Steve's lone remaining obligation

"Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot" - F3

By jasonmcgathey | Jason McGathey | 13 Jul 2023

Steve’s lone remaining outpost: scooping salads into plastic containers


With the promotion of Edgar’s mom to deli manager, this means that the part time fuckup Steve is now into his fourth administration. Having arrived on the scene before Dolly, even, and outlasting not only her but everyone who’d been around in the deli prior to his arrival, including the previous merchandiser, the wine enthusiast.

“Hey, it’s a warm body,” Corey is known to shrug, whenever anyone mentions Steve, “at least he always shows up.”

And yet while this response seems like a sane, measured one, it highlights one of the major fault lines running through retail. The Peter Principle gets all the press, but its inverse, which Edgar has begun to think of as the Steve Paradigm, is just as prevalent, and just as bad: establish at the outset how little you are going to do, how poorly you are going to manage even that meager amount, and then continue to do exactly that. Nobody will ever get their hopes up, and you will be set for life. People might even begin to view you as some sort of insanely dependable rock, for merely showing up and breathing while on the time clock. This is way better than creating lofty expectations, which you maybe can’t deliver upon.

Even though his mom now has to deal with the guy, Edgar finds himself sort of rooting for Steve as well. Kind of chuckling under his breath and thinking, heh heh, more power to you, dude, if you can get away with this crap. Because Steve’s gone above and beyond even the paradigm shift named after him, in that he’s taken the ball and not so much knelt on the playing field with it, but ran in the complete opposite direction, every step that much farther away from his own team’s goal line.

In the beginning he sucked so bad at executing recipes that they told him he wasn’t allowed to make anything. This progressed to an unfortunate development whereby he also couldn’t seem to execute a non-catastrophic assembly job on the chicken salad wraps and so on, to the extent they kindly removed him from this post. In more recent times his eyesight has gotten so bad, he claims, that he cannot check for outdates, and therefore is no longer expected to. The latest hilarity finds him removed from dish washing duty, because, as he declares, this task stresses him out a little too much. An explanation which store manager Corey finds perfectly reasonable, and gives his blessing to, in striking it from Steve’s purview. Not everyone is a fan of this ruling, however.

“He can’t make recipes, he can’t pull outdates…now he can’t wash dishes!?” Christie seethes to Edgar, unprovoked, when she is informed of this latest twist, “what is he, a toddler?”

Despite these upheavals in the department’s manager, however, there have been some grumblings that Christie herself is the problem. Dolly for one continually advanced this claim. Yet as far as Edgar can determine, while, sure, for example Christie might seem curiously fond of trying out one high priced dessert line after another, which just sit there, he finds it hard to believe this is one of the deli department’s most urgent forest fires, no less HHM’s as a whole. They have plenty other problems elsewhere.

Regarding where he fits into this grand scheme, he knows that straightening out the numbers is a vital part of it. Yet whatever know-how he has concerning modern technology, while itself not all that mind-blowing, might prove just as important around here. This is definitely not the most tech-savvy workforce he has ever gone to battle with. Though there are plenty who are quite gifted in this realm — and fortunately, at least one such soul in each location, thus far — even those in a younger demographic, who might be expected to have a little more know how when it comes to modern equipment, are often found lacking.

Most are aware of this, however, and have a good attitude about it. And while this might be a little bit of a stretch, Edgar could go as far as to say they often look at him as some sort of hero for explaining to them, in simple enough terms, how to do something new with the computer. At the very least, they are highly appreciative. For example, the day Barbara needs his help burning data files to a blank CD. Or on three separate occasions showing Rachel how to look up a vendor file by name, on the department managers’ computer, because she couldn’t remember previous lessons on this topic. But most instrumental of all, possibly, is the day he’s up at Palmyra and the new grocery manager, Trudy, is telling him it takes her an eternity to type out the new items by hand, before sending them to him. A vitamins employee standing nearby, Tori, hears this and agrees with her.

“Wait a second…you’re typing those out by hand?” Edgar questions.

“Well yeah,” she shrugs.

“No no, don’t do that. Copy and paste. At least on the major vendors, you can just copy and paste.”

