April 2005
April 25th 2005
April 11th 2005

April 25th 2005
Since the last time I wrote a full article on working at Wally Market I have been promoted twice and now run the Tire and Lube Express and Automotive Departments within the Milton Wal-Mart.
Since the last time I wrote about working there I have also managed to come fact to face with the worst aspects of humanity and the types that exist out there to whom manners, morals and common sense are factors that either don't exist or are ignored. I am continuously astonished at what people try to get away with and, this being Wally Market, what they are allowed to get away with.
This week culminating in an example of what I classify as one of the most pathetic examples of the mindset of a scam artist at work.
Lets take a step back while I set the scene.
I was promoted to run the Automotive Department out in the new Milton Wally-Market. Probably more to do with my ability to set up a new store correctly, rather than any vast expansive knowledge of the automotive industry. Having spent six weeks working on taking a shell to a fully operational retail store I was introduced to the new TLE manager. My immediate boss who mysteriously missed all the hard work.
Who, in addition to being half my age, had no experience in management nor the automotive departments either. I raised my eyebrow a bit, after all given my knowledge of cars when I started this aspect is hardly surprising, but not having acted as a manager before was rather surprising. Wally-market, for all its sins, does try to follow succession planning and promote from within, with appropriate knowledge bases in the field you are overseeing.
Suffice it to say that within a short space of time this lack showed, with the morale and attitudes starting to deteriorate and claims increasing.
Three months later I was promoted to head up the TLE and Automotive departments.
I think some peoples heads are still spinning at this Seffricans way of handling things, given that certain individuals were helped to find gainful employment elsewhere, while rules and regulations began to implemented. Firmly. Very firmly.
You see when it comes to hiring and firing, Canadians have a definite problem with the firing part.
In the six months since I took over we have moved from a demoralized unit to one that Head Office regularly uses as the model example of how a department should be run. In fact right now I am getting a little tired of having bigwigs and dignitaries strolling around the unit comparing and taking notes every week.
If only because it makes it pretty hard to make a mistake, and we all can make mistakes at times, without that look of disappointment crossing the bosses face.
And of course when you are continuously held up as an example you tend to make the odd enemy.
The only reason that matters to me though is when I was told by one of my technicians that he actually “looked forward to coming to work each day”! When another technician independently echoed the same sentiments I knew we were on the way to success. Actually when I was called in by the Store Manager and asked why my department was always so happy and would we calm down the laughter and merriment a little, was when I really knew we were on the right track.
Having said that all (well I needed to toot a horn a bit I admit!) I will agree that we are still picking up a bit of residual fall out from the initial three months but we are getting closer to our goal of being a profitable as well as happy little unit.
And so we go back to the scam artist.
In November most people change to winter tires. We had one person who came in and got a set of tires put on. In February, when the major part of winter was supposedly over, he came back and claimed that we had put on the wrong tires and that he hadn't wanted winter tires and we must give him a set of what he wanted. At the time I looked at the invoice and noticed that one of the people I had fired was the technician and, given his history, couldn't be entirely sure that this wasn't true. Since then I have come to realise that this was merely an elaborate scam.
We have an Auto parts counter in the store as well. This is an independent franchise. This person then went to the counter and bought parts there. Used them and returned them as well. Not once but three times.
On the fourth time he tried to do this they told him to take a running jump at himself. At which stage the swearing and foul abuse started. He had done that with me as well but remember I had erred on the side of caution. In the Auto Parts case they stood firm.
At which Mr. Scam Artist decided to sue Wally Market and the Store Managers, myself included, for the princely sum of $300.
Remember the Auto Parts counter is an independent franchise paying to use the space in the store. Mr. Scam Artist understands this well, which is why he goes after Wally market instead.
So what does Wally Market do? They decide to pay the scum off. After all it costs more to send a lawyer to court than pay that paltry amount.
Even better…. I am the one told to handle the situation and I have to bring this piece of flotsam in and pay him. Luckily for him we decided that two of us should be present because he had the cheek to ask for money for his registered letter and claim that I had said he could have it. In other words calling me a liar to my face. It is the closest I have come to hitting someone for a long time.  The other Manager noticed my change and stepped in at that point. Giving me time to calm myself.
However this particular individual has now been flagged and lets just say that service in this, and other, stores will be a little harder for him in future. Subsequently we discovered that he has been banned from Canadian Tire and Zellers as well.
He isn't the only person who thinks along those lines though. It seems that Wally Markets habit of settling, even patently spurious, claims is well known.
I probably have on average one attempt a week at this. From someone who drove to Florida and back with the “stripped” drain plug AND oil pan to the woman who claimed that we had put gear oil in her transmission and the many people who try to put every rattle and perceived defect down to something we have done, we get them all.
If nothing else I have learned extreme patience and I surprise myself continuously at how calm I can appear.
And yet I still get annoyed at the way people carry on in retail stores.
The best scam I came across involved a person buying Synthetic motor oil (the most expensive and best oil), changing the cars oil and then putting the old oil back in the bottle and returning it for a refund. And getting it! This was compounded by the young idiot manning the customer service desk putting the bottle back on the shelf. Luckily we noticed something amiss before we had another lawsuit.
Actually in the same vein we have people who pick up mugs fill them with brake fluid or some other automotive cleaner and walk out of the store sloshing the liquid around and claiming that it was there when they arrived at the store. Canada being the coffee mad country that it is most people do walk around with coffee in their paws while shopping. Mostly in those damn cardboard “rrrrrolll-up-the-rrrrrim” cups which they merely put on any available surface when they have finished. Probably under the belief that those of us who work there are overjoyed at the ability to clean up after them.
