Sunday Sucks

Chaos in Print

And on the seventh day, He rested — The Bible, somewhere near the beginning
No rest for the wicked — An old cliche

Here in Canada, we used to have this thing called the Lord’s Day Act. Essentially, it was the law for businesses to close on Sunday. If you stayed open, you’d be fined. There was this one drugstore in Calgary, however, that felt it was an unjust law, and would forever remain open on Sunday. This resulted in lots of fines for the store. But this store had a plan. In the early 80s, Canada’s constitution was repatriated, and we were given the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The little drugstore rubbed their hands with glee, and little dollar signs appeared in their eyes like in a cartoon. Now that Canada’s constitution had come home, and we had this Charter thing, the constitutionality of the Lord’s Day Act could be challenged. So the battle was taken to the Supreme Court. The little drugstore argued that the Lord’s Day Act was unconstitutional; that it rammed Christianity down people’s throats. Defenders of the Act said that that may have been the intent when it was first passed, but the purpose of the Act grew and changed over the decades that it had been in effect; that it had a “shifting purpose.” Well, the Supreme Court ruled that laws don’t have shifting purposes in Canada, and therefore the Lord’s Day Act was unconstitutional. Rather than repeal it altogether, it was decided that municipalities could pass similar legislation to keep businesses closed on Sundays. Most municipalities decided not to, though. The logic was that businesses in their county would lose profits on Sunday if all a customer had to do was cross the county line to get to a store that was open. So, thanks to this little drugstore in Calgary, businesses could now stay open on Sundays. Thanks to this little drugstore in Calgary, I have to work on Sundays.

Being a front end supervisor for Extra Foods, Sunday is the day of hell. We’re only open for 8 hours, so it’s believed that only one front end supervisor is needed for the day. Factor in the half hour it takes me to open, the two hours it takes me to close, and my one hour off for lunch, and I usually wind up working 9.5 to 10 hours on Sunday. But that’s not the only headache. Sunday is also the day that the new flyer, and all of the week’s new prices, go into effect. So, the grocery staff spends most of the day running around taking the old price signs down and putting up the new ones. The manager spends most of his day sitting in his office punching the new prices into the computer. What’s the end result of old prices coming down, new ones going up, and the prices in a constant state of flux in the computer? About three quarters of all merchandise goes in at the wrong price. This results in a lot of irate customers. And, to top it all off, since the day does fall on a weekend, three quarters of the staff are airheaded teenagers. It is not a pleasant experience for me, as I am the one expected to keep the whole thing running smoothly.

The first Sunday I worked, I learned very quickly that you have to keep the doors closed until it’s time to open. Normally, we keep them open just a crack so the employees can get in. But, on Sunday, people will come through that crack, start complaining to you that you don’t have the doors open yet, and proceed to shop. And, as is the case with customers like this, if you try to explain that the store isn’t open for another 10 minutes, they’ll get all huffy, make vague threats about going up the street to IGA, and proceed to shop anyway. I don’t know if that’s just the mentality of these people, or if I have an inability to properly communicate.

The fact that most things go in for the wrong price is rough on every one. There’s no greater feeling of dread for a cashier when you’re ringing in items and then the customer says, “It’s not supposed to be that price.” Then, you ask the customer what it’s supposed to be. Most of the time, the customer will say, “I don’t know.” So, proper procedure is you send the bagger to go see what the proper price is. But, since the bagger is an airhead teenager and often nowhere to be found, you have to do it for yourself. You go out into the store, find the proper price, and then head back. If last week’s price happens to be lower, and it’s still up, that’s the one you have to use. You always use the lower price. What makes this really fun is if the customer took it when last week’s price was up, and a few minutes later the grocery person comes by and puts up the newer, more expensive price. That new price is the one you find when you go to check the price, and then you’re left trying to explain to that customer that the price changed during the half-hour that started when they grabbed it from the shelf and ended when they came to the till. Most often, it’ll end with the customer grumbling, “Fine, then. I don’t want it. It’s probably cheaper at IGA, anyway.” (It’s actually not, but threats of going to the competition don’t bother me. It’s not like I shop at Extra Foods because I work there.)

