The following is the second installment of:
Black pants check, black shirt check, block socks check, black shoes check, black and red company cap check, black apron check all is right in the world preparing for my novice career as Event Specialist (for a recap on how I got this far see: Egad, the money is running out!). Relaxed standing at the customer service counter at Fred Meyer grocery, “Hello, I am to meet with the store manager Vicki I will be doing samples tonight, I was informed to meet her here, can you help me.” The associate calls someone to inquire coming back with, “Sorry, there is no manager by that name instead let me call the assistant and he will meet you by the entrance where the carts are stowed”. “Thank you”, I reply then head to the main entrance dodging people and shopping carts laden with grocery bags moving every which way some buying dispensary machine lottery tickets. You can’t lose if you don’t play, eh?
Out of the crowd of shoppers comes “James?” “Yes,” I reply turning to face a woman dressed similar: black pants, shirt, apron, and black and red cap with Delightful Discoveries across the front. Vicki introduces herself; five hours of online training the previous day clouded the old memory banks as to who I am meeting, you see it is not someone from the store but in fact my lead, we head for our meeting with the manager who is waiting outside the storage room. Inserting a key and turning the heavy metal door is pulled open touching off a motion sensor light. There under bright fluorescence is the mobile pushcart all 51”x 37” x27” of it with brushed metal top.
Vicki gets right to the business at hand going over the event cart unlocking storage doors exposing tools of the trade: a microwave, toaster oven, cutting boards, two small, plastic storage boxes containing a thermometer, measure spoons, hot pad, measuring cups, knives, spoons, etc. Stocked against a wall next to the handcart are two large plastic, rectangle containers where extra bowls, coffee makers, multi-cookers, and griddle are stored. Without hesitation, Vicki injects poison into job training complaining about Specialists not properly cleaning cart tops or appliances, buying unneeded plastic, mixing bowls, not throwing away unused protective, clear plastic gloves, soufflé cups, and napkins. The chatter continues about pricing numbers being cut up and not left as they come, accordion style. Patiently, I listen. I volunteer to guide the event cart from storage onto sales floor a tricky task and not for the faint of heart, weaving around displays and waiting for customers pushing overloaded grocery carts (where’s a traffic cop when you need one, eh?) ending the ordeal near an electrical outlet at the end of an aisle shelves spilling over with tortilla chips. Here the next six hours will be home handing out food items but before educating consumers, we need to acquire sampling supplies and setup the cart.
The store where the affair is to take place receives the Event Kit a medium-size, bright pink, rectangular box containing necessities such as advertising signage, disposable gloves, paper plates, napkins, coupons, toothpicks, and the Holy Grail, The Event Manual. Three 8×11 pages of vital information contain featured and supporting food items to purchase, budget, appliances to use, selling points, and on this day a unclear recipe. Procuring the box and verifying the contents the manual is looked over, and locating the recipe I indicate, “The recipe for this event is poorly written, ‘Butter (1) side of bread of (8) slices of bread with (1) teaspoon of buttery spread per side. Put on skillet with buttered sides facing outwards’, confusing.”
Glancing over the wording Vicki quickly responds, “We’re cooking a grilled cheese sandwich”. In a bewildered voice, “I wonder if the person who wrote this knows, or cares, how poor the instructions,” comes out. Next, I am introduced to three deep, stainless steel sinks in the meat department scrub, rinse, sanitize used in preparing appliances and utensils before and after events. Back to the handcart, for this sampling Vicki has brought what the company likes to call a refrigerated bunker (a.k.a. cooler) filled with ice for perishables and a skillet for grilling the grilled cheese. Placing product signage on the cart front and on a four-foot extending pole Vicki cannot emphasize enough about price indicators, “Please do not cut up the numbers leave them attached in this accordion style as some reps are cutting them and misplacing them.” Affirmation is with a nod.
“Ok let’s go find our food items,” announces Vicki. While winding through store aisles Vicki continues the training on how much to purchase to begin the show, “It depends on the item that is being sampled. For instance, candies and other foods can be used up in the first three hours, whereas beverages may not be so popular. So think about what you are featuring and in time you get the hang of whether to buy all at the beginning or just half now and remaining amount after lunch,” the biggest challenge thus far, budgeting.
The Specialist wants to expose as many consumers to product as possible so
setting up must be quick however, tonight training is upsetting the apple cart, delaying kickoff. “We need to move faster”, cries Vicki pushing shopping cart, full of gluten-free bread, two types of lunch-meat, Swiss cheese, and a healthy butter like spread, hastily through checkout company credit card, flash, swipe, accepted. A second card is available for purchasing supplies such as paper towel, napkins, bowls, and if necessary coffee makers, microwave ovens, and multi-cookers on the cheap, of course. Receipts for sampling items are kept for filling out the call report at day’s end, supply cards are loaded with the exact purchase price only after calling in to the support center with quantity and cost. “Apparently, some individuals are stumped when using the supply card and call in first then gather the merchandise, but you are to do the opposite”, Vicki dictates.
