Feb 26

3 Ways to Fix a Lazy Cashier

Stuck again!

I realized it too late, watching as the other lines got longer. I would not be leaving the supermarket anytime soon because my cashier…was…lazy.

It was my fault for not paying attention. Lazy cashiers aren’t that hard to spot – all I had to do was look around. If the line was long there was a good chance that the checkout guy was faking diligence by…

  • Scanning each item individually (including individual eggs, grapes, grape tomatoes, etc.)
  • Bagging groceries delicately (so as to not crush any canned goods)
  • Investigating the important (“is this a sweet onion or a yellow onion?”)
  • Calling the manager for clarification (“Is it Skippy or Jif that’s on sale this week? Oh, neither? You’re right…that was last week!”)
  • Popping snacks in his mouth (“I’m starving, my 15-minute break was two hours ago!”)
  • Planning a good time (“dude, after tonight..I’m off till Tuesday!”)

Yeah, Yeah, I know…

I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of cashiers. They’re on their feet for hours each shift. The job is repetitive and monotonous. The pay is low. They’re forced to stand in a 2×2 area, on display for everyone to mock. Chicks ignore them.

If a cashier is quick and efficient, the reward is more work. They must laugh and smile at us and make small talk.

So I get why some cashiers are duds. They pace themselves to make the job tolerable. But pacing is one thing, calculated sloth another.

Crackin’ the Whip

Apart from firing them, which they’d prefer, I have three suggestions for the managers of slacker, lazy cashiers everywhere:

  1. Merit Pay – pay them a nickel for each item scanned. So if your guy only drags thirty items per hour across the magic threshold, cuz he’s hung over, than his compensation will be a whole $1.50. Alternatively, if he hustles and races through 800 items in 60 minutes, his pay shoots up to $40. With that much money floating around, deadbeat cashiers will start flagging shoppers down…they’ll even start poaching customers from their co-workers.
  2. Banish them to the front – door. Loafer cashier is now the official store greeter. He is to smile sincerely at everyone who walks through the front doors and ask them (also sincerely) how their day is going. If he bungles either tasks, he gets shipped to the parking lot for cart retrieval duty…but only during the months of Jan, Feb, July, and August.
  3. Take a vacation – so you can audition for Undercover Boss. While filming the show you might discover an ingenious way to boost productivity so that everyone wins, while working alongside of your dud cashiers. More likely though, you won’t. Instead, you’ll begin to see things that you hadn’t imagined before like, umm…how mind-crushingly dull a cashier’s job is! And that your all of your lazy, slacker cashiers are strangely.. nice people

You’ll return to your management job renewed and with a little more compassion for your               employees (since their pathetic lives are hopeless). As for the shopping experience of your           customers? Well,you’ll get to that someday.

What about just replacing the guy with a kiosk? It’s tempting but supermarket kiosks are always getting jammed and misreading stuff. Besides, the guy who’s supposed to mind the kiosks is usually wandering off someplace. Management is always paging him. Lazy cashiers tend to wander only in confined areas, like cattle, so they’re easy to spot.

 

“I always pick the LOSER line!”

 

..

 

 

Jan 10

How Flying with a Baby Shamed Me

I had always assumed that flying anywhere with a baby in tow was one of life’s greatest traumas. So when my wife proposed visiting her parents for Christmas, I instinctively shot it down.

Only because…we have a baby.    

“I’d love to go but it’s not gonna work,” I said. “We have a daughter now.”

“So what does that mean?” she asked.

“It means that…we’re not gonna be going anywhere for the next 10 years…or maybe ever again. We have to think about what’s best for the child!” (and me).

Ignoring the quantum change in our circumstances, she went ahead and made the necessary travel arrangements. She booked a flight for the three of us to Billings, MT a few days before Christmas.

The Warmup

As soon as we got to the airport on the day of our flight, the baby began crying. She was wearing too many layers and was uncomfortable. The air inside the building was warm and recycled. She wiggled in my arms. The place was busy – people hurrying in every direction, weaving in and out, trying to get to where they were going. It smelled like a locker room.

