Monday, July 16, 2012

You see this, Goodwill? This is why we can't have nice things.

There are no funny drawings fro me today.  Forgive me, I just gotta get this out there and share the ick while it's fresh.

In my previous life as a college administrator, at least once a year we would hold a training session on "what to do in case of fire."  The basic gist was "pull the alarm and GTFO," but there were additional training sessions on how to use a fire extinguisher, how to work the control panel for the building fire alarms, and even a few informational videos about how fast a fire can spread.  All good stuff to know, and seemingly all pretty common sense.

Thankfully, I had only a few experiences with real fires during my career.  Once was actually my fault - I was trying to make Mac n Cheese in the communal kitchen and accidentally set the butter on fire (I managed to put it out on my own before the alarm went off).

Dramatic Sims reenactment.
Another time a bunch of drunk kids who had put a frozen pizza in the oven and then passed out before getting a chance to take it out (after the building was cleared as safe, the fire department gave the staff the rock-like charred remains of the pizza and we played frisbee with it for a few moments).

And the last one was a disgruntled ex-boyfriend who tried to burn all the mementos left behind by his unfaithful former flame (see what I did there?)... but he burned them in a waste basket on top of a couch.  Apparently it surprised him that upholstery is flammable.  I maintain he was probably as drunk as the pizza kids, but didn't have any proof.

In each of these instances, there was always a natural moment of "OH SHIT," which was quickly followed by my brain kicking into gear and me doing what was needed to get as many people to a safe place.

The best way I can sum up my take away from all that, and segway to today's story, is thusly:
If you are in charge of a staff, or a building:
it is your responsibility to make sure there is a plan for fire, and that IT IS NOT A SECRET.

Piling on top of that, I would have thought it was common sense for a Goodwill donation center to have the following response to someone donating old fireworks:
Oh, no thank you.

I maintain that a GW accepting fireworks is just as much a firework fail as the picture above.

But you know what happens when you assume...
Ooooh, you're interested now, aren't you.

Today much of that training came back to me when a toddler, named Brayden, at the Goodwill with his mother hoping they could score a cheap soccer ball, picked up a dodgeball from a toddler-height shelf of the toy section.  When his mom told him "no, that's not what we're here for, put it back."  He did.  Right next to a large box of cap gun caps, which was right next to a pile of old fireworks.

I just need a second.  SERIOUSLY GOODWILL?  Not only are you selling old, shitty fireworks, but you're displaying them on a shelf that is just the right height to grant 3 year olds access to them?  

Something in the way that Brayden tossed the ball back onto the shelf set off one of the caps in the cap gun box.  Which then set off ALL the caps.  WHICH WENT ON TO SET A SMALL FIREWORK ALIGHT.

This is all terrifying to a toddler (or really I'll be honest and say that loud of a bang noise and instant spark would be terrifying to anyone), so Brayden rather understandably screamed and ran away.

Meanwhile, I was a few aisles over looking at hair dryers (my old one died).  Like everyone else in the store, the loud bangs and small child screaming got my attention.  Looking up, I spied, with my little eye, lots of smoke and, you know, a small fire.

Where's the kid?  A few feet away, mom was dragging him out from under a rack of clothes.  Crying bloody murder, but he looked okay otherwise.  So I turned to the cashier over my shoulder and said, "there is a legitimate fire, you need a fire extinguisher."

Her response was "uh...."

I may have rolled eyes.  I know my jaw dropped.  How is "hey, this is where the fire extinguisher is located" not a part of day one cashier orientation?  Whatever.  So I moseyed over to the fire alarm while telling the cashier she needed to find someone who knew where the extinguisher was and get it out here.  And then I pulled the alarm and announced that people needed to leave their carts and go stand in the parking lot.

moment of honesty: there is something about pulling a fire alarm for legitimate reasons that makes one feel like a super BAMF.

So all the people walked out, except for one really brave -and possibly not thinking clearly about the inherent risk- customer, who picked up the still-on-fire firework (thank god it was mostly done sparking), threw it on the ground and stamped it out.

You know what?  I am still too flabbergasted to type the rest of this out as a story.  Here are the highlights:

  • Instead of calling the fire department, the staff started arguing about what the cause of the fire was.

  • The manager on duty couldn't turn off the alarm once the fire was out because no one told her or left a note about what the security code was.  She had to call three different people to get it.
  • It took one of the customers asking the manager if she was going to check on the little boy before ANY attention was paid to the still very scared Brayden (and they didn't even give him the dodgeball, which I found a serious injustice for frightening and endangering the little dude so badly).  The manager's only two questions for Brayden were "are you okay?" and "do you want me to file a report?" (because a 3 year old has any concept of what that means or why it should be done.  Also WHY WOULD YOU NOT FILE A REPORT AT THIS POINT?)
  • Somehow this response was deemed appropriate by Brayden's mom.
  • Thankfully, the alarm automatically alerts the fire department.  They showed up and I got to talk to the responding crew for their reports.  That was fun.  

  • Brayden got to sit on the fire truck, so I guess there's some silver lining for you.

Once they cleared the store and I got back to the checkout line to purchase my "new to me" hairdryer, I asked the cashier if she had ever located a fire extinguisher.  She responded "well, no, but that guy put the fire out so we're okay now."  Because there will never be another fire ever.  ARGH.  Cue me [calmly on the outside... I think.] losing my shit.

I left the checkout line in the middle of my transaction and found the manager.  I told her that while I know I don't run the store, she needed to show her staff where they could find a fire extinguisher.  I asked her if they had a fire plan.  She said there was one in the emergency binder.  But no one knew about the binder except for her.  I asked her what her plan was for the remaining fireworks that were a shelf below the ones which had caused the fire.  After her blank face told me she had planned to keep 'em right where they were, I suggested she put them in a big old bucket of water and then throw them out.  Then I said maybe there should be some thought put into where those were placed in relation to the children's toys, and how low to the ground they were for tiny hands to grab.  She agreed and thanked me for the help, even though I'm sure in her head she was mad at me for stepping on her toes.

Isn't this kind of training required for any staff of any business?  I guess I don't know, but I feel like it should be.  I'd like to say this doesn't make me as mad as it does, but social responsibility is what keeps the world from descending into anarchy, and I have never seen such an epic failure in that arena from a professional establishment.

Whatever, I got my hairdryer for free, and got an e-mail from me.
pretending I don't caaaaaaaaare

Have you ever witnessed a total breakdown in communication or training at a store/ restaurant?  
I want to hear about it in the comments!  Rant with me people, it's good for the soul.


rcohan_1989 said...

I started working at Michaels today and, while I wasn't taught the specific fire plan, I noticed at least where one fire extinguisher was just by stocking isles. Now I'm gonna make completely sure that I know what the fire plan and all is.

I'm glad that you were alright with all of the insanity going on.

Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

That's, that's just. Wow. Damn. I have two fire extinguishes in my kitchen alone, and at my former place had one next to the dryer as well. I just don't even... how can anybody be that unsafe? I bet after you left they just ran around with scissors for a bit.