Monday, August 14, 2006

I have a problem at the deli, and I'm pretty sure that it's my problem, because it continues to occur in spite of our astronimical turnover rate. It's usually worst when I open the deli (i.e, I am the first one in the deli to start everything up and fill the cold cases with sliced meats, cheeses, sandwiches, salads, and other various deli food items, and also the first to leave). Here is the general sequence:

I'm scheduled to start at 5:30, but usally I show up at 5:15 or earlier. This is because if I do so, I can get an extra break at 6:45, right before the store opens at 7:00. Otherwise my first break will be at 8:15, and my energy is flagging by then if I haven't eaten sicne the night before.

However, it typically happens that I don't get a break at 6:45 anyway. The bakery opener asks me to babysit her breads in the oven, or I'm running behind, or something. I have no idea why I continue trying to get there by 5:15 or earlier when I could just have 15 more minutes of sleep instead.

The business day begins at 7:00. Customers come in, a few at first. The bakery person is usually baking her breads and off in her corner of the bakery, so unless it's Mel (the gentle and wonderful exception) I usually end up waiting on all the customers, because the counter is right in front of the deli, where I am. That's OK, there are only a few. If the day is going well and I've had my caffeine, I'm making a lot of sandwiches by now or at least preparing to do so by slicing fresh meats and cheese, lettuce and tomato.

8:00, we get another person (the, suprise-surprise, 8:00 person!). This person is vital to me, because if they don't show, I'm screwed. If they're lazy, it's almost as bad as not being there at all, but worse because they're right there aggravating me, too. If the 8:00 is someone helpful, like the two girls on either side of me in terms of seniority, it's probably going to be good. The 8:00 person's job is to prepare entrees and hot sandwiches, change salads and package up small containers of salads, make whole baked chickens, cook food for the hot case, help me wait on customers, and during the school year, cook for the school lunch crowd, which I'm supposed to help with.

If the 8:00 is lousy, what happens is that it takes them an hour to get the chickens into the oven and the entree packaged up, they forget about the hot sandwiches altogether, don't wait on customers, don't cook for the hot case, and are still trying to change the salad bowls when the school crowd is due to arrive in half an hour, having only just thought about cooking enough deep fried food to feed a hungry crowd of teenagers. This produces a panicked frenzy of food flying around through the freezer, into the fryers, out of the fryers, into bags, and hopefully into the hot case.

Either way, a lot depends on whether or not they help wait on the customers. If I have to wait on ALL the people who come to the deli, there's no way at all that I can make enough sandwiches and other stuff for the case. The way I look at it is that of there are 4-5 workers there, I don't mind waiting on half the customers. But if I have to wait on 75% or more of them, pretty soon I'll be ticked.

Sometimes we get two 8:00s, but the second one works in the bakery, bagging breads. The bakery 8:00 is generally worthless about waiting on customers, they just bag bread and that's it.

So here I am, making sandwiches hopefully, and preferably at a pace so as to fill the case full enough to stave off it's being emptied in one fell swoop of mill workers coming through. People come by and want sliced deli meats, and hopefully the slicers working well enough to slice all the meats (today it wasn't). They also want big sub sandwiches made on french bread, and this is OK, good, even, because I just make a whole sandwich, and if they only want half of it, it's that much more food out there in the sandwich case.

See, the cold case (where the sandwiches I make are displayed for sale) has to be FULL. It should be crammed so full that there isn't any room for anything else, and putting just one or two items out is unsatisfactory: people get bored with that. They want variety. When an empty spot develops, I should be filling it up again. If the case gets empty, the boss will get mad at me, whether or not it's my fault. That's the way it goes. He doesn't want to hear whose fault it is, he wants customers buying food, period.

But if the 8:00 doesn't show up or is worthless or we have a lot of special orders (for 100 sandwiches, or a deli tray, or 200 pieces of chicken), then I get behind on the sandwiches, because there's less time.

My first break and lunch come and go. I endeavor to have the case full before I go to lunch, and I check it when I come back and try to refill it.

The 11:30s arrive, usually 2 or 3 of them. One of them always heads to the back to do the dishes and start breading hundreds of pieces of chicken. If it's a delivery day, another one typically starts putting the freight away, which has to be done. The remaining 11:30 should empty cardboard (we amass piles of it from boxes) and the garbage, assess the food in the hot case and assist in cooking what we're short on, help with cutomers, and then start on the breakouts (arranging frozen doughnuts and bread doughs on baking racks to be proofed in the morning).

That's what should happen with the 11:30s.

What happens a lot when I work is that the second and third 11:30s start bagging breads, or they stand around talking, or they do the breakouts right away. At any rate, they don't wait on the customers unless you ask them to, and it's awkward to ask someone else to wait on a customer who is looking directly at you smiling expectantly. They're not supposed to ignore customers, but they do.

Moreover, this is the time of day when the boss walks by the sandwich cases and checks to see that it's full. It's the lunch hour, when we get a lot of people, and when people buy the most sandwiches. That case has got to stay full.

The time for my last break, 12:45, comes. I'm making sandwiches or there's a crowd of customers, and I can't get away. Breaktime comes and goes, because I need to have the case full before I leave at 2:00. If it's empty next morning, my manager will figure I didn't make any sandwiches at all. I have to make enough sandwiches so that there will still be an impressive number left over the next day. Unfortunately, sandwich making isn't going to well, because I'm running around trying to wait on customers. If I ask for help, the other person phlegmatically lumbers over to wait on one or two customers, and then goes back to ignoring them until I holler for help again. My feet and hip joints are *killing* me, and I want to tear my hair out in frustration.....

It continues this way. 2:00, my time to leave, comes, and the table is full of half made sandwiches. I can't abandon my work area and leave it in a mess like this, and without putting the sandwiches out or wrapping up the meats, cleaning the slicer, etc. So I stay and try to finish up and get out of there ASAP.

But we aren't supposed to rack up overtime. If I do, my manager punishes me by cutting my hours the following week or giving me undesirable shifts. She gives me only four days instead of five, to make sure that I absolutely can't get overtime. I'm not trying to get overtime, I know we're not supposed to, but sometimes it happens anyway.

So I work an extra half an hour or so, and I don't change my time to count that extra half hour. Customers keep coming, and they keep getting ignored unless I wait on them, even thoguh I'm supposed to be gone already. I start to get mad. Teh other deli workers who are ignoring customers look at me like I'm a bitch. I finally get out of there and storm off, resenting the fact that my baby and 3 year old sons have waited an extra half hour or more for me at the daycare, and I'm not even getting paid for it, all because the other workers wouldn't make a team effort....

OK, so that's what happens. Tell me what I'm doing wrong, PLEASE. This is driving me crazy, and it happens almost every time I open.

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