Saturday, May 02, 2009

Workin' at the deli.

Hey.....y'all remember me? HoosierGirl? I can see some of you shaking your heads slowly, as if to say "Sounds vaguely familiar....." Yeah, it's me. I've finally found more than 3 minutes to write a blog post.

As some of you may know, I recently found a second job, in order to help pay the kids' Catholic school tuition and basically just try to get out of debt a little faster. I am gainfully employed at the Kr**ger deli. Honestly I like it, although I don't have the right shoes yet and sometimes my back hurts.

Working behind the deli counter is mostly this: slicing meat and cheese for customers, wrapping up the meat and cheese to put it back in the cases, and cleaning up all the mess. That's pretty much it. This is customer service at its quirkiest. Some people are very particular about what kind of meat or cheese they want to eat....and they are willing to pay big bucks to get the best. Some people are very particular about HOW their meat or cheese is sliced. Some people just want what's on sale. And some people have no clue or don't care about the slicing.

Here's a typical "picky person" interaction:

Me: Hi, can I help you?
Customer: Yes. I want a pound of "Super Expensive" premium roast beef.
Me: Okay (repeating order back) 1 pound premium roast beef. How would you liked that sliced?
Customer: Thin. Not shaved. Very thin.
Me: Okay, I'll be right back. ( I go locate the premium roast beef among the 12 or so varieties of roast beef we sell, unwrap it on the table, place the label on a piece of bakery tissue so I can find it when I re-wrap the meat, put the meat on the slicer, put a piece of tissue where the meat will fall,turn the slicer to "0" and turn it on, set the slicer to somewhere between .5 and 1 so I can get it thin, slice one slice at what I think is the requested thickness, turn the slicer off, and take slice over to the counter so the customer can see it.)

Me: How's this? Is that thin enough?
Customer: (many possible responses) Yes, that's fine. OR Too thick. OR Too thin.
Me: Okay. (Go back to slicer, set slicer BACK at "0" remembering exactly where it was on the dial so I can put it back there, turn the slicer on, turn the dial back to wherever it was or adjust it based on the customer's response to the first slice, slice until I THINK I have about a pound - there are no gauges for weight, you just have to eyeball it, take the pile of meat to the scale. If the weight is right, print the ticket and bag the meat, handing it to the customer. If the weight is under, go BACK to the slicer and slice more. If the weight is over, ask the customer if they want the overage. If they do not, take it off and toss it.)

Me: Here's your order. Can I get you anything else? (thinking, "Please don't want anything else, I have stuff to wrap, the floor to sweep, knives to clean)
Customer: Yes. I also need.....(rattles off 3 other orders, in varying weights and thicknesses)
Me: (smile plastered to face) Okay. Let's start with the first one. What type of turkey did you want?

And so it goes. When there is a lull in the action, I re-wrap all the meats and cheeses laying on tissue paper, hopefully with their labels laying on top of them. Then I put them back in the right cases. Then I wipe up the counters, clean all the shavings off the slicers (we have 3: two for meat, one for cheese), and maybe sweep the floor. And then another customer (or two or three or twelve) wanders up and it starts all over.

I know, I know - such excitement. But really it's not bad. The women I work for are, for the most part, very nice and very funny. They are also very particular about how things are done. They get a little grumpy when we get a lot of customers toward the end of the evening. They talk about each other a lot - some good, some bad. I am very careful not to do this. I am the youngest of the "deli ladies" by 10 years. Most of them are much older than I am. It's funny.

I DO have one tip for all of you if you ever get meat or cheese sliced at your local deli. There is no such thing as "regular". You ask a customer how he wants something sliced and he will say "regular". What is "regular"? Thin? Thick? Like packaged cheese or meat? Please, people, pick a thickness. There is no setting on the slicer for "regular".

Anyway, today will be my first day of working an 8 hour shift. Yikes! I'll let you know how I weather it. And I won't even get to watch the Derby!!! Watch it for me, okay?