I wheeled my wife’s luggage to the bag check. It was like dragging a corpse. To our surprise, the luggage weighed less than 50 lbs. We were not going to be penalized for extra weight. Yay!

“I’m so glad we didn’t have to pay more for that bag,” said my wife smiling. She was trying to put me in a good mood by pointing out small blessings. Sigh.

Some people noticed our daughter as we passed by. Most didn’t. After we took off her coat, she stopped fussing.

The TSA line was as gross as always. There’s nothing nice or civil that could be said about the routine. We get on a long line for an invasive search and ogling – women and children included. You leave your dignity at home when you fly commercial.

Getting dressed after enduring the TSA’s treatment is always shameful. Nobody looks at each other as they put their clothes back on. There’s not a lot to say after a probing. Just make sure you leave with your wallet in hand.

The Real Test

We made it to the gate and the baby began fussing again. My wife took her to the bathroom for a changing. With the both of them gone, I scanned the waiting room crowd to see how many faces were staring at us. I braced myself for all the dirty looks we were going to get for bringing a three-month old on the plane.

The Seattle-to-Billings passengers were funny. No one was cursing or muttering under their breath, even when my wife returned from the bathroom. No one was stewing in their juices as far as I could tell. Did they know our daughter might prevent them from sleeping during the 90 minute flight? or hearing? or talking? reading peacefully? Maybe they had never been around newborns before?

More waiting and more trips to the bathroom to feed and change the baby. Finally, they started boarding. We sat in the front of the plane and people…smiled…as they walked by. One woman even tousled her hair (while laughing at my bald head).

The goodwill towards us had to do with the timing of the trip I reasoned. It was so close to Christmas and therefore people put on brave faces, forcing themselves to be polite. Or maybe it was because Montana-residents actually like children. Whatever the cause, it was confusing. I had expected lots of angry looks, rolling eyes, and sarcastic comments.

The plane took off, our daughter barely noticed. She slept for most of the trip. Her fussing never evolved into full-blown hysterics. She was an angel. People smiled at us again as they left the plane.

Many years ago, I had no qualms about blasting reckless mothers who dared bring babies and young kids on airplanes. I was single and thought they were selfish for ruining the flight for everyone else – us rational and thinking types who only traveled with adults.

Now that I was doing the same thing…nobody said a word. I was completely ashamed of my past.

What about karma? and negative energy? Has going around stopped coming around?

It’s too soon for me to say but I’ll let you know. We’re planning a trip to New York in the spring. That’s about six hours by plane!

 

 

 

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Nov 26

A Food Snob’s Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving Dinner

How do you survive Thanksgiving Dinner when nothing on the menu appeals to you?

Without offending the kindly host who was nice enough to invite you?

It’s hard to put on a brave face when the Turkey you’re about to eat looks like it died twice…from thirst. When the cranberry sauce/log contains mo’ high fructose corn syrup than a Big Gulp. When the green bean casserole coming your way, hasn’t changed since Grandma pulled the recipe from Reader’s Digest in 1950.

Food critics suffer socially. It comes with the territory. Most of the other guests joining you have never heard the words free-range and pastured. They don’t care about nutrient content and raw, health-promoting food. They’d be shocked if you told them what you paid for produce at the supermarket and they’d laugh at you!

So to survive Thanksgiving without needlessly offending the host or boring her to death with your food thoughts, use any and all of these tactics (they work like a charm!).

Change the subject – when someone asks you why you’re not eating, bring up all the deals Wal-Mart is running later that night. Show off the body armor and head-gear you brought to do battle with all of the other perfectly reasonable pre-Christmas shoppers.

Get drunk - nobody expects a drunk to eat. If you’re half in the bag by the time dinner is served, the hosts will be glad that you ate something…anything actually. The nut mix certainly qualifies.

