Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Peanut Detail

Some of you are probably wondering exactly what I've been doing in the month since I've disengaged from my previous job. For all you know, I suppose, I could be performing missionary work in southern Ethiopia, filming embedded journalists in Beirut, or modeling nude for a photographer in Marikina City.

I can tell you, however, that the truth is far more mundane.

I'm tracking peanut sales.

As some of you probably already know, my mother runs a small bakeshop with branches sprinkled around the Metro Manila area (three of them, to be exact). What you most likely don't know, however, is that one of these branches sells peanuts as a sideline. The peanuts come in two bottled varieties -- spicy and non-spicy -- and sell at a more or less regular pace, mostly to out-of-towners looking for a little something to chew on.

No, we don't make the peanuts ourselves -- we're a bakery, after all. Instead, we buy the product in bulk from somewhere outside Manila and sell the peanuts at a profit. What's weird is the possibility that the people buying them might even be the very same people who are growing them in the first place... but we try not to think about things like that.

The peanuts are still merely a sideline, however, and we watch their sales very closely in case demand suddenly starts to drop off for any reason at all. The last thing we need, of course, is a roomful of bottled peanuts that we can't sell. This close scrutiny, along with the fact that I'm not obviously doing anything at the moment, is what landed me my current role in the peanut detail.

What I do is actually fairly simple: The sales figures from the bakeshop's head office arrive every evening at around 9:30 pm. Somewhere among this mishmash pile of papers, greasy bills and petty cash vouchers is a sealed paper package marked "Peanuts", and every night I spend more than a few minutes looking for the silly little thing.

The peanut figures, of course, are nothing more than a hastily scribbled set of numbers detailing the day's sales and inventory status. Apart from noting the number of bottles sold for each type, however, they also include the monetary sales totals for the day, the quantity of products remaining in the current inventory, and extra notes with regards to customers or incoming orders. After a few days at the job, I found that the task didn't just involve copying numbers into little columnar notebooks; It also involved an eye for the more subtle tasks, like knowing when the branch needed a restock or predicting sudden periods of demand. (Any promo by the beer companies, I'm told, results in frantic requests for more nuts.)

After noting down the numbers in two different notebooks, I then proceed to weigh them against figures from the past few days, as well as figures from the same monthly period in previous years. In the event that something seems amiss or even remotely imminent, I'm required to write a short note and enclose it with my report for the next morning; For a small bakeshop, they're remarkably concerned about details in this regard. On the other hand, however, that's what I would probably expect from a sideline that has absolutely nothing to do with baked goods in the first place.

Now that I've described the entire scenario to you, I'll have to admit that I don't see myself working this detail forever. The possibility of working a nut-based sideline may cause your ears to prick up the first time you hear about it, but after a few weeks on the job, it becomes just another boring task that steals away fifteen minutes of your life each evening.

Don't get me wrong, though. There's probably a lot more to this aspect of work, and it's probably a lot more interesting from alternative points of view. When your duties boil down to writing down and comparing numbers on oily scraps of paper, however, then it's easy for the boredom to start setting in.

And of course, because this happens to be a family business, I'm getting little in the way of compensation out of the entire deal. That's quite a far reach for someone who was once pulling in five figures as a six-year veteran of project management.

All of that just goes to show you one thing, I think:

I'd rather not work for peanuts.



Dominique said...

So, I guess that makes you...a bean counter?

Mwa ha ha ha!

Sean said...

Dominique: No, it just means that I'm going nuts. :)