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Retail Hell Memories: Bad Management - Why Can't To Leave The Emergency Room And Come In?


This story was originally posted on September 18, 2010


Carolanne axeFrom Melpomene

I called in sick last week, for the first time since our store opened (almost a year ago now).

In this year I have worked when suffering from flu (I don't remember much of that time...), I've worked 60 hour weeks, 13 days straight, (which may not seem like much in comparison to the conditions a lot of you have worked in, but it's not a common thing at our store - you work either 5 weekdays, or you work the weekends, with maybe 3 weekdays if you sign up for overtime), I've been the only supervisor/manager on my department for a full weekend (we take about 55% of the overall takings for the week, with the rest split between 8 other departments, across 2 other floors.

The other 2 floors have 2 managers and 2 supervisors each, but I've been left alone on the busiest floor), I've worked after being up all night vomiting. Basically I don't call in sick unless I cannot stand up. And even then I feel guilty, and try to get to work. So when I couldn't sleep on Tuesday night because of chest pain and breathing problems (as in, I couldn't breathe because the pain was so bad) I was mentally calculating how many pain killers I'd need to take to get through the day of overtime I was guilted into signing up for. The pain got worse. So Wednesday morning I called NHS direct for advice.

Go to A&E was the advice. I got shouted at when I said I'd take the bus, and ordered to call a taxi immediately and go to A&E.

So I called work. We have a designated 'sick phone' which a manager always has on them, and always answers (often the store phone isn't answered, and when it is, messages don't get passed on).

The person I was supposed to be covering that day answered the phone, which threw me to begin with. Why was it so urgent that I sign up for overtime if she's in the store?

Oh well, I carried on.

"Hi, it's Melpomene....*gasp for tiny bit of breath* I just thought I'd *gasp* let you know *gasp* I don't know when *gasp* I'll be in today."


"I'm on my way *gasp* to A&E. Chest pains... can't breathe.

"So why can't you work?"

I was stunned at this.

Jason doctorI never call in sick, I've just managed to get out that I can't breathe and am going to hospital, and I get asked "Why can't you work"?

I hadn't even said I was calling in sick, just that I didn't know what time I'd be in.

So I repeated (slowly, as I genuinely couldn't get enough breath to speak) that I was on my way to A&E and I'd let them know when I'd be in.

After 3 hours in A&E I was admitted to a ward. So I had to call work again and let them know there was no way I was making it at all that day.

"Hi, Melpomene again."

"Hey, when are you coming in?"

"I've been admitted.... Not going to make it in.... really sorry but can't.... make contracted shift either."

"You mean you're not even going to bother turning up for your contracted hours?"


"You realize we've not got X or Y, so we'll have no supervisors in this evening!"


"Fine. Let us know if you're turning up tomorrow."

I now understand why people don't call in sick.

The thing is, I love working with the 2 people that answered the sick line. When I called in sick the following day (seriously, my friends were worried I was dying, this is so unusual for me), I got a bit more sympathy from the second person to answer, but she was still narky with me.

I'm fine now, thankfully, but have had blood tests, urine tests, chest X-Rays, ECGs, and now have to have an ultrasound to rule out gallbladder problems.

I was poked and prodded, not allowed any food all day (and hadn't eaten dinner the night before because of the pain), and told I had: gallbladder problems, cracked ribs, pneumonia, infection of the pleura, gilbert's syndrome (a metabolic disorder that has nothing to do with the pain) and finally decided it's probably costochondritis. Fun day for me!

To top it all off, they still haven't fired AA, although this is now week 3 of AWOL, so hopefully he's not coming back anyway. Not that they've fired him, I just don't think he wants to come back.



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