Fax your food sensitivities list to them the night before - so they don’t have time to improvise and dig up something for you. Be warned though, gluten allergies are not enough in 2013. Your host might have gluten-free stuffing for you to nosh on (made with potato flour!) So to be safe, make sure your allergies to gluten, wheat, grains, soy, corn, dairy, poultry, citrus, salt, pepper, sugar and the Dallas Cowboys are on that list.

Bring something good - that is, something of quality. If it’s sorta, kinda weird (like a raw kale salad with hemp seeds) then it’ll probably be ignored. So, you can stuff yourself with that and pat yourself on the back that you did your part to raise the food IQ at that party. 

Get into a fight - it’s been said that nothing spoils a meal faster than an argument, which is true. So, to avoid eating the typical American Thanksgiving gruel, bring up Barak Obama’s health plan. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Bill O’Reilly. Or Israel. Or George Zimmerman. Kanye Kardashian. Whatever it takes to make things awkward and uncomfortable. You only need enough so that all eyes are off of you and nobody says anything about you not eating.

Volunteer to babysit at the kids table – if you’re managing the little ones and preventing accidents, nobody will notice that you didn’t eat.

Explain that your anorexia has returned – you’d love to eat if you could but your neurosis prevents that. When they ask how you could be anorexic and overweight at the same time, just nod your head knowingly and whisper, “it’s a very crafty disease.”

Make a corny joke – about saving enough room for dessert. If you mention the pumpkin pie that’s coming at least two or three times while rubbing your tummy and licking your lips, your host will back off and stop insisting you eat.

There’s no reason to let a meal get in the way of an otherwise good time. So accept that Thanksgiving invitation and don’t let your inner food snob stress. The less you eat, the more everyone else gets. And that’s what most of them want anyway!

 

 

Oct 26

5 Things You’ll Need for the Best Halloween Ever

Do you realize how huge Halloween has become?

Americans spend $7 billion a year on the day, including $300 million for pet costumes. 70% of adults celebrate Halloween.

People spend more money on decorations for Halloween than every other holiday except for Christmas. Now you understand why party store owners get giddy when they see their paper mache spider shipments arriving in August!
If you, as an adult, want to remain remotely cool or hip, you cannot ignore Halloween. You must start preparing for the big day now, lest you end up forgetting something… which would make you look like a big turkey!
Here’s a simple check list of the things you’ll need to ensure this Oct 31st is your best Halloween eva ever!
  • a printout – of Halloween’s history and origin. Keep it near the front door. If the neighborhood kiddos who hit you up for a treat cannot properly identify Samhain or why pumpkins are significant, well… then…no candy for them. You’re not to subsidize ignorance!
  • a camera - for the “unofficial” office party. Halloween parties are a great place to bond with co-workers over booze and “naughty” waitresses. They’re also fun because you can chat with your boss in a more relaxed, human way. But if he should do anything inappropriate like order a fuzzy navel? Or show up in a lazy, ultra-lame costume? The camera will help you capture it for posterity’s sake and for everyone on Facebook to laugh at.
  • chalk – Halloween sometimes unexplainably brings out revenge streaks in people (is it a coincidence that Michael Meyer went on a killing spree on …Halloween?). If you’re one of those types, you’ll want to chalk your driver’s license DOB so it reads 1997 or younger. The reason? If the police track you down after you’ve egged a bunch of houses and painted your neighbor’s cat’s tail red, they’ll go easier on a juvenile.
  • an apology letter – there’s no telling what might happen on Halloween. By having a formatted apology letter ready to go, you can rest easy. Make sure to include an “if anyone was offended” section. Also mention towards the letter’s close that you hope to reflect and ultimately grow from this “unfortunate incident.” Nobody will be able to stay mad for long!
  • a coupon – (or several) for stocking up on the seasonal supply of Count Chocula, candy corn, and popcorn balls. Also, cash on hand for Nov 1st, when you can scoop up all the leftover stuff in the “Everything must go!  bin. You could even try haggling with the store owner since they’re clearing out space for Valentine’s Day. Remember, Halloween food never expires.

By the way…those Jewish kids you see wearing Halloween costumes in March and April every year? Different holiday.

