Saturday, 9 June 2018

Bonding, booze and bhajis: how not to have a staff meeting

We never have staff meetings. We had one once – at my insistence. It was a terrible idea, I don’t know why I suggested it. I never will again. This is what happened:

Back in the olden days when the staff trio consisted of the ever-so-slightly volatile Colleague McDrama; the ever-so-slightly capricious TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) and lil’ old me, we developed something of a communication problem (I say ‘we’; it wasn’t me – don’t be thinking it was me. There’s no ‘me’ in ‘we’; I was still naively enthusiastic back then).

I love my job! I love my job! Picture, Maikausminga, Pixabay

Colleague McDrama would frequently complain to me about TBE. She’d complain that she felt isolated and forgotten by TBE. That she never saw TBE. That communication was only through the message book, which was rubbish because it meant TBE either brushed aside any issues McDrama raised, or completely ignored them. (Sound familiar? It’s like I was staring right at my future and I didn’t even see it).

The more McDrama pushed (via the message book), the more nasty and defensive TBE became (via the message book). Colleague McDrama was very unhappy (and a wee bit, ‘back away slowly,’ ‘hide all the knives,’ teeth spittingly angry). I urged Colleague McDrama to talk to TBE: to request a formal, face to face meeting with TBE and deal directly with the issues once and for all.

At the same time, TBE would frequently complain to me about Colleague McDrama. TBE would complain that Colleague McDrama was always moaning: moaning about feeling isolated and forgotten; moaning about never seeing TBE; moaning about only communicating through the message book. The more TBE ignored her (in the message book), the more insistent and angry McDrama became (in the message book).

TBE was very unhappy with Colleague McDrama, so I urged TBE to talk to her: to set up a formal, face to face meeting with McDrama and sort this stuff out directly, and once and for all.

Arghhh!!!. Original picture: Pixabay

Eventually, after letting the mutual antagonism (and the stretching of my – fairly thin at the best of times - sympathetic listening skills) ratchet up to a really rather impressive eleven, TBE finally announced she would set up a staff meeting. “Oh thank the retail gods!” thought I. “Now we can all calmly sit down and have a clear, focused discussion where we can raise lots of issues and make lots of plans of action. Brilliant!”


TBE did set up the staff meeting….it’s just…..well….. TBE set up the meeting in a very darkly lit Indian restaurant, on a Sunday afternoon, during the, ‘all you can eat’ buffet session.


I had the sneakiest of suspicions TBE wasn’t fully grasping the importance of this meeting. Either that or she genuinely thought the rabid consumption of at least half a dozen lukewarm onion bhajis would properly contribute to her staff engagement strategy implementation and face to face interpersonal skills. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have put either reason past her.

But my reaction was nothing to Colleague McDrama’s: she was incensed.

She was incandescent.

But not because this Very Important Meeting was taking place during the weekend in a semi-lit temple to gluttony, where the shashlik was very likely to take priority over the shop talk.


McDrama was incensed because this meeting was arranged to take place on her Designated Weekly Drinking Day.

Yep, Sunday was drinking day. All day. From getting up in the morning all the way through to closing time. And she was furious that TBE had the temerity to plonk our meeting right in the middle of it.

Christ on a bike.

My one, fairly obvious suggestion; (“Maybe lay off, just this one weekend?”), went down like one of the OOF (Out Of Favour) shop’s ancient cakes:

“Why should I? Why should I change my plans to suit her?” (Because its work and you’re a grown-up?)
“She knows this is my drinking day!” (Mmm, yes, and THAT’S not worrying at all….).
“She’s done this on purpose to mess up my day.” (Well, yes, that is entirely possible).

And so the stage was set: TBE was anticipating an entirely effective meeting in an entirely inappropriate setting; Colleague McDrama was anticipating rocking up steaming like an alcoholic turd, and I was anticipating a car crash.

I was the first to arrive, and sat down with dismay at the tiny table: there was no way we were pouring over spreadsheets and analytics on that. TBE followed soon after with her fella; the company’s silent partner (unless you consider that money talks, in which case he’s waay more chatty than TBE), and we all made polite conversation whilst we awaited the coming storm.

And then Colleague McDrama arrived.

