Tag Archives: Workers Holiday

A two week contract – Working at LiquorLand

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The visa that I got for New Zealand was a Workers Holiday scheme Visa – a visa that allows the bearer to live and work in the country for a full year. Thus, when a friend offered me an interview at one of the liquor stores near the flat I was staying at, I jumped on it. The work itself wasn’t really the normal for me, since I was more used to desk jobs or a position in front of a milling machine, but I was actually pretty excited to get a chance to work a “manual labor” type of job for once. Upside, it meant that I wouldn’t need to pay for a gym membership while working. And the pay wasn’t bad either: minimum wage for New Zealand, but that meant $13.20 an hour, versus the simple $6.75 minimum in the United States. Yeah… I wasn’t too sad about taking it.

The work itself was pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be: moving beers from the back into the main freezer room, stocking up the store, and helping the “real” employees out with whatever they needed.

A few short stories from my two weeks working there:

“A soul-crushing job”

One day, late in the morning, my Boss Paul came up to be with a grimace on his face. Now Paul is usually a pretty cheerful guy, so I was immediately concerned that I had stocked something wrong, or broken a bottle by accident.

Paul – “Ben, I have a soul-crushing job for you, I’m afraid”

Ben – “Wha… what is it?”

Paul – “Well, I just got a call from Three Guys (a brewery in New Zealand that produces some very fine single-bottle craft beers), and it turns out that one of their batches used bad yeast. We need to clear it out and send the bottles back”

Ben – “Ohh, ok. Want me to go through the stock and pull them out?”

Paul – “no… we already did that. I need you to uncap them, pour the beers out, and wash out the bottles. Sorry… I told you its soul crushing”

Ben – “Nnnnnnnooooooooooo!!!”

And that’s how I got stuck pouring a crate of beer down the drain for nearly half an hour.

“Breaking down the doors”

I consider myself a fairly mechanically-inclinded person. So when I heard a grinding noise while I was working the rolling door at the back loading dock, I quickly assessed the situation and figured that, with a bit more pressure, the door would be able to break past the blockage and finish closing. That was a bad hypothesis.

Two hours later, Paul, the second manager Ted, and I were still working on fixing the door. Since that door was a rolling door, it worked by staying in a specific channel on each side… and by trying to force it downwards I had popped it out of the channel. And now… it didn’t want to go back in. We had tried slowly lowering it, tried raising it halfway and trying to wedge it back in, and we had even tried bashing it into place with a hammer. Though I’ll admit, I think that the bashing it option was done mostly to relieve frustration on Paul’s part.

We finally got the door back in its track by raising it all the way, then raising it even higher with the manual control chain, and then slowly lowering it back into its channels. And the final piece to the repair? Adding a little note onto the side of the door, reading;

“Truckers AND BEN are not allowed to use this door.”

“A most excellent hat”

I now have a new hat, thanks to Paul. Its a pretty nice dark green snowboarder beanie that he had extra, from an Export Gold promotional. Originally it had a little beer logo on it, but Emma was able to snip it off for me, so now it just looks like your average, totally rad beanie. With a sun visor. Yes, Ben + Beanie = awesome.

“Driving of the forklifts”

One of the first things that Paul asked me during the interview for the position was whether or not I knew how to drive a forklift. I had to admit that I did not, but I qualified myself by saying that I’d be quite willing to learn. Unfortunately Paul said that wouldn’t be necessary, and that I’d most likely be staying in the back hauling stacks of beer around instead. Which I did, all the while staring longingly at the forklift.

Thankfully for my curiosity and desire to learn random new things, Ted and I were on duty one evening where there was absolutely nothing to do. Paul had gone home already, Blair was watching the till, and we were just hanging out and being bored. So when I asked if Ted could teach me a thing or two on the lift, he jumped at the chance to actually do something.

Ted set up a little obstacle course for me in the back warehouse, and went over the basic controls of the lift with me. Forward, reverse, tines up, down, etc. After I had played around with the basics he started me in on the obstacles – learning how to turn on a dime (thanks to the steering coming from the back tires), how to lift pallets, and how to make sure not to run the forks through the beer. It was a fun little course that he took me through, and while I’m definitely not the best driver of a forklift… I can at least say that I know the basics, and could take over in an emergency if need be.

“A flying sign and a missed opportunity”

This is something that I don’t understand. Just a small situation, but such an amazing example of missing out on a chance for great PR, and turning this good opportunity into a great way to loose customers.

See… a few months back, a woman had parked out in front of the shop and her car had been damaged by a sign that had been blown by the wind. Now, this was not legally the fault of the store owner, since

the sign being blown over by the wind was an “act of god”, and was not the due to a failure or mistake on the part of the store. However, the repair bill was only $300. If the owner had told the woman that he was not liable for the damage, but was willing to pay it anyways, she would have gone home, told her friends about how helpful he was, and good word of mouth would have spread. Indeed it would have, since we learned that her husband was extremely active in the community.

Instead, the owner decided to ignore the problem for two months, and then vehemently denied any obligation to the woman. He even threatened to ban her from the store if she continued coming by, asking about a settlement. Now, instead of talking glowingly about the store to their friends, the people are taking the shop to small claims court. Its quite unlikely that they will win, but the lawyers costs alone, ignoring the owners time, will amount to more than the $300 she wanted. And, they definitely won’t hold back when telling their friends about how much of a dick the store was. Great.

So take a nice and simple lesson here – if you’re a business owner… play nice with your customers. And if the universe gives you an opportunity to make some good karma with the community… take the chance, burn some money, and get in on their good side. You never know when you might need their help in return.

