Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Get Off Your Damn Phone!

For the young women working at the Commissary on our compound, going to work means not doing much other than standing at the cash register / scanner to push groceries through on a moving conveyor belt but mostly talking or texting on their mobiles and getting paid for it. They cannot do both. They are not brought up in a "hurry, hurry culture" where most women learn to multi-task. Impossible here. Have never, ever seen it. So, instead of worrying about my groceries, they worry about their mobiles.

I'm gonna go out on a limb, here, and say that for today, chunky woman wearing cotton candy pink eye-shadow who was working at the register I happened to go to will not be talking on her mobile, or texting, for the duration of her shift. Yes. I caused a bit of a scene. Hard to believe. I know...

There were four or five registers open when I went to check out. Only one was being manned by a local girl and her lane was empty. Others were lined up at the register lanes that had the imported men working them. What the heck is wrong with me! I know better!! Anyone who has shopped at the Commissary regularly knows not to bother to get in an empty lane with a local girl working the register. Better - and certainly faster and more efficient - to get in a lane that has three overladden carts in line with one of the imported men working the register.

How tough could it be. I had three items. THREE! Two cases of meat [need to cook for The Kids], unopened, containing 20 packages of beef each [a little over 35 pounds, total], and one item from the bakery. The meat costs SR5.30 [$1.42] per package. Just as chunky cotton-candy eyed woman goes to ring up the meat - her mobile went off. I gave her a look that to most would imply, "Don't even think about it." She was clueless. Had to answer that call. Who knows? It was probably an emergency of some kind - you know - like her sister didn't know which abeya black bag to wear to the mall - or something equally dire. As she chatted, I said, "I have 40 packages..." She continued chatting. I said, "Get off the phone. You need to be working." She smiled. Totally, totally in the dark as to what it was I had said. I may as well have been saying, "blah, blah, blah..." because that is all she heard. Then she scans the box of meat through again. No. You are not going to scan each box throught TWENTY TIMES are you!?? Again I said, "There are forty packages." She is ringing them up as if each box costs SR5.30 and it is only going to cost me SR10.60 [I should have let it go]. Truly she did not understand what I was saying and she had to call one of the managers.

Filippe [not his real name] is one of the supervisors [he isn't really a manager - he isn't allowed to fire anyone] came over and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I had 40 packages of meat in the two unopened cases and that she was charging me only SR5.30 for each case. And, while Filippe and I are having this conversation, she starts texting on her phone. Yes. Texting in the middle of my checking out. I couldn't help myself.

"Filippe, make her stop using her phone. Why are they allowed to have their mobiles and chat and text while they are working? Do they get paid while they talk and text? Perhaps if they weren't allowed to use their mobiles then the check-out would be easier for the customers which is why you are here in the first place." I went on and on. Filippe made her put the phone down. She was smiling - chuckling - like I didn't mean what I was saying [oh, yes, I do mean it!]. Filippe had to tell her twice. She looked at me and said, "okay" in a meek and barely audible voice. And I said, "No. Sorry. What you need to say is that you are sorry! You need to pay attention and you obviously are not capable of doing that while you are either talking or playing on your phone. I do not want to see you on your mobile if I am in your checkout line ever again." I continued. Ranting. Mostly to Filippe, with "Why are they allowed to talk on their phones while they are working? If they are texting, they can't pay attention to the groceries and they can't put them through the scanner. Are you allowed to talk on your phone?" Filippe did his best to placate me. The more I carried on, the louder my voice got. I can say that I was getting some looks from other shoppers, but if anything they were encouraging looks, as if to say, "We feel your pain."

If I was in charge I would fire these girls on the spot if they answered their phone or started texting. We all know that that will never happen. You would have to piss on the manager's desk with him sitting at it before you could get fired if you are a local - but, on the other hand, if you are an imported worker, you simply have to drop and empty bag on the floor and you'll be fired. At the very least, I would dock their pay an hour the first time they got caught on the phone, two hours the second time, three hours the third... After a while, they'd get sick of having to go to the Commissary to talk on their phones - since they wouldn't be making any money - and they'd quit. If only...