She more or less fell through the door, followed unsteadily by her fella: PP Boy (aka Pretty Provincial Boy). He was the company’s…nothing. I didn’t even know why he was there – unless it was to help even up the numbers of sober people and people who looked like they might throw up at the first sniff of a prawn pakora.

McDrama and PP Boy in repose. Original picture: jem1066, Pixabay

They sat down next to TBE’s man (henceforth known as UTT Man: aka Under The Thumb Man. Oh come on! It’s TBE! Of course he’s UTT Man!)

McDrama and TBE eyed each other warily, (which wasn’t actually as menacing as it sounds, mainly due to Colleague McDrama being too drunk to focus her eyes on anything properly), and the rest of us fell silent.

Everybody was silent. Totally silent. All five of us were crowded around an unfeasibly tiny table and nobody uttered a word. We stayed that way for a full forty minutes. We were silent through the buffet appetisers, we were silent through the buffet starters and we were silent through most of the buffet main course. It was unbearable.

Finally, TBE turned to Colleague McDrama and started to say something, but before she could get anything out, PP Boy lurched right across UTT Man, grabbed TBE by the shoulder (I think it might actually have been her boob, but let’s not go there), and slurred, “She loves you. She really really loves you.” Then he dribbled down his chin. TBE looked nonplussed. UTT Man looked terrified.

There then followed a further twenty minutes of mutual gushing and drunken affirmations during which, PP Boy, Colleague McDrama and TBE competed with each other on how much they loved each other. UTT Man and I chatted timidly about paint. Nobody talked about shop stuff.

And then it was over. UTT paid the bill (of course he did), Colleague McDrama and PP Boy each gave TBE a BFF hug strong enough to squeeze the buffet back out again (or maybe they were just using her as a prop to help them stay upright), and I pretty much elbowed every customer out of my way in order to get a clear run at the door.

So that was it. That was the meeting. No shop issues discussed, no company problems aired, no retail strategies reviewed. Everything was just as it had been before the whole ridiculous idea of a staff meeting had been raised. Except that TBE, Colleague McDrama and PP Boy really really loved each other. Apparently.

Clearly the CBI should take note.

Unfortunately, there was an inevitable postscript to this whole preposterous episode: sadly, the love-in was temporary. The issues between TBE and Colleague McDrama escalated (no! How unforeseen!) to the point where McDrama apparently planted herself in the OOF shop and proceeded to scream all manner of delicious profanities at TBE, and TBE resorted to the persuasive technique of wrestling in order to forcefully relieve Colleague McDrama of her shop keys. Worse still; each deleted the other from their Facebook accounts.

The love affair had well and truly died.

Devastating. And entirely avoidable.

Love match, TBE and McDrama style. Photo: commons

Saturday, 2 June 2018

How to succeed in retail: don’t be The Boss Erratic; she's rubbish

Let me tell you a story.

A story of carelessness, denial and delusion. Of negligence, irresponsibility and stupidity.

Sadly, this story is true; based on actual, eye-witness accounts and testimonies.


To tell this story effectively, I must be in character. So let me get into character…


………………….Hello. I’m TBE (aka The Boss Erratic).

I am the hero of the high street! The champion of the independent shop! And, depending on your perspective (which, if it differs from mine, is wrong), a world class skiver.

Original photo: NDE, Pixabay

Friday, 27 April 2018

To hear is human, to unhear is impossible (sadly)

Consider the MAMAAs; my Middle Aged Men Always Around: those friendly but ever-so-slightly creepy men who, despite my best, ‘sod the fuck off,’ body language, persist in hanging out at the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop for much longer than is really unweird to do so (given it’s basically a women’s clothes shop).

Picture: Pixabay

I use the term, ‘middle-aged’ loosely, because in reality they range in immature years from a thirty something Ukrainian ex-prisoner with intensity issues and small-man syndrome (he’s a hoot), to an eighty-something wannabe-Jack-the-lad who cruises around in his 1950s classic car to, “impress the ladies.”

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Blimey; I’ve been gone how long?!

Where the friggin’ hell have you been?! I’ve been writing and writing and posting and posting and you’re nowhere to be seen! You just disappeared!

Oh no. Hang on. That was me.

