*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

Well, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months now.

Not that I’m pals with Julia Roberts, that would not be news I kept to myself. I’m totally that guy who would have a celebrity friend and always refer to them by their full name just to make sure no one forgot.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this movie grossed $175 million back in 1991…on a film about escaping domestic abuse! That’s not Gone Girl money, but it’s about half of Gone Girl’s box office and I’m really not sure how you adjust that for inflation over almost a quarter century.

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

So, in August, I took a part time/seasonal job to get my ass off the couch. This was after watching all of the Marvel movies – except the Captain America movies – that I could get my hands on on Amazon over the course of two days.

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

This was after my crisis of confidence that I’d ever be comfortable or capable of returning to work in retail management after trying – and largely failing – to cope with the feeling of betrayal my last job left me with for four months. I really think that this disease I carried with me when discussing my last job was a bigger part of why I kept finishing second in interviews than I’d been admitting to myself.

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

But what I did know was that something had to change. Doubting I would succeed in finding a company I trusted enough to risk going to work again, I opened up craigslist and just started scrolling through the jobs page.

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

I needed to change things up. Occupy my time. Jump start my confidence in myself and a future employer so I could let go of these feelings of distrust and worthlessness.

That’s the first connection that this experience had to Sleeping With The Enemy. I felt abused and devalued by my last job. Like Julia, I was going to have to overcome my fear in order to succeed – unlike her, I’d already escaped, but couldn’t let go of the trauma. She only had to learn how to swim – well, and then hide forever – I wasn’t entirely sure that I knew or could articulate exactly what I needed to overcome.

The second…correlation? Sure, let’s go with that – that this entry has to Sleeping With The Enemy is that I went to work for Amazon.

Escandoloso!

Literally, the company that has been the feared enemy of my brick and mortar retail career.

But, in reading the craigslist post, this was a seemingly win/win situation for old Xtopher:

There was no interview at all. Take a few aptitude tests on line, pick a schedule, go to work.

In.

Sane.

The job was at night. I took the 9-430 shift Friday night through Monday night. Why is this a win? Because it took me out of commission for the prime drinking days…something I needed to get away from.

Lastly, the job is crazy physical. It’s fast paced, too. Well, it’s set your own damn pace because there’s very little oversight…I choose fast because I expect myself to exceed expectations, so Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, here…

Anyway, I anticipated riding my bike to work since the busses don’t run until 5-ish in the morning and waiting a half hour when I could be home and in the shower in 15 minutes seemed stupid. So there’s basically four lunchtime spin classes a week just in the commute, which was a good start. But this job just kicks my ass on the daily whether I ride the bike or the bus.

And I’ve dropped at least 20 pounds since I started work there.

Technically, I guess this is a win/win/win…and I’ll take it!

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

(Is it racist if I type in Ebonics? I’m going with “nope” because I friggin’ love that word.)

Its a warehouse job. This particular warehouse is a Sort Center, which is where the Fulfillment Centers route locally bound packages to be sorted for delivery. There’s three basic functions my role can be assigned to:

Unload: semis come into this Sort Center from Fulfillment Centers throughout the PNW and California. Hell, maybe even from other regions, too. No one tells me anything until 3 seconds after I need to know it. Trucks either need to be manually unloaded onto a belt or come palletized, then my job is to move the boxes from the pallets to the belt.

Puller: boxes travel down the belt, past 68 aisles on either side. Pullers look at each label as it goes by and pull packages for their assigned aisles – usually a group of 3, if we’re staffed up and we usually aren’t – and put it on a shelf.

Sorter: each Sorter is assigned two aisles – same caveat as above – that are about 21 feet long and are separated into six sections on each side, each section has three shelves. Four of these sections are divided into six totes representing different delivery areas, the other two are just shelves for oversized packages. The Sorter looks at each package and then scans it to log it into the correct delivery bin.

It sounds pretty easy until you think about how many semis it takes to deliver the 40-50k packages to our Sort Center each night.

