As most of you know, I volunteer at a charity bookstore at least once a week. I won’t say what/where it is, but it’s associated with a well-established community service that is normally funded by taxpayer money. The charity is great and has funded a ton of great programs. The bookstore is not its best side.
On the surface, everything looks pretty good. We’re non-profit, we’ve had rent-free space within the building whose organization benefits from our funds, and we’re staffed almost entirely by volunteers. The only person who gets paid is the woman who runs the bookstore as part of her job with the aforementioned organization that’s housing us. Of course, I’ve left out all the drama. You see, unlike a normal office where freaks can be “let go”, charities have a devil of a time getting rid of problem employees. As Merkin is fond of saying, “The problem with volunteers is that you can’t fire ’em.”
Our biggest pain in the neck is someone my former boss referred to as a “kooky lady”. KL is a retired teacher, and very good in a schoolteacher capacity. I’ve seen her with kids, so I know this to be true. Of course, that’s no longer her main venue, and she’s got some weird notions in that noggin of hers. The first time I met her, she insisted that “people don’t eat enough of their garbage.” Those were her words. I am not making this up. Of course, she was referring to people throwing away perfectly good food that would appear to any normal person as something to be discarded, not eaten.
KL loves to be helpful. She’s brought things in to the store and set them among the usual merchandise because she’s “donated” them to the cause. This is, of course, against policy. Any merchandise sold in the store must first be approved by the manager. Otherwise, we’d have all sorts of crazy junk in there. We have enough junk as it is — the original buyers for the store being shopaholics with no taste whatsoever(I’ll tell y’all about the two gross of baby snowmen sometime). KL has also offered to take over the purchasing of new merchandise because she likes to buy in bulk. Honey, that’s the last thing we need. (see aforementioned shopaholics)
The biggest problem is the fact that KL loves to talk more than anything else. Unfortunately, she’s unable to talk and ring up purchases at the same time. This doesn’t stop her from trying, however. She’s constantly leaving messages for the boss, detailing what she thinks went wrong with a transaction:
- I didn’t press the key hard enough.
- I pressed the wrong key.
- The customer yadda yadda(insert novel here)…so I just figured it all out in my head. [There was no receipt to explain this one.]
This has given everyone a splitting headache, but…all together now
You can’t fire volunteers.
That’s okay. Merkin came up with an evil plan. He’s good at that. He suggested that my boss require all volunteers to be “re-certified”. Everyone has to take a simple test (process a fake transaction) to show they know what they’re doing. I’ve been put in charge of the thing because I actually wrote the simplified user’s/training manual for the register back when I was a paid employee. I know the register better than anybody there, including some of the “old guard” (people who’ve worked there since the opening, or shortly thereafter).
So I have an official checklist of things the volunteers should know, and I’m administering the test to everyone. I think I might ask the charity’s president (also a store volunteer) to administer my test. I also have to take it, you know, and my boss isn’t comfortable enough with the register to administer it herself. Everyone gets two transactions (chances) to pass all the requirements. They can have help on the first transaction. If they get everything right without help the first time, they don’t have to do it again.
So far, I’ve tested three employees — including one I trained, and the one who trained me (two registers ago). Everything’s gone smoothly. The test is easy enough to pass if you have half a brain. Anyone who can’t certainly has no business working there. We’re all crossing our fingers that KL fails, as that will bar her from continuing to volunteer in the store. She’s welcome to help in another capacity.
We only have a few more months before we shut down for good (another story I won’t bother to go into), but my boss can’t stand another few months of indecipherable mistakes. Wish us luck.