Report on Goodwill Industries in Renton, WA hired from 10/15/2011 to 1/12/2012
By d**k Rogers written on 1/18/2012
I had 2 interviews with Lisa before being hired were she laid out how things work and what is expected of Goodwill employees including production goals that were supposed to be met. I also disclosed that I have a disability that affects the left side of my body especially my left arm and fingers due to a head injury on my right side. Lisa was going to hire me part time but decided to hire me full time and put me in Electronics Production section since I have an avid interest in electronics at home and as a hobby, all seemed well and I went to a scheduled orientation at the downtown Goodwill store on 10/15/2011 and was officially hired at minimum wage.
From the start at Goodwill I started to see how really rigid they are about their rules and regulations, including something called Kaizon, which kind of reminds me of Feng Shuis twisted sister, it has to do with a workstations organization. Not having my coffee or any kind of drink at my station except water was a bummer but I could handle it, they also only let employees in and out of 1 of its 3 doors to keep down on employee thefts, which I did not see any of, they also ran inspections of lunch bags of employees twice, while I was there, for possible theft. I have no problem with any of this but they do run a tight ship. There are more but Im not getting into all of them.
Training from my predecessor went very good I thought and after about 2 weeks he left for another job and I was by myself.
After a couple of weeks more I was starting to get the hang of my station but my numbers were low on my production goals, which were into the low to mid 170s to as high as into the 300s, which at the beginning I thought I could handle easily but proved to be much more difficult than I imagined. I could only do mid-80s to around 140s on a good day, depending on what went on during the day, well below Goodwill standards. Let me explain a little of what entails of electronics testing, Ill be brief. I have 4 main areas. 1- Display areas (4 isles including TVs, VHSs, DVDs, CDs, Receivers and Misc. which is set up at the beginning of the day and TVs are plugged in (up to 8 TVs) and set up with a VCR to play throughout the day, then I go to the back and run my price tags for the day before going back to my station. 2, 3 & 4 are at my work station. 2- Large electronics are in their own area and are supposed to be done first, consisting of TVs, Lamps, Microwaves, Vacuums, Small refrigerators, Chilled water dispensers, Sewing machines w/attached table, Speakers, and any other large electronics, NO computers or laptops. 3- Blue carts 2 levels, top and bottom to a blue cart. They hold any electronics that do not fit into totes but are too small for the large area. 4- Totes hold smaller electronics and are stacked 5 high by 4 rows by 5 deep and are done last.
Problems that might slow me down vary and are many and make it hard to judge my price tag count Ill try to be brief again and may not get all of them. I have never put pen to paper on these problems, so to speak, lol, but Lisa has said on several occasions they factor these in. So here we go! Setting up at the beginning, I go to the display area and plug in the power strip and all of the TVs and VCR, grab a cassette making sure its family friendly of course and play video for display. I have to fix any problems like missing or loose cables in back of TVs, crossed splitter cables, adjust video settings, such as TVs need to be on channel 3 not video 1 for example, adjust volumes etc. then I go down the aisles looking for items that need replenishing, looking for misplaced merchandise, open or empty packages, broken items and anything wrong in the area as quickly as I can. Then go back and run my tags for the day. Usually takes about: 20 -:30 min. After that I do my :05 min drill, part of the Kaizon procedure and make sure I have everything and stocked up, get my time and tally sheets filled out, then on to the large electronics. I try to do TVs first so I can replenish any for display, problem is if TV does not work I have to take TV to the back and get it on a pallet for TVs that are to be recycled. I cannot always tell if the picture works until I hook it up to the display, and if it does not I have to take it back and try again, only happened a couple of times but I used to try to test them in back on every TV and that took longer, so I have to go and chance it to try and save time and just plug in TV in the back to see if the picture tube works and hope picture comes on when hooked up to display VCR. I used to take out large rear projection TVs and hook up a separate VCR to them but I either priced them too high or they were just too old to sell and pretty much quit trying to sell those unless they were exceptionally good and the additional setup was too long. Towards the end of the job I feel I was starting to get a good balance of TVs out on display in both size and features at a good price, which I was told to reduce after Christmas because of the perceived influx of TVs after Christmas. Vacuums and carpet cleaners where checked to see if hoses did not leak and brush rollers worked, emptied collected residue on bag less vacuums, did not sell bagged vacuums if bags were full. Floor lamps were checked if lights sockets worked and not broken, shades were in good order, pole and base were in OK condition. Absolutely NO Halogen lamps were allowed unless they had a protected wire mesh around the bulb. Small refrigerators had to be plugged in long enough to chill and verify they work, usually: 05 to: 10 min., I checked out other items during that time. A very light cleaning, admittedly I might have taken a little too much time with this type of item since it handled food. Then I moved on to the other different large electronics to finish that section. After large Items, which usually took minimum of: 60 to: 90 min. for me on a good day.
