Smells Like Rockin Robin

August 12, 2010

Time for a wee break from whining about RGIS to talk about something that I really love – music.

I’ve been a big fan of Mark Vidler (No relation to the East Aurora retail family) and Go Home Productions for more years than I can remember. I’m still in awe of his Sex Pistols – Madonna mash-ups.

MIchael Jackson’s Rockin Robin and Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit mashed up. How does he come up with the combinations? If you are anything like me, you won’t be able to listen to either song in quite the same way after seeing this.


July 31, 2010

Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, all sorts of stuff has has happened since my last post. I reckon that some of what has happened is worthy of several one subject posts.  But for the nonce, here goes:

  • I made an ill-fated foray into the exciting work of Collections. For all practical purposes, I quit and came back within 2 weeks.
  • I’m back to Expert.   The cool kids at HQ finally figured out how to add Tops Friendly Markets back to the aph database.
  • I was thinking of running stores again but real life hit me with several 2 x 4’s in several different inventories.   The shit seems even deeper than before.  Running stores seems all responsibility and no power.  Store supervisors are expected to reach aph goals despite the inadequate staffing that the district scheduled for the inventory. The sad thing is that I’m still considering running stores again.
  • Store supervisors are giving me better crap to count.  Even Area Manager X hasn’t screwed me over for at least 4 or 5 inventories.

Hopefully, I’ll get around to writing about the “exciting” details about all this shit.

Screwed Again

May 4, 2010

This morning I had the misfortune to be at a Big Lots inventory run by Area Manager X. I was screwed again. Twice. There was also a Tops at the same time. I’m really good at financial inventories such as Tops. If I was at the Tops, I could easily reach and exceed the aph minimum for my current rating of Specialist. My usual aph at Tops on a bad day is right around Top Gun level even if I’m not one of the five who is protected. I’m less good at scan and count inventories like Big Lots.

But it really didn’t matter if I was good at scan and count inventories at all today. I was “chosen” by X to count the furniture. I worked one on one with a Big Lots employee and counted furniture one item at a time. It’s the down market equivalent of a fine jewelry at a department store.

According to the procedures, 500 was the target aph for the furniture count. I think after 3.5 hours of furniture, I was at 501. As a specialist, I was expected to have an aph of 1700. To reach this goal, I would have to count at 2900 pieces an hour for another 3.5 hours. Ironically enough, that this is the minimum aph for Top Guns at Big Lots. So in order to have an aph worthy of my current Specialist rating, I would have to count like a Top Gun.

Talk about being set up for failure. HQ thinks that 500 is a good aph for counting furniture. But my performance and pay is based on reaching an aph of 1700. It is impossible to count furniture at this store and have an aph of 1700. By choosing me to count furniture, X is ensuring that I will not reach my target aph.

Today, I had a breakthrough moment. If HQ and X want me to count 500 pieces an hour, that is exactly what I would do. There was no point of working my ass off to try to reach an unobtainable goal. I reckon if they want my aph to suck, well then, my aph will suck.

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

April 30, 2010

Apologies to the RomanI and Cher fans everywhere

No one locally can tell me if Tops Friendly Markets count towards personal aph or not. Tops is one of the stores that made April the cruelest month for me. As an old school financial Top Gun, I relied on Tops to make up for all the times when I was forced to count crotchless panties at Victoria’s Secret for 14 hours without any breaks by Area Manager X.

Apparently, HQ didn’t bother to change the account name and number for Tops when Ahold sold it to Morgan-Stanley. But, in the better late than never category, HQ finally got around to changing the account name from “Ahold Tops” to “Tops Friendly Market.” Unfortunately for us inventory takers, the aph data base was not updated. Oppsy!! In the meantime, many of us got their hourly rate cut because of the mistake.

Now those of you who are familar with Oracle and databases might be thinking how hard can it be to update an entry in a database. Apparently it must be very hard because HQ has not been able to update the aph database for almost two months. One of the hardest working team leaders in our district recently asked me “why is it when RGIS screws up, it is never in our favor?”

My thinking is that HQ is incompetent for not realizing that databases need to be updated when account names are changed. And even more importantly, HQ is evil because they have chosen not to update the database for over two months. I would bet my life that when Tops is back in the personal aph database, HQ will not recalculate the aphs of those who were screwed over by the mistake. If the junkie down the street stole hundreds of dollars from me, he or she would go to jail after getting caught. When RGIS does the same thing, RGIS management might end up winning awards. I think that RGIS corporate management are no better than thieves. They are destroying the company by screwing over both their employees and their customers.

“Accuracy is our primary concern” is just a slogan. RGIS has never given awards for accuracy. Nowadays, our pay rate is not dependent on accuracy; the only thing that matters is speed. Our management doesn’t need us to be 100% accurate. We are to count as fast as we can and still be within the acceptable margin of error. Being fast and barely good enough is our primary concern.

Fortunately for RGIS, WIS or whatever Washington Inventory Service is calling itself these days is so bad that most of the time RGIS on a bad day is better than WIS on a good day. Maybe the company slogan should be “We suck less than the other guys!”

How Will I Get Screwed Today?

April 21, 2010

All too often that’s the thought that crosses my mind as I drive to work. Since the introduction of “Count or Die” as a member of an “unprotected” rating, I expect to be screwed over in work assignments especially in stores run by an area manager whom I’ll call X

For example, in my last two department stores that X supervised, I was assigned to fine jewelry. I stood on one side of the display case and scanned the bar codes that the store employee on the other side of the case presented to me. The store employee determines the pace. Now, some of you may be asking, how is that screwing you over? The answer is a simple one – two people can’t count as fast as one. I was being set up for failure.

