Thank you M&S.

Twelve months ago, I’d just graduated, and I had no idea what I wanted to do next.

So the immediate plan was very simple: get a job.

And that I did. My manger, very kindly, agreed to take me back.

I rejoined the M&S Grantham team, after working on and off for the company whilst at University.

I was put into the ISB (In-Store Bakery) to begin with, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. Primarily because I could not get my head around the MANY types of sourdough that we sell. San Fran, Signature, Seeded, Spelt… the list goes on.

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With the lovely Maria (the hat & hairnet combo is a look, I know)

To say I caused slight chaos to begin with, would be an understatement. One thing that caused a lot of confusion (and distress) amongst my co-workers – was my tendency to select stickers from odd points in the sticker roll. My lack of sticker methodology was a cause for great concern.

I may have over-baked once or twice (‘you’ve baked how many Boule?!’)… plus I lost endless pens (literally, WHERE do they go?!) – but after a couple of months, I started to get the hang of it, and the tasting trolley era began…

Our sales needed improving, so my ever-enthusiastic manager suggested a tasting trolley. My colleagues will tell you that it quickly became odd to see me without a selection of cheesy bread samples… the opening line was always the same: ‘do you like cheese… well then you’ll LOVE this’ (worked every time – who DOESN’T like cheese?!).

In late February, there was a staffing change, so I was back on shop-floor. Morning fill had become even more physical, as stock arrives onto the floor in a mixed pallet, which staff then have to manually redistribute to the appropriate aisles. It’s a full body workout, I’m telling you.

But working in a supermarket is so much more than just stacking shelves. You’re an actor (Oscar award winning), therapist (you’d be surprised what people tell you on the till), comedian (it’s often the only way to respond to rudeness) and diplomat (my conflict avoidance skills are second-to-none).

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With my wonderful Aunty B, it was pancake day & she was very excited.

But after eight months with the company, I’d been an offered an incredible opportunity at BBC Radio Lincolnshire, and thus, the job juggling began. It’s been intense. 4.30am starts after 11pm finishes have been interesting. Shift swapping to accommodate both jobs has been stressful. I’ve become worryingly reliant on double chocolate mini-rolls, honestly, those things have kept me ALIVE.

But I’m super excited (and a little scared) to say that I’m moving on, and today I had my last shift at M&S Grantham Simply Food.

It has been one hell of day. Due to a few technical issues in the refrigeration department, there’s been a lot of emptying and refilling. It’s been fast-paced, slightly surreal, and definitely not the last day that I expected. One to remember for sure. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said ‘due to a few technical issues…’ – I’d be a millionaire.

I’m exhausted, and I feel quite sad. Although it was not what I wanted to do forever, I am so glad for the time I have spent there. I’ve worked alongside such kind, genuine, funny, and staggeringly hardworking people, from whom I have learnt so much. I’ve interacted with some incredible customers, and I’ve shared some surprisingly special moments with people I hardly know. It’s hard to explain, but essentially, people don’t always just say they’re fine when you ask them how they are.

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Elliot & I – just before we left to go back to Uni for our first and final years, respectively.

But, before I close this chapter of my life – I’m keen to include a few of my favourite memories and mention one very special person…

 

A collection of my favourite comments:

‘You’re irritatingly cheerful aren’t you?’ (a customer to me whilst on the till one Friday morning).

‘Hi, I’d like to return this Get Well Soon card’ / ‘Of course, is there something wrong with it? I can’t apologise enough!’ / ‘Oh no, it’s just that the person I brought it for has died so I’d like a refund’ (I WISH this was a joke. This actually happened.)

*Whilst stuck next to a customer in an aisle during the pre-Christmas chaos* ‘(jokingly) I think we should invest in some traffic lights don’t you?! Might ease congestion!’

To which he responded with one syllable (totally deadpan, and with the sternest and most severe expression I’ve ever seen) – ‘Ha.’

 

A few of the best tips I have received:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.

As my manager once said to me (during a bread-induced meltdown), ‘Jess, if the sourdough isn’t ready for when we open – the sourdough isn’t ready for when we open. No one dies and no one gets hurt.’

Essentially, it’s often very easy to loose perspective. It’s very hard to see past the endless unbaked sourdough, and instead consider the pastries, rolls, and baguettes that are baked, and ready to sell. Panic is pretty much always unproductive. Consider your stress, is it relative to the situation?

  • Be kind, listen, and show empathy.

Something that my very first manager said to me when I started at M&S has always really stuck with me…

‘You do not know if you are the only person the person you are serving will speak to today.’

Granted, that may not always be the case. But loneliness is often such an invisible experience, that you simply do not know who it is affecting.

So, if that conversation is the one conversation that person is going to have today – you’d better make it a good one. You have no idea the extent to which you could make a wonderfully positive difference to someones day – or even life.

  • Soak strawberries in fresh lemon juice, icing sugar and vanilla essence (& refrigerate) before serving them with cream…

Slight change of tone here, but thanks to a very strawberry-savvy (and lovely!) customer… I picked up this handy tip and it’s changed strawberries and cream for me FOREVER. Just yum.

 

Finally – I have to give a very special shout-out to to a very special lady.

Janet – thank you for being my M&S Mum. Thank you for always looking out for me. Thank you for never failing to make me smile. Thank you for just being you. Love you ❤

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