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I'm a married mum who loves chocolate & music & having an opinion on just about everything! E-Mail summermama@hotmail.co.uk

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Facing Redundancy

I while ago I touched on the fact that The Hubby works for a well-known DIY chain store that has gone into administration and hence he will soon become unemployed. I’ve not written about it again since because, truth be told, its one of those rather nasty facts that leaves me feeling rather deflated, but I’ve decided to write a little more about it because in the current financial climate, redundancy is something that so many families are facing, and I’m sure I can’t be the only woman who is more than a little freaked out to think that the main income to our house is going to stop.

His last day at work will be this Sunday, 17th July. After their last working day, he and his soon-to-be-ex-colleagues have planned an evening out for a farewell meal and some drinks. Originally partners weren’t invited, but then one of the ladies wanted her other half to go along as her other half used to be a store manager there and employed a lot of the people who make up the team at the moment, and it was decided if she was taking him along then everyone else should be allowed to bring their partners too, so I’m going along as well. (The Boy will be dropped off to his Grandma in the afternoon and staying overnight!)

It’s a sad time for the employees of the store. At the moment, walking around the store itself is depressing enough: Rows and rows of empty shelving, vast areas of the store now taped off from the public as 90% of the store is empty and unsafe for general public to go wandering around in. The staff have been kept busy with cleaning on the whole (Hubby came home coated in cement dust the other night, I dread to think what that’ll do to the waste water pipe in the shower and washing machine!) The garden centre section is completely shut off: The five remaining open aisles have random bits and bobs shoved on shelves that would normally be the width of the store away from one another as the remaining goods are put together in an effort to make those five aisles appear organised to some degree and properly ‘faced up’ according to regulations. (Yes, they do have to still comply with those rules).

Walking around the remaining section of the store that is open, you can find row upon row of paint – as it’s all labelled up as the stores own brand, it can’t be sold off elsewhere, and it’s about all that’s left. There are a few ex-display light fittings, a couple of split bags of compost, random items from the pet section like those triangle shaped cat houses/scratching boards, and odd cupboards from the kitchen range. They’re up to 60% reductions at the moment (I think) but on Saturday they will go to 90% and on Sunday it will be “get what you can” day for the remaining items left in store. It literally is a case of Everything Must Go. They’re even selling off the shelving racks.

The sad thing is, most of the customers don’t seem to care. For years this store has been a main go-to for residents of the area for all their DIY needs: Indeed the house we live in, when we first moved here, was almost entirely decorated by stuff found at the store, our kitchen comes from them, even our flooring, the bathroom suite and the wallpaper comes from there. Obviously when The Hubby got a job there any DIY we did ourselves meant more stuff from the store coming into the house, and it’s amazing the variety of stuff they did do, once upon a time. Sadly, as that time draws to a close, the customers have become real bastards on the whole.

One man had a go at an older member of staff a couple of weeks ago because he wanted to purchase a power drill and there was no boxed stock of the item left. The member of staff explained to him that due to the imminent closure, they wouldn’t be getting any more stock of the item, and the customer then decided he’d like to purchase the display model. The member of staff explained they were unable to sell display model electrical items as there was no telling that the item hadn’t been tampered with in some way, and was potentially unsafe. Also, as the item was display, it was missing certain bits, like the charging lead for the battery and the accessories pack of different drill heads. The customer said to the member of staff, “Just order those bits in for me” and the member of staff replied, “I can’t, they won’t send them because we can’t pay their bills” so the customer decided this was the staff members fault and had a go at him. (As I say, this member of staff is a softly spoken older gentleman of around 65, this customer was a burly, arrogant man of about 35) and he had the staff member cornered at the back of the store (before it was closed off) with nobody else around. Until The Hubby walked around the corner, that is, saw what was going on and walked over asking if he could help at all. The other staff member explained the situation, and the customer changed track, acting all nice, and said “That’s OK, no problem” and off he went. Problem sorted, or so they thought. The Hubby then made his way toward the front of the store where the duty manager, a lady in her 40’s who suffered a huge stroke 2 years ago and has only returned to work full time in the last 8 months, was on the customer service desk. He was shocked to find the same customer now having a go at the duty manager about the whole “not selling the display drill” situation, telling her that it was awful customer service not to do so (yeah, coz if you end up getting an electric shock the first thing you’ll be thinking is “their customer service was excellent for selling me this item!”) He continued to become more and more aggressive until The Hubby and two of the younger male staff members (both college students) went and flanked the customer either side and told him to leave the store. After sizing them up and realising despite his size advantage he was outnumbered, the customer left, ranting about what a rubbish store it was and how he wouldn’t come back. Well, not being funny mate, but number one we’re not going to loose sleep about a git like you not coming back, and number two it isn’t going to make a huge amount of difference in two weeks anyway!

Then on Friday one of the auditors from the administration company popped in for a stock check. A large number of goods had been brought and paid for by customers in the earlier stages of the closing down proceedings, when there was still some decent stock to be had, but due to the amount of items the customers had brought they couldn’t take it with them in one hit, so lots of items had been put into the warehouse for them to collect. The auditor saw these items and said to the duty manager “Call these customers and get these items out soon, we don’t want to be left with the goods at the end of day on Sunday because they’ve been paid for” so the duty manager made contact with the customers and requested they came in and collected their items.

