Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Gordon “Zola” Edgar: Finally, a Moment to Spare…

By Gordon Edgar

Hey there. Perhaps I should have mentioned that I wouldn’t be posting in the last couple of weeks of 2009. Cheese enthusiasts are forgiven for not assuming that, but cheese professionals should have expected it. After all, between the food holidays and New Year’s parties, no person who really works in cheese retail has any free time.

Year after year I am surprised by vendors, reps and cheesemakers who try to conduct business during the last two weeks of the year. The best thing I can say about them is that they are bored and trying to find something to do. But seriously, every year some people try to call me up/drop by to talk about non-timely matters. Do they not understand that I am trying to sell their cheese for them?

Even the best-laid holiday staffing plans fall apart. Every year there is illness, family emergencies, (drunken) accidents, vacations etc. If those things have no happened to me personally, be assured that they have felled other members of our department. We have to cut (roughly) $10,000 worth of cheese a day this time of year just to keep pace and that is while doing about 5 times as much hands-on customer service. I don’t wanna hear about anything not directly related to that until January 2.

Three weeks ago: The backstock is overflowing!
backstock cooler near x-mas 2009

The following is a list of acceptable reasons for cheese professionals further back in the distribution chain to contact a cheese retailer at the end of December:

1. Changes to delivery schedules
2. Bringing in emergency replenishment of stock
3. Amazing deals that need to be bought right away
4. Bringing in presents: chocolate, booze, cheese, or holiday cards
5. Personal shopping

Seriously. That’s it.

A few years ago a certain rep turned up at the store the day before Thanksgiving. That is traditionally the biggest day of the year for grocery retail. Our little prep area was jammed with workers. The customers were elbowing each other out of the way to get to the counter. At least 5 different cheese conversations were going on. This rep walked in – completely oblivious to the commotion — a started talking to me, actually interrupting someone who was asking me what kind of Gruyere she should buy. My co-workers had to push past her to get to the cheese case. She was all, “Hi there, I brought you a schedule of promotions for February. Can we discuss them?”

I looked at her. I took a deep breath and – despite the fact that she was the only rep I had who often came through with free Niners tickets for me and my co-workers – I said, “Get out of here! Don’t come back til January! Look around you. What are you thinking?”

She looked surprised but backed off, murmuring some kind of sales rep pseudo-apology as she left. I was immediately re-engulfed in customers.

I don’t actually know what happened to her. Either she lost her job or got transferred to a different region (not because of me! I never mentioned this to anyone until now) but I never saw her in the store again .I’ve never gotten any more free football tickets either. But it was worth it.

Timmy, the P’tit Basque shepherd, gets in the holiday spirit. See how he is at home, in his apartment, and not visiting retailers:

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