It's about 6 weeks since the news that our shop was being closed with jobs going in November, and it seems like time to write about it again. I've been in two minds about posting about this because there's quite a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, but it's also hard to really think about much else at the moment so it's the honest thing to do.
The problem with a relatively long notice period is that after the initial shock has worn off there's quite a long period where it's more or less business as usual. It feels like a particularly unpleasant limbo; however daunting the future looks I want to be getting in with it now. I'm tied into quite a long notice period, there are financial upsides to this, but it also means I'm committed to this job until it's gone.
We have those finish dates, have gone through the group consultation, and are now in individual consultation meetings. We have an estimate of what our redundancy payouts will be, and for those who want to try and stay in the company there are daily updates on available jobs.
At the moment I'm not seeing any opportunities for redeployment for my quite specific role and anything less specialised would mean a pay freeze. There are also less jobs than people. We also know more branches are slated for closure next year, and probably the year after (we had people come to us from branches that closed in June who found out weeks later they were in the same position again). Non of that is making the prospect of trying to stay on very appealing.
The hardest thing to deal with though is the range of emotion from our customers. There was an excellent article in last weeks Sunday Times about the importance of weak social links and how casual acquaintances are important for our health and happiness which has helped make sense of the reactions we've been getting. It doesn't make them any less exhausting to deal with.
It's an excellent illustration of the emotional labour people who work in retail are expected to do (not in the least reflected by wages). There are customers who I've known through 4 jobs and 20 years of selling wine, people I like, and who's conversation I enjoy. There are customers who are not so delightful. We see literally thousands of people come through the doors each week and individually only build links with a fraction of them.
When it comes down to it we don't really care where the majority of people are going to shop when we've gone, not when we don't know how we're going to pay our bills or how long we might be unemployed for. we really don't care what this might do to local property values, so the man who was angry the community hadn't been consulted - frankly it was. But every time you chose to shop somewhere else you made us less viable - which is fine, it's you're choice, but you can't have it both ways.
The sight we're on has been sold to Lidl, and judging by the number of people who are convinced this is some sort of German revenge for World War Two, or will never shop in a German supermarket because 'they tried to bomb our house' how Brexit is happening is starting to make a lot more sense. I wish I were joking about this, but people around here can clearly hold a grudge for generations because non of them have been over 70. It's irritating.
Worse is the open racism - we're closing because there are to many of Those sort of people who have moved into Our community. This is nonsense on every level. Workmates have been asked where they were born, with customers demanding to speak to someone born in Britain. It is hateful behaviour (the management position on this is one of zero tolerance, they will call the police if they're made aware of it at the time, the police do take it seriously).
As for the rest of it, there are customers, especially elderly ones that we are worried for, we're part of their support network even if only in a small way. There are people who've been really kind, some have made enquiries about jobs on our behalf, sent cards, bought biscuits, and otherwise made us feel genuinely appreciated. Which makes being constantly asked if we have another job to go to easier to cope with when none of us currently do.
So there you go, there's all this and more to deal with in temperatures hot enough to make wine expand out of the bottle (if you shop with me avoid the Gigondas, it's been comprehensively cooked) and I feel somewhat better for having written it down.