Hellooo unemployment!

Rosie’s take on… Supermarket life 
This week I took a big step in a new direction; a new chapter in my life is starting. Anyone who knows me will know how big this is for me. This week I… 

Handed in my resignation at Coles

I know. 

After all this time. I finally did it.

Flashback to October 2010 when l started with Coles Supermarkets in a cute little store in the kinda dodgy part of the city. My sisters got me the job because nobody wants to hire a 15 year old with zero experience unless they have connections. I was working checkouts with my sisters as my supervisors, working two days a week; after school on a Monday and every Sunday. 

Sister Melanie (left), 15 year old me in the centre, sister Sarah (right)

Fast forward to present day, June 2016, still working at Coles but in my third store and a different position. At 5 years and 8 months, it is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. 

You know in that episode of How I Met Your Mother when they mention the phenomenon known as ‘Graduation Goggles’? It’s like, you wait the whole way through high school for graduation, but then when it comes you get suddenly sad to leave? You feel so nostalgic and don’t want to move on? Yeah, well I’ve got a serious case of Graduation Goggles about leaving Coles.

I first wanted to leave at the end of 2013 when my beloved Northbridge store closed. But I needed a job to pay the rent and Coles was so flexible around uni, so I stuck with it and transferred to a new store. I eventually got attached to that store as well, and my store manager at the time put me up for the job of Office-in-Charge. I loved my job as the office lady; doing the pays, dealing with the money, and sitting at a desk. But then I decided to move over an hour away, and getting up sometimes as early as 3.30am to drive all the way to work just wasn’t feasible in the long run. I again wanted to leave Coles, not wanting to have to start fresh at a new store. But this was towards the end of last year and I was just finishing up at uni and didn’t want to have to learn a new job. So I transferred to my third store, where I currently work in the bakery. And now that uni is over and I am going to intern in New York, I am leaving Coles. I know, it’s a shock even to myself. 

Let’s just put this into perspective for a sec. I have been in Coles for 5 years and 8 months. At the young age of 21, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who has committed that much time to anything; I have literally been with Coles for longer than I was in high school. 

My sister is 10 years old. For just more than half of her life, I have been working at Coles. 

I started with Coles in 2010. You know what else happened in 2010? According to a quick Google search, the third Twilight movie (not even the last one!), Eclipse, came out. Twilight was literally still a thing when I started at Coles. I don’t even think Stephenie Meyer thinks about Twilight anymore. 

2010 was the year Julia Gillard took over Kevin Rudd for the top job of Australia. So since I started at Coles, our role of Prime Minister has gone Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd again, Tony Abbott and now our current Malcolm Turnbull. I was literally more committed to Coles than Australia was to any one of our Prime Ministers. 

When I started at Coles I was so different to how I am today. I had braces. I didn’t wear my glasses all the time. I couldn’t legally drive, drink, vote or move out of home. I was less bitter and more compassionate; as anyone who has worked in retail can relate to, retail makes you angry to your very core. I was so innocent, happy and naive. Now I’m angry, bitter and suspicious of everyone. I also believe that the human race is significantly dumber than I would have once said; and I can confirm that actually, yes, there is such thing as a dumb question, despite what teachers always say. Like, one of my personal favourites, asking the person in the uniform with the name badge “do you work here?” Nah mate, just like the uniform. 

I have worked in two pretty high-theft and high-risk stores, and people honestly do not scare me in the same way anymore. I have countless stories involving violent, abusive customers, including ones that have syringes in their handbags or pull a knife on a fellow team member. I call my experiences in these stores “character building”. 

Coles was so flexible while I was finishing up year 10, all through year 11 and 12, and through 3 years of university. With my wages from Coles I purchased my first car (and my second and my third after each before met its untimely end). I’ve lived out of home and paid rent for a total of just over 2 and a half years. I went on family holidays to England, Dubai, France, and the United States and paid a lot of my own way. I went to Sydney and Canberra on a trip, and also Brisbane like 5 times in total. And now I’ve saved up to go to New York City for 8 weeks on an unpaid internship. 

I literally cannot fathom how many customers I would have interacted with over my time in Coles. For a long time I worked solely in the customer service department, and the mind boggles to try to imagine how many people I served. Only two customers ever made me cry in my whole time at Coles, and one of them threatened my life so I think that’s valid. 

I had a few days working and doing shifts at other stores here and there to help them out. If I remember correctly and haven’t missed any, if I include all of the stores I worked at even for just a shift or two, I worked in a total of 7 stores in my time. 

After more than 5 and a half years of getting discount for working at Coles, I have to go back to paying full price – unless I can convince any of my Coles friends to let me have their second discount card… Any takers? 5% discount (10% at Christmas) I’m sure would really add up over the years. Especially if you take into account how much I spend at Liqourland, Kmart, Target and Shell Coles Express. As a team member I have also enjoyed double Flybuys points, and I hold Flybuys very close to my heart after I realised how many bottles of vodka I’ve managed to buy with my Flybuys dollars. Seriously, I literally preach Flybuys. If you don’t already have it, get it. And I don’t have to say that anymore, so you can trust me.

I won’t miss the jokes the (usually old men) customers make when I ask if they have Flybuys. “No, I don’t fly anywhere ha ha”, or “no, I don’t fly-by I walk-by! Ha ha!” And every time I would have to pretend I’d never heard that one before and laugh. Well, never again.

I’ve met so many incredible people over the years, and I’ve made many many friends in Coles. But I’ve met some real weirdos as well; both customers and team members. We literally had a customer pretend she had a baby in her pram and cried that someone had tried to snatch her baby, so that one of us would leave the store with her. Another customer used to be so sleazy, with the dirtiest jokes and the continuous desire to kiss our hands, that all of the girls on checkouts would go running for the hills when he walked into the store. 

I watched so many phases come and go through Coles, including when they were playing Hot and Cold by Katy Perry four times an hour, and when they solely played One Direction songs. I had cardboard cutouts of the famous Coles Big Red Hand, and heard all the various versions of the “down down, prices are down” songs; and now the Everyday Low Prices ads. I was around before Coles Radio, and now I have some of their ads memorised. I worked at Coles for 6 Christmas’s in total (that means 6 seasons of Christmas carols playing all throughout December), and 6 Easters. When I started I was at one of the stores that had to wear those weird brown polo shirts while most of the other stores wore blue shirts. I started when all the payslips arrived in paper form, there was no MyColes to look at my payslip online. I was at Coles when they celebrated the 100th birthday. I was working in self-checkouts when all the backpackers realised they could charge all their meat through as carrots to get it way cheaper. And I was there when Coles realised the backpackers realised they could get their meat for the price of carrots, and cracked down on it.

There seems to be this stigma attached to working in a supermarket, like it’s something to be ashamed of. Well, I’ll tell you this. Working in a supermarket is not an ‘easy’ option, I have worked hard over the last 5 and a half years, as I expect everyone does in their jobs. Coles has been an excellent company to work for while studying as it was extremely flexible and offered study-friendly hours, and it well and truly fulfilled the purpose of keeping me financially stable while studying. Plus, for those that want it, there are excellent opportunities. The things I learnt while working in the office, to do with money handling, payroll and HR, will be invaluable skills I will take with me into my future career. 

So this is goodbye, dear old friend and foe. We have had our ups and downs, but all relationships do when they last this long. For a long time you have been my life, but it’s time for me to let go and move on. Thank you for your support and in helping me achieve my high school education and my Bachelor of Arts. Thank you for encouraging the parts of me that others may discourage, such as my shopping addiction. Thank you for all the fun had and friendships made along the way, thank you for introducing me to my darling boyfriend. As the last Buchanan daughter leaves Coles, don’t cry that it’s over, smile because it happened (and hold faith in the fact that my little sister Olivia is yet to be of age for her first job – there is still hope there will be a fourth Buchanan girl to join Coles, even if my other little sister Grace managed to avoid it). May my last 12 days in Coles be full of happiness and nostalgia. May the next stage in my life be exciting now that I have been set free. And may I never have to ask “do you have a Flybuys card?” again. 

I’m going to leave you with a poem I wrote in 2011/12 for a project at school. 

Memoirs of a checkout chick

Customers are so demanding,

“There’s no more bread on the shelves!

The eggs are all broken,

And the milk all smells!

I know its past 9 o’clock,

But I promise I’ll only be a second!

I only need a few little things,

It’ll only take a few minutes, I reckon.”

 

But what they don’t understand,

Is what we want to say to them;

“No you can’t come in after closing,

See, it’s after 9pm.

I’m sorry that you forgot to get milk,

But really, it’s not my concern.

No I don’t want to hear your life story,

And I don’t care at all what you earn.”

 

But rather than saying all of that,

We have to be really polite.

We have to be really nice and smile,

And the same old lines we have to recite;

“I’m sorry we didn’t have what you wanted,

Maybe next time we will.

Do you have a Flybuys card?

I hope your day gets better still.”

 

To whoever says “the customer is right”

Is actually kind of a snob,

Because you won’t know how wrong you are,

Until you’ve had my job.

Rosie at Coles through the ages

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2 thoughts on “Hellooo unemployment!

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