Pretty much the same thing with the blue bins but with medium sized electronics such as Table lamps, Printers, DVD players, VCR players, CD and Tape players, Recorders, TV converter boxes, Stereo and Digital receivers, Microwave and Convection ovens, Fans, Sewing machines Etc. another :90 min at least.
Totes held smaller electronics and could either be real easy or rather difficult and hold 1 item or dozens. If it had a cord or took a battery it landed here. Cordless telephones were time consuming matching base and handsets and taping them so they did not separate, same with coffee makers and carafes. Tangled cords, Power and Patch cords, AC adapters, anything with a battery (it got to the point I wouldnt check out stuff with batteries to save time, just put them out and hope for the best.) Electronic games, controllers and adapters, Etc. and that would finish my day out, EXCEPT FOR.. I worked in 1 of the few areas that had to put out their own merchandise. All of the large and most of the medium electronics are put out late morning and the shiny cart (Shiny Cart holds 3 totes per level 3 levels high for 9 total totes.) needs to be started at least: 45 min before my shift ends to make sure I have enough time to stock and take care of any customer related issues at least in my case. Then I go back to my area and clean up if I have enough time, I have only: 07 minutes past my end of shift because Goodwill absolutely does not want Employees to get overtime!!!!
Since I was hired 10/15/2011 through 1/12/2012 I have had a chance to experience Goodwill donations at its busiest and most hectic time, thankfully only Halloween and Christmas had the most electronic decorations and not the whole tri-fecta along with Thanksgiving. Along with testing Holiday electronics they had to have their own SEASONAL price tag which involves going over to the POS printer, changing that weeks colored price tag to the seasonal brown price tag and then back. I try to guestimate how many tags of both electronics and seasonal I need for the day but thats a hit or miss deal and hard to judge what may come in, I admit I was having trouble figuring out how many to print but was always trying to get close as possible. Then there was the Customers, I like helping them but they have questions that need answering, they mess with the cables, take nobs off of equipment, open packages, break things, let kids run around screaming Etc and these thing need to be dealt with. Again this is not all of the things that can slow me down, but a good sample of some of them.
I was taken out of electronic production 6 times. 3 for help at donations, were donated goods are dropped off, to help with the over flow of donations we were getting, sorting, moving large items, consolidating, customer service, Etc It took several hours to complete those tasks. 3 times I was transferred out of electronics to work in the Wares production area (the production area that generally produces the most items per day to see if I could produce more there) and I was even interrupted once there to go and help out at donations. But I guess I could not produce enough there because shortly after the third time in wares I was called up to the office from my electronics station around 3pm 1/13/2012 and was told that I did not meet the standards of Goodwill and then was escorted out of the Goodwill store by Lisa after handing her my Goodwill ID card. I was called up to the office 3 times. 1st in November - To tell me they like my pricing but to try and get my production numbers up. 2nd in December To tell me to watch how many price tags I am printing and sign a paper as the first form of disciplinary action for running too many pricing tags, but they still liked my pricing and to get my production numbers up. 3rd in January 12, 2012 To tell me that while I meet some goals I still do not meet Goodwill standards and am being let go and then escorted out the front door by Lisa.