There’s generally 8-10 people on Unload, so figure each of them will touch 5000 packages per night, that’s a lot of bending, twisting and lifting.

Pullers are the area that seems to get the least amount of compromising, it is a job that runs short as a last resort, so figure there’s about 45 people doing this job during a shift.

Then there’s the Sorters. Ideally, there are 34 in order to keep it manageable.

What usually happens is not that. If there aren’t enough Sorters, a set of aisles will be allowed to build up until its shelves reach critical mass. At that point someone will be pulled from their aisles and conscripted to put out the fire.

You can probably see where the disadvantage of having too little supervision and allowing people to set their own pace. Likewise, the extreme disadvantage of being a fast worker. Frequently, I’ll be asked to go take care of one of these orphan aisles, only to return to my own to find them in chaos.

Sorting is what I do most nights, and it’s a lot of fast paced walking, lifting, carrying, squatting and then more of all that. The aisles are about 20 feet long and I usually walk between 8-10 miles per shift, wearing a rut in the concrete floor.

Carrying stuff.

The pace goal for Sorters is to scan ~170 packages per hour into their respective delivery totes. That’s three packages a minute, which sounds easy enough.

Then you have to factor in things like scanner issues – believe me, holding the scan button tighter does not make it more likely to read a barcode – and replacing full totes with empty ones throughout the night.

I’m usually in the mid to high 200/hr range. That number will go up dramatically on nights where I hear things like, “We only have 5 Sorters on this side of the belt!”

FML.

There should be 16.

But somehow, at 430 in the morning, things still seem to have gotten done. Whether that’s because we managed to actually finish everything because we were staffed up or because the managers decided to pause the Unload team and push packages to the following day – which is never a good option – is not always clear to me. But at some point in the night – for whatever reason – the Unloaders will become Sorters, which always helps us get to the finish line.

Or close.

The culture of minimal supervision means that at 430, people walk away from their assigned areas and just leave.

I’ll cross the finish line in my aisles – clothes completely soaked through with sweat – and head toward the front to turn in my scanning equipment only to realize the silence coming from the aisles around me didn’t mean the aisles were done, just that the Sorters were gone.

Nice teamwork, right?

The latest I’ve ever had to stay is about 515, and that’s only been a few times. Generally, I’m on the road by 445, pedaling toward home.

But, what’s with all this minimal supervision, you ask?

Well…to run a shift, we need about 85 people, right? Call it 10 Unloaders, 45 Pullers and 34 Sorters.

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

There’s days when you look around at the start of shift meeting – called a Stand Up – and it doesn’t look like there’s even 50 people there.

So, Amazon basically falls into the same staffing terror trap that my airport employer experienced. And they kind of deal with it the same way: unenforced expectations.

The only real hardline I hear people talk about is attendance, which at least puts them a step ahead of the airport. That’s pretty much out of their control, since points automatically accrue with missed shifts and tardiness. You hit the point threshold and you’re out. Beyond anyone’s control beside the individual.

I love systems like that.

But for the rest of the rules, enforcement is phoned in.

I hate systems like that.

There’s usually two shift managers who have maybe a dozen junior managers – called Ambassadors – to help keep things running in the different zones of the warehouse. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of expectations on the Ambassadors other than get the packages ready to deliver. Nor is there much development that I can see. I rarely see the shift managers away from their station at the front desk. Occasionally, I’ll see them with the Unload team or at the front of the belt, helping. Anything beyond that is pretty much run by Ambassadors.

The sad thing is that with the Ambassadors usually being self-directed, if someone doesn’t pull their weight, everyone else just has to work harder. Most of the time, I see Ambassadors strolling around in pairs, talking. Since most Ambassadors started as Sorters, they will occasionally hang out with their Sorting buddies from before they were promoted and talk.

I think the main criteria for being an Ambassador is “just be there longest” when an opening comes up. Fine, if that’s how you wanna do it, but it would be a lot better if there was a formal or better yet, executed training program for these junior managers.