A mixture of half moving house (don’t ask), disrupted routines and sheer, leaden-arse laziness seems to have contributed to, well, nothing. No blogs, no quips, no jaw-dropping ‘this can’t really be true, can it?.. Oh god, it really is,’ stories of Shop Girl awfulness…nothing.

Well, no more. Soon there will be a story of such marvellously horrible OAP ickyness, you’ll never look at your Grandad in the same way again.


Nah, not sorry. 

Keep your eyes peeled.

Picture: Geralt, Pixabay

Saturday, 24 February 2018

There ain’t no pleasing you

I like a challenge, I do. But a challenge has got to be within reason, right? Otherwise it’s just like trying to cross the Sahara on chocolate skis – or trying to stop TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) being a shit manager: it’s pointless, exhausting and doomed to failure.

Photo: Lenny Flank, Flikr

Sometimes it’s just too hard. Sometimes the challenge is too great. Sometimes that customer who’s just walked in (oh lucky me), is just too much of a mountain to climb. This is a (mostly) word for word conversation I had with one such creature the other day:

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Spy Who Loathed Me

OK, let’s start with the statistics:


  1. There are three people who work in this company: TBE (aka The Boss Erratic), Colleague Crafty and me. That’s not even enough to fill a taxi.
  2. The Out Of Favour (OOF) shop (where I work) is about twenty seconds away from the New Favourite (NF) shop (where I don’t work), which is just around the corner.
  3. Until the day both shops become self-service operations (oh, wouldn’t TBE love that: no staff [i.e. me] to whine on about employment rights), there is one of us working in each shop. That’s two thirds of the workforce hanging out within twenty seconds touching distance of each other at any one time.
  4. Given this arrangement, there is a high probability that when I am working in the OOF shop, TBE is very often just around the corner in the NF shop; twenty seconds away.
  5. That’s twenty seconds away. TBE is twenty seconds away. Very frequently.
  6. I haven’t clapped eyes on TBE for three and a half months.
  7. Three and a half months.
  8. Three and a half months is a long time.
  9. Three and a half months is at least fourteen weeks.
  10. Three and a half months is over a quarter of a year.
She’s just disappeared. Run away. Gone. Totally absent.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Some people are born with it; the rest of us are just jealous

Consider the fashionistas. Those effortlessly sartorially gifted people who waft about in unique, glamorously styled outfits, leaving a trail of awe, wonder and dropped jaws in their wake.

Well, here at the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop we are lucky to have two such marvellous creatures in our midst.

Separately, they are a truly eye-watering sight to behold; together, they are practically traffic-stopping. Literally. I have literally seen traffic screech to a halt to let these two sashay across the road (truth be told it was either that or run them over: fashion diva school clearly doesn’t cover the Green Cross Code).

Theirs is a sea of colour; a truly eye-catching conglomeration of fabric styles, patterns, textures and layers.

Such is their impact upon our little market town, they rarely venture out unaccompanied by their ‘minder’.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Tea and sympathy. Without the tea. Or the sympathy

The January blues. Everybody gets them. Why wouldn’t you?: It’s grey and dull and cold and depressing outside, everybody is skint and inexplicably still post-Christmas knackered, and everyone is contemplating a Brave New World of chocolate free, joy free meals consisting entirely of lettuce spaghetti and tomato fillets (or maybe that’s just me).

So I do understand it’s a tough time of year, I really do. I sympathise with anyone feeling down, but, can I say this whilst sounding as warm-hearted and generous as I can… For Christ’s sake keep it out of the shop, it’s boring listening to you droning on, and, quite frankly, it’s bringing me down.

Picture: Images, Pixabay

Saturday, 6 January 2018

How to offend everybody, without even trying

Do you want to see a magic trick? I’ll show you a magic trick. I’ll show you how to offend every single customer in the course of a day without even trying.

It’s not my fault. Well, it might be my fault, but I didn’t mean it to be my fault.

I was trying to be subtle.

It’s like this: TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) is still successfully doing a swerve on obtaining a public Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence to play music in the shop (of course she is), so I can still only play royalty free music. Royalty free music is the audio equivalent of tearing off a massively sticky plaster from a hairy limb really really slowly whilst simultaneously stubbing your toe on a hot poker (i.e. It’s eye-wateringly, brain-shockingly, painfully, dreadful).