Earthquakes, incoming!

So, as a previous entry read, Christchurch was hit with three major earthquakes while I worked at LiquorLand. Frst a 5.8, then a 5.3, and finally a 6.0, all of which shook us pretty impressively. There wasn’t much damage overall, though the 6.0 did knock over quite a few good craft beers and an entire stack of mediocre beers, we didn’t loose too many spirits or wines. In fact, one of the wine bottles actually jumped out of its shelf and landed (undamaged) in another shelf about half a meter (1.5 ft) away. A CLOSED SHELF. Yeah… still not exactly sure how that one happened.

But one good part can be taken from the quakes, and that’s a quote from the manager Paul.  Right when the third quake starts to hit, I hear him roar,

“Ohh FUCK OFF!”

Thats right… Paul’s first reaction, literally a second into a major earthquake, was to tell the quake to fuck off. That’s the way to be.

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

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My life in New Zealand – The flight out

Nov 19th

I’m leaving! So long United States; I am heading to New Zealand to adventure around the mountains, climb the cliffs, and conquer the world. Ok, not actually sure how conquering the world and New Zealand fit together, but you get the idea. I’d been wanting to head to New Zealand ever since I learned that Lord of the Rings had been filmed there, and having my friend Mike move out there in early 2010 only made it worse. To finally be boarding a plane in San Francisco to fly across the Pacific (ok, fly to LA first, but whatever) was an amazing feeling that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

My flight was split into three phases – first getting to LA to board the jumbo-jet that would fly me to New Zealand, then flying across the ocean to Aukland, and lastly flying from the Northern Island of New Zealand to the Southern Island and landing in Christchurch, where Mike was going to meet me. The first phase went nice and quickly, thanks to having a really fun plane-isle-mate sitting next to me – A professor of healthcare policy at UCLA, who happened to be really into rock climbing and hiking. Her and I chatted about politics and climbing, rock climbing with kids and living in California, and thanks to her the flight was landing in LA before I knew it.

The airport in LA was pretty simple in itself, but as I’ve learned, I have the worst luck with airports and leaving the country… and this flight was no exception. While I was at the gate trying to find out which city in New Zealand I would be going through customs in the airline scanned my passport to check on my visa (since I didn’t have a stamp). Well, they got confused, because “there’s no visa attached to this passport… you can’t enter New Zealand!”. Seriously. Thankfully I had printed out all of the confirmation information I had received from New Zealand, and with that information they were able to call NZ Immigration and check all of my information. The crux of the problem, it turned out, was that the visa was issued to my OLD passport, which had been stolen, and they had not transferred it over to the new one since the USA doesn’t hold information about foreign passports. Luckily I had gone to the help desk early enough, so they were able to work everything out, warning me that I may run into the same trouble in Auckland, but that all I needed to do was tell them the same story and it would be pushed through. I got the names of all the folks who helped me (hold-over from Sao Paulo – I learned that you should ALWAYS get the names of people, in case you need to call them out later) and boarded the plane to the Islands of the Kiwis’!

**Note – New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis’, so its not an insulting term like other national “nicknames” are. The more you know! **

Whew… a 13 hour flight is not a short flight, let me tell you. Fortunately I had prepared for this length of flight, and in my bag I had books, my laptop, lots of music for my headphones to blare into my ears, but most importantly I had a big bottle of Melatonin to help me pass out for most of the flight. I wrote for a while, read for a while, and ate for a while… and oh my lord did I eat. New Zealand air has AMAZING food… and free wine! I had figured out the time change for New Zealand, and decided that sleeping the last few hours of the flight would be the best way to make sure I didn’t have too much jet lag, and so after the meal I took a melatonin and curled up in the blankets to pass out for a few hours.

Sleeping through a flight does make the time go by, I’ll admit, but it also leaves you with a rather painful crick in your next. I spent the last hour of the flight reading and trying to stretch my neck back out, having only marginal success with either one thanks to the distraction of trying to to both… and the amazing scenery that I was seeing below me. New Zealand is… amazingly beautiful, to say the least. The land that we were flying over looked like the mountains of New Hampshire, except fully covered in grass and small trees with herds of sheeps grazing all over them. Amazing, to say the least.

After we landed in Auckland I brought myself through the gauntlet of immigration, which was just as difficult and annoying as predicted, thanks to my new passport. Fortunately all that needed to be done was filling out a few extra forms, talking to a few extra people, and waiting about a half hour extra… so it gave me a chance to relax and read a bit more after the flight. Once everything was sorted out I hauled my bags through customs, went through all of their bio-hazard screening (since I had outdoors gear) and finally made my way to the next terminal. I was actually feeling pretty good at this point, thanks to the nap I had taken on the plane, and so I walked the long way between terminals. A cool thing about New Zealand (or at least Auckland) is that the airport is large and sectioned off into multiple terminals, accessable by walking between the different buildings. So I took my time walking between the sections, admiring the plants and taking a few pictures of cool views.

Once I got to the next terminal I relaxed and cruised through the next stage of the flight; finally landing in Christchurch around noon New Zealand time. I chatted with my isle-mate while waiting for my bags to get through (he was a personal trainer specializing in Triathlons, cool stuff about training and working out), and once I had everything back in my arms I just hung out and enjoyed the scenery while waiting for my buddy Mike to get here after his classes were over.

It wasn’t a long wait, and before long Mike and I were driving down the street (on the wrong side… damn British Empire and your obsession with driving on the left) towards his place, and my next new adventures!