But, remember what I said about my own development…it’s usually three seconds too late. My first night on the job was spent being shown safe working habits and how to Sort. Every role I’ve learned since then has been learned in the moment. Not optimal, but I can roll with it, I’ll care enough to figure it out. It’s just difficult to do what’s encouraged if I have a question – “ask an Ambassador” – since the vast majority of them rarely make eye contact and usually offer barely a grunt in response if you greet them.

Despite those obstacles and bad people habits, there’s still about a half dozen Ambassadors that I would call good. They got good because of their own drive and luck I’d guess.

Luck is never a good quality in a workplace…it always runs out.

If there was more of a drive to manage performance versus simply achieve results, night’s where we have fewer than 75 associates would be nights where we had everything we need rather than a crisis.

However, with the balance of the Ambassadors demonstrating bad habits to the associates, it’s no wonder we have the results we do. I’ve seen people just walk away from their aisles and be gone for 20-30 minutes. I’ve seen Pullers have an Ambassador cover their zone so they can go to the bathroom five minutes after returning from break. There is more than one associate who moves at a pace that suggests they are terrified their shoes will burst into flames if they walk too fast.

I’ve witnessed conversations that are completely not appropriate for work taking place. I thought long and hard about saying something about them – the favorite topic is speculating whether a small, heavy box has a dildo or other sex toy in it. Ultimately, I decided to just keep my head down and my focus on my work…this is a good strategy, since people’s hands move rather slowly while their jaws are flapping.

Anyway, it’s unfortunate that these issues are not addressed simply because people might quit. The adverse effect here is that the bad behaviors travel up the chain of command like a contagion, just lowering the performance bar. I even overheard one of our Shift Managers engaging in a dildo conversation with four other people. I was working across the belt from the other Shift Manager, a woman, and I looked up at her and her face registered absolutely no offense.

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

I sold myself on taking a job – any job – just to get off my couch. The emotional/mental benefits I mentioned above. The physical aspect of the job that I simply love…even though I feel broken for days after my four day work week ends.

The fact that it was a job at Amazon was an added benefit, maybe the exposure would allow me to stand out and be promoted or help out if another job I was qualified opened up. I think I’m at that level, now. I hear my name come up in positive sidebars. However, I don’t want to be an Ambassador if it means most of my peers suck at their job. I’ve been there and done that. Ain’t for me.

But the last benefit is likely going to be the most useful for me. When I left my last job, it was with what I considered good reason. The State of Oregon disagreed, so I’ve been denied unemployment benefits, which were part of my financial planning for my time off and job search. That disqualification is lifted once I’ve earned 4x my weekly unemployment benefit and then I can begin drawing unemployment bennies.

Well, when I took this temporary seasonal job, I didn’t know how long my assignment would last, because: no interview. What I found out is that I could be a seasonal employee for up to 11 months.

That’s a lot of seasons.

But if I quit once I reach my disqualification threshold, I’d be right back at square one with the great state again ruling that I quit for no good reason.

Oooh, conundrum.

I knew after a month that this job, four nights a week was too physically demanding for me to do long term. I wasn’t as sore as I’d been my first week, but my soreness was in my joints – from my fingers to my knees – and not in my muscles.

That’s no bueno.

Fortune smiled upon me when corporate decided to standardize work shifts. Instead of our station’s four day/9-430 shift, we were being moved to a three day/815-515 shift.

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

We would be moved into a four hour shift, five days a week. There was going to be an 815-1215 shift and a 115-515 shift.

Out of those three possibilities, I got the absolute worst possible shift for me: 815-1215.

This was bad for me because, why?

Because we are always short staffed. I could easily see the, “Hey, can you extend to a full shift today?” conversation happening every. damn. shift.

