he was a pretty fair and respectful supervisor. I have learned through many years of trials and tribulations that there are worse bosses.

Atchison wasn’t the least diverse of towns, but it certainly wasn’t in any danger of being called a melting pot. I had one black co-worker, Sheila, who lived on the other side of Division St, if you get my drift.

I loved her!

She had one of these full body laughs that no one could not enjoy. She was the jocular offset personality to Doug’s outward schlub. I was glad she was in my department but simultaneously sad, since it meant we usually worked opposite shifts and I didn’t get to see her much.

Which is why she was probably caught off guard when I walked around the corner of the aisle she was working in to find her muttering to herself. I’d heard Doug’s voice and needed him for some reason or another.

Sheila, for her part, did not. At least that’s how it seemed since she was muttering something about how he should get his “day old sex smelling ass” out of her face as he left from the other end of the aisle.

That’s certainly a graphic statement.

She turned to me as I asked her what she’d said, thinking she was talking to me. I was a teenager, I assumed everything was about me.

(And still may…)

When she realized she was caught, she laughed one of her longer full body laughs. It was so loud that I think it may still be echoing though the building. She nearly fell off the ladder she was working on as she tried to dismount it, still laughing. She supported herself on my shoulder, holding herself up as she doubled over…still laughing.

As she began to regain control, she wiped away tears, apologized for speaking her thoughts aloud and said, “I’m so embarrassed. If I was white, I’d be red right now!” in a demonstration of self-effacing reverse racist humor that made me laugh nervously at the time.

Now? I think it’s hilarious. I wish I’d understood the humor as well at the time so I could have enjoyed the moment less awkwardly with her, but two people laughing uncontrollably at our department manager’s expense would have just drawn unnecessary attention.

Oh, Shiela…

While I am pretty sure that the store manager interviewed and hired me, Doug introduced me to him during my store tour on the first day of work. It was something along the mumbled lines of, “This is Mr Stickler, the store manager…” as we were speeding by on our little tour.

Stickler.

I was young enough – and naive enough – to accept what my ears told my brain at face value. Therefore, despite what my eyes screamed at me on the daily, I spent the next three months greeting and responding to him with a “Good morning” or “Hi!” or a simple, “Yes, sir”, Mr Stickler.

Much to the terror or utter amusement of my co-workers and head scratching chagrin of my store manager, Mr Strickler.

Missed it by one very important letter.

Nonetheless, fate placed him right in front of me to enjoy the look on my embarrassed teenage face when that omitted “r” finally clicked into place for me.

I was white, so I was red!

Fate being a bitch, this had to occur right after my closest encounter with a tornado. Of course, that obviously turned out ok for me, but had the tornado happened after my embarrassing realization, I might have hoped for a more shituationally merciful outcome.

Of course, I’m happy with the way things turned out…near miss with a funnel cloud. At the time, i has seen several tornadoes. However, I’d never really seen a funnel cloud or understood its connection to a tornado, so this was quite the educational moment for me…

I was covering a break at the front registers and was staring hypnotically at the parking lot out of the 60-feet of plate glass windows when the associate returned. Following my gaze skyward to the gray and black clouds coalescing into a shallow swirl over our store parking lot, she advised that probably we should move away from the window. This happened just about the time the city’s tornado warning sirens went off and other associates ran to the front from their respective departments.

We mostly ended up watching the slow moving swirl pass over our parking lot like a bunch of Darwin Award honorable mentions. We were ready to duck behind the cash wraps, should the funnel look like it was going to touch down. For all the good that would do.

At some point in my senior year, Mr Strickler quit. He had apparently bought the…I wanna say, Taco Time franchise across the street from us and was working there as an owner/operator. I didn’t understand going from working in a store like PaMiDa to fast food, even if you were the owner.

At the time, PaMiDa was the best job in the world! Definitely gets a good bit of credit for me starting down my retail career path. Of course, at the time I was gonna go to college and then law school, so the wrap lawyers had in the 80s for being basic shit-heel people didn’t hurt the eventual lure of retail’s sense of immediate career gratification…

The Great Job Hunt 3.1