This is the truth behind the people who suffer in silence to deliver your food and the story that companies and stores don’t want you to know.
While you’re sleeping, there’s an army of people at work delivering your food. Their hours can range from second shift to what I like to call a “hybrid” shift, between a midnight and a 4 a.m. start time.
These men and woman work very hard to make sure grocery shelves are stocked and ready for early bird shoppers. (P.S. those people are very annoying to a vendor.)
They *can* make a decent living but the time and sacrifice it requires to be a vendor is overwhelming at times. After 12 years in the vendor industry, I can honestly tell you the standard that is expected from the stores, companies, and a customer is perfection. They don’t care how you do it; just make sure you never run out of product or have too much.
Every day vendors go to bed early, or get very little sleep, to wake up and do a very stressful job. It can be a manager yelling at them for being human, a customer putting them down because they didn’t have that one item the customer only buys once a year, or their family’s disappointment in how much time they spend at work. Stress is second nature to a vendor.
On the surface, these look like great jobs, but over the years reality sets in. The sacrifice and effort vendors make have a devastating effect on their life, and all of this happening quietly behind the scenes.
For 12 years I hated life for a variety of reasons but the primary one was the job. I would work 60 hour weeks and still get calls at all hours of the day and night. Each company is different- but for the one I worked for- if you ran out of product, you had to go to the warehouse and run it to the stores if they called and complained.
Over those 12 years I ran product out during snowstorms and times when no one would be shopping anyways. It didn’t matter; they had to have their product. Some dummy sitting in his office, exercising the only power he had in his life, would ruin my week.
This job led to an unbelievable amount of stress in my life and kept me miserable and complacent. The odd hours led to negative eating habits (like easting fast food at 1 a.m.) which caused me to gain 170 pounds.
The stress and hours brought on a slew of problems at home. I would either have to go to bed early and miss spending time with our children, or not get any sleep to be with them. For years I slept three hours a night.
I always told myself that I had a good paying job so that’s all that mattered. I didn’t have a college degree or any special skills, so I thought I should just be grateful for the misery. I felt stuck, and after years of verbal abuse, I felt like a loser.
It took me three years but I escaped. After I left it took a month to detox. I had to let go of so much hate and bitterness in my heart to fully recover from being a vendor. My goal in this article is to give you a peek into the lives of the silent hero’s that bring you your food.
Vendors have to be politicians and magicians. Their managers go to stores, or lie and say they did, and get a display lined up. The premise being an off-shelf display would get more sales, nine times out of ten these displays are useless.
They’re usually in terrible locations, or the store doesn’t justify a display, or you’re expected to fill them with product that doesn’t sell. There are also those incredibly irritating days when you come into a store and find a completely full display sitting in the back room. This can be because the store changed their mind (they do this on a whim) or the manager lied about securing the display. Vendors are expected to navigate all these situations and make sure they don’t run out or have too much stale. “Be perfect” is the unspoken rule.
The work is back breaking. You deliver heavy products from a range of trucks, to different delivery areas, (which can include stairs, docks, odd doors) and in all kinds of weather. I lived and worked in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the summer you fought the bees and humidity, in the winter you froze your butt off. Frozen fingers and the danger of frostbite were common, all of this for a small sliver of the profits.
Vendors that stay in the job for years usually retire with a wealth of health problems and broken bodies. Day in and day out of abuse on their bodies, repetitive injures, and accidents on the job are very common.
Having to use old faulty equipment and vehicles adds to the chaos. You’re expected to make it work and get that product out there no matter what. Frequently you can’t even start your day because the equipment is broken.
Vendors can make what is considered “good money” but it pales in comparison to what the companies are making. There were years I delivered a million dollars (that’s not an exaggeration) of product and got paid $50 grand. Good money? Sure, but not a very fair ratio. This is if you’re an employee.
Many vendor companies don’t have employees; they use “independent operators”. On paper you’re a business owner, but in reality you’re a liability-free employee. This is a scam set up so that these companies don’t have to pay traditional employee benefits.
You’re told repeatedly this is your business, yet you’re forced to do things the way the company wants them. You’re “asked” to set your stores up a certain way and carry products that don’t sell in every store. You can say no but when you do, the managers follow your every move and find ways to get rid of you. Everyday you deal with unspoken threats to force you to conform.
A group of FedEX contractors refused to buy into this scam and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them. In a landmark case, the court ruled FedEx misclassified 2,300 contractors that were actually employees.
By doing so, FedEx avoided paying health care, workers compensation, paid sick leave and vacation, retirement and more. FedEx made drivers pay for their uniquely FedEx branded trucks, FedEx branded uniforms, and FedEx scanners. Plus, fuel, insurance, tires, oil changes, maintenance, even workers compensation coverage.
FedEx isn’t alone; the company that I “contracted” to has its fair share of legal battles. I won’t name them here but in March they agreed to pay $905,000 for misclassifying employees as contractors. You can read about it here. This was kept quiet from other contractors across the United States. They don’t want the contractors to unite and finally force them to stop these shady business practices.
My hope is that this article unties “independent contractors” all over the world. It’s time for someone to stand up to these bullies.
The effects on the family
At the end of the day, the families of vendors get the short end of the stick. You work 40 hours plus in a stressful and hostile environment, you try to keep all that at work but it’s impossible. When you spend that much of your week doing something, it will affect your life one way or another.
You want to tell your family what you’re going through but it’s hard. Sometimes you’re so angry that you can’t verbalize what you feel. You suffer in silence and try to avoid losing control. You tell yourself that you’re being strong for your family. If you’re a vendor and reading this, communicate, don’t hold it all inside.
I understand there are all kinds of terrible jobs out there. You may be dealing with a job that’s far worse, I feel for you. The message that I really want you to take away is you have options. You have the power to escape from a terrible job.
Life is too short and time is the one resource we’ll never get back. Spending that precious time miserable leads to a life of regret. It’s going to take time, and it’s going to be hard, but you can escape. You can find or create work that you love.
The next time you’re in a store and you’re tempted to climb on top of that person that’s stocking, so you can get something, think twice. The next time you’re tempted to tear apart a bread section to get a loaf of bread that’s one day fresher, remember what the vendor has already had to deal with.
Besides, that food is pumped with so many preservatives that it will be “fresh” for years.
Have you ever had a vendor job? What were some of your experiences?
Photo: Flickr/ Texas.713