Published on: November 20, 2009
Got the following email responding to the story the other day about how a new survey suggests that retail employees are less than happy in their work:I think that one thing that people don’t really consider is how brutal any customer service position can be. No matter where you work in retail, you are in customer service. You have to have a thick skin and be able to balance a very fine line between being “helpful” and being a chump. While 90% of customers are reasonable, considerate human beings even with a complaint, there is that other percentage that are rude, mean, and base. The problem is that, as a representative of your business, you basically have to continue to smile through gritted teeth and give the customer exactly what they want regardless of the validity of their complaint.
My personal opinion (having been in customer service for many years) is that low morale stems from a lack of respect or support for the employee over the customer by management. There is a certain amount of self-degradation that you just have to accept to work in retail.
Smart management knows that the retail employee needs to be the highest priority, because a store is only as good as the people on the front lines. If what you are saying is accurate, it explains a lot.
Responding to our laudatory comments about Hy-Vee and its CEO, Ric Jurgens, the other day, MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:My wife and I spent an hour or so Monday at the brand new Hy-Vee market in Madison Wisconsin. Having shopped often in one of the Dubuque locations we have been eagerly anticipating the opening of a store that is only 100 miles from home. The place and the people did not let us down. The usual excellent assortment in every department and friendly people in every aisle were not surprising but the knowledge of every single person we encountered was phenomenal for a store starting its third week of operation. I think I figured out why Whole Foods bought a lot and put up a big sign announcing the relocation of their Madison store then subsequently removed the sign and canceled the project. Mr. Jurgens is to be congratulated; these people are definitely doing something right.
And MNB user Chris Connolly wrote:Well said. There is no question that I would not have had the level of success in my second career that I have experienced had I not spent 20 years with an excellent company such as Hy-Vee.
I often told my friends that I had the ability to run a store (for the most part) as if it was entirely my own entrepreneurial business…..except I got to use someone else's money to do it. I kidded that my success was built upon stealing good ideas from other people and putting them to work in our operation.
The last time I counted there were 28 Hy-Vee store directors and assistant directors who had worked under me at some point in their careers. I hope I taught every one of them something that they were able to find valuable later in their progress through the managerial chairs.
There is no work-related statistic in my life that I am more proud of than that.
John Mackey was quoted the other day as saying that his Whole Foods chain would only pursue small acquisitions in the future that would not attract the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Which led MNB user Art Ames to write:I couldn’t help but recognize the irony in John’s comments that he would restrict future acquisitions to “mom & pop” operations. After his acquisition of Wild Oats as a chain, what else is left? All other natural food stores that remotely consider themselves a “chain” are small in terms of units, gross sales, and any other form of measurement. Whole Foods has succeeded in becoming just about the “last one standing” in the natural food chain market due to acquisition and attrition. Maybe he needs a vacation, but in the sprit of his declaration, our co-op has decided to no longer sell 8-track tapes.
And we keep getting email about the continuing problem of hunger in America.
One MNB user wrote:Interesting that we continue to talk about the government's role in feeding the hungry, specifically children. I don't think it's the government's role to feed the children or the population as a whole (except in extreme circumstances). Free market systems were designed so that you can work and feed yourself and your family. When I see families of 4 and 5 children talking about falling on hard times, I wonder about their ability to justify having so many children. Yes, I know, "we have a right to have as many children as we want" chants come waffling out as soon as you challenge a person's reasoning for having so many children. You also have the right to go hungry. That is what is I suggest you do, but you should go hungry while feeding your kids. The ones that you have so much of a "right" to. They didn't ask for you to be irresponsible.
I don’t know. We’ve just been through the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression. Somehow, the approach you suggests seems a little....extreme.
You’re right that some people behave irresponsibly. But some people are victims of life’s circumstances, as the great Delbert McClinton once sang.
Besides, kids really don’t have much say about what families they are born into, or how many sisters and brothers they have. Maybe we could find a little compassion for them?
