If you're new to my blog, let me give you some background information. I work for a national grocery chain pharmacy. I call the grocery "Goofmart" and the pharmacy "Goofmart Pharmacy." The reason why is that the company is pretty much run by a bunch of goofballs who have become so completely disconnected from those of us in the trenches that it is really obvious they have no idea how small decisions at their level affect us dramatically at our level.
Over the years I became friends with a patient of mine who also happened to be a Goofmart grocery store manager on the other side of town. For whatever reason, over the years he felt comfortable talking to me frankly about the grocery and many of the stupid decisions made by corporate. He felt safe talking to me because he was safe talking to me. Recently he was fired from the company and has moved out of state. When he called a few days ago about getting his meds transferred, I asked him if I could do this interview. He agreed as long as I kept his identity unknown. Let's call him Bill.
Why were you fired, Bill?
"It felt a lot like 'guilt by association.' Another store manager and my mentor was also fired a few months before I was fired. After that time it felt like I had a big red target placed on my head."
But what was the actual reason?
"You know how the company is insane about the club cards?"
Don't I know it...
"They want every single customer to have one and there is little tolerance for letting anyone pay for anything without scanning a club card. If the customer doesn't have a club card, we're supposed to beg and coerce them to sign up for one right now. In the real world that just doesn't work. People are in line, in a hurry and want to leave. At 5 o'clock they want to get home, not sign up for a club card. So in rare cases I used a card we had by the register. When corporate found out about that, that gave them reason to fire me."
How do you feel about the company now?
"I have come to make many friends, both customers and other employees, that are the salt of the earth. I would do anything for them. But the corporation and the managers that come to the stores are a different story. They really have little regard for the customers, which is odd since 'customer service' is so big with Goofmart. The only thing they really care about is the bottom line. If the numbers are down, it doesn't matter why, it's the manager's fault, and the manager needs to be reprimanded. When the numbers are good, you get a pat on the back whether it has anything to do with your performance at all or not. When the numbers are bad, you get a 'verbal whipping.' If you can't get the numbers up, you get transferred to a worse store."
That brings up a good point. Not all stores are the same.
"Exactly. There are locations that go through manager after manager after manager. The numbers being bad have nothing to do with the manager, it has to do with the neighborhood, but corporate doesn't care about that. I've seen good managers... good people, end up at a bad store and get reprimanded for not getting the numbers increased when there's little they can do. Other managers can get transferred to a really good store and get bonuses just because the location does well."
How does the grocery component of the chain feel about the pharmacy component?
"You're just another department and the same expectations are there. Get the numbers up."
I was more interested in the fact that pharmacy is a healthcare operation and doesn't go by the same "rules" as the other departments.
"Corporate doesn't care about that. They are mildly concerned about the 'law' but that's about it. I do know that upper management consistently snickers because the pharmacist earns about the same pay scale as store managers but are looked upon as regular employees. They all think you're overpaid and in my opinion it directly affects why you never seem to have enough technician help."
From my perspective it is very clear that the store managers are afraid of upper management. Why are store managers so afraid of corporate?
"Corporate has mandates and directives. They are to be executed without questioning why. Managers who question the directives get transferred to the bad stores or like in my case, they find nit-picky reasons to fire you. You're expected to follow orders and although they have a supposed 'open-door' policy for your questions and concerns, the truth of the matter is that people who question the directives end up out of the company before long."
"The company issues new policy updates and requirements almost every week. Managers and employees must sign off on these changes. The problem is, many of these policies can contradict other policies. I personally think these contradictions allow corporate to 'get you' whenever they want, like with the club card crap. You're expected to scan every club card OR sign up someone on a new club card, but that's just not always possible. You're also expected to get the customers through the line in a certain amount of time. The company prints reports comparing number of items sold to amount of time at the register. If you're lacking, you get a talking to. Employees end up scanning a bogus card just to keep the time down to avoid being reprimanded."
Do you feel like the company consistently gets rid of people for shady reasons?
"We had this nice older checker lady who was with the company for several years. She was quite popular with the customers and knew most of them by name. She had built up a lot of vacation time and pay increases. But she also had a tendency to complain about things she didn't like. She had become pregnant and was working while pregnant. She had made arrangements for maternity leave."
Oh boy, I can guess where this is going...
"About two weeks before she was to go on maternity leave, she was pulled into the office and told that she had reached her limit on the number of times you're allowed to miss scanning items in the bottom of the grocery cart."
What does that mean?
"When a cart goes through the line, you're supposed to scan everything, including cases of water or dog food, you know, big items that people put on the bottom of the cart. The company pays for secret shoppers to test checkers on compliance with this. This lady had let three secret shoppers (over the course of a year) go through the line without checking the bottom of the basket. So two weeks before her maternity leave, she was let go."
So what you're saying is that the company saved itself money by firing a long-standing employee that built up a lot of goodwill with the customers over her years because of a technicality -- a few bucks in the bottom of the basket?
"Yes. She was a liability because of her attitude and her maternity leave."
Why do I work for this company?
"I don't know, Crazy. I don't know. I have asked myself why I stayed with them so long too."
Bill, thank you for your time. I wish you luck in your new career.