June 24, 2010

What...A Mess!

Interestingly, although I'm messy by nature, I've always been a book Nazi, which makes for a strange dichotomy at work. I still find it difficult to get the bed made each morning and hang up my clothes. I make sure the former gets done, whether the latter occurs is no better than a fifty-fifty proposition at best.

But since working at Barnes and Noble, whenever I'm in a bookstore, even one in which I do not work, I constantly straighten up, put things where they belong, and otherwise behave like a cleaning-crazed person. And no longer do I visit a clothing store without re-hanging each item before leaving the dressing room - and I won't let my daughter leave without doing the same.

That doesn't mean, though, that messes no longer overwhelm me. Indeed, when I walked into Kids last night at 9:10 (and then again at 9:20 after being called to Cashier back-up almost immediately), I went into a panic. There had been no coverage in the department for hours, and with school out, a sweltering hot day, and the bookstore the perfect, air-conditioned place for parents to let their wild spawn run amuck, the place looked as bad as you might imagine.

Because I am not neat by nature, messes do overwhelm me and I become less efficient than usual as the fear I won't be able to clean it all up in time invades my head. Last night I tried a different tact and thought to myself, "Screw this...I'll do what I can, but I'm not going to let this job get the better of me. The store isn't paying me enough or offering me enough hours to justify my making myself crazy being Super Employee."

What a pep talk!

But you know what? It worked. By refusing to take on responsibility for making things perfect, I actually got through recovery quicker than usual. I tackled it methodically...when I found four "lunch-box" style kits emptied all over the floor, I put 'em back together and stuck 'em back on the shelf. When I found an expensive pop-up book destroyed, a touch 'n' feel book with a cardboard page ripped out, and a tween girl's nail kit that I'd already put back together the week before destroyed once again - but this time beyond repair - I simply damaged them out and continued.

By ten o'clock, when the store closed, I wasn't finished, but I didn't go into apology mode for needing help. Nobody could have put everything back in the time I'd been given. Not with two tables filled with books and kits - and magazines and computer books from thoughtless adults who are as selfish as their children - stuffed animals all over the floor, and a desk already stacked high with books that other staff during the afternoon and evening had placed there for recovery.

So Allie came in, I told her I still had a desk full of items to put away, and she started dusting and organizing. By the time James came in, I had just one toy left to put away before handing him two final books for recovery elsewhere in the store and taking the "due-outs" to the back for processing. Then I returned to Kids for a final walk-through, making sure that the basics were done (all items put away and no obvious violations of shelving rules). As I told my manager a few minutes later, "It's done, but it's not pretty."

It's that change in attitude that helped me last night not to get hysterical about finishing on time and by myself. A few weeks earlier I'd been unable to finish a "Sunday night in Kids," and when the cavalry rode in, I spent the next half hour apologizing for needing help. My guess is that both messes were comparable, yet I actually accomplished more - and more quickly - by myself when I took the "I don't give a shit" attitude than when I donned my Super Employee costume.

Of course, it didn't hurt that earlier I'd sold three memberships in an hour and a half cashiering, but still...



Rachel said...

Summer in the library was like this. I found it really hard to overlook the parents' willingness/eagerness to let their kids trash the place and walk out. That's not just bad parenting, it's bad adult behavior. How much damage in dollars do you think your B&N eats on a daily basis?

Laurie Gold said...

Rachel, I wonder about the damage loss costs every time I work in Kids. I imagine we lose far more to theft, but you can't control that nearly as well as you can try and control what kids do to books, toys, and kits. Trouble is, the Kids section is set off like its own little store, but it's only supposed to be staffed 40 hours a week. The store is open many more hours than that, which creates the problem. If they staffed it fully and moved the staffer into the middle of the section rather than tucked inside a corner, I think it would make a huge difference.