“Copy and paste?” Trudy and Tori both reply. At which point he leads them back to that store’s shared managers’ computer and gives both a quick tutorial. That, you know, these five major vendor files he’s sending everyone every month, they didn’t arrive neatly formatted, with all of the columns in the exact same order. He did all that, so they could just highlight a line on the vendor file (something else new to them, as are all of these micro-points), hit Ctrl C, then Alt + Tab to bounce over to the new items spreadsheet, highlight the line and hit Ctrl V to paste.

While fairly common knowledge to most in this day and age, these two are open mouthed with awe — although this doesn’t necessarily lead to the development one might think. Considering that these five major vendors probably cover 90% of the items the stores are ordering, and this simple tactic will save them untold time. Instead, both admit that this move looked cool, but it was confusing, and therefore they’ll probably continue typing these out by hand.

Of course, Trudy will openly admit she’s somewhat of a technophobe. “I hate technology! Hate it!” she tells him more than once, visibly shuddering at the prospect of dealing with these machines. Yet possesses a mostly good attitude about at least sucking it up and grudgingly getting on board with this stuff anyhow. Most employees do fall into this camp, such as the recently hired produce manager, Johnny, who says he’s never even sent an email prior to working here, yet recognizes that he has to adopt some of these modern concepts if he hopes to survive.

That’s all fine and understandable. It might call into question what upper management hopes to do with these figures as time goes by, and these people wish to climb the organizational ladder, but for now it’s working. They also have a sizable group of what you might term worker mule types at each location, who just want to sling product and wait on customers, who have no aspiration to rise any higher than this, and that is fine also. What Edgar really finds bizarre, though, is the tiny subset of those who unabashedly confess they know nothing about technology…but will nonetheless argue all day long that the technology doesn’t work.

Harry is without question at the top of this list. He almost always calls instead of emailing, and continues dropping paperwork or packages on Edgar’s desk in place of trifling with the new items file. There are endless occasions where, after tying up a good five or ten minutes of Edgar’s time detailing some strategy he has for, say, a particular endcap, will then insist that Edgar in turn phone each of the three grocery managers (“don’t email, you know, call them”) and verbally explain the same to them. Pulling each of those people off the floor, away from whatever they were doing, and wasting who knows how much time in lieu of a single quick email that could knock all of this out, with a record of the conversation, to boot.

Edgar complies, because he’s not sure what else to do about the situation. He’s not much of a complainer to begin with and anyway, Harry is pretty much perceived as the second in command around here. Harry who remains convinced that using these formulas and uploaded vendor files and so on to generate pricing is a bad idea, who would prefer to revert back to the good ol’ days of walking around, spotting things in his travels. Because he has this stuff in his head, he knows what competitors are charging, and the store would be much better off if doing so — it’s more of that “should be” pricing attitude, although in this instance from the angle of someone who’s convinced modern technology sucks. Foisting this mayhem upon everyone, such as the Friday afternoon, about a half hour before Edgar normally leaves, when Harry barges into the office and declares he discussed matters with Duane, and they’re dropping from a 25% margin on pets down to a 20.

“Oh, okay, cool. When did you want to do this?”

“Can you do it right now?” Harry suggests.

“Right now? I mean, I can, but then we’d have to print the tags out at all the stores.”

“That’s fine,” Harry nods, “yeah, go ahead and do that right now.”

Edgar wouldn’t go far as to say that Harry calculated this move for maximum irritation, or anything like that. He’s sure it just popped into the guy’s head, he strolled into Duane’s office a short while ago with this proposal, and now it’s in Edgar’s lap. Though figuring that Corey is going to have a cow over the timing on this — and does — there’s nothing else to do, apart from making sure the coast is clear and popping into Duane’s office to confirm it’s true, before proceeding with the last minute change.

Still, if not quite suspecting sabotage in this instance, Edgar has begun to wonder about Harry in other respects. They’ve had this perplexing problem for months now of getting popped by a state pricing auditor, right when they’re in the middle of hanging tags from a major update. He gave Southside a little bit of trouble on one occasion, though they passed the next inspection and wound up owing no fines. Palmyra, however, continues to bomb out in this regard, leaving many to wonder what’s really going on with this predicament.

How do you rate this article?



I am a professional writer with 8 published books under my belt. And many other unpublished ones, in various stages of disarray.

Jason McGathey
Jason McGathey

Semi-Coherent Musings - from one of the leading masters of this questionable art form!

Send a $0.01 microtip in crypto to the author, and earn yourself as you read!

20% to author / 80% to me.
We pay the tips from our rewards pool.