As far as my production numbers go, I have known that I am not the fastest person in the workforce but I always thought that if I did the best job I could with the fewest mistakes as possible that I would be OK. Not with Goodwill in Renton, I did the best I could, even cut many of my breaks short to try to get my numbers up. Goodwill wants me to just glance at a product, slap a price on it, get another and so on, which is what I was trying to do but between the visual, electrical (lights work in lamp, DVDs, CDs eject, displays light up, vacuum rollers move, TVs work, refrigerators chill, Christmas trees light up, Etc..) they all just added up and cut into my numbers. My disability came into play banding electrical cords as I could just not do it as fast as other people and I was doing well over a hundred a day. When I was not producing I was stocking Items I produced, helping customers, changing TVs around, routing TV and VCR cables, cleaning up messes, attending daily production meeting, doing assignments from production meeting, Etc But one thing I never did was stand around doing nothing. I feel I did the best of my capabilities along with my problems as I could and am not ashamed with anything I accomplished at Renton Goodwill.
The main manager, Keith, I always felt talked down to and when he asked for my help it was like he had to tell me what to do like I have never worked before, he even told me I had to line up the hole in a panel rack to the screw hole in the base like I could not figure it out, or to watch out for the bright orange extension cord on the floor on my way out to break as if I was not observant of my surroundings (there were several other people around at the time there also, but he only pointed it out to me), which is the only time I could go out the donations door thats not work related. Yet I always heard Keith talking and laughing with the other workers away from me, he never really smiled had a conversation always business, not really complaining but it is an observation. Assistant manager, Lisa, the one who hired me. I always felt a little intimidated by. She was very direct and ran things very strict, by the book with no deviation of the rules whatsoever. The my way or the highway attitude kept me on my toes and I felt if I crossed her at all she could hold a grudge and make the job even worse. She was always telling me I had to get my production numbers up, like I was not constantly trying my best, and to not leave so many price tags at the end of the day, trust me I do not want to add to any ones work load and was trying to get my tag numbers down. I had a couple of ideas about improving my area but since they were not in the Kaizon handbook she would not even consider them.
My final thoughts about Renton Goodwill
There was one lady that could not stand all day due to age and disability, she was given the choice to quit or get fired. A rat or maybe a couple scared the heck out of 2 women who were working at their stations just days apart from one another. Renton Goodwill does not take used mattresses because of the risk of Lice or Bedbugs, my question I ask is, is the ultra-fast pace they want us to work at for our production numbers hurting our chances at spotting any little creatures in the shoes, bedding, clothes or the linens we receive, especially since they are not washed or sanitized before they go out on the floor. As a person with a disability why was I not offered any help from Goodwill as to maybe furthering my job skills so I could become a more productive member of society. I feel that if I cant hold down a job at Goodwill then who else will hire me.
THANK YOU GOODWILL I already know Im a disposable human being in this new society. But to know a nonprofit company (by the way, all of the Renton Goodwill Manager are ever so proud that the Seattle goodwill stores, of which they are members of made over $9 million last year, best in the nation.) who advertises helping people with disabilities let me go just so they can get their numbers up and not even try to help one of their own workers who has a disability is so wrong. (No offer of a different position or even an offer of possible job training to help with my disability.)
Gotta go, See ya, Might as well sign up with D.S.H.S. while Im at it. If Im so stupid how can I, even with a disability, support a family of 4 (wife, me, pre-teen and teen daughters) on minimum wage, not easily, but doable thanks to God, Family and friends. My last words are that I hope to get back to work soon because I am almost out of options and am seriously worried about being put out on the street. All this for the price of minimum wage.