This is not the first time - or the second - or the third - where I've had issues with the girls who are "working" but not really doing that - the phone is much, much more of a priority in their lives than actually, you know, "working." I am going to make it a point, from now on, to be very, very vocal and probably loud, too, about any check-out clerk who is on the phone when I go to her lane. I am not going to be nice about it, and I am going to simply say, "Get off the phone." If she refuses - I'll be calling every manager in the store to that check out lane and making a real scene.

Get off your damn phone. Do your job. Do what you are being paid to do. And, all this to achieve Saudization. All I can say is that this place is going to come to a screeching halt if all of the ex-pat workers leave and there is no one else to do the real work.


  1. Yay for you!!!! Did she ever apologize? Probably not.

  2. She is probably still wondering what MY problem was, Amber. When I said, "No. You say you are sorry." She said, "yeh, yeh, yeh." How I kept both arms/hands at my sides without slapping her silly, I do not know. I didn't want to "hurt" her - just knock from freakin' sense into her! But, then, I don't have that kind of time...

  3. U know, they are there because of the equivalent of affirmative action in the US. I had a friend who was a manager at a big supermarket and he complained about the young guys that do the same, playing with the phones and such... they even have bluetooth ear pieces... I am an engineer and I don't own a bluetooth ear piece or the latest model of whatever phone came out that month... and most have no respect or manners... we suffer from them also, and I had my share of arguments in supermarkets... so I know how it feels.. what gets to me is the lack of respect... ok, I'm beginning to sound like Rodney Dangerfield, so I'll stop

  4. I disagree that it is the same as affirmative action in the States, precognitive. This is their country - they should be working here. ["Working," being the key word!] But that is all I disagree with you about on the subject. Respect is a big issue. Here? It isn't so much lack of respect as it is entitlement, but due to that self-expected-entitlement, respect goes to the wayside. To the far, far wayside! Manners? Oh, please. Don't even get me started...

  5. There is no respect for another person's time. That's what this kind of irresponsible behaviour indicates and breeds. By the way, the obsession with cell-phones seems to be prevalent all across with basic phone etiquette not being followed when serious meetings are on. People just cannot stop answering their phones in the midst of serious discussions. The priority to answer the phone call takes precedence over anything else!!

  6. I read an article in the Arab News one day last week. It covered training issues managers have. I about fell off my chair laughing when I read one of the biggest problems, here in Saudi, is the average productivity time (actual working time) is 15 minutes a day.
    My husband works with the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Here is a typical day:
    Arrive for work at 7AM. Formation begins at 7:30 (waiting for the late arrivals).
    Formation ends at 9 AM.
    Tea Time until 11 AM.
    Stop for prayer at 12:30 PM
    Home by 1:30 PM
    And these are the guys who are suppose to protect the country should anyone decide to invade.

  7. It used to be a big problem at the local clinic, Rasputin - the answering of phones above all else. Somehow they have managed to "jam" them and phones don't work there, now. Excellent idea if you ask me. Respect for time? Did you read my post about going to the passport office last week? The guy wanted me to sit and have juice and "smile" instead of working to get me DH's passport. Unbelievable.

  8. I missed the article Linda, dammit! Now I'll have to go back and find it so that I can see if I need to address it with commentary.

    Fifteen minutes. Who would have guessed?!!

    Feeling so much better about our Royal Saudi Land Forces, now.

    We went to a party last week where there were Air Force pilots who work with the Saudi Air Force. These guys are taking their own lives in their hands each time they fly with them. It was pretty amusing, actually, the stories they were telling.

  9. Anonymous Lurker5/27/2009 05:10:00 PM


    But now you've learned (again) - :)

    I wish I was there watching it all go off - I find those kinds of incidents highly amusing.

    Is it time for a holiday yet?

    The entire GCC will come to a screeching halt if all the expatriate workers left, but they wont all leave, and you're left with the choice I made. I have zero expectations of anything here in crazy land. It breaks your will to live, but it makes those trips home even better as you realize how great your home is in comparison, then just keep stuffing those Oil Dollars into your savings and laugh when they run out of oil/a replacement for oil is found.

    Just remember that their time will come, when they will actually have to work.

  10. Almost time for a holiday, Anonymous Lurker. Almost... And, yes, we all know there is only ONE reason why we are here and it isn't for our health. Thank you for the oil money. Buh bye.

    Oh, and most excellent way of putting this into perspective for me: "I have zero expectations of anything here in crazy land. It breaks your will to live, but it makes those trips home even better..."

