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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Retail (and Fast Food) Red Flags


There’s a post over on Captain Awkward about Red Flags in Job Searches, but most of the warning signs are more applicable to office work/white collar stuff. I thought people might be interested in some red flags I’ve noticed in retail/fast food. I wrote a super long response over there but something happened and it is lost forever to the ether, so I’m reproducing what I remember from it here.

What’s the employee turnover?
The last retail job I worked had basically two sets of employees: those who’d been working there 10-30 years, hired when the place was still owned by previous corporation and working at a higher rate of pay and paying into a (no longer available to new employees) pension, holding on until retirement and afraid they wouldn’t have the skillset to get a new job; and people who worked less than a year and quit as soon as possible. In the time I worked there, there were two waves of hires. Of the 8-10 people hired at the same time I was/soon after, when I quit, only one was still working there. High employee turnover is generally indicative of a high stress job that’s poorly paid, with low or no benefits, and a manager who’s unpleasant. Especially when you’re dealing with a huge recession with ridiculous levels of unemployment. Good managers are able to hire and hold on to good people. Bad managers are not able to, and instead of fixing underlying problems they throw new employees at it.

Are there a lot of really young employees?
I have nothing against young people, and have worked both as a young person and as an adult with really super great hard working amazing young people. However, there are two kinds of managers who hire very young people. The first type is a stand up individual looking to provide young people with experience, work history, and spending money. They tend to work with outside adults, like social service agencies and schools, and also tend to follow the law. The second type hires young people because they are both inexperienced and less likely to advocate for themselves. They are less likely to be aware that they can’t be required to work through lunch breaks, for instance, and less likely to say no if they ARE asked to. The power dynamic is so much greater between a 40 year old manager and a 16 year old employee with no work experience, and a 40 year old manager and a 30 year old employee who’s got 10 years of experience. A lot of managers look to create unbalanced situations in which they can bully and take advantage of people, and hiring people less likely to advocate for themselves is a big sign of that.

Is there an “employee of the Month” display and is it updated?
I’ve worked places that had a strong emphasis in the hand book on employee recognition, and which had employee of the month deals, but the actual physical store had signs that weren’t updated. This indicates a huge lack of respect toward employees. If the employer doesn’t care enough to write a name on a sign, what else will be too difficult for them to do? Likewise, are name badges hand written, or are they printed out and professional looking?

What is the physical condition of the store?
If the carpets are worn down and the walls are dirty and need painting and the equipment is old and unmaintained, those are pretty big warning signs. A manager that can’t take care of the physical location, the first impression on a customer, won’t take care of employees but will have no problem expecting the employees to fill the gap. You can vacuum a carpet every hour on the hour, but that won’t make the carpet any less shabby. I’ve seen employees yelled at for failing to make a carpet worn down to the underlayment look clean enough, something that’s impossible to do.

How are employees treated?
With a potential retail or fast food job, you can lurk around a bit and get a feel for how managers and assistant managers/supervisors address employees. Do they interrupt employees while they’re working? Do they literally yell at employees? How do employees interact with each other? Are employees literally expected to be in two places at once/do two things at once? You can get a good feel for the culture and expected behavior of an establishment by just hanging out quietly a bit. You can also take a look and see if there’s racial/gender disparities. Are all the high level managers/supervisors white men? Are the people who interact with the customers white/light skinned and/or women while those in the back are POC/men?

Can management/HR answer questions?
At my last retail job, I did two rounds of interviews. The first round resulted in a lot of double talk and evasion of questions, which I was alarmed about, but I really needed the money. The manager told me that, as a part time worker, I wouldn’t be given more than twenty hours a week unless something unusual happened, or it was a holiday rush, and my hours would NEVER EVER EVER top twenty-five. During the second interview he told me I would be expected to work 20-30 hours a week and acted like I was stupid for thinking it would be less. I had written down while he was talking the first time what he claimed hours would be. He lied and treated me poorly when called on it. That is a huge red flag. (NB I wound up working 40+ hours a week and he refused to change my schedule or consider me full time, as I wasn’t available from 5am till midnight to work)

I might put together another list of things you see in the first few weeks of a job that are big red flags, including lack of training material; expanding job duties; inflexibility in scheduling; and more.

posted under advice | 2 Comments »

Weekend in Review, and a Request


My sister-in-law is getting married in October and her wedding shower was on Saturday. Internets, I dressed up. I wore makeup. I wore a skirt. I wore hose. I wore cute shoes. I wore jewelry and perfume. My mother-in-law came to pick me up and I scampered out, and just as I was about to get into her car I realized DUH I’d left the gift in the apartment. So I scampered back. And just as I reached the door, SEARING FUCKING PAIN KNIFED THROUGH MY FOOT OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELLLLLLLLLLL.

