As soon as I turned nineteen—AKA, the legal age to be a vendor of cigarettes and lottery—my mom offered me a place at our store, just for the summer. And I thought, why the hell not, it’s time to get familiar with the family business anyway.
Boy, was it a change of perspective. We may have owned the store, but my understanding of every day happenings there were incomplete and vague at best, and completely out of my radar at worst. Working there let me in on a lot of the tasks that they deal with and it brought me closer with my parents—let me just say that we could not stop talking about work in the first few weeks of my placement. I became much more meddlesome in their business.
A sea of selection
One assumption you would make would be that it’s no doubt a haven for a 19-year-old, right? Scanning from left to right, all you see is the vast selection of chips, cookies, drinks, pastries; you name it and we probably had it.
Now, the problem I faced was, regardless of an entire store’s worth of products at my disposal, I found that I had nothing to eat. Part of it was the fact that, due to the nature of a convenience store, we stocked a ton of junk food. If you’re not worried about having a rich chocolate brownie/anything of that sort for breakfast (five times a week), then it probably was quite a luxury to have all your favourites all under one roof.
I’m more of an egg on toast girl though, so I ate our store’s stock of samosas/beef patties/cream cheese bagels to the ground. After four months of it, though? Ew. The start of my Tim Horton’s obsession probably came from my time at the store.
Endless kitchen basics
Normally, when you go grocery shopping, the first set of items you track down are your kitchen basics. I’m talking about your carton of a dozen eggs (or if your family tends to devour eggs at record speed like mine, then upsize that to an 18-pack), milk, bread, all that great stock.
For us, it would be more like ringing up ol’ pops when he’s heading home from our store to grab some of those kitchen essentials. Growing up, I can say that I don’t think I really ventured into that area of the supermarket. To our household, those items were synonymous to the canned sardines of the average household, in that everybody keeps a five feet radius from them.
Now that I’m living away from the parents, I can say that the difference in my grocery rounds is startling; the first area I hit up before all else is the dairy and milk products area.
Speaking of inventory shopping: you know when the grocery store has a sale so great that you see families wheeling around two shopping carts? Well, that’s where you’d be seeing my family.
You really can’t pass up a dollar of 6-packs of donuts. However, that lands you in the situation of checking out twelve 6-pack donuts in a row at the register, followed probably by seven blocks of cheddar cheese that were also discounted.
Inevitably, you will come across a comment like: “Wow, what a party you’re throwing this weekend, eh?” to which you respond with an awkward smile.
Not that I didn’t have boundless choice in the kind of snacks I had at an arm’s length, but I was surprised at the amount of times suppliers were able to give us small samples of their products. I probably accumulated a good armful of miniature versions of ice cream and chips, and then new flavours of other things.
The curse of customer service jobs
This isn’t exclusive to owning a convenience store. Hell, it’s not even exclusive to convenience stores. However, I would like to make a show of solidarity between all of us who have had the misfortune of landing a customer service position because I can guarantee that we’ve all had at least a few encounters with, er, difficult customers.
One of the more ridiculous, and I would say is a top contender for being the very most ridiculous, of the incidents to happen involves a watermelon and a very unhappy man. Said unhappy man was thoroughly unimpressed with the round of watermelons we got that week, insisting that they weren’t sweet enough. He then demanded a refund – on a produce item that he had already consumed. What infallible logic.
Mastery of unit counting
This really should not have come as a shock to me. Yet, the first time I had to count the deliveries coming in, I had to ask for confirmation about the procedure, and discovered that, yes, the 40-50 bags of chips do need to be counted. My only saving grace would be that the supplier counts them for you (at super speed, because they have done this daily for years).
And then an hour later, the 40 cases of beverages come. Except, this particular supplier calls out fifteen and you attempt to quickly do a headcount on the cases stacked precariously in his roller while he speedwalks past you.
Overall, it was an eye-opening experience. If any of you have small family-owned businesses and haven’t already worked there, I think it’s a valuable experience to take some shifts there and see what exactly your business entails.