This need to clean also involves what appears to be a very forgetful nation who will pick something up at the food counter and then leave it in the hardware department. Or, in one memorable case in the auto department, from the lingerie department. Nothing like gathering up some interesting bra's and thongs left in the oil aisle and walking through the store with a handful. I got some interesting looks I can tell you. After all just when does a women decide “ Hmmm….I think I will buy oil today instead and go commando for the rest of the week”?
More importantly, just who was she and why wasn't I serving her? (You can insert your own joke at this stage. I have already given you the setup)
I am beginning to realise that I could go on forever giving you chapter and verse on how to defraud retail stores but I would add a little caveat here. The reason I am telling you about these things is because we already are aware of what takes place and while these are among the more creative ways to steal there are ways we counter them. Successfully I might add.
Which has led to me being called a supercilious English bastard at least once.  Which given my feelings about that particular insult was probably the wrong thing to call me if you want leniency.
Yet there are still 90% of the customers who are well mannered, polite and make you feel that what you are doing is worthwhile and enjoyable. I remind myself constantly that there are more good people than bad.
It just seems as if it is the other way around.

April 11th 2005
There is an Italian bakery just down the road from my new abode.
Unfortunately I tend to stop off there on my way home on a regular basis. I am an addict already when it comes to the Jalapeno Bread that is baked there fresh daily. Not to mention the Ciabetta loaf. Nor the Sourdough loaf. Nor the many varied exotic Italian meats and cheeses. Nor the many varied bottles of foodstuffs that I can pick and choose from in order to find a new taste experience.
Need a Mango Curry dip mix? No problem there.
Need a packet of Blair's Death Rain crisps? No problem either.
Spanish pickled chillies? Olives? Real fruit sherbet? Marmite? Got them all. Yes. Even I was surprised to find Marmite there. At $3.99 a bottle as well. In fact most of the goodies on the shelves appear to be reasonably priced.
Which of course means that I am probably going to spend quite a bit of time and money there over the years. Trying out various new flavours and taste sensations.
This is because I have this odd penchant for trying out different things. Foods mainly as I get a bit older but I used to have this rule that whenever I went to a new place I would try out the local food and drink specialties.
A sort of “getting the real flavour” of the land.
I don't think my liver can handle the experience as well as it used to any more.
One of my more memorable experiences being a night of trading vodka shots with the local Mafia boss in a nightclub in St Petersburg. As I can remember telling him I was sick of some blousy singer warbling Beatles songs and wanted to hear real Russian songs for a change I suppose I must have touched off a chord in him somewhere. I think the singer was his girlfriend. Or at least “a” girlfriend and I am still here to tell the tale so someone was looking after me. Oddly enough I still have a love for the soulful Russian ballad sung by a throaty choir. It has a certain quality that is far better than a Mafia leader and three henchmen can impart but probably the memories are more attuned to that night. Although I shudder to use the term attuned so loosely. I think that at one stage even I was bellowing out along with them.
It reminds me of Fado which I picked up a liking for in Portugal. Well that and Vinho Verde. Which is where I was thrown out of a bullfight for cheering the bull after I first discovered the medicinal use of a good Verde.
Apparently shouting “Viva el Torro” is frowned upon. As is giving a standing ovation when the Toreador is gored. I wasn't so much asked to leave as frog marched to the exit and tossed out on my but. Clutching one of those sharp assegai things that the Picadors use to put into the bulls neck. I had that hanging around in my memory pile for years.
In fact I wonder where it is at the moment?
Actually that is probably a whole new article on its own. This one however grew out of an acknowledgement that I have a liking of new tastes.
I was reminded of this the other night when friends of mine paid a visit and bought over some Alaskan Snow Crab legs.
Now, despite this being a freely available delicacy, I have not had the pleasure of indulging before. So I was looking forward to trying them. Suffice it to say that they were “very morish”. Tasty and surprisingly meaty for what was after all merely the legs themselves.
Mind you I am wondering about the size of the crab that was attached to those legs.
Maybe it is like that Japanese crab that has a body the size of a man and legs like a giraffes neck. Thinner actually. Probably just as tasty though.
With a good butter sauce and some lemon juice those legs were very tasty. I think a rematch is called for sometime.  
I actually wrote “and a good bottle of white wine” as well. Then thought about that and on rereading my comments earlier, realise that a lot of my experiences seem to involve the introduction of some alcoholic beverage.
Although I will admit that as I get older I drink a lot less than I ever did. Whether this is as a result of getting wiser or lack of money is a moot point. Hopefully both. What I do enjoy though is the ability to always have something to look forward too when I go somewhere.
There is always some new food or drink to try out as you travel. I sometimes feel sorry for people who won't at least give a new taste a try out.
In Stockholm once I was at a, well, feast describes it best, in the local market. Arlen I think it was. Anyway they had set up a whole lot of tables in the market for the evening's festivities and on each table there was a bowl of caviar. A huge big bowl of caviar along with those rye bread thin rusks that the Swedes like so much.
Without batting an eyelid everyone there shuddered and turned up their noses at the caviar. Two of us looked at the bowl. Looked at the others. Then moved the bowl between us and proceeded to eat a small fortune in caviar. Really good caviar.
I will always remember the North Americans in the party whining about the food there. Typical Scandinavian fare it was. Obviously not quite as appealing as MacDonald's but certainly more appealing.
While I had a couple of hundred dollars worth of food and drink and experience for free.
My next experiment is to try to travel across Canada sampling the various treats and hospitality along the way.
This is a long-term project I think.
Given that there are over 3000 different beers available countrywide and then there is the notorious “Screech” out in Newfoundland I think I may need to pace myself a bit.
My liver isn't getting any younger. Merely my brain.
Perhaps I should stick to fish?