I’d stepped on a screw.

The screw punctured my cute shoe, my hose, and the arch of my foot.

I hobbled inside and took stock.

The first thing I realized was that my shoe and hose were no longer wearable because they had holes punched through them and one of them was bloody. So I stripped them off and stood around with my hairy legs thinking what to do next. When I say I have hairy legs, I mean I could pass as a Satyr relatively easily. A female Satyr. Just give me some pan pipes and cute little horns on my head and drop me in a sylvan wilderness and I’m good to go. All methods of hair removal can trigger a skin condition I have where I just HA! HA! sprout abscesses for no discernible reason, so I pretty much go about hairy all the time. I had no other tights that would hide the hairiness of my legs. So! Skirts were out. I pulled it off and tossed it aside. Pants it was. But what pants? Every single pair of slacks I own are clownishly big on me, baggy and awful. I opted for black skinny jeans, black trouser socks, and a different pair of cute black shoes that pinched a little bit and had a slight heel.

I was really under dressed.

In retrospect, I should have put on a fancier shirt.

Or knocked over a bank so I could have bought actual party clothing that actually fit.

You know. One or the other.

About a month ago, a few days before we took Niko to “Day Out With Thomas,” I opened the freezer door and a pound of frozen, cooked ground beef in a hard plastic container came rocketing out and slammed into my big toe with such force that I spent several hours convinced it was broken. The bruise only cleared up a few days ago. I guess it was time for the other foot to be injured in a ridiculous and improbable manner right before a big event involving a lot of standing and walking.

I’m incredibly glad I got a DTaP booster in 2008. That’s something I don’t have to worry about. I’m also glad NIKO didn’t step on that screw, or that it didn’t end up in Nesko’s tire because new tires are really expensive and we already had to get new tires twice in a one month period because he picked up screws somewhere.

Anyway, here’s the request.

My sister-in-law is getting married, as I said, and is expecting about 200 guests at the reception and also about 40 at a pre-wedding event at her home. She will have a wedding cake, and has asked some family members (including me) to also bake desserts. So assuming ~250 eating ~3 servings each, that’s 750 servings.  I’m estimating she’ll have about 5 people baking which works out to about 150 items per person. Assuming that she wants fall-themed single-serving desserts, what would you recommend making?

I have some ideas on pinterest if you’d like to check them out and offer suggestions, advice, feedback, etc. I’ve baked off large batches of things before, mostly cookies and cupcakes, so I’m not overly awed by the scope of the project. Preferably, the things I make will be things I can make ahead (possibly freeze) and most of them won’t require refrigeration (although I might make 50 or so mini-cheesecakes). I could also just do 3 varieties of cupcakes with frosting roses or something. Oh, and I want to do at least one batch of things that is egg free, because at least one person there is allergic to eggs.

I haven’t sat down with my SIL yet to discuss her preferences.

Help me out, here.


I have 2 bags of cranberries in the fridge. What baked goods do you recommend I make? RECIPES PLEASE. Cookies, muffins, bread, cake. Lay it on me.

posted under advice, baking, life | 1 Comment »

Baking Mishap


I’ve been cooking and baking basically since I could reach the counter/table and remember cooking on the stove top while standing on a stool or chair because I wasn’t tall enough to stand and do it. Hell, I started “helping” my mom make bread when I was 3. What I’m trying to say is, I know my way around a kitchen fairly well.

I don’t make brownies very often, and when I do, I generally use a mix that I buy on sale or something. I came across a recipe that was allegedly one used by a woman and her family for years and years, brownies that she brought to other people when they were sick/busy/In Crisis/whatever and then they loved them and begged for the recipe, etc. Recipes like that, they’re usually pretty good. They aren’t just “Oh, I made this once and it turned out really good,” they’re “I make this all the time and this is exactly right.” I was eager to try this because I’ve gotten some cook books (and used recipes online) that… very obviously hadn’t been tested. Or else they had errors in the recipe that a novice cook wouldn’t know how to deal with but that I was able to figure out. That’s frustrating, you know? Especially in a printed cookbook one has paid money for.

