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There’s Gotta Be A Better Way!

, , , , , , | Working | January 20, 2022

I used to work for a now-defunct bookstore, and this is a story describing Inventory Nights from h***. The bookstore always hired an outside company to do the Inventory. Managers would stay all night and even bought the equivalent of a pizza party to feed the poor Inventory Workers who would stay all night to do their work.

Inventory took place starting at 5:00 pm and ran until 6:00 am — thirteen-hour shifts! Even with an hour of unpaid lunch break, that’s pretty miserable. Insult to injury? From 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm, the STORE WAS OPEN TO CUSTOMERS! The store should have closed early, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t.

So, you’ve got:

1) customers meandering around in the store, pulling books off shelves that were in the middle of being scanned;

2) customers wandering off with stacks of books that may or may not have been scanned into the system yet;

3) cranky customers snarling at the poor Inventory Workers who are “in the way”;

4) customers obliviously tripping over or kicking the Inventory Workers sitting on the hard floor and scanning books on the very bottom shelf;

5) Retail Workers doing the do-si-do with Inventory Workers, who have to creep behind the already cramped registers to scan books that are on hold;

6) announcements every fifteen minutes, for six hours, asking customers to “Please forgive the inconvenience: our store is going through Inventory right now,” which got old really fast to have to listen to;

7) absolutely no sane way to clean up the store before closing.

The entire evening was a kind of slow-motion scene of chaos. Can we put the cartloads of go-backs away? Nope! Not until the Inventory Workers have scanned them. Oops! Somebody found a pile of books hidden behind a chair. Better find a place for those to be scanned. Hey, has anybody scanned this cart of go-backs from the registers yet? No? I’d better leave this pile somewhere else for it to be scanned because the go-back cart is overloaded. Some Inventory Worker is currently scanning the shelf where these scanned go-backs need to go, so now we have to wait for the Inventory Worker to pass the spot where this is usually shelved so we don’t mess up the scanning.

I know it’s not the Inventory Workers’ fault that they got dragged in to do work at the same time as the Retail Workers. In fact, they had the grace to be apologetic to the Retail Workers as they tried to huddle in the smallest space they can physically curl into to avoid bumping butts with us.

Our Inventory numbers weren’t great, but what could we do? You can’t constantly shuffle the inventory while it is being inventoried.

I worked for that company for five years, and every inventory shift was basically the same song and dance.

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