Produce was my favorite department. It felt a bit more meaningful given
I was putting out healthy stuff, had first dibs on markdown bags, and
could get to know customers better while working due to layout. We
stocked, conditioned, and quality checked everything regularly. The
green rack person "pre-conditioned" (or prepped) all our leafy products
by trimming them, cleaning them, and keeping it looking beautiful. The
team was tight-knit like a family. They were always joking, singing,
and even hanging out after work. I was the oddball, new person earning
respect. I initially just did lots of the grunt work nobody wanted to
do like in every other place I worked. Eventually, they had made me
good at the job with customers loving both our department and our team.
Two guys in particular were named on almost every survey for
friendliness. I pessimistically warned them to retire soon since Kroger
was about to lay waste to the department. They couldn't conceive it
given its metrics were so high.
After Getwell re-opened, Kroger moved hundreds of hours from our store to theirs. IIRC, Produce lost enough for 3-4 people. That just reinforces how our hours aren't really tied to how much work we're doing. Everything immediately got worse: more stuff empty, more rotting produce, and more load in the back. Customers told us they were confused at why Getwell looked so much better. We still had lots of product to get out with less people to do it. Time to make tough tradeoffs again like in Dairy. Their choice was to just stock more stuff to sell at a profit, esp fast-movers customers wanted. If only it was that simple.
Kroger corporate office kept auditing us. Like in Oakland, the company that couldn't afford a minute of time for clerks sent in piles of corporate people to point at everything we were doing wrong. They grilled us constantly. The "coordinators" came to micromanage us, stock shelves for us, and take pictures of results to "prove" they fixed something. When they weren't stocking, they blamed us for the poor performance I guess implying it would be different had they been there managing us. Their standards only went up over time with our closing sheet having more stuff on it as they kept cutting staff.
Front-to-Back was first, big goof. They told us they believed the customers were most satisfied when they saw perfection on each table as they walked in a straight line between them from front to back. We'll ignore that it was a rectangular department full of two-sided tables, two walls in an L shape, and entry and exit that weren't line up. Anyway, they required, regardless of how empty they were, that we stock items in order from front to back. We had to inspect each item, clean the entire table, put a specific allocation of new ones out, and put old ones back on top. If fast-movers were empty but frontward items half-full, leave fast-movers empty to perfect everything in front of it first. I was ordered multiple times to take back dollies of fast-movers like strawberries, bell peppers, and greens to make non-selling, nearly-full stuff more full. Every corporate visitor, except the guy who took pictures of his visits, told us to do this. Then, they blamed us for everything that was empty, the negative comments by customers, etc. We lost fortunes before they stopped enforcing Front-To-Back.
Like in Dairy, they increased side jobs. They made us put more stuff on the displays. Sometimes, it was other departments' stuff we'd have to notify them about if it ran low. They told us specific number of items to put on carts, what extra items would be on there, and had both managers and corporate visitors constantly check them. We had a minimum number of markdown bags to do, prioritizing selling at a loss over profitable sales. Bananas had to be uncapped by a specific time even when it wasn't necessary. They made the grapes 99 cents a few times with the same results as the milk in Dairy. We lost piles of money on all sorts of items that ran empty as we refilled grapes every 20-30 minutes. Their cuts to Fresh Kitchen (pre-made berries and melons) had leads ignoring shelves to do more of that. For a while, we had to trim and package corn for hours every day since they thought we were a manufacturing facility instead of a grocery store. I can't remember most of it at this point except that stocking shelves was Kroger's lowest priority. A punishable one given they could write us up for insubordination!
One of my favorite moments was President Victor Smith showing up. Either he or people under him mandated the highest standards for Produce we had ever seen. We had even lower staff, too. The customers themselves mostly avoid damaged or bad product, not imperfect product. If someone wants perfection, some other people will buy the good, but imperfect-looking, options at full price. Some even buy bad-looking, but good inside, produce specifically to curb waste. When Smith took over, they started telling us to toss anything that didn't meet specific standards: bell peppers needed specific color, shape, and size; apples 100% same color; arbitrary stuff. The produce buyers went so cheap that Kroger mostly brought in produce that didn't meet its own standards. I'd have to bag up 80-100% of almost everything on some tables. If we didn't, we failed audits for "poor quality." If we did, we failed audits for empty shelves. We couldn't comprehend why they were so unwilling to sell customers product they were willing to pay full price for. Then again, they were doing more of that across the store.
They moved people around a lot to try to "fix" the problems "we" caused. A lot of people had quit by that time. We got new people. My boss started moving us around. I was moved to what was left of Nutrition department.