Healthy Hippie deli case

"Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot" - J3

By jasonmcgathey | Jason McGathey | 28 Jul 2023

Ground zero for many epic yet ridiculous battles

“I like Christie, don’t get me wrong. But…”

It’s amazing how many conversations start out this way, Edgar’s thinking. As Arnie begins to rant in what amounts to a slightly elevated whisper, up here in his office.

With the other computer in here unoccupied, though the Orchestra server is connected to it, Arnie has unofficially claimed this as his work station, whenever in need of one at this store. He typically does so by announcing the “DEFCON status,” on a scale from 1 to 5, as he enters the room, which is meant to indicate how much general hostility seems to be in the air today. But then settles down to check his emails and deal with other assorted business, which is handy in that he will go through the last cost changes Edgar has found, and decide if he wants to change any retails. As most produce price changes don’t require shelf tags, Edgar will instead email the produce managers, copying store managers and Arnie, and they will print off their own updated signs from a basic design program installed at each store.

Arnie gets fired up on occasion, although these monologues are almost always hilarious. Today’s topic, which Edgar has heard before, concerns Christie Marsh, and how she refuses to take his outdated produce. He’s pissed because this stuff would still be perfectly fine if used in a recipe within the next day or two, but instead he’s throwing it out.

“I’ve offered it to her I don’t know how many times, at a little less than cost. It saves her money, she’s helping me out a little bit, so what’s the problem? This stuff is fine. You wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference! But no, she doesn’t wanna do that.”

Her stance might be defensible, on grounds of either prices or standards, or both, but Edgar’s impression is that she doesn’t care about any of this. He also has mentioned certain things to her countless times, like for example that the frozen spinach she keeps ordering from Chefco is more expensive than the organic fresh stuff Alfredson’s offers. She pretty much unfailingly says, “really?” every time, as though never hearing this before. But of course, she’s exceedingly friendly with the Chefco rep these days, Lindsey — the two of them hang out on a regular basis — and this likely explains her continued interest in tossing that company a ton of business.

Corey Brown is actually fairly irate about this Chefco situation, too, albeit for different reasons. Edgar increasingly feels like he’s the company therapist, as various employees blow off steam venting their current frustrations, not all of which are even job related. He guesses that he’s a pretty good listener, and they know he’s not going to spread this information around the workplace. So it is that Corey has bumped into him recently, in a grocery aisle up in Palmyra, bitching unprovoked about Chefco.

“We shouldn’t even have them in the store. People see this big semi pulling into our parking lot, it says Chefco on the side, they’re not dumb. This is one of the biggest restaurant suppliers in the country. Their stuff’s not clean. But we’re supposed to be this all natural, organic company? I think we should just get rid of them.”

It’s presumed that Chefco persists and Christie holds onto her job primarily because she enjoys protection, as Duane’s alleged girlfriend. But if this were ever true, which Edgar doubts, then there are increasing rumblings that it no longer is. That her job might not be safe, and this holiday season could potentially break her. Yes she is always working the cases and yes she is continually introducing new product lines, but that’s just it — a lot of her employees are saying, eh, maybe you shouldn’t be. Maybe go do something else instead.

If pressed, Edgar supposes he too would say, “don’t get me wrong — I like Christie, but…” Because she is kind of flaky and weird to deal with at times. Remains completely obsessed with ordering in these high-priced dessert lines — sometimes local, but also just as frequently something from the Chefco catalog — and trying them out for a couple of months, at a tremendous loss, before moving to the next. Just days ago Corey called him over a brand of pies Edgar had just added to the system, as they begin gearing up for Thanksgiving.

“I think these must be a mistake,” Corey says, “you’ve get them priced at $48 dollars apiece.”

“Nope, that’s correct. I actually even went down to the cooler to check, because I thought that sounded high. They cost thirty one something apiece.”

“They cost thirty one dollars? Alright, let me talk to Christie about this…”

In this instance, since the product was already here, they eventually agreed to make an exception and price these way below margin. And that’s fine, it really doesn’t matter to him. She is kind of driving him bonkers with the numbers in the Hobart machine, however, where, after considerable pleading to Edgar, and even presenting her case to Duane, he was reluctantly cajoled into giving her the password for entering and changing things on the fly in those deli scales.

Her primary reason for this, she claims, is that things are often so hectic that she can’t just call Edgar every time she needs something, or wait on him to respond to an email. Plus she is often working nights, and he’s not even around! Feeling forced to concede, he nonetheless stresses a few points, chief among them that she has to look up the numbers in the master list he reprints every month or so, prior to entering anything new. To make sure this item doesn’t already exist, but also, to be certain that a different department isn’t already using this same number.

