I had a great summer working with the guys at Rideau Lumber, but really…manual labour is not my thing. School started, 10th grade, and it didn’t take me very long to realize that I needed a new job to keep the girl-friend and I in the style to which we’d become accustomed.
The Becker Milk Company – Clerk – Fall 1985 – Spring 1986 (and then again in the fall of 1989)
This job is not at all glamorous. For those of you not from Ontario, Canada, the Becker Milk Company (or Beckers) is like a 7/11 (US) or Tesco Express (UK). They sell general grocery items, smokes and mix (you can’t sell alcohol in convenience stores in Ontario) in small convenient locations around cities and towns.
What they were famous for, was making jugs of milk. I know this seems a preposterous thing to be famous for in this day and age, especially if you’re from the UK or the US, but in the 70s and 80s in Ontario, Milk came in bags or Cartons not jugs. Becker’s also charged customers 25 cents as a deposit for the jug to encourage recycling.
Anyway, I went into this shop, filled out a job application and before I knew it was working a couple of evening and weekend shifts. During school holidays and on weekends, I would sometimes have to work midnight shifts (yes we were open 24 hours a day). My duties included:
- Operating the cash register (no scanner)
- Scooping Ice-cream
- Restocking shelves
- Receiving stock from suppliers
- Serving all the drunk and disorderly townies.
- Cleaning the store.
- Cleaning the bathroom (yes dear friends, the store allowed customers to use the toilet and it was disgusting).
- Shipping the recycled pop bottles and milk jugs.
- Ordering the milk and other stock.
This was an absolutely crap job but it paid something like $4/hour and we got paid in cash every week, and we got our 4% holiday pay included in every pay…for a 15/16 year old, it was a pretty sweet gig.
I also mentioned that I went back and worked there again when I was 18…this was a second job for me, and an easy one as I had already been there and done that for so long.
My second tenure at Becker’s was a little short lived though, since my boss was embezzling from the company, we all got laid off when the company took over the store from Tom.
Looking back now, as a leader in a fortune 500 company, I learned a few things from this experience.
First, during my first tenure – the power of your network. I love working at the same place some of my friends did. I was lucky enough to have several friends that worked shifts – hardly ever together, but the common experience was a great thing to have during the school day, or other times. This was a good lesson for later in my early career as I tapped into my network to both get jobs and hire people.
Second, be really careful as a father and manager of the kinds of privilege you instill in your kids. Our boss (the embezzler) had a couple of kids, and they had the run of the place. This is super hard for staff to understand since these children aren’t staff, but they act like management. Turns out, they were on the payroll (part of the embezzlement) but they didn’t know that. I have had kids for as long as I’ve been working and I’ve never let my kids have the run of any place I’ve managed or worked. It’s incredibly disrespectful to the staff, and a really dangerous precedent to set with your children.