Original photo: congerdesign, Pixabay

This has been going on for about ten months now, and this week, I thought:

No more! I rebel! I WILL play a normal CD and the consequences be damned!

Friday, 22 December 2017

Oh Lord, it’s Christmas in the Out Of Favour Shop. Bah Humbug (obviously).

Oh I can’t be doing with all this Christmas giddiness. Get a grip everyone.

Firstly, all the kids are going nuts over the annual bowl of free Christmas chocolates in the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop. Calm down kids, they’re the same chocolates from last year. Literally the same chocolates (probably). They’re cheap, nasty and taste like shite. I know this because I’ve eaten most of them out of sheer boredom. Now I feel sick.

Take note kids, too much chocolate turns you into an evil psychopath. Photo: Mojpe, Pixabay

Friday, 15 December 2017

TBE, Water and Glass: a Pathetic Potted History

So this week it’s all about pot plants. And glass vases. And TBE (aka The Boss Erratic). Of course.

Ah, the pot plants…..

Only TBE could make pot plants controversial (plants in pots, not the other type. Christ, if she had any of that she’d be hands-down The Most Annoying Stoner Ever. I’ve already seen her drunk, and it is not a pretty sight).

Friday, 1 December 2017

MAMAA: get your shit together - and stop talking

Mr Schadenfreude Socialist is in again. He’s definitely my most frequent, and tedious, MAMAA (Middle Aged Men Always Around). He keeps banging on about his cherries. And his veg.

Apparently his cherries are bigger and more numerous than anyone else’s. And people would marvel at the size and freshness of his vegetables if only he was given the chance to show them off.

Photo: Momentmal, Pixabay

Friday, 24 November 2017

A day in the life. Or: dear God rescue me from all this broken shit

Everything is broken in the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop. Everything. This is a typical day. I’m not even joking:

The front door
The door is not my friend: the lock jams and the door itself sticks. Consequently, I have to play, ‘push-me-pull-you,’ with increasing vigour - and temper - whilst hunched over the doorway like the world’s crappiest lock-picker for a five full minutes every morning. That’s every morning; for months. This does not make me happy.

The coffee machine
I turn the coffee machine on and it begins to leak. I put a dinner plate underneath to catch the drips. The machine has been leaking for, perhaps, three months now. Apparently getting an engineer to fix the thing is a ridiculously unthinkable idea (see also: Servicing/ behaving like a mature, responsible shop owner), so it just gets worse, day by day. The plate is full after twenty minutes. It is extremely important I remember to empty the plate in a timely manner, otherwise the overflow will rain down onto the OOF Shop Plug-Extension-Lead Modern Art Installation, which TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) has positioned, rather astoundingly, underneath the coffee machine.

The OOF Shop Plug-Extension-Lead-Modern-Art-Installation.
Under the coffee machine
Photo: Shop Girl Tales

This morning, the coffee machine springs two leaks instead of the usual one. Water pools all over the counter. I manage to shove a second plate underneath the newcomer leak, and then pointlessly write yet another doomed message to TBE in the message book. Then I take the liberty of swearing liberally to myself.

Friday, 17 November 2017

I think you might be flogging a dead cow, love

TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) has gone bonkers.

Yes, I know, but even more bonkers than usual.

She seems to have lost her mind over a pint of milk. Well, an ex-pint of milk. Actually, a pint of milk that never was. Well it was, it just wasn’t when I found it.

Picture: creades, Pixabay

OK, let me explain properly: I threw away a pint of milk because it was off, despite it only having been bought the day before by Colleague Craft(y) for the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop cafe. Then I bought another pint to replace it.

That’s it.

I left the receipt and a little note to explain why a second pint of milk had been bought in as many days, and thought no more about it*.

*If you’re new to this blog you might reasonably assume that the purchase of two pints of milk in two days is extremely conservative for a café. Unnaturally so. And you’re right, it is. But then, you’re probably under the misapprehension that the OOF shop café is normal. It is not. Apart from anything else, it doesn’t have a working coffee machine.....

Anyway, that was the wrong thing to do, apparently.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The MAMAA Returns

Right, so you all know by now that your average high frequency MAMAA (Middle Aged Man Always Around) is under the tragic misapprehension that I delight in their glittering company and, during their regretful absences, yearn for their swift return in order to hear more of their enthralling stories and wondrous escapades, right?