Whoever did the original wiring for these stores ran separate phone lines out to the meat, deli, and produce scales. They could have been networked but they were not. Therefore it’s not good enough just to make up a number, see it’s not in use on this deli scale, and create your new item. Because if, say, it’s on the produce scale, which bulk also uses, incidentally, for tray packing stuff, then it’s going to ring up at the register as the item that’s already in the system with this number. He’s in the process of weeding out the non-sellers and giving all departments their own completely separate ranges, so this never becomes an issue, but this is still a work in progress. You can’t just wipe out all the numbers and start from scratch, not when they’re still in use.

Because the second point here is that she’s supposed to notify him, either in email or leaving a note on his desk, when she adds a truly new item, because otherwise it’s not going to ring up at the register. These price embedded, type 2 barcodes always need to have their base numbers entered into Orchestra first. You can add some fresh concoction into one of those deli scales and get it to crank out a label, but it won’t ring unless that number is added to their primary database.

Of course, the duplicate items have begun rearing their head again, too, although the excuse is always that she “couldn’t find it” in the book. Also, she must break down all the ingredients per that recent quarantine, which is a complete nightmare to attempt pulling off at the scale itself, standing there typing everything. Well, yeah, he knew this was going to be a complete disaster, even before agreeing to it, and it has been. Despite a few forceful reiterations of these points in person, on the phone, in email and even notes left on her desk, however, he can’t quite seem to break through. Her general approach seems to be nestled squarely in the eh, fuck it, whatever, we’ll bludgeon our way through the current crisis, today, and figure out the details later campWhich is fine and all, except when it’s making him look bad.

Yet, this isn’t to suggest that all deli related problems are Christie’s fault. They’ve had the notorious struggles staffing Palmyra, although that ship has righted itself of late. In more recent times, they’ve had to fire the deli manager at Southside, Christopher. He had this mournful look about him, all the time, although this turned out to be the result of some heavy, round-the-clock boozing. He came in smelling like liquor but also, more damning, smelled heavily of liquor by the end of the day, too. He’s been replaced by more of a hotshot, somewhat caustic, restaurant manager type named Kirk, but if nothing else he works fast and should bring some fresh ideas to the table.

Then there’s this question over what to do about the sushi. At the time of Edgar’s hiring, they had an excellent sushi program in place, outsourced to this Japanese woman who did a great job supplying Palmyra and Southside both. Yet she literally disappeared overnight without a word said, as their Chesboro area restaurant also closed up shop, and rumor has it they might have even gone back to their home country. Since that time, Southside has been making all the sushi, and shipping whatever Palmyra orders up to them. Along with whatever else they might want, from the trio of older Russian women, or the delightful Middle Eastern lady, Lakshmi, who makes the best falafel, tabouli, and the like that most have ever tasted.

The problem with this arrangement is that they’ve somehow decided to run these items through as a sale for Southside, at the cash register, then ship the receipt along with the product up to Palmyra, as they pay Southside a slightly discounted retail. Various bosses have grumbled about this situation, certain there must be something better, but haven’t come up with anything. Corey picked Edgar’s brain on exactly one occasion, when he was at Southside for a manager’s meeting..

“This is a guaranteed sale for South,” Corey complains, in Edgar’s office during this visit, “but then we’ve got to move almost all of it, just to break even. And it’s on our numbers if we throw it out.”

Edgar thinks this should be simple enough to figure out, if you just wanted to charge Palmyra cost plus labor involved in making this stuff. But, although Duane had said early on to him, “you should really be involved in all managerial decisions, moving forward,” Edgar doesn’t feel he’s been given quite that much pull around here. Corey’s poking around with a stick right now for ideas, but nobody came to Edgar asking him what he thinks should be done, nothing ever comes of this suggestion. With these and other key developments, it’s been more a case of Duane and Harry and the store managers making all the decisions, with him a rung lower, the little database guy sitting in his office entering the results of these verdicts.

And so too it is with this transfer arrangement, as certain bosses remain, right or wrong, obsessed with this idea that Southside should get “credit” for making the stuff somehow. Although he also suspects nobody wants to even begin to tackle figuring up a realistic labor cost for time spent concocting these items. Maybe his idea is unrealistic, too, or just plain dumb, who knows. But if nothing else a remedy could be on the horizon in the form of an equalizer: Duane has just dropped about 80 grand on a mother ship of a smoker at Palmyra, and somewhere around the first of the year, they’re going to begin transferring smoked meats down to Southside. It won’t be precise, but should roughly wash out the transfers moving in both directions, which is a very HHM-esque approach to solving this problem.

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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!

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