I helped in Dairy occasionally in Oakland. I transferred into Dairy when I moved to Olive Branch. These experiences are a mix of both.
We mostly just work pallets of load to the shelf. Periodically, we fill
fast-movers such as milk, eggs, teas, and juices. We had to break down
and organize milk and egg loads to make that easier. This was also
necessary to receive new, milk load that was shipped separately from
other load. We had to rotate products. In theory, we had to always put
new stuff behind old stuff. We had to markdown anything going out of
date soon. We also had to regularly clean the shelves, esp milk
shelves. Then, we had to condition (mostly straighten) the department
at the end of our shift. We had to sweep and mop the cooler. Once a
week, we'd change the bunker units out to have different, sales items.
We'd have a pile of leftovers to get rid of, too.
They were already nitpicking overworked people on all these jobs. So,
they add more jobs. We already marked down milk if it wasn't fresh
enough. Kroger said multiple dates in the coolers makes our milk look
less fresh, limited us to two dates in cooler total, and said to mark
down the rest. Distribution regularly shipped us multiple dates that
were different than multiple dates we had (4-5 total). We'd have to
stop stocking load to mark down entire stacks of milk that was over 10
days fresh. We tried ignoring that to stock more product making more
money. We had comanagers, corporate auditors, and a "coordinator" come
in berating us for not selling good milk at or near a loss. They kept
forcing us to do it. Then, we got griped at due to all the out of
stocks. Just imagine that recurring pattern as you read anything else.
Their expectations never change even if they force us to use our time
to not meet them.
Things got worse as they cut staff, lowered prices, and put many things
on sale. We had to meet much higher volume at same requirements with
fewer people. Leftover load in the cooler was top way to get in
trouble. The first casualties of cuts were eggs, date checks, and
cleaning. Without time, we left the eggs on pallets in a way that made
them harder to stock. Dairy people left them empty more to work more
load. A visiting, corporate person suggested we start breaking down
eggs due to improvements in productivity. He looked confused when we
told him we used to do that but have no staff. We also stopped checking
dates on any slow movers, just spot-check an item or two in the front
on most, and often ignore dates on fast-movers like Yoplait we'd hoped
would sell out. We ignored markdowns and cleaning to work load.
Management assigned a bagger to clean our shelves so we could stock
more. Eventually, Front End cuts had them take him back. Sometimes, a
manager would clean our cooler just to check the box for their own sake.
Things kept getting harder. Despite volume increasing, the department
went from maybe three during the day and two at night to one to three
during the day with one at night. During the busier weeks, it took five
people to barely keep up with sales. Two were managers since Kroger has
them stock to cover up labor shortages. Later, we would sometimes have
one person on busy days expected to do everything. It got so hopeless
that the new strategy was to work enough load to throw the rest on the
backstock carts. They got so tall and heavy that they sometimes
collapsed due to weak boxes near bottom. Someone would eventually get
to that load once whole sections sold out, easier to stock whole boxes
that way, and we miss a ton of sales in between those moments and when
the load was stacked off. We then got more requirements.
They insisted we put more stuff in the bunker as a differentiator. We
might previously have a few products there which let us toss surplus
into the bunkers. Now, we might have several brands of each product
with a bunch of items of each. Each one had a lower number of units per
unique product going in. That meant bunkers were now as hard to stock
as shelves without the old benefit of getting rid of cases quickly. The
large variety made it mentally impossible to track what was or wasn't
in the bunkers. Then, they'd get on us for focusing on the shelves
instead of the bunkers. One manager told me to think of a dealersip,
the bunker was my showroom, and it had to look the best. I told him
good dealerships have cars on the lot, people to sell them, and would
never lose those sales to mess with a showroom. Since he wouldn't
listen, we left the shelves empty more often to fill and re-arrange
bunkers. They were doing this in displays all over the store.
The second, milk display. In marketing class, my university taught us
that companies like Kroger put the milk, eggs, and bread far from the
doors to increase impulse buying. They know many people will walk out
after just buying those necessities. So, they counter that with the
store's design. Kroger had put the milk as far away from the door as
possible with many profitable items in between. That was rational given
money is all they care about. Then, they put a milk display right next
to self checkout. We ignored it to stock regular milk and profitable
load. Management prioritized that display... probably from prioritizing
displays and side jobs in general... dragging us back there regularly
throughout the day. We'd lose money on both slow and fast movers to
stock extra milk. Terrible for business! Eventually, I just started
stocking and checking it regularly, leaving load unworked, and stocking
it instead. That got praise at least until they checked the load later
in the day. No winning.
The worst decision Kroger ever made was competing with Aldi. Anyone
that goes in an Aldi will know their stores are optimized for cost- and
time-efficiency against all else. We can never compete with them on
that since we focus on beautiful stores, quality, service, and so on.
We shouldn't even try. OB had a price war, which I heard Aldi started,
that had unsustainable prices for milk, eggs, and so on. Kroger made
milk 99 cents. Families, convenience stores, restaurants... they bought
unprofitable milk sometimes by the basket. We had to leave stuff empty
all over Dairy just to stock that milk. To avoid running out (regular
problem), we were forced to over-order so much milk that we couldn't
pull our U-boats out to work backstock. We couldn't fit the load in the
cooler. They'd set out what they thought they could work with rest
going in Produce hurting their efficiency and sales. It was a disaster
that I'm glad they stopped.
What continued to happen was worsening organization. IIRC, our loads
used to come in with the milk, juices, dips, etc fairly well organized.
They were separated a bit to make it easier to find what we needed, put
pallets with other pallets, and so on. We also use a combination of
full and empty pallets to re-arrange them, looking like a video game,
for a layout that maximized stocking efficiency. Each change
Distribution made would make that harder. Eventually, loads got totally
mixed up with items like milks, teas, and dips all in the same pallets.
They changed the layout of the Dairy wall in a way that made it harder
to line up load to spots we'd stock. Juices and teas were already
blocked in so much we left them empty on purpose just to work load.
Eventually, we were often carrying individual crates across the room
instead of moving stacks a few feet. Massive inefficiency with who
knows what losses.
The state of Dairy most recently. I transferred out eventually to a
department that looked easier. I just wanted a different grind. Pickup
people do see what's going on in each department. We have maybe 10,000
more customers per week than we had back with three to five people in
Dairy. I usually see one to three people there. There's empty spots on
each shelve with sometimes whole sections like juices empty. Milk and
eggs run out periodically while they're fighting to make space in the
back for next load. Everyone there is new since all veterans quit
working there. There's often load in the back either up to the door or
close to it. From near 2015 to 2021, Kroger corporate office prefers
the department to run this way instead of spend a few hundred more a
day to have entire pallets stocked.