  11. What a great story! I LOVED what you said about everything coming to a screeching halt without the ex-pats! Wonder what will happen when oil is scarce....

  12. What a beautiful blog you have, Lisa - the one I could get to. And a beautiful son - and no - do not ever let him leave. You've read the stories here. You know what happens. Sorry. Off topic...

    Back to my "story." Only it isn't a story. It is my life. And, yes, this place will come to a screeching halt when ALL the ex-pats leave. People will be back to riding camels and living in tents. [Those houses they live in? All constructed by imported laborers. Those cars they drive? All repairs done by imported laborers. Ditto for air conditioner repair and electrical and plumbing... You see where this is going.]

  13. I see this all the time - but more in reverse, and it's the customer who is buying something and they're predisposed to whom they are talking to, and not the cashier who is busy asking a question or telling the customer the total.

    I call it ignorance - and see it even while driving.

  14. The cotton candy pink eyeshadow would've set me off even before she started not scanning.

  15. Why do I feel like there is a lot of prejudice and racism between the lines?

    "This place will come to a screeching halt when ALL the ex-pats leave"

    Well looking around us, on this earth, everywhere has some time to prosper, and a time to become ruins. The pyramids, the Chinese dynasties, the Greek ruins, the Persian ruins... etc, that just shows that humans keep on moving... and one day the will move, like they moved before.

    And wait a minute... what about the USA? Silicon Valley which is connecting all of us together is mostly Indians and Chinese, most manual labor in America is done by migrants. Most MD's are no longer the white Americans anymore... the list goes on, and on...

    Please, pretty please, with sugar on top... before passing judgment on a whole country... give a little thought to it.

    In Australia some British expats are known as Whinging Poms, cultures (Aus and UK) are different... even though they are basically the same people (linage and hereditary)


  16. Steve - Now that you mention that - I saw it last week when a woman was ordering coffee [an American!] and she was on the phone when the guy was just trying to take her coffee order. The rest of us in line weren't very happy with her... Get off the phone and order your coffee, or get out of the way, so the rest of us can.

  17. Could care less about what color eye-shadow someone wants to paint on, Wry. But will admit the cotton-candy pink was a bit too much.

  18. You are reading something between the lines that isn't there, precognitive.

    Interesting though, that the countries you point out who have had time to prosper and then become ruins - slaves built each and every one - and when the slaves left? What does that say? Perhaps I should be reading more into that - you, know, between the lines. Are you condoning the exploitation of slavery? I do not think that is what you were trying to suggest, however, and am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and not read that "between the lines."

    To suggest I am being prejudiced or that I am a racist - between the lines - just is not there. If, however, others were to agree with you - then I would attribute that to my writing style and tone - in which case I would try [can't promise I could do it, but I would certainly try] to word things differently so as to not infer... I could care less what "race" someone is. Just do your job. Whoever you are. Wherever you are from.

    The Commissary, up until two or three years ago, was manned completely by imported laborers. Never had a problem. I am simply pointing out a work ethic - or total lack of - now that local girls have taken those jobs. And, only girls. Why? Because they can't work anywhere else - they would be mixing with men - and this culture does not allow that. If the men who worked the cash registers downtown at Panda or Tamimi did the same thing - I'd be pointing them out, too. They don't do it, though. And they are local men who work the registers at those stores. Do not recall ever seeing one of them on the phone while he was working. I'll be looking for it from now on, though. Count on it. [The men who work at the Qatar office? Only one or two men, there, want to work - neither of them being locals. The local men? Not a chance of them answering a phone or making a photo-copy. I have seen it myself and am simply stating the facts.]

    If you have regularly read my blog, you would see that I have nothing but good things to say about the men here - local men - who do their jobs - like the men my husband works with. And, the men who work for Security on our compound. And, my orthopedist, here - who I have more praise for than any doctor I've seen in the States about my bad knee. Unfortunately, for this country, those men are few and far between.

