Swallow

Bait & Switch store manager rests his powers of simplification upon the following dictum: All we’re doing is serving customers.

No. This is demonstrably false, the evidence for which I provide is the extensive forms required for semi-annual reviews. Endless detail about we serfs’ behavior in the store and in response to required tasks is annotated in excruciating detail.

Key to performance measurement here is one’s functioning as the next grade. In other words, for me to fulfill and above-average standard, I have to be my boss. This, for the equivalent of folding sweaters at The Gap.

The notion that “All we are doing is serving customers” is risible. Serving customers is the necessarily annoying but logically least of our job; satisfying an impossible standard for pay that’s below standard in an environment of lowest cost and ancient technology is the hard part.

Yep. Bait & Switch. Not just for customers.

McLaren Vale

On the grape acceptance hopper. Grape type unknown.

Pete’s car was called the Gelato Wagon. Either an HT or an HK Kingswood, it was quite the modern wonder at the time. She was named that in deference to the three-tone colour scheme; bubble-gum blue, polar white and complete tack.

The Italian boys – Giordano Rossetto & Lorenzo Comassetto -who owned Valle D’Oro distributors bought the car for him. it was one of a number that marked my early childhood: waiting for dad to come home with the new car was excruciatingly exciting, so much so that I can still smell those long-chain plastic interiors.

Hard to imagine now just how exotic Italian culture was in Adelaide in the 60s and 70s. Those lads imported all kinds of amazing stuff like olives, anchovies and strange salty cheese, not to mention that they had their own industrial-strength pasta machines. The wonderful smell of semolina flour….mmmmmm.

In addition to (my under-described) food business, they owned a winery in McLaren Vale. Thesedays it’s the Middlebrook Winery but back then it was an amazing warren of open fermentation tanks, pipes, hoses and an amazing basket press that I remember pushing gorgeous juice out of dark red-black skins.

That photo was at the front of the winery, and it must have been February for the hopper to have been that full. For the life of me I can’t remember the grape variety, only that it was Italian. Later, when Dalgety bought out the Italian boys and corporatised the whole smash, they pulled the vines and re-planted.

What might have been had they left those wonders from the motherland be.

How long have you been in retail?

Management visited the workplace yesterday, in a flurry of angst from bosses.

This place adores acronyms (RVP, DM, RHRVP, LP) and congratulating itself on what a caring place it it. I was told that someone sporting a lot of letters (see above) would personally chat to me about my welfare and thoughts, but thankfully that didn’t happen. Instead I introduced myself to them.

Big companies don’t have to be like this. This slightly dazed self-importance results from these people looking up and not down. They’re keen to impress their bosses, not propel the minions who deal with keeping customers swooshing through the door.

Apparently we’re a retard store – excuse me, Special Needs Store –  because we failed to live up to some magical sales target. Being short-bus-worthy means we attract special attention, although just how useful this is at increasing sales is a matter for debate.

My unofficial and amateurish guide to the character of management is the cleanliness of the rest rooms. By my measure…not very. The doors are dirty (from where people push them to open from the store-side) and the flush of the urinal is iffy. Ergo, bad management.

As a sidebar, I was smart not to partake of the lunch provided, thereby obeying the First Rule of boss interaction: eating never burnishes your brand.

Remaining Silent

A new job, a (slightly) different tactic.

Because I have opinions, I need to watch my mouth. The methods and structures become invisible to people who’ve become used to them, which means they slowly become less critical, if not outright advocates. But the fact remains that they are invested in keeping things the way they are, because they are the way things are the way they are.

My mentor and confidante has it about right: The place is owned by lawyers, so that means they’re stuck in the 1940s. Majesty of the law and all that stuff means that public opinion (read; everyone else) improves and changes while the stately ship of legislation cruises slowly behind. We have everything run by pieces of paper and binders. Their technology is a pyramid of legacy systems piled on each other, like and archeological dig. Systems are what remains from whatever was before. It’s comic, if not downright Dickensian.

We must wear ties. This in a job that requires climbing ladders and carting around 50 lb boxes. The CBT was so slow it was counter-educational. Procedures vary depending upon to whom one is talking.

But it’s all part of the great corporate inevitability, that innovation and efficiency must be forced upon people from people at the bottom and at the top. But not by me. I’m remaining firmly mute.