But say you find last week’s price still up, in which case you have to punch that price into your cash register. This process requires the supervisor to punch in an override code, authorizing the price change. But what if I, the supervisor, need an override? Then, I have to call the manager on duty for that day. This usually results in a longer wait for the customer, as the manager has to come all the way down from his office and all the way up to the front of the store. Since managers don’t like strenuous work, the walk usually upsets them. So, by the time they get to the front of the store, they’re all huffy. The assistant manager has this one philosophy, though. You know, the good old “Ignore it and it’ll go away” philosophy. The last Sunday I worked, I had to call her four times before she came to give me my override. And her excuse for taking so long? “YOU DON’T HAVE TO CALL ME FOUR TIMES!! I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME!! I’M BUSY TOO!!” I, too, then have adopted a new philosophy. If no one comes within 3 minutes of the second time I call, I use my own override code. I’m not supposed to, as it really pisses of the big bosses in Edmonton, but sometimes, it has to be done.

I do get my reprieve, however. A one hour lunch. Sadly, though, I don’t know what to do with all that free time, so I usually wind up taking only half-an-hour or 45 minutes. My fast food restaurant of choice on Sunday tends to be Kentucky Fried Chicken, since they are the slowest fast food place in town. I just can’t relax on my lunch, though. I’m usually bereft with worry over what the airhead teenagers are doing in my absence. This one time, I came back from my lunch to find long lines at all the tills, and that one of those airhead teenagers had closed down her till and was chatting with the photo lab manager. When I asked her why she did that, her reply was, “Well, the photo lab manager here is running behind, so I thought she needed my help more than we needed another till open.” I told her to reopen. Needless to say, she didn’t.

I swear, those teenagers will be the death of me. On the most recent Sunday I had to work, it got really busy at about 10 minutes to 5. I asked the airhead teenager who was off at 5 if she’d stay until things slowed down. She gave me a lot of belly aching and vague answers. At 5, this teenager cuts off her line and proceeds to close down her till. Again, I ask her to stay open. Again, she gives me some belly aching and vague answers, but she reopens. Thinking that she’s come to her senses, I place the call for another cashier. The teenager pipes up, “The new grocery manager can do it! I’ll call her!” I agree. True, the new grocery manager has only had about 20 minutes of training behind a register, but that’s about as much training as most of us got. And besides, she’d do to at least get a couple of big carts on the way. I let the teenager place the call. As soon as the grocery manager gets to the front, the airhead teenager waves her over. The airhead teenager tells the grocery manager to take over, and the airhead teenager takes off. Did I mention this airhead teenager was on the express lane? The grocery manager was not ready for the express lane. After a few moments of panic, the store manager came to bail her out.

Want to know the end of that story? A few days later, my boss chewed out that airhead teenager for doing that. The airhead teenager promptly came to me. “Why didn’t you tell me she didn’t have enough training for the express lane? We cashiers need to know this!” Actually, they don’t. The supervisor needs to know because it’s the supervisor who decides who goes on what till. Since I’m not good at confrontation, I just glared at her as she attempted to tear me a new one.

I will say this. At least closing the store is easier on Sunday. Since it’s the start of the fiscal week, the majority of paperwork involves putting starting totals on forms. And since we close at 6 on Sunday, I get out of there at 8. I love it when I close the store and there’s still daylight out.

At least the boss has ruled that we supervisors should only have to go through this day of hell once a month. July 22 will probably be my next one. But what it all boils down to is I have to work on Sundays because of that one little drugstore in Calgary. What’s so wrong with taking a day off once a week? Even God had enough sense to take a day off. I say we should urge our municipalities to pass the legislation. Better yet, I say we need to spearhead a new initiative. Let’s have the “Day for Yourself Act.” One day a week, everything closes for the purposes of kickin’ back and takin’ it easy. And to avoid religious intonations, it won’t be Sunday. It’ll be Friday. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Sabbath for the Jews? Mondays, then. No one likes working on Mondays anyway. So, write your MLA! Let’s get the Day for Yourself Act moving! People must take a day off once a week, even if it means losing money. Take that, Extra Foods! Take that, you Calgary drugstore! And I’ll see you on the beach on Monday.