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Sunday, 10 August 2008

In a right two and eight!

I have been in a right two and eight these past few days, as usual it seems for nothing, wondering what decision to make if I was offered a job that I was interviewed for last week.

I started in my current job at the end of November last year, and although for the most part I enjoy it, it has not been without its challenges, not least of which have been being the only female in a male dominated environment, and also the fact that the store is a complete tip. This is not our fault, since the company have not invested in it for what seems like years - our shop fittings are at least 10-15 years of date, everything is covered in dust, the paint is peeling off the walls, and there is a horrible musty smell in the upstairs warehouse and staff room.

I started here part time, working 10am-3pm four days a week, and after Christmas changed my hours to four full days. I have to had to deal with a lot of personal challenges during my time here (for a long time I blamed my problems with my book on the job, since I was no longer around to work on selling and publicising it), and it has been a real steep learning curve, since the job is so much more than selling. The day usually starts with a team briefing, bringing us up to date about what we did yesterday, plus any new offers, and being given our targets for the new day. On an average day, I print the new tickets out, make sure my own section is clean and tidy, deal with customer problems, put up some new POS (point of sale), sell various stuff, and generally run around like a blue arsed fly! Our stock room is upstairs, and I lift and carry heavy items that I am sure I shouldn't. On Mondays I also have to help with the delivery - not actually unloading the van, but taking the stuff upstairs to the stock room and ticking the items off the list. This is a wonderful way of keeping fit, and I have lost a whole dress size since I started here.

Customers don't expect us to know everything of course, and I freely admit when I don't and am not afraid to ask for help. Still, there is so much that I don't know, that to be honest, a lot of the time I feel out of my depth. I also feel that I cannot really be myself, with the customers at least, and am forced to wear a mask. It is not as pronounced here as in other jobs, but it still has its toll.
The problem is that there is just so much to learn - and the market and products change so quickly. It is not just about knowing the difference between different types of products, but the the difference between all the various makes as well. This is exacerbated by the fact that I don't have an awful lot of faith in much of what we sell - a lot of our customers are very ego driven, thinking that all this stuff makes them better, when in my opinion it has the opposite effect. It can also be very difficult working in a store with loud music blaring out for most of the time. I am quite a sensitive person and need peace and quiet, not noise. On the other hand, I also need a job that stimulates me and which involves learning and new challenges. This job certainly does that, but not always in the right way.

Because the store is closing down (we have been waiting for almost 3 months now to be told when), most of the staff have either left or are working through their notice. One of the men, whom I nicknamed the waffler, was the biggest challenge of all; the typical egocentric male, full of bulls*** and bravado. Despite his excellent salesmanship, he was not a team player. He left abruptly about three weeks ago, as he said he could not cope with the stress and the pressure of it all - his girlfriend is pregnant, and he wanted to put her first, so he leaped before he was pushed.

The Assistant Manager is working through his notice and leaves on August 24th, and all that will leave is me (I have been working full time since the waffler left) the Store Manager and a weekend assistant, who normally works on Saturdays only, but is currently working around 3 days a week. We hope to try and get some more people in, and have hopefully poached a second key holder from another store, but it is difficult since we do not know how long they will be needed for and people want and need to know where they stand.

Things got so bad that the week that the waffler left, if I had not been able to work on the Friday, which should have been my day off, then the store would have had to close, as there was only one other staff member in that day. As it was, following his departure, there were 2 of us in every day for 2 weeks (because of holidays), and I did not get a lunch break for 2 weeks. I have been paid for those hours, but it is not the point. This should not happen, and is actually illegal, but there was nothing we could do. I never want to go through anything like that again.

I have spoken to a few other stores, and have been weighing up my options. There are three possibilities for a transfer - two of which are within five or six miles from home, and one further afield. From the two closest stores, the furthest one would be the best choice, since it is only a few more miles travelling distance, has a wonderful lady manager, and would also mean a large pay rise due to London weighting. I would get the pay rise at the other store as well, which is slightly nearer home. The store also has a particularly high turnover of staff, which is never a good sign. As for the third store, which is much further from home, it is tempting, as it is a superstore, and my future would be much more secure long term, but it is twice the distance from home and so would cost a fortune in petrol, plus I would not qualify for London weighting, and would therefore earn a lot less.

With everything that has happened, I am not sure if I want to stay. My Manager says that I should try and look at things from a detached perspective and realise that a lot of the problems that we have at work are unique to our store, because of its age and lack of investment, and a newer more modern store would be totally different. I am sure he is right, but still there is something that is holding me back from making that decision. Maybe I have just not accepted that we will be closing, and once a date is announced, this will help me. Maybe it is the convenience of working in my local town, and not wanting the hassle of starting again with a new set of people and a new store - it seems that none of my jobs last long, and I do get very tired of this and the continual search for something else. The store is though closing whether I like it or not, and I will have to do that though wherever I end up. There is nothing I can do to change that.

I have then also been looking around for other jobs. The interview that I had the other day was for a job as an Optical Assistant for an opticians across the road. They went bust and have recently been taken over by one of the large chains, and so everything there is in a state of flux too. There is though a lovely peaceful atmosphere, and I know I could do the job and be good at it. The fact that I wear glasses, and could therefore relate to the customers would definitely help. There is also a lot to be said for staying in my local town, but is is very quiet in there, and I am worried I would get bored. On the other hand, it can get very tiring and stressful on busy days, and it is a lot easier to remain calm when you are under less pressure, and do a good job.

The money is less at £6 an hour (officially minimum wage, which soon goes up to £5.73), but they have said they will offer me more due to my experience), but it is full time, and therefore more hours. I have the opportunity to earn bonuses in both the opticians and my current job, but I would without a doubt, earn much more if I stayed with my current employer. Money is not of course everything, although I would prefer to work four days instead of five, and I would potentially have the opportunity to earn more from working less hours. I do miss that extra day off.

I had the interview on Wednesday, and the opticians said they would let me know by the end of the week, which was Friday, but so far, nothing. I may then be getting in a lather over nothing - but why change the habit of a lifetime? It feels in a way as if I have two choices, neither of which really suits, but I have to choose one - stay or go. If I stay will I regret it and end up more stressed, money after all isn't everything, but if I go, will I also regret it and get bored? Will the new owners of the opticians close this store, which does seem very quiet, in six months time, and will it be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire?
Decisions, decisions ... In the end I suspect that the universe will make the choice for me - it usually does.

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