Hide your Condiments Kids, The Ants Are Back!


The Ants are back, or they will be next week when the endcap changes out to condiments. They’ve been hanging out in the back of the sign cabinet since last summer. This sign is about three years old. They’re fun like old friends visiting.

There’s a lot of changes at the place where I work. Last year we were preparing the store for the annual owners visit. They came to our region. We cleaned, painted polished and added to the existing mural with neighborhood and community focused art, working long and hard, everybody did especially the artists and then we de-decorated signage. No more hanging signs. I brought home my favorites, gave some to the other crew members and the rest went into the dumpster.

In the previous three years we created Value signage all over the store. They were clever, silly, funny and they were everywhere, on every post on any bare space. More, more they said, give us more, make them pop, make them HUGE, and we did. I created value signs that were placed along  the bottom front of the dairy, egg, meat and cheese cases which were repeatedly crushed and wiped off by carts. I kept a steady string of extras. The orange juice guy got crushed? Here’s another.

It’s a new year, new directions. I have an almost six year library, as I call it of blackboard art. When we change out the endcaps I look through my library, choose an appropriate one, either for the art or because it has a big $2.99 already on it, paint the last product to black, paint in the new item and it’s ready. I set it up that way from the beginning. It’s quick, efficient, inexpensive and I added to the library so we had seasonal boards.

They don’t want art on them now. It’s not about the art it’s about the product, they said. The blackboards should take no longer than 90 minutes. I will still use my library until I am told otherwise. I won’t be making new art on boards unless I am instructed to. They referred to the artists as elitists. When I was hired six years ago I had to show my portfolio and create a sign there in front of the captain. I did half a black sketchbook full of them the night before. I was the first one hired for our store. I was Artist 1.

Last year our titles were changed to crew member, no more specialists or Demo or Artist or all the ones striving for manager positions. They issued special new Crew shirts with oars on the back and the big word CREW. We call them our Camp Counselor shirts.

It’s taken some getting used to. If you want to be an artist go somewhere else and be one, they said.  It’s okay I am one at home. I am on the floor a lot now, engaging, learning to be a regular crew member.

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4 Responses to Hide your Condiments Kids, The Ants Are Back!

  1. Jill says:

    How debasing. That would be my cue to exit stage left. We teach people how to treat us by what we allow as acceptable. You deserve better treatment by your employer, Pam.

  2. pamtanzey says:

    I agree with you Jill, thanks.

    The company is changing. It isn’t just my store it’s from the top. One of the original owners passed away and it’s been left to the grandchildren. It’s no longer the quirky little neighborhood store. They’re plan is to open 30 new stores a year and get control of culture of all the older ones. The new people will think it’s great because they won’t know how it was. The great benefits are also changing. It’s all changing.

    When I was younger I would have walked, and did. There’s nothing to replace this not without starting over at the bottom of another pay scale. That’s the harsh reality of it. I’ve always been an artist, a freelancer for 25 years, I am very skilled, in fact I am awesome but it is a teeny area of expertise in the grand scheme of employment and pretty much no one hires in house artists. This was a rare and wonderful fluke. It all changes. Illustration changed. I didn’t love it enough to change with it.

    I’m not making excuses for me or them. I like the job and more I like insurance and paying my rent on time and taking care of my large animal population. I make the top pay scale there and they clearly have been told by their bosses boss to get rid of the capped out ones (top pay earners) if they aren’t performing (working their butts off for their pay) and I was indeed threatened with termination. It’s rude bullshit. They could hire two and a half youngsters if they got rid of me and told me so.

    So I changed my attitude and I put on a performance for them every day now. Sometimes I get melancholy for how it was but it doesn’t last long. It’s just a grocery store, one that I think is heading the wrong direction but that’s their deal. Mine is my check is in the bank every two weeks and I actually have time and energy to work on my own art in the evenings and weekends. I used to pour all of my artistic energy into my boards there and had nothing left for me, not anymore.

    Thanks again Jill.

  3. Jill says:

    How about sticking to your plan, which is a fine one, and looking for something better at the same time? As an artist, I have thought I was maxed out several times only to learn that that wasn’t true. Trader Joe’s is not the only good paying gig in town. You ARE seriously talented and your skills are hard to come by. Someone will pay you what you’re worth. I think you rock, Pam.

  4. pamtanzey says:

    Thanks Jill! My eye is always open for something better just haven’t actively pursued it for awhile.

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