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Oct 05

If You Can’t Sleep Together…Stay in Bed Longer

Would it be an exaggeration to say sleeping in the same bed together is marriage’s biggest challenge?

I don’t think so. Every other issue that comes between a husband and wife passes eventually. Sleep though, is something you commit to every night…it never “passes.” So, unless you turn the living room couch into your bed, you’ll be forced to contend with her sleeping habits. That can mean lots of awake time for you.

What makes sleeping together so difficult? The experts at the National Sleep Foundation mention things like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. The (married) experts at About.com say fighting over who gets which side of the bed is a big reason for sleep disruptions (they recommend resolving the issue through a pillow fight). A Brit professor divulges that “punches, kicks” as well as using “the loo in the middle of the night” is bad for catching ZZZ’s.  Thankfully, my wife doesn’t use the loo during the night since…we live in America.

I still wondered how other couples dealt with incompatible sleeping habits. Maybe, I thought, studying key moments in the history of bed sharing would unlock a secret that would make my nights more restful and refreshing….

Hair, Peace! Bed, Peace!

File:Bed-In for Peace, Amsterdam 1969 - John Lennon & Yoko Ono 13.jpg

“hairpiece?” Is that a confession?

Celebrities John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married in March 1969. They spent their honeymoon in a hotel bed in Amsterdam to protest the Vietnam War. It was their first “Bed-In.” The media loved it and camped out with them. The couple ate, drank and discussed the day’s issues while remaining in bed. Lennon also played the guitar. Did it improve their ability to sleep together? Nobody knows because the press only stuck around during normal business hours. Sadly, the Vietnam War continued for another six years.

I wondered if a similar publicity stunt would work for my sleeping woes. Surely, remaining in bed with my wife for a week would forge a profound sleeping familiarity between us. Nothing would be able to disturb me in the future. As a side note, it would bring attention to a worthy cause.

The only things I needed for my bed-in were a rallying cause and my wife’s consent. She agreed to join me in the event because I told her I would no longer be whining over missed sleep after it was over. This bed-in was going to lead to bedtime harmony!

I picked the recent fast-food cashier’s strike as my cause to protest, since it’s totally reasonable and legit. I called and faxed all the news stations I could think of to tell them about the hot, developing story I was busy creating. I unlocked the front door so the crush of reporters would be able to enter and exit as they pleased. I designed a few posters that spelled out the bed-in’s message: HairNet/Peace, Bed/Peace, Mo’ Money/ Peace.

Napping for a cause

We headed to the bedroom with enough food and drink to last for the week and waited. We discussed how we would answer reporters’ questions and how we might look appearing on the 6 o’clock News. We also wondered what our families would think of us.

Monday turned into Tuesday. Tuesday into Wednesday. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. A whole lotta nothing was happening. No reporters, no press, no friends, not even like-minded activists. Hmm…

After a week of laying in bed, I had to admit that my protest flopped. I hadn’t tapped into anything…nobody came by and nobody cared. My wife mostly slept. Actually, I did a lot of that too. And we didn’t have any normal sleep interruptions.

The takeaway? Bed-in’s are sooo 1969. Also, if you stay in bed long enough, you’ll get enough sleep.

 

sleeping together

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Sep 21

When Her Home Improvement Dreams Involve You…

When your wife shares her home improvement dreams with you, how do you respond?

Particularly if you’re not a “fix-it” guy?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter how you respond, because she has many ways to force you into a project you’d rather avoid. You could try telling her that her remodeling request is unnecessary but she’ll argue the point. You could explain your mechanical incompetence, except she won’t care. If you remind her that you both decided to live in an apartment specifically to dodge the home improvement bug, she’ll shrug it off. Instead, in quick succession, she’ll pull out every card she’s got…

  • The renovation card – “my life would be so much better if I didn’t have to stare at that hideous bathroom sink every morning.”
  • The cost card – “we could hire a plumber for the sink, if you don’t mind paying $90 an hour for labor.”
  • The comparison card – “I’m soooo jealous – Elaine’s husband re-tiled their bathroom to look like the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It’s so beautiful! He did it before work one morning!”
  • The children card – “but what if they ask why their Dad doesn’t fix things like other dads do? You don’t want me to lie to them, do you?”
  • The convenience card - “we can go to Ikea. Everything they sell is super-easy to assemble.”

