More grocery tales-what some all night grocery crews do while you sleep- besides stock shelves

Most high volume grocery stores have to stock their shelves while most of us are sleeping. In my twenty plus year grocery career, most of my grocery crews were hard working, honest, and good people. There were however a few bad apples during those years. This hub is going to talk about some of the more interesting things that I had the pleasure to witness.

The case of the outrageous phone bill.

Place: Chesapeake, Virginia. Time frame: 1992.

One of my main jobs as the assistant manager, was to examine and analysis the monthly SOS(store operating statement). While doing this I noticed that our phone bill which normally ran about 175 dollars, was actually 813 dollars for one month. After requesting a copy of the bill, I noticed two things….(1) someone was calling 1-900 sex lines in the middle of the night and (2) the calls were coming from the always locked district manager’s office which was located in the backroom of my store. After explaining to my manager and district manager what I had found, we called our loss prevention department. Loss prevention came to the store and installed two hidden cameras. One was inside the district manager’s office while the other was just outside his office.

We had five suspects as our night crew consisted of four night stockers and one baker. Amazingly the loss prevention cameras discovered our criminal the very first night. The newest member of the night crew was a kid who had worked part-time as a bagger on the front-end before graduating to the night crew when he turned 18 a couple months earlier. I never saw the images that the cameras recorded(thank goodness) but evidently they showed the kid picking the lock to the district manager’s office and using the phone for more than a phone conversation. Needless to say the next night the grocery crew was down to three night stockers.


The case of the backroom miracle.

Place: Central Virginia Time Frame:1996.

In 1995, I switched companies and had to work my way back up the store management ladder again. I got assigned to a store in Central Virginia, as a co-manager of the store. It did not take me long to realize that the store manager and the grocery manager pretty much hated each other and that the grocery manager’s job was in serious jeopardy. One night the manager had a quick meeting between the three of us. He pretty much told the grocery manager if all the backstock(extra stock in the backroom versus being on the sales floor) was not gone in the morning then the grocery manager could kiss his job goodbye. As I went home that night, I thought there was no way the grocery manager was going to keep his job. As the schedule would have it, I was the opening manager the next morning.

Much to my surprise a miracle had occurred during the night. The sales floor looked awesome and the back room was unbelievable, the product level had gone down drastically, it was practically an empty backroom. When the store manager arrived later that day, he was equally impressed about the backroom. He told me….”I think I have finally gotten through to him, he is finally doing things my way”. Over the next month everything went pretty smoothly in the store. About a week before one of our bi-annual grocery inventories, the grocery manager quit and went to work with another company. The results of the inventory were brutal, the store had lost over $100,000 dollars in inventory in a six month cycle. Needless to say the company was not happy about the loss. After a loss prevention investigation turned up very little as to how we lost so much product, they made us do another grocery inventory. The results were the same as the first one….a $100,000 dollar loss of inventory.

About three months later we would finally figure out the miracle of the backroom. That summer it rained very little. The retention pond beside the store began to get low. As the very dry summer continued, someone noticed something unusual about the retention pond. As I walked towards the retention pond I could not believe my eyes….there sticking out the water were cases and cases of grocery product….the grocery manager had emptied the backroom that night almost five months ago, by putting all the backstock in the retention pool. If I learned one thing about this experience it would be…… when you paint someone in a corner you never know what they will do to survive.

What a great place to hide something….a retention pond.

The Case of The Guy Who Told on Himself.

Place: Western North Carolina Time Frame: 2001.

I took over a store in Western North Carolina in March of 2001. I had not been in the store for more than 3 weeks when I had an interesting conversation with a grocery stocker. I will call him Forrest which should explain a little bit about him. I came to work at 6:30 in the morning, purchased my Diet Mountain Dew(I don’t drink or smoke but I do Dew) and starting walking the store to see how things were looking. Forrest came up to me saying….”Cogerson Cogerson…..we have a problem….that new stocker…he is not following the rules.” I asked which rules was he not following? He said “You know…. the rules where we can fill up a paper bag up with anything we want as long as it fits in one paper bag and you take it out of the store before the sun comes up….but that new stocker….he is taking two bags or more….he is being a pig…..he is going to get us into trouble.” I was trying to understand what he was saying…..I was like….so you can get anything for free as long as it fits in one paper bag?…..Forrest said….”Yeah just like it has always been….but the new guy….he won’t listen….. he has been filling up a whole cart and taking it to his car”.

I told Forrest I would look into his concerns. My first phone call was to loss prevention. That night loss prevention arrived at the store and talked to my grocery crew. They all admitted that they had been taking one bag a night for as long as they could remember. The grocery manager’s logic was if they each only took one bag a night the losses would never amount to a great loss and nobody would ever know what was happening. The next day, I had to start hiring an entire new stock crew, including Forrest’s replacement. About a week later, I talked to Forrest and he still did not really understand why he could not continue to work at the store, he said…”If only that new guy would have followed the rules we would not have gotten into trouble”.