Turning Lebanese . . .

May 25, 2009

When the Lovely Lettuce and I were visiting the Detroit, we ate at Anita’s Kitchen in Ferndale. The restaurant is run by the son and daughter-in-law of one of my RGIS co-workers here in Buffalo.

The Lovely Lettuce and I both like Middle Eastern cuisine and Anita’s Kitchen is one of the better Lebanese restaurants I’ve experienced. Despite having wonderful falafels, the menu  is a bit more adventurous and upscale than many of the Lebanese restaurants I’ve eaten at over the years.  And that is a good thing.

After I got back to Buffalo, I saw my friend at an inventory and he told me that his son mentioned that we ate at his restaurant.   My co-worker asked how I found the restaurant without being given the address.   I replied that Ferndale isn’t that big a place and that it was the only Lebanese restaurant at Woodward and Nine Mile.


Motor City Withdrawal

May 23, 2009

Well, we got back to Buffalo Tuesday night. The Lovely Lettuce and I really enjoyed our 6 day ‘oliday in the Motor City. Although, if one wants to be technical, our ‘oliday was Southfield, MI since that is where we slept. Perhaps our ‘oliday will inspire me to post about something other than the joys of working for RGIS. Just for the record, I must tell you that I resisted the urge to drive to the RGIS World Headquarters and fart in their general direction.

We loved the Henry Ford (Museum and Greenfield Village), the Detroit Insitute of Arts and Detroit and Toledo Zoos. We visited lots of neighborhoods from my past and found that some of them were for all practical purposes gone.

Dining in the Motor City and Environs was a culinary adventure. The Lovely Lettuce had what she called the “best veggie burger I ever had” at a restaurant called Sweet Loriannes. We both loved the veggie meatloaf there as well. We found out that beets and feta cheese are a tasty combination at a restaurant in Greektown called the Golden Fleece.

There was a lot of stuff to blog about. Hopefully, I’ll get around to it.


We’re RGIS and You Suck

May 8, 2009

Our district has finally gotten around to distributing the March  2009 Team Member Handbook.  In order to continue my employment with RGIS, I have to sign the “RGIS Team Member Handbook:  Acknowledgement of Receipt” form. The Cliff Note Version: RGIS can do whatever they want and I can’t do a damn thing about it.

Fear and Loathing = Productivity

The form starts out reminding me that I can be fired at any time for any reason or no reason.    New York is an “at will” state so this isn’t really a surprise.  But most employers don’t remind employees that they can be terminated at any time when they distribute a new employee manual.   Since productivity is job one,  someone at RGIS must think that fear & loathing will increase productivity.

Policies and Procedures

Legally even in at will states, one could sue for wrongful termination if one could prove that the employer did not follow their own employment policies and procedures.   Well, RGIS has plugged that loophole.

I understand that RGIS may change, modify, suspend, interpret or cancel, in whole or part, any of the published or unpublished personnel policies or practices, with or without notice, at its sole discretion.

Basically, RGIS has just informed me that I can’t rely on anything I read in the Team Member Handbook. Policies and procedures don’t really mean very much if they can be changed at any time without notice. The power is entirely in the hands of RGIS. And they want you to know it. Perhaps I should admire their honesty. Most employers pretend to be benign even if they aren’t. On the other hand, RGIS says “hi, we just want to make sure that you know that we can screw you over at any time we feel like it and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Apologies to Tesco Vee and the Meatmen for the title of this post


The Top Gun Myth

May 4, 2009

Top Gun:  Top Guns are our fastest and most experienced counters and are placed in areas such as checkout or areas that require advanced counting speed and accuracy.  Top Guns are everything that RGIS stands for and are the “cream of the crop”.  A Top Gun’s professionalism and skills represent the best we have to offer.
ASET (Auditor, Specialist, Expert, Top Gun) skill level definition

That’s what they want everyone – both clients and employees – to believe. Conflict of interest notice: I used to be a Top Gun under the old standards. So you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt. On the other hand, inventory supervisors are told to “protect the five”. This means that the five best counters in an inventory are to be given areas to count that will help them maintain their average per hour (aph) status.

This isn’t a rant against the remaining 3 Tops Guns in our district. They are certain among the fastest counters in our district and deserve to be Top Guns. But even they have trouble attaining Top Gun aph’s in some inventories. And that brings us full circle to “protect the five.” Some stuff is just plain easier to count. Other stuff is hard to count and no one can sustain a Top Gun aph counting it. In a big box store inventory we did last week, one of our Top Guns was counting around 450 pieces per hour instead of the 1040 pieces per hour required of him as a Top Gun. Was he slacking? No, the problem was lack of preparation by the store. When 20% of the merchandise doesn’t have tags or bar-codes that scan, productivity suffers. When the racks are so full that you have to remove merchandise from the rack to be able to count it, productivity suffers.

This is why “protect the five” is needed. If Top Guns weren’t protected, eventually they would no longer be Top Guns under the new productivity standards.

So the end result is a two class system – Top Guns and everyone else. Since the Top Guns get to count the high aph areas in every store, it is very hard (and frequently impossible) for anyone else to achieve Top Gun level aph’s counting the merchandise they are assigned to inventory. Some people get around this by doing a bit of cherry-picking themselves and risking the wrath of the inventory supervisor. There is no team in RGIS anymore, it’s every man for himself. You have to protect yourself when you are prevented from achieving a higher aph by company policy.


Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears

May 1, 2009

Today, the thought crossed my mind that it really doesn’t matter if RGIS loses clients over the next several years. RGIS, LLC is owned by the Blackstone Group, a private equity and mergers and acquisitions company.  If RGIS can demonstrate significantly better profitability for a couple of quarters, it becomes a much more attractive company to sell.    The Blackstone Group isn’t in for the long haul but, of course, in the short haul, the increased profits are nice.

Given the push for productivity and the pay cuts that were effect on April 25, 2009 in our district (and I assume our division), RGIS is already showing significant increases in profit.

Today, I was at a big box store inventory with around 40 of my fellow employees.   One of them and I guesstimated that given who was at this inventory, the average labor cost was reduced by approximately $2.00 per hour per auditor.  Unfortunately for everyone involved the store was an absolute mess (but that is a subject for another post) and productivity did not rear its handsome head.  Even the “Top Guns” were counting at the “Auditors” level.

I reckon because of the reduced labor cost all was not lost despite the 10 hour length of the inventory.  I think there were 40 auditors for about 6 hours at the inventory (40 x 6 x $2 = $480 savings) and about 30 for the next 4 (30 x 4 x $2 = $240) for a total labor savings of $720 for this inventory.   It is possible that the labor cost savings could even greater than that because it is possible that overall we were more efficient this time because of the “Count or Die” program.