This shift was also bad for mine, truly because I didn’t see getting home at 1230 as a benefit. A) I’d probably stop and close a dive bar at least once a week, which is counterproductive to my fitness goals; but, B) I also knew that I’d still need a shower before going to bed and that’s gonna put my bedtime closer to 2 in the morning after letting my hair dry. Two hours of prep time – between my 40 minute round trip bike commute and pre-bedtime shower – was half of the time I’d actually be getting paid to work.

Bad ROI.

Icing this scheduling cake was that it wasn’t sustainable when I return to work, which – despite my plotting against the fine folks at the unemployment office – I was/am hoping to do sooner, rather than later.

So, I told my dildo-talking boss that I couldn’t do the new schedule, even though I was taking the choice of shift assignment as a compliment.

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

I liked that idea. As summer weather gave way to less bike commuter friendly fall and winter weather, I could pick up as few as one shift a month and still remain on-call. That could work.

Added bonus, I can re-open my unemployment claim from the world of the underemployed versus unemployed. Also a good thing.

So, I decided to do that. My goal was to try and pick up three shifts a week until I go back to working full time and then at least two shifts per month after that.

We’ll see how it goes. And quickly, too…my last two days as a seasonal associate are this Friday and Saturday, then I switch to on-call.

If anyone wants to go play Sunday, let me know…I’ll have a weekend day off again!

And maybe – just maybe – I’ll be in the mood to celebrate a new job. I was one of only three people interviewed last weekend for a job with Columbia Sportswear. Here’s hoping that I finally break my Second Place streak.

I’ll know before Friday. Fingers crossed that I can celebrate a new job, successful transition to on-call at Amazon and not even needing my Machiavelli-esque earned unemployment.

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

The Red Shirt Diaries #23

I got this completely random email today:

An unsolicited job offer.

In a protectorate that Britain has probably even forgotten is in its realm?

What could possibly go wrong?

I should totally do this. It’s only a few years and Luke says its great money.

Y’know, my survival instincts being what they are, instead of telling all of my friends and family, “See ya again…never” and disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle; I think I’ll just sit in my couch and laugh at Luke’s last name.

Dingledine.

Ok. Yeah. That’s unfortunate.

The Red Shirt Diaries #23

I Should Be…

Sleeping:

It is 2 AM, after all. But I went upstairs after dinner to charge my phone and woke up at about 1 AM. After tossing and turning for a while, I came downstairs to do something productive.

So fat – er, far – I’ve had a bowl of Kettle Chips and a Coke Zero.

Job Hunting?:

My sister asked me a few months back if I’d ever considered expanding my job search to Bend, Oregon versus just waiting for a position in Portland that I want.

Yeah, but now that your kid is getting ready to move there for college, I gotta wait a couple years so it isn’t weird.

I never claimed to be a reasonable person, a non-claim I fully embrace since the State of Oregon rejected my unemployment claim on the grounds that a reasonable person would not quit a job simply because a company failed to enforce its policies from its own employee handbook. Given that measurement, I’d rather be unemployed and unreasonable.

The thing is, now that I’m with the whole fam-damily in nearby Sunriver, all I wanna do is not leave.

Ergo, I should at least see what jobs are available here.

Reading:

I’m about two decades behind – ok…only a month -on my WordPress Reader content. I should be better about that…if only because there’s no easy way to go back a month to the last entry I read.

Scroll, scroll, scrolling I a-go!

Writing:

Yes, I know that I am writing…as a procrastination tool. I’ve got several V.O.D.s that I could be working on cleaning up – particularly one about visiting my cousins when I was young that’s been on my mind this week as I reunite with my family. The entry is about my second cousins, but having my first cousins around this week has pulled me back to it…

There’s also several new blog ideas that I’ve got in draft mode – V.O.D. stands for Very Old Draft, incidentally – that I’m putting off: a lil something about how I’m trading my time for money these days, a piece on Crazy Rich Asians that is morphing into a diversity piece as it sits being neglected and a Dating Into Oblivion update/catch up piece.

Instead, I turned on the fire, read a bit, snacked a bit and jerked this place-holder piece off into the blogosphere…I’m on vacation, after all.