    The Silicon Valley outsourced because they could find Indians and Chinese to do the same job - much, much cheaper - not because Americans didn't want to work. And that most manual labor in America is done by migrants - I'm not sure about that. When we built our house in NC some 11 or 12 years ago, there were an equal number, if not more, American men doing the labor as there were Mexican's. Construction guys swinging hammers, painters, plumbers, etc. With the exception of the men that did our landscaping - and they were all Mexican - there were just as many young American men [different colors]. Here, ALL manual labor is done by imported laborers. All of it! I disagree that most MD's are no longer white Americans. Every doctor I have had in the states for the last twenty years or so, that I can remember, except for my dentist who is an Indian, is a white male.

  19. Sabra,
    As always, good read. I get so tired of people and their cell phones. States are starting to make talking on a handheld cell while driving illegal and I am so happy about that!

    "And wait a minute... what about the USA? Silicon Valley which is connecting all of us together is mostly Indians and Chinese, most manual labor in America is done by migrants. Most MD's are no longer the white Americans anymore... the list goes on, and on... "

    I disagree with your interpretation of the US completely. Have you been here lately? I just don't see it. Silicon Valley still seems to be ran by your typical American which, being in America, can be just about any nationality as long as you have citizenship. I believe that you are thinking of tech support positions which are actually operated in India and such countries because those countries are both technologically advanced and provide cheap labor.

    Most manual labor done by migrants? Nope, I don't see that, either. Migrants tend to work the fields a lot, but other than that, I don't see manual jobs being performed by migrant workers. I have a white friend who is a housekeeper, I know plenty of white people in construction, land maintenance, plumbers, exterminators, etc.

    MDs? Nope, I don't see that, either. When I was in the hospital for a week last year, I don't recall seeing one MD that wasn't white. My surgeon, my specialist, my primary doctor and even my dentist and orthodontist are all white.

    That's one of the great things about America. If you are willing to come here and get a visa or citizenship, you are given a chance. Locals and the "outsiders" are all treated equally. We tend to want the most capable person no matter where they are from and in America, if you aren't doing your job, it doesn't matter if you are local or not, you will not have your job.

  20. I'm back again. Sabra, If I would've felt that your original post was prejudice or racist I would not have even commented.... there's an abundance of those sites online... from each and every culture... I do not visit or condone them... I do not think you do either... But the comments and replies seem (to me at least) a little, u know...

    Please check the percentages of medical school enrolments, based on ethnicity… yes they are mostly Americans, I know, but not mostly white anymore, not that I have anything against anyone based on color.

    The labor thing, well yes, of course most are Caucasian, but even some advertisements made fun of the while collar guys losing their jobs, and a Mexican guy in a truck pulling up besides people in business suits and asks them who needs a job and they all run and jump in the back of the truck... you don’t do that if they were only a minority.

    I agree, America has, and always will have the advantage of attracting people because of what it represents.

    Slavery did play a major part in civilizations which have passed, even the Roman Empire used them... and up until the slaves were freed in America, America also was built on the labor of slaves to some extent... this is getting out of the realm of a comment on a blog and a very branched discussion of all that was and all that will be.

    My point is, as a country, we are trying to be better, but many obstacles are still there… one is the attitude of that lady and those who are like her (attitude wise)... that is why I said we also suffer.

    Remember we have a Gen Y epidemic, and more of the bad Gen Y’s than the good.

  21. Just speaking what is on my mind, precognitive. I appreciate that you don't think I am particularly prejudiced or racist. I certainly do not try to be. Outspoken, yes. But "equally" outspoken. Although, I, like everyone else in the world, have probably said some things that could have been parsed differently.

    As far as the percentages of medical school enrollments - if they are Americans - I could care less what color or ethnicity they are. Matters not to me; what matters is the medical care I receive. Cannot say anything about the advertisements you are referring to - I've never seen the one you describe.

    What America can offer is a whole different topic... Let's not go there, right now. You don't want to get me started.

    As far as the slavery issue? We probably shouldn't go there, either. I have been fairly vocal that I believe it is alive and thriving in this part of the world - the Middle East and parts of Asia.

    It will be interesting to see how Gen Y takes on the issues here, and how it will turn things around so that this country provides the advantages they so need. Tackling the work ethic - or as I stated earlier, the lack thereof - will be an obstacle that is going to be difficult to overcome. Don't you think?

    Open debate, precognitive, is always welcome here. Two sides to every issue. We will likely not always agree, maybe not even sometimes, and maybe not ever; but then, I don't expect everyone to agree with me about everything all the time. How boring would THAT be?!!


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