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When You’re Good At Your Job, People Take Notice

, , , , | Working | March 22, 2022

The summer before my last year of college, I sign up with a temp agency to make some extra pocket money. I make it very clear that I’m still in college and I’m only interested in working during holidays or weekends. I’m not desperate for money and I’m not putting my education in jeopardy over temp work for minimum wage.

Three weeks before the start of the academic year, I’m sent to work in a warehouse. What’s meant to only last a couple of days ends up becoming open-ended — not permanent as I’m still working through the temp agency — but when my contact at the agency calls me to let me know, I remind her that I’m only available until [last Friday before term starts].

The place is dysfunctional.

Example #1: Despite being a warehouse for a major Spanish clothes brand, there’s zero security. No one checks our bags (which we just pile up wherever we like or carry with us) and there are no cameras. Personally, I find this brand’s clothes ugly, especially those for men, and I seriously wonder whether that’s their deterrent.

Example #2: Zero security extends to control over who comes in or leaves. A guy disappears halfway through a shift and reappears a day or two later.

Manager: “Hey, did you leave early the other day?” 

Employee: “Oh, I had a doctor’s appointment.”

Manager: “Okay. Let me know next time.”

Example #3: Another guy disappears halfway through a shift. A couple of days later, I hear the manager say:

Manager: “Hey, didn’t we hire one more guy?”

I just show up every day on time and go about my duties at a reasonable pace, which means I’m soon detected as the “responsible temp” and I’m “promoted” regularly. After a couple of days, they start asking me to do slightly more complex stuff than moving boxes around. By the end of my second week, I’m doing admin rather than manual work.

On my last day, I say goodbye to the people I’ve worked most closely with and disappear into the night to enjoy my last weekend before classes restart.

The following Monday, while I’m on campus, I look at my phone and I have missed calls from the temp agency and a text from my dad, saying the agency called home. This is all like thirty minutes after my shift would have started if I’d continued working there.

I call the agency.

Agency Rep: “Why are you not at work?”

Me: “I told you I would only be available until [last Friday].”

Agency Rep: “But since you were doing so well, we thought you’d stay! They really liked you!”

Sure, like I’m going to choose a minimum-wage temp job that could be terminated at any time with zero notice over completing my final year of university education.

The thing that surprised me the most is that I’d seen guys just vanish from the warehouse and no one seemed to notice until a day or two later, whereas within half an hour of me not showing up, they’d even called my dad. If I was such an essential worker after only three weeks, maybe they could have tried negotiating with me and offering to work around my schedule rather than expecting me to just keep showing up. It probably wouldn’t have worked — I soon found part-time work in my field — but at least I could have stayed another week or two while they found a replacement.

They Want A Solution, But There Is No Solution

, , , | Right | March 18, 2022

I work in a research lab, and part of my job is to prepare chemical solutions for anyone that needs them. If someone wants one prepared, they have to provide a list of ingredients and the final concentrations of each ingredient and state if they want the solution sterilized or not.

A researcher comes in.

Researcher: “Hi. I need a solution prepared, but I don’t know what it is called. You guys have prepared it for me before. It has [ingredient #1] and [ingredient #2]. I think it also has some others, but I don’t remember which ones they are.”

This is already a red flag because we always provide the solution with a label that states the name, date of preparation, and expiring date. It’s as easy as bringing the previous label with you if you are unsure.

Me: “Okay, do you know the date on which it was prepared the last time? We can look it up and check the recipe.”

When I say, “look it up,” I mean go to the box of the year in question, look up the month manually, and then the day, because we keep everything on paper (not computerized) for an ISO rule that we have. We prepare about 150 to 200 solutions per month.

Researcher: “I don’t know which date it was. Maybe last spring? March? April? May?”

Me: “So, you don’t know what the solution is called, or the ingredients it has, or the date that we prepared it so we can look it up?”

Researcher: “That’s right.”


Researcher: “So, when can you have it ready?”

Not So SmartWatch

, , , | Right | September 21, 2021

I work for a national phone company, receiving call from clients with various requests: overcharging, Internet problems, product upgrades, etc.

Client: “I want to change the day you charge me the bill.”

Me: “Sure! You can choose between the sixth, the twelfth, the eighteenth, the twenty-fourth, and the thirtieth.”

Client: “Mmm, can’t you charge me on the first or second? By the sixth, I will have spent all my money and the bank will reject it.”

I mentally ask myself how changing the date will solve what, apparently, is a problem of income, but I continue.