It’s almost impossible to weather the storm of a persistent wife. Eventually, you’ll cave. So, before you begin work as her personal contractor and handyman, be sure to get the following concessions in writing:

  • Bragging rights – your wife will brag about you. She’ll go on and on to her parents, friends, acquaintances, bus driver and hair stylist. She’ll particularly emphasize your problem-solving abilities, prowess with tools and work ethic. She’s required to make it sound believable.
  • Statute of limitations – any repair/renovation/restoration/remodeling project cannot be touched for ten years following completion (or abandonment). Once the work begins, a change in plans will bring the work to a screeching halt. Satisfaction is not guaranteed and all sales are final!
  • Liability – your wife is fully liable for any accidents, electrocutions or meltdowns that occur during the home improvement process. She’s also liable for what happens while you drive to Home Depot…and what happens in the parking lot.

After you finish everything on your wife’s list, you can bask in your accomplishment for a short while. Just think though, many guys voluntarily, without compulsion, fix things in their homes. They love it. They actively scour their houses, looking for any area that could be improved upon. It’s fun for them. They even invite friends over to join them. What gives?

I don’t know; those guys are weird, they can never sit still. Always doing…something. I hope to make friends with one of these handymen someday, but I’m not sure what to say.

 

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Sep 07

How Fast-Food Workers Can Easily Make $15 Hour!

Striking fast-food workers in the United States are upset with their low pay and non-union status. So, they’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the burger eatin’ public by demonstrating outside of chain restaurants everywhere:

“Supersize my pay!” their signs read.  

“We can’t survive on $7.25!” they chant.

“I’ma stand with y’all, but I need y’all to stand with me,” says a spokeswoman for the movement from a podium in New York.

“I know guyz workin at Domino’s Pizza for 12 years and they ain’t got no raise…so they don’t really respek” adds Gregory Reynosa in Brooklyn, NY.

It’s hard not to sympathize with the workers. Who doesn’t want more R-E-S-P-E-C-T on the job? Like a kiss on the cheek in the morning…or a pat on the backside in the evening?

But respect is one thing, money is another.

And corporate America is under a lot of pressure these days. They have to answer to their stockholders plus dream up awesome new menu items like Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza.

It’s actually the franchise owners who have the final say on the pay of fast-food workers. These owners are usually average businessmen looking for a return on their investment. So whether the disgruntled employees like it or not, they have to step up their game. It’s all about increasing value.

All of the restaurant owners I spoke to agreed to pay $15 an hour to any employee willing to take on a more dynamic role. They said their new $15 men/women will have to wear many different hats (and visors and hair nets). Specifically:

  • Drive through attendants will announce the weather and traffic over the intercom every 10 minutes; sports scores every 15 minutes.
  • Cashiers will issue one letter of excuse and one parental signature to every student customer during normal school hours.
  • Fry guys/gals will now fry any food item/object for a flat fee of $2. Customer submissions must be dead first and no larger than a portable TV.
  • The janitorial crew will prepare and e-file every customer’s tax return in the weeks leading up to April 15th.
  • Cashiers will provide full gift wrapping services during the Holiday season. They will (cheerfully) tie bows, bow ties, tae bo, and pull fingers.
  • Burger flippers will juggle bowling pins, knives, and chain saws for any customer who asks. Fire-eating is an additional charge.
  • Customers will nominate one worker per shift to sit in the dunk tank. The dunk tank will be filled with last week’s used fish grease. $5 for three balls.

Time waits for no one and the business world is changing. If fast-food workers resist the multi-tasking trend, a kiosk will replace them. Or worse, their unsentimental, ambitious little sister.

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