I frowned a little as I read the recipe because it called for a lot of butter. “Hm,” I said to myself, “that is a lot of butter.” Let me clarify here. I have no qualms with butter. My pie crust recipe calls for five million pounds of butter. Butter is fantastic to bake with. So when I say “Oh wow that is a lot of butter,” I should listen to myself.

The brownies turned out kind of… over saturated with butter. Greasy. The finished square of brownie was kind of resting in a 1mm deep pool of butter. It was pretty disgusting.

One of the things I liked about this recipe is that it’s easy to make. You use cocoa powder and don’t mess about with melting chocolate (which I’ve done, it’s not terribly difficult, but when you have a very active and clingy 18 month old under foot, baking really needs to be as simple as possible). I’m honestly pretty disappointed that I’ve wasted butter, eggs, sugar, nuts, cocoa, etc on something so dense and greasy. The actual flavor is ok (under the excessive butter taste) but the texture is just… wow. Oily. Dense in a bad way. I might try this recipe again, scaling back on the butter.

In the mean time, share your favorite brownie recipes, please. I’d love to see what you’ve got. For the record, I prefer chewy brownies to cake-y brownies.

posted under advice, baking | Comments Off on Baking Mishap

Questions about sexual presentation in fiction.


Let’s say that you are reading a piece of fiction that is well written and enjoyable. It’s got what you like in it: good characters, good world building, action, romance, happy little elves, sparkling vampires, hard bitten cynics with hearts of gold, whatever.

Let’s say that there’s a character who is one gender, but presents as another. FOR INSTANCE: you have a biological female who dresses in male clothing, uses a male or gender neutral name or nick name, and doesn’t correct people who use male pronouns.

Do you assume this character is transgendered?

If you find, via the story, that the character presents this way for social reasons rather than identity reasons, do you feel let down? Like, the character doesn’t really identify as male, but gets less crap from people/is taken more seriously when wearing pants and short hair, but has no problem having a vagina/ovaries/menstruating/etc?

If a character IS transgendered and presents/lives/identifies as female, but is a sex worker, is that offensive because it’s a stereotype? What if the character is fully accepted by the group she lives/works with, and her clients? What if the character is a minor character who is well fleshed out and realized but ultimately is a support character only (“magical transperson”)?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to email me (brigidkeely at gmail .com) if you don’t want to post publicly.

posted under advice, fiction, writing | Comments Off on Questions about sexual presentation in fiction.



About a million years ago, I had a blogger account. I scrapped that and got an LJ account, back when you had to have an invite to sign up. My memories might be hazy. I might have had LJ first and then abandoned it for Blogger and then come back to LJ. I don’t really remember.

Several years ago… six? more?… I bought my own web hosting and eventually started a wordpress blog. You’re either reading this on my own web hosting, or else you’re reading a mirrored version on LJ or DW or IJ or Facebook or MySpace. Or you’ve RSSed it and are reading it in a reader. Anyway, I have a main blog which is about my life and stuff, and I have a blog that’s exclusively about having a baby and all the navel gazing and poop talk that involves. I have a blog that’s just Secret Chicago stuff, and I’d like to start specialized blogs for my fiction in general, any art that I do, and cooking. I want to segregate these different things because someone who wants to learn how to bake a potato probably won’t want to listen to me bitch about how every eraser I’ve used has lifted ink off the paper, no matter what kind of paper or ink, and left the graphite behind, just as an example.

But I know that there are people out there who are interested in the entirety of my life, crappy erasers and baby’s first cusses and baked potatoes and all. So I’d like to scrape up all my different blogs and publish them all in one place.

And I can’t figure out how to do this on space that I own.

Because I could easily start an LJ/DW/IJ account and mirror everything I post in each disparate blog over there. But I want to own the space entirely and be able to customize it and control it, and I don’t see any way to do this other than to copy each entry and paste it into a new entry at my main journal.

Any suggestions?

posted under advice, blogging, life | 1 Comment »