Another MNB user offered:Give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.
Now get the government involved, we’ll give you the fish, then tax everyone else to pay for that fish. And because a few of you had more fish than the others, we’re taking more fish from you.
And to those getting the fish, keep coming back, we will get you more FREE fish, what a deal...
Another MNB user wrote:You state today that "it is not government's responsibility to feed people...except in the sense that government ought to be an extension of a people's priorities", as part of this discussion of hunger in America, which then morphed over into the health-care-reform debate in America. But does everyone automatically agree with you that it is "not the government's responsibility" to ensure all citizens are properly fed? Maybe you unwittingly flung open Pandora's box with that remark.
People widely proclaim positions like "health care in America shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right." I would submit that freedom from hunger, from a hierarchy of needs standpoint, is an even more-basic "right" than the "right to health care." I would say the same thing about "freedom from homelessness", i.e., the "right" to have adequate shelter. Maybe health care, then, comes in third; maybe "proper education" comes in fourth; maybe "freedom to be entertained" free of charge comes in fifth; I don't know. But in any event, who's to say the government isn't failing to properly prioritize, and then discharge, its primary missions by taking up something like health-care reform before taking up what I'll call "food & shelter reform"? Sure, people are hungry in America everyday; people are homeless across America everyday; and of course, again, people can't afford health care across America everyday. Why is health-care reform number 1 on this Hit Parade?
Philosophically, this "hunger in America" topic is very provocative in that it can juxtapose some arguable "fundamental rights" of citizens, and maybe force us all to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Would "solving the health-care 'crisis' in America" be a major step forward? Crafted sensibly, I would submit it surely would. But if in the end, it became law, but in the process, "crowded out" providing "food & shelter reform", maybe also crowded out "education reform", can we then as a society not be properly accused of slightly, if not grossly, misplaced priorities? Hell! If enough people in America truly believe that proper health care is "a right", then they ought to, in my opinion, feel even more strongly that "freedom from hunger & homelessness" is an even more-basic right. Why not? If the conscience of the country is such that everyone truly does "deserve" meaningful & affordable (or free) health care, it ought to be an even "slicker slippery slope" to say they similarly deserve freedom from hunger & homelessness. As well as "the right to proper education." Lest we forget, a clear undertone in the health-care debate rejects themes like "only people who can afford health care are entitled to health care;" instead, the underlying message is borne more, I believe, out of the belief "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs." Socialistic sounding, sure; but it's undeniably there; let's face it.
Going forward in Washington, maybe this thought process will pick up some steam on the domestic agenda. And maybe it ought to. But if in the end, health-care reform becomes the law of the land, yet these other key aspects of everyday life don't get picked up with at least as much verve, if not more so, I will have difficulty feeling that people who vociferously endorsed "health-care reform", but are comparatively silent on these other life dimensions -- food, shelter, education (I'll leave "entertainment" off this list) -- aren't at least a little bit guilty of "issue du jour politics", motivated by no loftier a reason than to get their humanitarian credential punched.
Another MNB user chimed in:The negative reaction by some of your readers about this issue is not surprising but it is seriously misguided. Although it is not my primary job, I am very involved with hunger prevention where I live and over the past few years I have become more educated about the problem. Believe me, before getting involved, I had some of the same misconceptions about those who receive food assistance and subscribed to some of the thoughts espoused by the readers I mentioned.
However, it became apparent to me early on that hunger in our society was very real and that most people found it difficult asking for help on such a basic commodity like food. The current economic climate and the resultant job loss is forcing an entirely new group of people to frequent their local food pantry and/or meal program because they don’t have food, not because they won’t provide for their family, but without a job, they can’t! What do you think they they feel “entitled” to? The chance to eat? To satisfy a basic human need? Many are people who have never asked for any kind of handout and, in fact, are embarrassed to have to ask now. The focus of the article in the Post was that children are being affected like never before. What choice do they have in the matter? They have to depend on someone. If it wasn’t for the school meal programs, many more of them would be hungry more often.
