Saturday, February 25 – Sunday, February 26

Busy, busy

Saturday had to be one of my busiest days in a long time.  I was at the Major Home Improvement Center where I now have to go twice a week, and even though there was no special event going on there was a pretty much continuous flow of customers for my entire shift.  One thing that helps is that my vendor’s display in that store is in a prime location directly across from the self check-outs.  In only two out of the other seven stores in my rotation is the location equivalently good.  Most other vendors, such as the ones for solar power and countertops, bring their own tables and display materials, and with the store manager’s approval can place them anywhere in the front end.  I have a permanent fixed display in each store and therefore don’t have any choice about location.  In any event, I was so busy that my shift went by in a flash.  Another nice touch was that the solar power vendor, who was also in the store, brought in pizza for all the employees and vendors.

In the evening, I watched boxing on HBO.  Every time I do so, I have the same reaction: I cannot stand their announcers.  I really, really wish a broadcast network would start televising the big fights, taking the business away from HBO and Showtime, unfortunately the chances of that happening are zero to none.

On Sunday, I went to a relatively nearby store for the first time in three weeks. It’s one of MHIC’s newer stores in Suffolk County and is more spacious than most others.  All stores carry pretty much the same merchandise lines, so this store’s slightly larger size translates into wider aisles and more open spaces.  It’s a nice touch and makes working there a bit more pleasant.  I wasn’t nearly as busy as I had been yesterday, partly because there weren’t as many customers in this store, and partly because my display isn’t as well located.  Another drawback is that many of the customers who go to this store speak English poorly or not at all.  Still, it wasn’t a bad day, and of course today finished my workweek.

Watched an interesting movie on Netflix: Lourdes, about a disabled young woman who makes a pilgrimage to the titular shrine.  There wasn’t much dialogue, and in any event it was subtitled, but it still was a welcome change to the typical sequels and comic book adaptation and assorted junk that passes for movies these days.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 22 – Friday, February 24

A rare foray into rush hour traffic

I spent Wednesday at the Major Home Improvement Chain store where I’ll now be going twice a week.  Again, I have nothing against this particular store, it’s just that I’ll be an infrequent visitor to the other ones on my rotation.  But hey, the money’s all the same.  All the reading I’ve been doing on the more technical aspects of what I sell came in handy when one customer peppered me with detailed questions.  Strictly speaking, I am not expected to be an expert on technical matters, I can pass that off to people at the office, but being able to offer more information just might help close some deals that otherwise wouldn’t happen.  Looking at things from a customer’s perspective, it’s much better to get an immediate answer than to be told “I can have our technical people give you a call.”  It’s also satisfying to learn about a field of endeavor that not long ago was completely unknown to me.

On Thursday I had to make an early trip into Nassau County to handle some business matters.  This required a rare excursion onto the Expressway during the heart of rush hour.  Working somewhat nonstandard hours has led me to forget that such a beast as rush hour actually exists.  I left way early, giving myself ample leeway in case of lengthy delays, naturally enough I encountered scarcely any.  Of course had I not given myself said leeway there would have been all sorts of delays.  With one or two brief exceptions I never went below about 40 mph the whole way.  That is truly remarkable.  While I had to wait in my car at the destination for over 30 minutes, I didn’t mind, as it was better than being late.  After a couple of hours I headed back to my usual neck of the woods for a shift at a MHIC store not far from me.  It was a fairly slow day, a bit surprising because this store is one of the busiest on Long Island.

I stayed close to home on Friday, working at a store just a couple of miles away.  It was less busy than Wednesday, but busier than Thursday, which surprised me a bit because it was a gloomy rainy day.  One thing I’ve learned from being in retail stores is that customers melt in the rain.  After my shift I went to the gym for neutral grip pull-ups, finally upping my rep count a bit: 3 x 5, 5 x 3.

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, February 20 – Tuesday, February 21

Having Monday as a regular day off meant that I wasn’t able to celebrate Presidents Day as a holiday.  Sort of the way it is for Easter, since it falls on a Sunday most people already have it off.  If that makes sense.  Anyway, these were two pretty decent days off, I didn’t do much but that was sort of the point.  Doing nothing is sometimes the most pleasant thing to do.

When I went to the gym on Tuesday I still had a sore elbow from the other day’s heavy benching, so I decided to do some leg work rather than risk aggravating things with pull-ups.  I used the Life Fitness horizontal leg press, an old favorite, doing 6 x 10 x 395.  I also did seated calf raises, 3 x 12 x 145.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, February 18 – Sunday, February 19


Saturday was a bit dull, spent at a MHIC store about five miles away.  It was definitely a lot less crowded than usually is the case on Saturdays.  One of the assistant managers said it probably was because it was the start of a long weekend.  Monday would be crowded, with many people off from work, but that’s my day off so it won’t matter.

After some thought, I decided after work on Saturday to give my shoulder one more day of healing before going to the gym.  On Sunday afternoon, I metaphorically tiptoed back to the gym for bench presses.  It looks like the extra healing day worked, because I did better than I ever would have hoped: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 1 x 235, 9 x 225, 1 x 235, 7 x 225, 1 x 235, 5 x 225, 12 x 185.  Yep, I’m just one away from my goal of getting ten at 225.  Doing the singles at 235 before going for reps at 225 may have helped.  In fact, when I was on the sixth and seventh reps of my first set at 225 I though I would be able to make ten, however on the eighth rep I knew that I’d only be able to get one more.  Still, I’m happy with my progress, and ten shouldn’t be far off.

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 3:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 15 – Friday, February 17

I’m supposed to be in how many places?

Wednesday and Thursday were unremarkable days, spent at two different Major Home Improvement Center stores.  Wednesday’s was fairly close to home, Thursday’s a bit farther, but compared to the Bad Old Days when I was in the insurance business and driving all over creation, I can’t complain.  On Thursday I ran into some rush hour traffic on the way home but it wasn’t too bad.

One interesting tidbit I picked up involved the solar electric industry.  Another vendor has been promoting this quite heavily in MHIC stores, holding seminars and all that, and pointing out that utility rebates and tax credits can bring down the out-of-pocket cost to about 40% or even less of the stated list price.  While that sounds like a terrific deal, what I found out is that it takes at least 100 qualified leads – homeowners with a genuine interest in the product – to make a single sale.  Even with the rebates and credits it generally takes at least 20 years before the reduced utility bills will equal the cost of the system, and that’s disregarding the time value of money.  Solar power sounds like a terrific idea that unfortunately is not quite ready for prime time.

I spent Friday at the MHIC store that’s sort of my home base.  It’s actually just a few miles away from the store where I was the previous day.  Management of this store had been pressing me to commit to being there two days a week, today they made it official.  From now on I have to be at that store every Wednesday and Saturday.  It doesn’t really matter to me, any location is as good as another, I’m just a bit dismayed about not having much choice.

Still not ready for the gym, my sore right shoulder is getting better but still not 100%.

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, February 13 – Tuesday, February 14

Mondays are usually a day off for me, but I worked this Monday because I had taken Sunday off.  In an unusual move, I divided my time between two MHIC stores rather than staying at one for the full shift.  It was easy in this case because the two stores are about a ten minute drive apart.  Curiously, despite this geographic proximity, the customer demographics were quite different.  I figured that store-splitting in this manner may help me deal with the demands on my time.  As noted, there are eight stores in my rotation, and one of them (in fact, the first one I went to today) wants me there twice a week.

Later in the evening I went to the gym to do some pull-ups.  My original plan was to do trap bar deadlifts, but some knee soreness convinced me to wait.  While I still can’t do many pull-ups per set, at least I did a lot of sets: 12 x 3, 5 x 2.  A total of 46 neutral pull-ups, I was trying for 50 but couldn’t quite get there.

Tuesday was off, which is good as it was Valentine’s Day.  In a true miracle, the cats did not devour the bouquet of orange roses I brought home.  Maybe they only like the red variety.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm  Comments (2)  

Saturday, February 11 – Sunday, February 12

Bang.  Hoist.  Yay.

I stayed close to home on Saturday, working at the closest Major Home Improvement Center store to me.  It’s about three miles.  There’s another store that’s possibly a bit closer, but that one isn’t on my rotation.  Anyway, the store lead generator was most helpful, getting a table for me so I could display my brochures and other promotional materials.  Especially popular were the refrigerator magnets in the shape of a service truck.  Significantly, they bear the name and phone number of the vendor that employs me.  It is significant because MHIC corporate policy prohibits vendors from using the vendors’ telephone numbers on any business cards or other printed materials distributed in the stores.  Only the MHIC 800 number can be used.  This policy does not, however, apply to refrigerator magnets or any other non-paper items.  Anyway, it was a pretty good day, and my 6-hour shift went by in a flash.

I didn’t work on Sunday, I’ll make up for it by working Monday, because I had other plans – specifically, going to a range and shooting an assault rifle.  My prior experience with guns has been limited, and I was fearful that the range would be packed with rednecks who ridicule newcomers.  Nothing of the sort happened.  I shared use of  an SKS semiautomatic rifle in 7.62 x 39 caliber, a round that’s suitable for deer but is most commonly used on game animals of the 2-legged variety.  Going to the range cost $15 in ammunition and $15 in range fees.  Targets cost 50 cents.  In addition to the traditional bull’s-eye there were targets with human silhouettes. I didn’t want to go quite that far and instead got one with the picture of a turkey.

While I wasn’t keeping count of the number of rounds I fired, it was probably about 35 because the three of us using the rifle had a total of 110 rounds and we tried to keep our usage even.  I ended up hitting Turkey Lurkey nine times, which isn’t bad considering I was firing an iron-sighted rifle (and SKS’s aren’t known for pinpoint accuracy) at a target 100 yards away.  Not to mention the fact that I’m new at the game.  Most of the 50 or so other shooters were using shotguns or scoped rifles, though there were a couple using iron-sighted AK 47’s and one man using a really cool cowboy-style lever action rifle.

One thing that took me by surprise is just how loud rifles are.  Even with foam earplugs my ears were ringing for hours afterward.  One thing that contributed to the racket was the rifle being used by the man at the shooting station right next to us.  It was a custom-built rifle which he said cost $5,000, the scope looked like something an astronomer would use to explore distant galaxies.  Not only was the rifle in the very powerful .308 caliber, but it was equipped with a device that the shooter called a muzzle brake.  This reduced the recoil, at a cost of greatly increased sound.  Even standing several feet away I could feel the shockwave when he fired the rifle.

Noise or not, I had a grand old time, and when we got home it was early enough for me to make a quick gym trip.  And what a pleasant trip it turned out to be.  I did bench presses, and did better than I would have dared to hope: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 8 x 225, 4 x 235, 2 x 245, 6 x 225, 4 x 225, 10 x 135.  Just two away from my goal of getting ten at 225.  So close I can taste it, metaphorically speaking of course.  One thing I might try next time is doing a single rep at 245 or even 255 before going for multiple reps at 225.  This is supposed to help make it easier to hit multiple reps at the lighter weight.  I’ve tried that sort of thing years ago without much effect that I can recall, but it might be worth giving it another go.

Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 4:23 am  Comments (1)  

Wednesday, February 8 – Friday, February 10

Language skills

On Wednesday I went to the one Major Home Improvement Center (MHIC) store on my rotation that I hadn’t yet visited.  It’s not that far from me, probably under ten miles, although the last part of the route involved an annoying number of traffic lights.  The store itself is one of the newer ones in Suffolk County, and seemed to have more spacious aisles than some of the others.  While it was relatively busy, it soon became apparent that a substantial percentage of the customers did not speak English well or at all.  It took me a bit by surprise, though knowing the demographics of the area I should have expected that.  Not that I’m really complaining, it was pleasant to be in a new store and meeting new employees.

I didn’t work on Thursday, mainly because of nasty congestion and a sore throat.  These symptoms had bothered me on Wednesday, but they got worse overnight.  While not fully recovered, on Friday I went to a store close to me for the third time in the three weeks I’ve been on the job.  It’s also one of the newer stores, as well as the busiest one in my rotation based on revenues.  I had a pretty decent day, one thing that helped is that my throat was definitely on the way to improvement.

Published in: on February 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, February 6 – Tuesday, February 7

More decent weight action to celebrate my “weekend.”  On Monday I decided to do more neutral grip pull-ups, figuring that even though I’m not yet able to do more than three per set, I can at least do as many sets as possible for a decent total count: 9 x 3, 5 x 2.  Thirty-seven total reps isn’t shabby.  On Tuesday, for the first time in forever, it was back to deadlifts, of the trap bar variety: 5 x 6 x 225.  Again, I’m starting slowly after so long off, 225 is more of a warmup weight than an appropriate working weight, but it takes time to get back to normal.  I also did some seated calf raises, 4 x 10 x 135.

My culinary adventures this “weekend” started in the Philippines with adobo chicken and then were off to Mexico for tinga poblana (pork stew).  Both quite successful, if I may say.

Published in: on February 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 3 – Sunday, February 5

What a difference a day makes, foot traffic edition

On Friday I went to the Major Home Improvement Chain (MHIC) outlet about 15 miles away that I’ve come to think of as my home store.  In part it’s because the store management wants me there twice  a week, not an easy task given that it’s just one of eight stores in my rotation.  It’s also because the store lead generator, a MHIC employee rather than a vendor like me, is at least partly responsible for my getting the job in the first place.  I had dealt with him in my prior job at JKL Sales, and the manager at my current job called him when deciding whether to hire me.  Hey, if any store is to be my home store, this one’s a good choice, the employees are friendly and most of the customers are pretty decent too.

On Saturday I went to a store about five miles from me, the same one I had been to last Sunday.  I also have a very good relationship with the lead generator, on Sunday she was very helpful and today was no different.  She was training a new lead generator who was just hired to work at a different store, not one on my rotation, and actually had me speak to her and give some tips.  Not that I could offer much, being so new on the job myself and also being a vendor employee, but I did my best.  As for the store itself, it was packed.  On the first Saturday of each month every MHIC store has a children’s workshop, at which children can build small craft items, and they always draw a big crowd.  This of course worked out well for me, in terms of getting business.

Sunday was a much slower day, which wasn’t surprising given that it was Super Bowl Sunday.  I figured that most shopping traffic would come early in the day, so I got an early start.  I was at one of my stores for the first time, located just a few miles from Friday’s “home” store.  In fact it’s slightly surprising that MHIC located two stores in such close proximity – three, actually, as there is another one (not on my rotation) in the area – but presumably they know what they’re doing.  It was slow, but okay, and I met the lead generator for the first time.  He was glad to see me, as he had been asking my employer for quite some time to send someone to his store.  He also wants me to come twice a week, but with a total of eight stores on my rotation including another twice-a-weeker, that just wouldn’t be practical.  I can only be in one place at a time 🙂

Gym: I had a terrific bench press session on Saturday night.  That is no exaggeration.  My numbers were way better than I ever would have hoped: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 7 x 225, 2 x 5 x 225, 2 x 4 x 225, 12 x 135.  My goal of ten at 225 may be closer than expected.

Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 3:26 am  Leave a Comment