Have a great weekend,


Avitable said...

I'm one of those picky people. Not with regards to thickness but with the type and brand of the meat. I hate when the deli tries to give you a piece to taste while you're there. I really don't want to walk around the grocery store with my hands slimy from deli meat and the after taste of one piece of meat!

Blondefabulous said...

I have worked a deli or two in my day. I always hated the shaved people. It takes forever, it craps up the slicer reall good, and half the time they say, "Oh is didn't want it shaved shaved... I just wanted it really thin." AAAAUUUGGGHHH! Why didn't you say that you 150 year old pain in my ass???? Oh, and the ones that DEMAND I open a new meat, even though I have one open already. Those ones always pissed me off. I'm like, Dude, we slice this all day, it's not like it's been sitting here for a week going rotten.

OK, getting of the delicatessen pickle barrel now.....

Brother Dave said...

Dunderbeck's MachineThere was a strange old butcher, His name was Dunderbeck.

He was very fond of sausage-meat, and sauerkraut and speck.

He had the finest butcher shop, the finest ever seen,
Until one day he invented his wonderful sausage machine...

Oh Mr. Dunderbeck! How could you be so mean?
I told you you'd be sorry for inventing that machine.
For long-tail rats and thomas cats will never more be seen; they're all ground up into sausage meat in Dunderbeck's machine!

One day a very little girl came walking in the store.
She ordered up some sausage meat and eggs, a half a score.

And while she stood a-waiting she whistled up a tune,

And the sausage meat it started up and danced around the room!

Oh Mr. Dunderbeck! How could you be so mean?
I told you you'd be sorry for inventing that machine.
For long-tail rats and thomas cats will never more be seen; they're all ground up into sausage meat in Dunderbeck's machine!

Once day when he was working the machine it would not go.

So Dunderbeck, he climbed inside to see what made it so.

His wife she had a night-mare and came walking in her sleep;

She gave the crank a heck of a yank, and Dunderbeck was meat!

Oh Mr. Dunderbeck! How could you be so mean?
I told you you'd be sorry for inventing that machine.
For long-tail rats and thomas cats will never more be seen; they're all ground up into sausage meat in Dunderbeck's machine!

Janis said...

HEHEHE--Love Brother Daves story! Good luck on your 8hr shift. Being on your feet all day can really tire you out. I know, I was a cashier for 11 years. The store motto was "The customer is King" while I know I would not have a paycheck without having customers but....sometimes I wanted to just blast some of the rude ones. So glad those days are over.

Poppy said...

In NYC it's not referred to as "picky" to ask for exactly what you want, it's referred to as "normal". I love it here...

Your deli story made me flash back in my head to a deli I used to visit as a kid that doesn't exist anymore. Good times. Thanks for the flashback!

Hoosier Girl said...

Avitable - Adam! You visited my blog! I am touched, really. I don't offer a slice to eat - I just show it to them and if they take it from me and eat it, well, that's fine. You are funny. I bet we have some premium meats and cheeses that you would love.

Blondefabulous - Yeah, I love the ones who want it from a new package. Or even better, the ones who want it from THE CENTER. That really gets me!

Brother Dave - You are so funny! I love this story!

Janis - Thanks for coming back! The 8 hour shift was fine. We were busy, busy, busy until the Derby went off...then very slow. Everyone was at a Derby party, I guess. Which was fine with me.

Poppy - I would love to visit a real NY deli, now that I kind of know the ins and outs of deli work. I bet they have some amazing specialty meats and cheeses there.


Poppy said...

That is a fact. Anything you can imagine is here.

Tookie Tail said...

Get you some proper shoes so at least you won't hurt so bad while working your hiney off. You work way too hard. But, I'm glad you had time to blog! :)

Ares said...

Sounds like a tough gig. I will be sure to be as nice as possible to people who do this for a living! Thanks for the post.