As one of the customers made his way through the store from the warehouse at the back with a large trolley of goods – already paid for, remember, already his property – another man who was obviously disappointed at the lack of bargains left, went over to the trolley and started trying to pick things out of it. The man whose property it was stopped and said to him, “Excuse me, that’s mine” and tried to walk away. The other customer followed him, still trying to take through the property, saying, “But I want one of those … And I like that …” and the customer who’d brought it was like, “Well, that’s nice for you, but it’s mine, and I’m taking it home now” – the other guy wasn’t having any of it and a row between the two almost descended into a fist fight in the middle of the store! Until the guys were separated by several members of staff (one of which, I’d like to add at this point, is two weeks away from giving birth to her second baby, she’s a very slight woman anyway and the guy trying to nick the stuff out of the trolley very nearly went for her before someone else shouted at him about not hitting women, especially pregnant ones!) After that, any customers who came in to collect their stuff were directed to the back of the store, where the deliveries used to come into the warehouse, so their cars could be loaded up and they could leave without the prying eyes of other customers realising what bargains they had nabbed a couple of weeks ago. Isn’t it shameful how a sale brings out the very worst in people?

We’ve done alright out of it ourselves; The Hubby has enough DIY projects to keep him out of trouble for a while. But what concerns me is where we go from here.

For many years, The Hubby worked at a kennels; It wasn’t a brilliant job but it was one he knew, one he enjoyed (to an extent) and we didn’t need to worry about how much he was earning at the time so there was no point worrying about anything ‘better’. Then after we moved, the first job he had an interview for was the job he was offered, accepted, and the one he is now being made redundant from. In the four years he’s been there, he’s become a lot more confident about dealing with people, he’s been trained in using a CAD system to design bathrooms and kitchens, he’s learned how to operate the tills, how to use a PPT and got his forklift license. In his own time he’s become a DIY enthusiast and does an excellent job every time; He’s in sole charge of our garden (I hate gardening and have no time for it!) and he’s changed our vast back garden from a stretch of dirt and weeds to a beautiful country style garden with a patio area, grass area, an array of different plants and unusual shrubs and in the summer not only does it look amazing but it smells gorgeous and we have a huge amount of butterflies, bees and other bugs who regularly visit. What will he do now?

The store he works at has been purchased by another DIY giant, but they have purchased the store only, and not the staff. They have sent out letters to all the current staff of the store saying they’d welcome their CV’s and job applications but so far despite all the staff doing as they’ve asked only a small number have been interviewed and an even smaller number have been offered a job. Unfortunately The Hubby hasn’t yet heard from them, and from what he’s heard from other stores he doesn’t hold much hope. Despite the fact he’s an excellent staff member, it seems the new chain want their ‘own’ staff and new people to train from fresh rather than taking on staff from the current chain to re-train on their systems. It seems a bit backwards to me, but I guess I can see their point in a way.

So this leaves The Hubby unemployed and unsure what direction to go in. There’s a couple of warehousing positions he’s applied for, and we’re going to drop off his CV and a cover letter to the local garden centre, the supermarkets and shops in town, and generally see what comes of it, but its such a shame because he’d finally found a job in a field he’d never contemplated before but that he fitted into so well. Customers will approach him and ask him questions about their DIY needs even on his days off when we’re walking around the supermarket together – He is quite distinctive, I’ll admit, with a long ponytail of dark hair, tattoos up his arms, and he’s six foot one and slender, so you can spot him in a crowd from a distance, but even so, I’d never dream of asking someone something work-related if they weren’t actually in uniform and standing in the store they worked for!

Obviously the money situation is concerning us: Especially now with The Boy to think of too. But to try and stay positive, I keep thinking to myself, At least it didn’t happen last year. Can you imagine? It would have been devastating to have a newborn baby AND to be made unemployed. At least I’m working now, and if need be I can up my hours til he finds something else.

I know we’re not the only family who will be affected by this chains closure; The store manager at The Hubby’s store has literally just become a daddy (his son was born the day of the announcement that the chain was in administration, what a kick in the balls that must have been). There are people struggling in worse situations than ours, and I’m sure we’ll cope somehow, but it won’t be easy and I’m not even going to try and fool myself that it will be.

Thinking positive though, whose to say what might happen? This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise; In six months time he might have a job he enjoys a lot more, earns more money for doing and everything could be even better than it ever has been. Fingers crossed, eh. I’m trying to be optimistic, but it isn’t generally in my nature!

For now, we’ve just got to put a brave face on everything for the sake of The Boy and carry on. You don’t realise quite how much struggling your parents did until you’re a parent struggling yourself, do you. Now I realise how tough it must have been for my mum and dad with the strikes of the 80’s and Thatcherism affecting my dad’s work (in the NHS) and I don’t know how they got through it, but they did. Like mum said to me, you have to, what choice do you have? And one day you look and you realise that all that struggling has paid off, your kids are grown up and happy and healthy, your mortgage is paid and you’re driving a newer car than you’ve ever owned before, and life is generally good.

Roll on that day. For now, I’ll just have to practise my best fake smile and saying “I’m fine,” when people ask how I am.

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