The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Pamela Riemenschneider )

The “B” Shift.

I may have once mentioned what this stands for. It’s when a produce manager (or clerk) is facing an extended day, usually due to unforeseen circumstances such as sick calls. The “B” shift is when you have to “be” at work in the produce department in the morning, “be” there at closing time, and generally, just “be” there.

The “B” shift is a lot to ask of anyone, which is why we should always strive not to.

Recently I overheard some ex-produce managers talk about nearly the same topic. Just how much should a produce manager work, on a regular basis? I heard a range of 48 hours per week to nearly double that. Yikes. My first thought: It depends.

For example, if a produce manager is paid salary, you can bet deep down, the boss wants the produce manager to practically live in the store. Again, the “B” shift. 

That isn’t right. In this produce scribe’s humble opinion, a produce manager ought to work the hours necessary to complete all the daily tasks and crew direction, and go home. Preferably after no longer than 8 or 9 hours. 

After all, managing a produce department includes a hefty amount of stocking. Produce management is a combination of mental and physical work, and a normal eight-hour day is usually enough for anyone, salaried or otherwise.

Hourly paid produce managers? It’s interesting how they’re viewed by the same store manager, who pushes the department head to wrap things up in eight hours in order to minimize overtime. 

I’ve worked and supervised both scenarios. And in both instances the goal for the produce manager was to work a disciplined, routine set of shifts, but strive to take two days off every week and shoot for no more than, say, a 44- to 48-hour workweek. 

A produce manager needs this kind of continuity. They need to have a normal life like anyone else, right? Can they manage this kind of schedule so they can still have time to help their kids with their homework, help coach the school baseball team, and simply have some level of sanity? Yes.

I’ve seen the 80-plus workweek scenarios too. It isn’t pretty. I’ve seen good produce managers become burned out, experience a productivity drop, have their home lives, even their health negatively affected. How does that help a store?

It doesn’t. And sure, there are exceptional periods such as remodel weeks or training periods that extend a produce manager’s weekly hour tally. However, those ought to be few and far between. A produce manager’s schedule should be balanced enough to be effective, and avoid (or at least minimize) the dreaded “B” shifts.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at lobatoarmand@gmail.com.

 

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