Cart Yourself Off To A Better Job

, , , , | Working | March 29, 2021

I have been working in a retail store for years. I am twenty-five. My job title is a maintenance worker, though I am also cross-trained in other areas of the store due to having been there a while and job-hopping to “ensure job stability.”

The cart associate is going on his lunch and lets me know, as pushing carts falls to maintenance on such occasions, along with helping customers with bigger items that need to be loaded and unloaded into their cars. About twenty minutes later, a page goes out for “LCart customer assistance in electronics” so I head over there to help. Upon arriving, I spot who I think are the ones needing help, as they’re the ones staring at the huge TV wall. It’s two middle-aged women.

Me: “Hello, are you the ones needing some help?” *LCart in hand*

Woman #1: “No, we’re just looking.”

At this, she turns and whispers something inaudible to the other woman, and feeling it’s none of my business, I go around the department; not seeing anyone else, I start to head back into the back room when an assistant manager stops me.

Assistant Manager: “What are you doing?”

Me: “They paged for LCart help in electronics, but no one I asked said it was them, so I’m going back to what I was doing.”

Assistant Manager: “It’s not your job to do that.”

Me: “Maintenance helps when cart pushers are on break. [Cart Associate] is on his lunch.”

Assistant Manager: “I am aware of that!”

She waves her earpiece for emphasis, as managers and maintenance workers have walkies for all such reasons.

Assistant Manager: “Just get back to work.”

I head back to what I was doing. Not even two minutes later, another page goes out.

Assistant Manager: *Paging* “Will a man with an LCart head to electronics?”

I cringe at this obvious attack to me. I am a woman, and this particular manager has singled me out on more than one occasion. I continue what I’m doing, wanting to go help but afraid of what might happen if I do, when another page is made sometime after. Knowing it is a decent amount of time to get from anywhere in the store to the back, grab an LCart, and head out there, I figure everyone else that could possibly help is either busy with someone else, on lunch, or just not working, so I grab the LCart and head back out there. This time there are more people out there, but I see familiar faces: the two women from before.

Me: “Excuse me, are you two needing an Lcart?”

[Woman #1] looks over at me and winces.

Woman #1: “I thought they were sending a man?”

Me: *Irked but still smiling* “I guess they’re helping other customers, but what can I do for you?”

She points out the TV that she wants, and I load it onto the cart with ease.

Woman #1: *Mumbles* “You sure you aren’t a man?”

[Woman #2] promptly smacks her on the back of the head.

Woman #2: “Where are your manners, girl? I raised you better than that!”

[Woman #1] starts to look sheepish but doesn’t apologize.

Me: *Still smiling* “Well, if you’ll follow me up front, we’ll get this checked out.”

They follow me, they check out, and we get it loaded no problem and they leave. I go back inside to finish my supply inventory and get confronted once again by the assistant manager.

Assistant Manager: “I told you not to do that! You have to listen to what I say! It is not your job to help them!”

We’re in retail, where customer service is supposed to be a very big deal, and if we’re not supposed to help customers, what are we there for?

Me: “I understand that, but no one else seemed to be coming and they needed help.”

She continues to fuss at me adamantly, but I go about my work. I don’t like bullies and it is becoming very clear to me that she is one.

Maintenance does have a set “schedule” of when to do things. In all of our job descriptions, no matter which position you’re in it clearly states what your responsibilities are followed by whatever other task is deemed necessary.

On a different day — July 4th weekend — there are three of us in maintenance on shift. I have finished my rounds when the other two maintenance staff come in, both guys. I know doing our tasks at the same time is redundant and unnecessary, so I head over to the frozen section. The department manager, who is the only one working frozen right now, asked me earlier to help stock the ice freezers up front. I told her I would when I got caught up, since the assistant manager had already been breathing down my neck that day.

The frozen manager is thrilled as she is falling behind with some of her work and is glad for the opportunity to catch up. The freezers don’t take too long to do once started but she is shorter and has average arm strength at best, and the ice is about ten pounds. I’m taller and stronger. I have just put in one layer out of about twenty ice blocks when the assistant manager walks up.

Assistant Manager: “Did a manager ask you to do that?”

Me: “[Frozen Department Manager] asked me to help once I got caught up.”

Assistant Manager: “This is not your job, nor your responsibility. You need to be cleaning the bathrooms!”

Me: “[Maintenance Worker #1] and [Maintenance Worker #2] just came in and should already be doing them. We all don’t need to be doing the same thing.”

Assistant Manager: “I have told you this before! Don’t talk to anyone, don’t help anyone, just go back to your area and do your job! I’m going to go talk to [Frozen Department Manager]!

I finish what I am doing, take the empty pallet to the backroom and promptly “have a breather” in the bathroom.

The assistant manager then very promptly has all her “coworker friends and family” turn on me. I can’t handle this every day. I dread going into work as things seem to be escalating in this “no retaliation” workplace. I change departments, hoping to get them off my back.

I am now working in consumables, stocking the shelves. I have a very sweet and nice supervisor, but lo and behold, the managers change shortly after and the assistant manager becomes my new manager. I think nothing of it, as I’m in a department where I can’t “wander and laze about” as she wrongly accused me of doing.

This particular day, both the assistant manager and my supervisor have gone on break. A vendor comes in, and as I’m both able to stock and do mods, it seems the most logical choice to help her out with what she’s looking for. She has a sheet with the UPC; it’s just a matter of putting it in my handheld and it’ll pop out a location with aisle number, shelf, and spot. In the middle of me walking her to her items, the department manager comes back.

Assistant Manager: “What the h*** do you think you’re doing? You’re not the department manager — I am — and you don’t know what you’re doing!”

Me: “I was just helping her—”

Assistant Manager: “It’s not your job!”

About this time, the realization that this is one of the assistant manager’s buddies sinks in.

Assistant Manager: “I will help her, go back to what you’re supposed to be doing!”

She tears the paper out of my hands and I walk off, close to tears. Sometime later, the vendor lady approaches me.

Vendor Lady: “I am so sorry that happened to you!”

I shrug.

Me: “Things like that happen all the time.”

Vendor Lady: “I won’t ask you for help when she’s around because I don’t want to get you in trouble, but I’d prefer it if you helped me since I’ll be in here a lot.”

Of course, I smiled and agreed as she wasn’t the first to tell me something like that, and helping people has always been in my nature. It’s one of the reasons I wanted that job in the first place.

Things escalated way too much after that. Even my supervisor told me to do whatever the assistant manager asked and to keep my head down. It got so bad for my health living daily in that toxic environment that I finally quit. I took with me the memories of good coworkers who I missed.

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