Look, there will always be anecdotal stories of people “using the system” which unfortunately will probably continue in the future and reinforce the belief by many in our country that the only people using social services are deadbeats. And, I understand that an entitlement mentality has in some cases replaced working for what you earn. Unfortunately, this mindset began many years ago and is frustrating to those who go to work every day, pay their taxes, and generally play by the rules. But, does everyone honestly think that only poor people “cheat”. Have any of your readers ever “cut corners” on their taxes. Does one’s economic status determine whether it is ok or not? Not preaching, just some “food” for thought.
It seems to me that there are several solutions to help alleviate the problem but most of them start with jobs and until that happens, the problem will only get worse. This is where I feel our leaders have let us down. It is unfair to target only the private sector executives and their bonuses when speculating how that money could have helped solve this problem. What about all the stimulus money and the ridiculous “pork” included in the bills? Couldn’t that have helped just as much?
Another MNB user wrote:After referring to the country’s inability to feed its population, specifically its children, you received the typical rhetoric about an individual’s responsibility and the role of government ... The connection is that the conservative paradigm of less government is no longer accurate. It’s about less government when it can save me money and more government when it can benefit me. If someone can’t see that the government should have a role in feeding CHILDREN, then they have gone off the deep end.
MNB user Mark Delaney wrote:Gotta tell you that I was genuinely saddened to see a couple of the negative responses to your comments regarding the alarming hunger statistics. I don't believe your note mentioned anything about entitlement or the welfare system - it was simply pointing out that we ought to spend some time on this issue. This politically charged atmosphere is becoming toxic and if people can't simply acknowledge that it is disgraceful in our "advanced" society that so many of our neighbors, and worse still children, are going hungry and that perhaps we should put that ahead of anything else - then I'm embarrassed to have them as fellow citizens. You would think that going into the holidays people would put the grandstanding aside for a moment. If addressing the issue means addressing some broken programs I'm all for it but don't dismiss the issue as being part of someone else's problem. We really need to get our priorities straight if we're going to leave this place any better for our kids….
We do live in a politically charged atmosphere. I found that out yesterday when I commented about a story that I thought was something of a trifle - a CNN
story about how Kellogg’s is warning that there will be a shortage of Eggo waffles until mid-2010, owing to flooding at an Atlanta factory during October that shut down production on the popular frozen breakfast item. The company said that it will be rationing available product to stores across the country as it works to return its manufacturing and inventory to acceptable levels.
My comment was keyed to one specific word in the report:Rationing? Does that mean we’ll be seeing town hall meetings and waffle parties as people protest this unacceptable development?
Well, thank goodness I didn’t make a joke about waffle panels.
I got a couple of emails on this commentary, but this one is typical:Watch it Kevin. Don’t be so sarcastic, using the term town meeting and waffle parties as bad things. Many of your regular readers are not as politically left as you are and many of us see the town meetings as just the beginning. Many American are fed up with Washington. Washington is not listening and this is just one of many way we have to get their attention. The 2010 election will send shock waves through Washington and maybe then someone will get it.
As someone has said, it is time for “Change.”
First of all, you might be surprised by my politics.
You criticize me for being too politically left, and the other day I got an email saying I was being too tough on the unions in Colorado and Arizona. Go figure.
I reserve the right to be sarcastic, acerbic, sardonic...and to poke fun at pretty much anybody I feel deserves it. And I’ll probably actually be funny about half as often as I think I’m being funny.
Y’know who I think make the biggest targets? People who don’t have a sense of humor, who take themselves too seriously. These are usually folks who refuse to admit that people who disagree with them might, occasionally, have a point. Self-righteousness can be a terrible character flaw.
Besides, I’ve always believed that “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is a pretty good definition for what people like me ought to be doing.
That’s the way it’s been around here for eight years and a day. And I figure it’s the way it’ll be next week, too..