Goodies paid for and spread out across the cart top in assembly line fashion,
extra lunch-meat and cheese snug inside refrigerated bunker placed against cart the griddle (set to 250 degrees) gets a prime spot on the cart then is plugged into a 12’ extension cord safely taped to the floor and connected to the power outlet. A white cutting board (these is also a green and a red one for vegetables and meat, respectively) is placed left of the griddle, 250 white napkins stacked at the ready, both of us slip on oversized disposable gloves then get down to business creating sandwiches. Placing bread smeared with healthy butter like spread face down on hot griddle immediately sizzles, then alternating thin sliced ham and cheese, second slice of buttered bread crowns the masterpiece. The process continues until four sandwiches are snug on the griddle, the aroma of toasted bread wafts through the air, curious noses approach. Removing golden brown sandwiches from the griddle and placing on the cutting board each is quartered, skewered with toothpick, placed on napkin, and with cheese oozing the following is recited to drooling consumers:
“Hi! Today I am sampling a delicious sandwich featuring Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread. With only 70 calories per slice, this bread is the perfect ingredient for your favorite sandwich. Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread is wheat, soy, dairy, and nut free. You can store the bread in the freezer for up to 6 months and is available to use whenever you please. Reward yourself during your next meal and enjoy the luxury of bread again with Udi’s. Thank you for your business!”
Most dine and dash few take a moment to enjoy the signals from their taste buds and ask questions. Vicki is robotic reducing this paragraph of selling points to: Brand name, Gluten Free, 70 calories, and Thank you. Part of the Specialist’s job is to move amongst the massed, intercepting consumers with bribes of tasty treats however, on this showcase the bite size morsels disappear as fast as they can be placed on napkin let alone the tray, no walk about tonight.
The first half of the 6-hour event passes quickly now preparations for a half-hour break begin first clearing off the cart top: cutting board, knives, and spatula get cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized and stowed with griddle inside cart. Remaining lunch-meat and cheese are placed in the ice bunker, and finally the cart top is wiped down with sanitizer. “I have to leave early today and head up to Longview, Washington, how comfortable are you can you complete the event on your own,” Vicki queries. “Yes I can”, I confidently answer. Usually weeks pass before I’d respond in this manner but the old gut feeling says different and the chance to perform the task at hand with no one watching and listening over my nervous shoulder is a golden opportunity to get it right besides, independence on the first night!
No trepidation a sense of peace allows exuberance to spill out as I get back to
chucking grilled cheese sandwiches. “Hi! Today I am sampling a delicious sandwich featuring Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread is the preferred reading however, my first attempt ends up like asking a high school crush for a date, just squeaky jawbones. The onslaught of interest and stuttering of key selling points continue nevertheless, repetition of words and having to create more samples gets the brain firing on all cylinders, smooth words spill forth. Sadly, all good things end.
The Event Specialist has a code (more like guidelines really) that one half hour before the end of the shift cleanup begins as one must be stepping out of the stores’ doors right at shifts end. Knives, cutting board, spatula, scissors, serving plate, and griddle are collected; cart locked up then off to the meat department. Reacquainting with old friends wash, rinse, and sanitize the utensils and appliances are cleaned and towel dried, ready for the next show. A quick check of time 15 precious minutes as hands blur removing signage from cart, sanitize the top, tossing unused napkins, gloves, leftover food, empty trash then a call to store management to stow the cart. Whew, an overwhelming amount of detail yet an exhilarating, calorie-burning job.
After all is said and done I am responsible for getting to the store at the correct time and day, working with management, setting up and taking down the event, the opportunity of being your own boss, freedom. Alas, rumors circulate of Specialist’s misuse by showing up late, leaving early, wondering away from the cart in a non-business business, using company cards for personal purchases. There is no time card to punch so I am required to purchase ONE banana on the company credit card just before leaving, one banana! According to the company, the time stamp indicates the official ending to the workday; they picked the banana because people love ‘em and are unlikely to end up in the trash. Payroll does not work by the banana buy alone the Specialist is given 12 hours to fill out a cyber time-sheet, as well as event feedback, through company website. Questions include customer opinion, would they recommend the product, how much did I buy the exact cost of items bought, and my opinion as to what can make such events smoother.
Stay tuned for the final installment of the: