The hard part of the changing wholesalers/tagging the store began today. Myself and five from the crew from New Mexico began at 8a.m. (an hour before the store opens), while the leader of their group was picking up yet another helper at the airport in Phoenix. It went just about as I had been expecting, perhaps dreading. We finished the straight price changes early in the morning, within the first hour, then it was on to the more difficult task. Each of the guys that was on their team was going through the aisles and putting tags for items that were of a similar size/pack/price on the shelf (turned sideways so that we could easily spot them) after which I had to begin going up and down the aisles doing new item scans with the hand set.
While going through the aisles I did have to check to make sure that each item was something comparable to what it was replacing, make sure that it was near enough in price that the consumer would purchase it, and then begin to key it in. The Hand Held Device that we have for this sort of thing is programmed to scan bar codes, and while their tags have bar codes, they are bar codes for the item order number. What I needed was the Univeral Product Code (UPC) from the tag, which was there but had to be keyed in manually. That not only lends itself to operator errors (me being the operator), but it also takes way longer than just zapping the tag with a laser-light.
The first aisle that we actually had totally set was the one with the baking goods, flour, cake mix, that sort of stuff. I wanted to take a test run of that idea to have Steve scan the tags and have his company fax us back a print-out with all of the information I would need to do it at the pc. While waiting for that little venture to come to fruition, I went ahead and started doing the changes manually on the aisle where we have the cooking oils. Once I was done with the cooking oils, I did the part of an aisle where we have pickles and olives, after which I knocked out the rice and dry beans sections. What I did manually was as large if not larger than what he had sent to his office to send back, and I did it quite quickly with the handset. There is a downside to doing it with the handset though; something that I had completely forgotten about since I had not tried to re-tag the store in this manner since we first got the scanning system in like 1994. The new item scans that I was doing do not automatically get put into the file for broadcast to the registers, that means that after I upload all of the new items I also have to use the 10 key on the pc to add them to the broadcast file.
I am pretty good on a 10 key, but I would have thought that having a printout with all of the items would make it faster, though I found that that particular assumption was horribly wrong.
The first upload that I did was 259 items. The program prints out the items that I add, then it is up to me to key them into the broadcast file. All I have to do is type in the 10 digit UPC, then hit enter (which is the top line and says, send current price). I typed the first 259 changes into a broadcast file and sent it to the register in about 12 minutes. That might seem like a long time to type 259 10digit numbers, but I did make a few mistakes where I would have to type the number in again. It is extremely irritating that I have to re-type all of the numbers to add them to the broadcast file, but the company who made this particular software went out of business about four years ago, so there is no one to bitch to about it.
When the fax finally came in with the stuff on the baking goods aisle, it looked horrible. The font size was about the same as your average phone book, there was a number, followed by about ten blank spaces, then the item description, then blank spaces, then the retail price. There were no lines connecting any of the aforementioned attributes, but they were actually line by line. Perhaps I am being a bit pissy in thinking that if you are going to put all of that information on a page you should at least put a space between the lines if you are not going to have, say, dots, at the very least, to hold your eyes on that line. Especially when the guy(me) who is having to read it is doing so through a blurry faxed copy. I gave up on trying to “save time” by entering the info at the pc when it took longer to do the first ten items on the page than it took to do the 259 items on the other aisles.
Once we got into a bit of a flow, that is, when their guys would come and ask me to scan the aisle that they had just re-tagged, it started going pretty well. I was hindered by the fact that the handset can only take about 250 new items before it just dogs down and then I have to upload to make it work again. The fact that they had so many people helping actually slowed the process pretty considerably. Once the aisle was done, for their purposes, the guy would leave. Then another guy would find tags for the same aisle and assume that it hadn’t yet been tagged. I found at least 100 duplicate tags while I was scanning, not because I am all that smart, just because if I have to type the number “51000-02036” it will be in my head long enough that when I come to the second tag, with the same number, I will call one of them over to ask WTF there are two of the same tags for.
It got really bad when we got to the section with the ramen noodles. You know the ones, little pack of noodles with a spice pack, costs about twenty cents unless it is on sale, then it is 10-12 for a buck. Yeah, somehow the new company happened to have the same UPC code on their order tags for at least three of the different flavors. I say ‘at least three’ since I caught three, but that was after I had already been doing the scanning for eight and a half hours. I really hope that they will work to remedy that problem, but somehow I think that they are a bit irritated that I caught it. There were also issues of the same nature where their tags were saying things like “.19” for a can of spam, while I am not an eater of spam, I know that it costs more than that.
Tomorrow will be another day of the same stuff I was dealing with today. With a bit of luck, they will help me get through it all with what is left of my sanity, if not, I may have to skew this page a bit to be more like the diary of a sociopath. There are only so many times that they can thank me for finding their errors before I actually snap and start killing people. I am working a lot of extra hours to get this done and I really think that their solution should be something better than, “we will inquire at the warehouse”.
If I do not post tomorrow, check the registry of jails and prisons in Florence.