Now, since I opted for caffeine over alcohol with my chips and ergo – won’t be sleeping anytime soon…back to reading!

PS: “ergo” usage count in this blog entry – 2. No, 3!

#lazywriting

I Should Be…

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…

What Could Possibl…

Yeah, ok…the hell with that question.

I’m torn about whether it will be my death certificate or my tombstone that says, “Well, that answers that question…”

I forwarded my acupuncture appointment reminder to voicemail earlier and when I went in to delete the message, saw that I actually had two. Now, this would hardly be the first time I’ve received two reminder calls, but that wasn’t the case today.

The second call was a follow up to a kick ass interview that I had last week. Just wanted to let me know that they went with an internal.

If you have been reading The Great Job Hunt series, you know how lovely I find those words.

So, instead of dwelling and falling into the same trap that I did last time I got the internal candidate rash, I decided to refocus on some funnier “What could possibly go wrong” moments and other recent examples of my quirk-centric existence.

A much better use of my energy.

It’s amazing to me how many of these humorous situations are actually crowd sourced while I’m with friends versus my solo adventures. But let’s start with one of those rarer gems, shall we?

Because, it just happened.

I was at the pharmacy picking up a refill before the weekend – because I’m not working, pretty much have every day to get this errand done but for some reason would rather wait until 4:45 on a Friday to do so.

Maybe it’s that I wanna trot my keg belly across town at the hottest part of the day. Perhaps since it’s a Friday, I figured there’d be some guycandy knocking off early along the way to reward me for completing this task.

Maybe it was both.

I had called ahead, but there were still a few minutes needed to finish up my refill. Taking a seat, I heard the door open behind me and was treated to my guy candy.

Dressed in a cropped mesh football-ish jersey and cut off denim shorts, I assumed he couldn’t be coming from work. He might be heading to work, I mused, since my pharmacy is near one of Portland’s two gay strip clubs.

I got a little distracted when leaned over the counter and pushed his butt out toward me, but I did vaguely hear him say he needed a refill over the rushing of my pulse. My first thought was absolutely unmentionable but my second thought was, “This guy looks like he could have starred in a gay remake of an 80s Whitesnake video.

I was abruptly ripped back to reality by eight numbers: 11171996.

11

17

1996

He’s 22.

Of course, I had to share this with my friend, Diezel. He would certainly enjoy my discomfiture.

He certainly didn’t disappoint.

I couldn’t resist throwing a little shade in my jealousy over the carefree existence young gays have thanks to science, hence my “whore” comment.

Naturally, he sat down three feet from me and began finessing the fringe on his shorts. Picking at a thread here, lifting a knee to the side of his head to get a look at the backside of his shorts.

Seriously, kid…I’m looking. Let’s not overdo it, shall we?

Nevertheless, this St Lucille Bluth meme just captured my inner grumpy old man so perfectly in the moment…me, being all bitter over what I know I can’t have.

It was quite delicious – and responsible – that this kid was picking up his PrEP prescription moments before the weekend began. All the while, teasing the defenseless old man. It’s 90 degrees, kid. I’m too dehydrated to drool, don’t take it personally.

Earlier today, Jortis took some time to take a swipe at my figurative chops on the Facebook. He had seen a video about how to tell if there are sharks in the water before you swim in it.

He thought to tag me, which made me chuckle. Still, I watched the video through my fingers, ready to throw my phone aside at the first sign of a shark attack.

The video proudly touts the simple secret of detecting a shark infested body of water using only a spoon.

Step 1) Use spoon to taste a sample of the water

That’s it.

If the water tastes like salt there’s sharks in it.

I’ll wait while you recover from that subtle shock.

I’m of the mind that just because sharks are rarely found in fresh or brackish waters it doesn’t mean theyaren’t ever found there. As a matter of fact, I think every time you go into fresh water without encountering a shark, it just makes it more likely that it might happen the next time.

Yes, rivers.

