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Everything’s Falling Apart!

, , , , , , | Working | April 27, 2022

My old manager decided to leave, which left our store in the weeds. We’ve had a succession of five temporary managers since, none of which have lasted more than two months, one of which ended up having a heart attack… again.

As we’ve also had five people out for various reasons, we’ve been majorly understaffed. [Temporary Manager #6] realises quite quickly that he needs a team leader to cover some more evening shifts, as he is down to only one associate, and company policy states that we can’t be open unless at least two staff are on site.

Cue stupid, gullible ol’ me.

Temporary Manager #6: “Can you do some overtime for me this Thursday, [My Name]?”

Me: “Um, I’m not sure, [Temporary Manager #6]. I’ve got a lot of coursework to work on…”

Temporary Manager #6: “Come on. If you don’t, I’ll end up working six days this week. And open and closing. You have to do it.”

I have to, [Temporary Manager #6]? Really? But those extra five hours of pay would cover my trains to and from Uni for around two weeks, so I give in. After all, it’s only a Thursday in Britain! There’s no lottery, it’s not payday, and it’s not a huge night for beer runs, general theft, or teenage shenanigans. This may all be true, but I make one fatal mistake.

Me: “Is it always this quiet on a Thursday, [Coworker]?”

Yes. I DARED to utter the immortal jinx. A little before 9:00 pm, I’ve dragged the entire store, I’ve started facing up, and I’ve even got waste done nice and early. All that is left is general closing, scratchcard and lotto counts, papers, and a quick clean, with two hours to go.

Coworker: “As we’re ahead of schedule, do you mind if I run out for a quick cig?”

Me: “Sure! No problem. I’ll cover tills; you go ahead.”

Fast forward two minutes.

Coworker: “Ummm, [My Name]! What happened out here?”

Me: *Puzzled* “What’s wrong?”

I’ve already emptied the bins, put away overs, and done the washing up the earlier shift forgot to do (as freaking usual).

Coworker: “I think you need to look at this.”

I go out to the biggest OMG scenario I’ve ever encountered. Part of our CEILING has FALLEN DOWN!

Now, our building is only around twenty-five years old. However, since I started three years ago, I’ve noticed that the plaster on one of the main beams out back seemed to be cracked. It’s a bit concerning; when it rains, as it tends to do during the good ol’ English winter, we have a fairly bad leak from that crack. Apparently, it’s been like that for at least five years, but [Old Manager]’s predecessor never bothered to call it in, and no one since has either noticed or cared.

In the weeks leading up to this night, we actually flooded in our stockroom on three separate occasions. Last Sunday, we ended up calling a company with an industrial vacuum to come and get rid of the water — only AFTER a box of eight wine bottles fell and smashed on my foot while I tried to sweep the water out by my lonesome.

As you can understand, I am a little panicked. The freaking CEILING is on the FLOOR. A metal beam is exposed. A metal bracket has fallen. One of our security cameras is hanging by a single wire, next to a sheet of wet plaster that is still dripping on our floor.

Me: “Er, [Coworker], can you get back on tills? I need to call this in.”

I call eight. Different. Numbers. No one picks up. Literally, no one! [Temporary Manager #6] didn’t leave his contact details, we have no deputy manager, our alarm company won’t pick up, our insurance emergency numbers don’t call back after I leave three messages on their answerphone, our area manager’s phone goes straight to voicemail — nothing!

I end up calling [Team Leader], who is a bit rough around the edges but really has a heart of gold and is very protective of us girls.

Team Leader: “I’m sorry, I’ve been drinking. Just keep calling numbers and keep me updated. Whatever you do, don’t touch anything. Make sure you and [Coworker] are safe. And keep trying to call numbers.”

Me: “Do I have permission to lock up? I know it’s about an hour and a half until closing, but I’m worried that another part of the ceiling is going to come down on us.”

We’ve had several leaking panels on the shop floor since before I started, a few of which have crumbled and fallen.

Team Leader: “If you try to shut early, that’ll be gross misconduct and your butt will be fired.”

I go back to the list of numbers. It’s a quarter past ten by the time someone finally calls me back.

Security Camera Dude: “So, yeah… No one can come out until at least Monday. You should close the shop and make sure customers are safe.”

“Great,” I think!

Security Camera Dude: “Oh, wait! I’m just looking at the security feed. Is that your stockroom?”

Me: “Yes. I said this like an hour ago.”

Security Camera Dude: “Oh. In that case, just clean it up. Someone will be over Monday.”

Me: “Wait. Clean it up? No, no, no. I’ve been advised by [Team Leader] not to touch it. I can see a security camera still plugged in, hanging by a single cable, on wet plaster. I’m not touching it.”

Security Camera Dude: “You have to.”

Me: “No. No, I don’t. It’s not safe.”

In the end, they agree to send someone out immediately to look at the ceiling and reattach the camera. I call [Team Leader] back, who is now angry with me. She goes on a rant.

Team Leader: “Why didn’t you just tell them to wait until Monday?!”

As I’m not a keyholder, apparently I can’t stay to deal with the repair guys being sent around. So now, [Team Leader] is mad that she has to come in.

By the time I finally get to go home at half-eleven, the area manager calls us back. I hear [Team Leader] trying to defend me, as [Area Manager] wants to somehow blame ME for what’s happened.

Do you want to know the real gem, though? I come in for my long shift on Saturday, only to run into [Temporary Manager #6]. He wants to hear the whole story from me. I tell him.

Temporary Manager #6: “Oh, well, you should have just cleaned it up. It’s not like it would have hurt you if it had hit you, anyway.”

WAIT A MINUTE! Who says something like that to their employee? I was so shocked that I couldn’t really think of how to respond.

It turns out that I only missed being hit by the ceiling by less than a minute. The lady who trained me showed me the security footage. If I hadn’t gone out to let [Coworker] off for a quick cigarette break, I would have been out back tidying the stockroom when it came down.

I know it wouldn’t have done a huge amount of damage in all likelihood, but it still could have hurt me. Metal fell, along with wet plaster, all of which was touching electrics. We never were told if they were damaged or not, but we did see a few plug sockets right by the crash site being taped over the following week.

Really. In this day and age, where the lawsuit is more common than chocolate, who practically dismisses their employees’ safety like that?

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