In a store where a Specialist has to count around 650 pieces an hour, the fine jewelry counters are lucky to break 300. Counting regular merchandise on auto quantity, I easily attain an aph of 700 or 800 pieces an hour. Having me count fine jewelry not only screwed me but hurt the overall aph of the store since I was not allowed to count at full speed.

I’m not the only one that X has screwed over. X once put our fastest Top Gun on top stock* at a Big Lots. The Top Gun didn’t even reach the minimum for an auditor in that inventory. I’m told that this counter was no longer a Top Gun for a quarter because of bad aph results in stores run by X.

Because X is a nice person outside of work, I used to think that the worst case scenario was that X was incompetent but not evil. Now, I’m not so sure about that.

*top stock – merchandise on high shelves that has to be counted standing on a ladder

The Once-Over Twice

April 15, 2010

April is the cruelest month
— T.S. Elliot

Today (April 15), I found out that I got a pay cut effective April 10. Yes, the RGIS gods don’t even have decency to let their employees know about a pay cut before it happens.

Last year I wrote about the “Count or Die” program that resulted in a significant pay cut for me. Everything I wrote last year is just as true now. My feelings about it haven’t changed.

The thing that pisses me of the most is that now the RGIS aph gods have decided that several of the stores in which I consistently exceed my ratings aph levels no longer count towards my rating. No one at the District level is able or willing to explain to me why this happened. And, the most amazing thing is that these very same stores still count towards the District’s overall aph goals. When the “Count or Die” program was introduced every store that counted for the District counted for the individuals counting that store.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that too many of us were meeting our aph goals in these stores and maintaining our ratings. So something had to be done – if too many people meet or exceed the aph goals at a store, the obvious thing to do is fuck over your employees by secretly changing the standards without explanation to justify a pay cut.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!
–Scottish saying

The sad thing is that they warned me that they would do this. I reckon the next move is up to me. I have resolved that I will not be working for RGIS next April. I will not get the once-over thrice.

RGIS and the hundredth of a minute

April 5, 2010

Well, a cursory glance at my last pay stub reveals that RGIS no longer calculates wages to the nearest tenth of an hour (or six minues). Now, time is kept to the hundredths of an hour. I’ve not kept accurate enough records to know if time is kept to the nearest 36 seconds.

I reckon the more accurate the better. But I can’t help thinking that someone sitting in an office somewhere figured out that this will reduce payroll by millions of dollars a year. As always, I don’t think this change was implemented for the benefit of the workers.

On the nature of APH

April 4, 2010

Average per hour (APH) is the standard that the new RGIS uses to measure productivity and profitability. An inventory counter’s pay scale is dependent on APH. You are only as good as the last 6 weeks in a quarter. It doesn’t matter what your APH was for the last year. It doesn’t matter what your lifetime APH is.

It doesn’t even matter why your APH is low. Even if an area manager tells you to continue working for a couple of hours after the counting is finished to help close out an inventory – if your APH is too low – it will count against you. There are several people in our district who have gotten pay cuts precisely because of such a scenario. Any time spent not counting lowers your APH. In terms of APH, it is better to show up a few minutes late after the pre-inventory meeting and leave before the close-out.

You’d think that since APH is so important to RGIS, its employees would be given feedback on a regular basis. And you would be wrong. Since the implementation of the APH system a year ago, I’ve been told what my APH is exactly twice. Both times to justify a pay cut.

If I was running a company where productivity mattered, I would give my employees feedback on their productivity with every paycheck. That way, an inventory counter would know how he or she measures up to the ever-changing standards. It seems that every time, the APH goals for a store is reached, the APH required is raised. It’s a moving target. Just because you counted at a top gun level at store X two weeks ago doesn’t mean that the same APH will be enough at another store X this week.

In our district store supervisors don’t often mention the APHs required for each ranking at the beginning of an inventory. My theory is that they don’t want the inventory counters to give up when they realize that the target APH is unreachable. I’ve seen it happen many a time. Why work your ass off if your pay is going to be cut anyway? Many inventory counters have figured that if they have no hope of ever reaching a higher rating and pay level, the faster they count, the less money they make. The only way to make more money is to be on the clock longer.

Because of the lack of information on the APHs required, some inventory counters try to count as fast as they possibly can even if accuracy is sacrificed. Others just cheat by using techniques such as batching to reach the required APH.

We don’t need no stinkin’ batchin’

April 3, 2010

It seems that as many, including myself, predicted – batching is becoming a serious problem for RGIS. Inventory counters have been thrown out of stores that I’ve been in for batching. Rumor has it that the new company policy is that anyone caught batching will be terminated. I’m not sure that I believe that this policy would be universally applied.

At a recent inventory, the Area Manager running the inventory said “I don’t want to see any batching. I don’t want to catch anyone batching.” Is this just an awkward way to say “no batching” or it is code for “batch but don’t get caught..” Only the Gods and RGIS management know for sure.

for the punters – batching involves scanning a barcode on a single item for multiple items in a single scan inventory when the customer is paying to have every barcode on every item scanned.

I Want To Bite the Hand that Feeds Me

April 1, 2010

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me.
–Elvis the C

Elvis sang that about the radio and music industry. I’m thinking it about RGIS. I wrote a post today about the reality of the aph system and abuses and corruption that I’ve seen personally and heard about from others. But I discarded it because I strongly suspect that it would get me fired. In New York State, an employer doesn’t need a reason to fire an employee. So I could be terminated without an explanation. In such a case, I would have no legal reason to contest the termination as a whistle blower.

I would prefer to end my employment with RGIS on my terms when I feel it is the right time. I don’t want to give them even more ammunition to get rid of me now. That being said, I must admit that there is a part of me that thinks that RGIS would be doing me a favor if they fired me. I would be forced to find another job.