Given this sad state of affairs it logically follows that a long-term absentee MAMAA, returning after many months, is almost bleedin’ unbearable.

MAMAA Yorkshire Casanova, turned up yesterday (calm down, he’s really not worth your hopeful imagination).
No....... Photo: skeeze, Pixabay.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Say what now?

Call me old fashioned, but I am of the mind that a conversation should really make sense to both parties taking part. Isn’t it just plain rudeness for one party to carry on regardless of the obvious slack-jawed confusion playing about the face of their fellow conversationalist?

Here’s a tip: if the person standing in front of you looks massively puzzled and clearly has no idea what you're banging on about, stop bloody talking gibberish. 

Try to actually make sense. 

I know it takes some effort, but for the love of god, take a good look at yourself and reign it in. Don’t witter lazily away, zig-zagging this way and that like some self-absorbed linguistic equivalent of a downhill skier on a freshly snowed-on black run. 

Give us all a break, no one should have to work so hard. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The topiary trees and the customers: a cautionary tale

Why is everything TBE (aka The Boss Erratic) does the retail equivalent of wearing a fur coat and no knickers? It looks good on the surface, (if you like that sort of thing), but underneath it’s all total disorganised carnage.

(OK, probably best to pop a quick note in here: I have no idea what your nether regions look like, and I’m certainly not saying that everyone’s knickerless loveliness is disorganised carnage. I mean, it might be, but that’s your business, not mine. No, this is simply a metaphor for how generally shit TBE is about the stuff behind the gorgeous image. But you get that, don’t you?).

Definitely best kept covered........Photo: Shop Girl Tales.

So, the latest idea is two 5ft high, puffball shaped topiary trees, one either side of the doorway to the Out Of Favour (OOF) shop.

I can’t deny they look gorgeous. I can’t deny they make the tatty outside of the shop look attractive. And I can’t deny the customers really like them.

Unfortunately, so do the wasps.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Another nail in the Coffee Coffin...

The coffee machine has basically had it. I think it’s seen what a clusterfuck the Out Of Favour shop has become and has decided to slowly shut itself down in order to escape.

Picture:kerttu, Pixaby

The latest bit to go on strike is the steam/ milk frother spout.

For those of you happily uninitiated in the ways of barista-ism, there are three, ‘stick your cup under,’ parts on even the most basic commercial coffee machines, (which, of course, is what the Out Of Favour shop has):

1) The circular bit that grabs onto the big spoon thingy full of ground coffee, and filters hot water through it; 2) The hot water spout – like a kettle, only posher; 3) The steam spout – for frothing milk and generally burning your hands.

The steam spout is pretty much essential. Without it there is no frothy milk – and no frothy milk means no cappuccinos and lattes.

Obviously, not having a working frothy spout thing is a fairly massive problem for a coffee shop, and in any normal shop, with a normal boss, it would cause panic and an undignified scrabble to get it fixed as soon as possible.

But I don’t work for a normal boss. I work for The Boss Erratic (TBE), and clearly she doesn’t see this as the problem I do.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Clueless conversations and mysterious MAMAAs

Skills are great, aren’t they? Who doesn’t love a skill? And who can think badly of a workplace that develops and nurtures skills?

Working in the Out Of Favour Shop, for example, has allowed me to develop the, frankly, amazing skill of successfully holding a lengthy conversation with someone without having the first clue what we’re talking about.

"Hi there, I'm fascinating." Original image: Prawny, Pixabay

Friday, 21 July 2017

Shop mannequins: white trash

This shop is where mannequins come to die. Or, more specifically, be killed. They’re beaten up, neglected and sworn at (the last one might just be me).

First there was Wobbly Wendy. She used to lean awkwardly into the corner between the till and the wall because she had no base plate. Any time a customer wanted to look at the clothes she was wearing I had to warn them to stand back in case Wendy suddenly took a lunge at them whilst I was trying to get her kit off and took their eye out. Either that or she’d slide resolutely to the floor and refuse to get up.

Photo: Free-photos, Pixabay

Months later I found Wendy’s base plate base in the kitchen. There was no need for Wendy to be wobbly at all.