Me: “I’m sorry, but those are the only dates that are available.”

Client: “Can’t you do something? I don’t want to be overcharged.”

After some minutes of discussion and him remarking his inability to pay after the first days of the month, he finally accepts the situation and desists on changing anything. I actually feel sorry for him.

Me: “I am sorry, sir. I would change it if I could.”

Client: “Nah, it’s okay. By the way, there’s something else I want.”

Me: “Of course! What is it?”

Client: “I want to buy [Smartwatch from a very expensive tech company] in instalments.”

Me: “Well, um… I can’t sell those. I will transfer you to the sales department.”

Client: “Okay, thank you!”

After the transfer, I stood at my desk, completely shocked. I had met low-budget clients spending too much before, but how on earth can you ask for credit for a smartwatch right after explaining how bad your finances are?

Home Is Where The Handmade Is

, , , , | Right | August 28, 2021

I work as a Christmas seasonal worker at a well-known bath products chain. Their slogan is “Handmade Cosmetics,” and it’s in big white letters under the shop’s name. I hear a coworker trying to explain something to a tourist and having some problems speaking to them. I go to her aid. The tourist is angry and talking super-fast, so I first ask my coworker if they need help.

Me: *In Spanish* “Do you need help? I can speak to her if you want.”

Coworker: *In Spanish* “Yeah! I don’t get what she means at all; it makes no sense.”

I find this weird because this coworker is pretty fluent in English, as most of us are. Our shop is in a pretty popular tourist hotspot, so it is always full of foreign customers. In any case, I turn to the tourist, who is getting impatient.

Me: “Hello! What were you looking for? I’ll help as best as I can.”

Tourist: “Well, I want to know if you sell glycerin and essential oils for soap making.”

Now I understand why my coworker was confused. We only sell finished products.

Me: “I am very sorry, but we do not sell that.”

Tourist: “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Coworker: “Our products are handmade, though; they are all-natural and ethically sourced.”

Tourist: “But do you do it at home?”

Me: “No, we have a few factories in Europe which send us the finished products.”

Tourist: “Then you are lying! Outside says it’s homemade. If you make it in a factory, it’s not homemade. You should not lie about that!”

Me: “Ma’am, nowhere does it say that. Our goods are handmade, though.”

Tourist: “No, no, home-made. You should not say it’s homemade if it’s not. Do you know where I can buy glycerin and essential oils?”

Coworker: “Um, no?”

Tourist: “Then goodbye. And do not lie to your customers anymore; it is not homemade and you should be ashamed of yourselves for lying!”

After the tourist leaves, my coworker and I just look at each other and say, in Spanish:

Us: “What the h*** was that?”

That’s No Excuse, But It Is, At Least, A Reason

, , , , | Friendly | August 17, 2021

I’m both black and foreign, and I’m living in Spain. I went to a bus stop where a woman was sitting, and I casually sat down in the seat next to her. She immediately bounced up and walked several paces away from me, yelling, “Can I not have two seconds without some [racial insult] trying to get at me? What is wrong with you people?”

Here we go again, nothing new here. I pulled out my phone and pretended to be more interested in it than her ranting.

Woman: “Why are you even here, anyway? Did someone invite you? How would you like it if everyone in my country went and flooded your country and took up all your jobs and got your women pregnant and made a bunch of mixed kids, and none of us speak your language?”

I kept ignoring her.

She continued this rant for a good five minutes before suddenly growing quiet. She stayed quiet briefly before reaching into a shopping bag she had, removing a juice bottle, and trying to remove the cap. After twisting futilely, she got a look of defeat on her face. She slowly handed the bottle to me.

Woman: “Can you open my bottle, please? I’m feeling really dizzy.”

I gave her an ice-cold look at first, but then I decided to be the bigger person. I opened the bottle and silently handed it back.

Woman: “Thank you.”

She sat down and then spoke again after a few moments of silence.

Woman: “I’m sorry. I lost my job because of the health crisis, and I found out they gave my position to a Japanese girl who wasn’t even there for six months. I’m just so mad.”

Me: “Sorry to hear that. But blaming me for your problem isn’t going to solve anything.”

Woman: “I’m sorry.”

My bus eventually rolled up, and as I boarded and rolled away, I couldn’t help but notice the woman burying her face in her lap. It was interesting to hear from the other side of racism and bigotry, and to see one of the many pieces of the puzzle — this instance being misplaced anger.