Practical Thoughts

Life Should be Easy

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Job - Cashier Experience at Target
Last Thursday I got a chance to work as a cashier in a Target store. This was an opportunity for the software folks to use the software they work on. I work on the Point of Sale systems and for the first time I was able to use the software in production.

While it was a great experience to use the software, I came to know how it is doing another job in which you don't have the comforts of a cubicle, chairs and tables. I was standing for 3 hours doing the same thing again and again
1) Welcome the guest with a smile.
2) Say "Hi, How are you? Did you find everything OK today?."
3) Scan merchandise....Keep scanning merchandise....Sometimes heavy merchandise..
4) Bag the stuff..Keep bagging..Remove hangers from clothes..Complicated hangers from ladies undergarments. Its easier to solve a quadratic equation than removing those complicated contraptions.
5) Complete the payment..Give back change if they paid by cash
6) Give the receipt to the guest and smile again..And say "Have a nice day.."
Now put this in a loop that ran for 3 hours...Man it was tiring..

This time I was able to chat up with some other regular and experienced cashiers. They said some customers were not friendly when the software would reject their checks or won't accept their cards. They would start shouting at the cashier. The challenge it seems was to smile and serve the next customer just after going thru such an experience.

I was able to observe how friendly the cashiers at Target were to customers. They would talk to customers making some comments about any stuff they have bought. or how nice the day was.

All customers are not the same. Some have different requirements. An old lady brought 4 items to my lane and while I was about to check out her stuff, she told me she wanted them in 3 transactions. She was to pay the first 2 items by Cash, the third one with a card and the fourth one was for her friend who buying something else in the next lane...
Another customer bought a pair of sunglasses and asked me if I could remove the tag from it so that she could wear it right away.

Some of the stuff in Target is huge and heavy. Customers need assistance to take those things to their cars. In such a situation, cashiers can flip a switch which makes their lane light to blink. This means the cashier or the customer needs assistance and someone comes up within seconds to help.

Some customers forget to take their card back, or the stuff they just bought. Its the cashier's job to keep these things which customers forget. All this while serving the next customer. This was surely a tough job.

The folks at Target sure have some fun at work too. The Guest Services Team Leader had a Bingo game going on and she invited me to join in. She would come to the lanes and read out the Bingo numbers when not many customers were around. A nice way to have some fun at work.

I started work at 8:30 AM and 3 hours went by in no time. Served 60 customers. Got tired. But I had a lot of takeaways..
Learnt what it is like to work another job.
Leant what it is to use a software in production.
Learnt the need for making software that's fast and easy to use.
Learnt what is meant by superior customer service.

Will I do it again? Yes. Surely...May be 4 hours next time. Will I like that as a job? Don't think so!!! :)

I am waiting for big time organized retailing in India to start. Guess I might get to do something more exciting in a few years especially on the store floor and in customer service.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

AAA - Great Idea! Great Service!

This is one more thing I love about life in US. Convenience !!!

Last week I had to go to Indian store to get some rice. I started my car and put it in reverse and pushed the pedal. The car won't move. Gave some more gas..the car won't budge.Got out and was horried to see a perfectly flat front tire!!

I don't have a car jack and other tools to change tires. A relatively simple problem and I had a relatively simple solution. Call AAA for emergency road service.

AAA is a company which provides emergency roadside assistance, insurance, travel planning, discounts to hotels, rental cars and a host of other services. I love their emergency roadside assistance program. They can replace a flat tire, jump start your car, bring you fuel should you run out during travel or worst case they can tow your car to the nearest repair shop.
Amazing idea for service and what convenience. When I have the AAA card with me I have peace of mind while driving.

So I called AAA and they sent me help in 25 minutes. The guy came in and changed tires in 5 minutes flat. Now that's what I call convenience...

Wish we see such a thing in India too...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Instant Messenger for Indians

Click to enlarge picture.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Classic from Jay Leno !!

The Iraqi government said that they have recovered valuable information from laptops and hard drives from the safe house of Al Zarqawi. What brand of computers were they using that it survived two 500 pound bombs? I pour a glass of beer accidentally on my computer and I have to speak for one and a half hour to Appu in India to get it fixed.

I was laughing for 5 mins !!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Best Chicken Dish Ever

Everyone has their favorite version of a food item and I am no exception. This is the recipe of my favorite chicken dish.

1 lbs Chicken ( I prefer chicken with bones. 20 times tastier than boneless)
1 large Onion ( Preferably Indian or Red onions)
2 Medium Tomatoes
2 tsp Red Chilly powder
2 tsp cumin Powder
Pinch of Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Yogurt
Curry leaves
Some lime juice
Salt to taste

Chop Onions and tomatoes into small pieces. Cut chicken into small pieces. Marinate it with 1 tsp of chilly powder, salt and yogurt. Leave it aside for atleast 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a ordinary pan. I would not prefer non-stick pans for this dish and most Indian dishes (1). Fry the onions till they are "golden" (2) brown. Now add the remaining chilly powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, curry leaves and salt and saute on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. The flavor of the spices should come out nicely. Then add the chopped tomatoes and continue frying till they become soft. Add the chicken and stir fry for a minute. Add water to the vessel so that the chicken is just covered. Close it with a lid and let the chicken cook on medium or low heat.
After 15 to 20 minutes, most of the water would have evaporated. Now stir fry the chicken till the whole thing becomes nice and dry. Add a few drops of lime juice and fry. Once the chicken looks like the one in the picture stop cooking and leave the place.

I am writing this down so that I don't forget the recipe after my marriage. My fiancee is a pure vegetarian and chances are that I might stop making chicken soon ;)

(1) I think in Indian cooking things should burn and things should caramelize a bit. It surely adds to the taste
(2) Never understood what is "Golden Brown" when it came to frying onions. Whenever I fried onions they never became golden brown. The color just turned from whitish to not so whitish.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How Chinese View India

A nice article in Rediff about how Chinese businessman view India makes interesting reading.

Was surprised to see the article but was not surprised by the content.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Long Way to Go

I was reading an article in Reuters about how India's youth is now "hanging out" in coffee shops in a predominantly tea drinking country.

Offlate a lot of western media has been painting a picture where India is becoming an economic superpower or something like that. I am in the US since June 2004 and I was kind of getting influenced by this whole propaganda.
In February, I went to India on a 2 week vacation. Well..that changed it all.

Some ground realities..
1) Our infrastructure is the worst. Roads are hopeless or do not exist. If they exist they are so conjusted. This does not help foreign companies to open businesses there. What's being done? No Idea. I guess some "decent" work was done during Vajpayee's rule for the golden quadrilateral. But this does not cover intra city roads and small cities, towns and villages

2) Airports: The state of our international airports are worse than the smallest airport in the US. I was so ashamed to see the Chennai International Airport. I came to India expecting that some miracle had taken place that transformed the country. But I was in for the shock of my life.
  • Dirty Walls from 1970's
  • Wiring hanging out
  • Cobwebs
  • No waiting area or proper receiving area
  • 1950's style counter for Immigration
  • Chaos outside the aiport arrival area

    It was funny that the government announced modernization of Bombay and Delhi airports around the same time. But the leftists were quick to strike and paralyze airport operations across the nation.

    3)Government's hesitation to invest more and proactively in infrastructure is the biggest roadblock that India is facing. This is the reality!!

    The truth is that we are miles away from becoming a global power or even an asian powerhouse. There are so many things to set right and this government is interested in giving away reservation for OBC's, Muslims, eunuchs and God know what!!!
    I think we have a long way to go!!