Yes, lakes.

Yes, yes, yes, swimming pools, jacuzzis and bath tubs.

Fears are supposed to be irrational!

Also, I failed Probabilities & Statistics. In my defense, I took it at 8 am while I was working swing shift from 11 PM to 7 AM at Hoag Hospital.

This galeophobia of mine has been responsible for some rather amusing moments for my friends recently. At my expense, naturally. Not that I mind. With all the shit I sling, I best be able to take some in return!

Interesting side note, galeophobia is derived from the Greek word for weasel or polecat. Have you all become at least virtually acquainted with my murderous feline?

Not to be outdone, Little Buddy can generally be relied upon to insert an “irrational fear of sharks” bon mot into any given situation. And they’re usually pretty friggin’ hilarious.

This floor decal, for instance

Surely, there’s a shower curtain available.

I’m not suggesting at all that she goes out of her way to find these nightmare triggers for me.

The Facebook, on the other hand, seems to understand her shopping and internet browsing habits. Recently, this suggestion popped up on her Facebook feed.

She’s a crazy-talented baker, too, so I’ve no doubt about what the next birthday cake she bakes me will look like!

Finally – and I’m not suggesting that Little Buddy or Jortis is some sort of catalyst here – but last week, we all went to Portland Center Stage to see the final show of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

Sidebar: if this is playing anywhere near you ever, I suggest you go see it.

Quite.

Amazing.

Anyhoo…after the show, we all cry-stumbled over to Powell’s because Jortis had a book he needed to pick up. None of us, save Jortis, knew what book he was after – and I’ve since forgotten…old – but I was surprised to find our party lost together in the sci-fi/fantasy room. This room is about a quarter of a city block, so don’t doubt me when I say we were lost together.

Plus, I had some door trouble as a result of being raised right. When I held the door for one of our foursome, eighty other people decided that Powell’s was the place to be and I got stuck at the entrance while watching the three people I was with get smaller and further and further spread out.

I caught up with LB in the Orange Room – or was it the Pink Room?

Nevertheless, there we were, waiting.

Maybe a little buzzed.

Definitely feeling the emotional weight of the show we’d just seen.

And it’s Little Buddy to our emotional rescue!

She somehow managed to catch a cluster of book titles that struck her as the perfect indicator that Jortis and I were in the right area. This is probably part of why I think it might have been the Pink Room…

Have you ever noticed how homoerotic fantasy fiction is?

I have.

Little Buddy definitely has.

Bones of the Earth?

This Side of Judgment?

How many titles in that pic have the word Queen in them?!?

Insanity.

Random insanity.

And this just happens to catch Little Buddy’s eye. I mean, c’mon! I have no question why LB is in my life, she’s prepaying her time in purgatory, obviously.

But, if I did…this moment is a perfect illustration.

For my part, not to be out-distracted, I noticed a book about 6″ – seriously, no double entendres intended – outside of the frame of the picture above.

I don’t know who this Belgarath the Sorcerer is, but his name is an anagram for my last name.

How.

Friggin’.

Random.

Ever since I’ve seen this, I’ve been trying to have a dream about Belgarath where we meet, fall in love, get married and then his name is Belgarath bal Gather.

(Like I’d tell you my real last name)

Anyway…hey, look! I distracted myself from my double-disappointing news day! I failed to mention that I’ve been summoned to Seattle next week for a preliminary round of We Hired An Internal, causing me to cancel a trip to The Gorge to christen LB and 2.0’s new wine country escape and Jortis’ birthday.

How’s that for crap timing?!?

But, like I said…channeling funny stories into my psyche in order to drive out the demons of bad news.

And it worked.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I also picked up a grocery bag of junk food earlier today as I wandered the aisles of my local RiteAid trying to figure out what it was I went in for.

Imma go comfort eat all of that.

Because, what could possibly go wrong?

It was dishwasher detergent, btw. And, no…I didn’t remember before I left.

What Could Possibl…

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