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The Interview: Peter Jetson

When Grant Harding asked Peter Jetson if he would be The Interview this week, he responded that he was “tickled pink” to be asked. He knew it was the result of the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (Peter) influence the future of that individual. Not that he would have used those words. Simply put, it was karma – the result of his unique customer service at The Warehouse. Interview arranged, Grant walked away, only to hear behind him the exclamation “woohoo”.

Peter Jetson is still working on the skills many of us take for granted.

Reading, writing, spelling and maths have not come easily to him. A Mastertonian all his life, he left school without any qualifications.

“Back then my learning capabilities and my learning difficulties didn’t really let me go that far. I was very slow at learning.”

While at Makoura College, Peter remembers going out on a work experience placement and being offered a job. It fell through. He still doesn’t know why. Then for the next few years he went from course to course to course.

“Orcharding course, forestry course, organics course, just general things to keep me motivated.”

But no jobs materialised.

“I probably didn’t ask the right questions to the right people at the time,” he says.

Then, aged 20, came the defining moment of his life. On December 4, 1995 he started fulltime work at The Warehouse Masterton, then in Perry St.

Last Tuesday, aged 43, he celebrated 23 years as an employee of the red shed, at the current site on the corner of Chapel and Russell streets.

Yes, he has met the founder, Sir Stephen Tindall, on the occasion he received his 20th anniversary certificate.

“I shook his hand.”

But if there was one person he could invite to dinner it would be Sir Peter Jackson because of “what he’s achieved, the movies he’s made, the things he’s done in the community”.

“He gives back. He’s an inspiring New Zealander.”

Owning a property in Wairarapa adds to the knight’s luster, according to Peter.

“There are good things in Wairarapa if you look deep enough. It’s home. I know where my roots are.”

Peter’s worked in the storeroom and the night fill team but has spent the past few years on the day shift in the furniture department – although he has a roving commission.

How many days a week does he work? He counts off Sunday to Thursday on his fingers. “Five.”

On Friday he would have been at UCOL where he’s taking a literacy programme. He’s 21 pages into a work of fiction – “my story”.

“I have to give thanks to my work colleagues and the staff over at UCOL. They’ve given me the motivation, because it’s been a bit on and off for the last four or five years. I’m improving on my spelling, improving on my reading and writing which used to be really horrible and really slow, and with my career being here, I’ve had to do maths because of handling money and giving back change, and that has helped considerably

“It’s just given me the motivation and the courage to do some stuff I couldn’t do.”

“Perseverance” is his word. He still lacks computer skills, can read and write “to a certain extent but there’s always room for improvement”, and he’s getting on top of the job that he was once “terrified of” – the checkout.

Meeting the challenge is important, he says, because it leads to new challenges.

One thing Peter Jetson can do expertly, however, is customer service.

It was indirectly that I first heard about him. On the last Sunday in November I was working, so I asked my partner if she would buy me a television. When she was at The Warehouse I texted her and said, “and a microwave”. And just for good measure, “an outdoor table setting and umbrella”. Pushing it? She loves shopping.

Peter came in on the latter. Outdoor furniture is in the highway he patrols.

Not content with my “forest green” umbrella choice, Rebecca asked if he could find a “taupe” model. In the storeroom he went through the entire pile only to find the last remaining taupe umbrella at the bottom.

Then he helped load her Mazda 6 to the brim.

On the Wednesday we went back to pick up the table top. Peter was The Warehouse staff member tasked with releasing the trailer. I knew nothing of the Sunday service.

On our walk he was asked a question by a couple and sent them off in the right direction. Outside he was rudely interrupted by an impatient woman. He took it in his stride, dealt with her request for assistance in a flash, then came over to help me load the trailer.

When I returned it, we gave each other the thumbs-up as we passed. Then Rebecca told me about the previous day.

Everybody has a story.

The first thing I noted about Peter as I began to interview him was that he’d combed his hair. I’d wondered if he would. He’s a people pleaser, and the customers are his people.

“I love the customers. The feedback I get from some of them is nice and that gives me the drive.

“I’ve got a motto: ‘If you need help, I’ll give you that help as best I can’. Maybe I might not be able to help you a lot, but I will try to the best of my ability.

“If I can’t do it, it’s probably out of my capability.

“I know that once a customer’s gone away happy I’ve done my job. If karma comes back to me then I really know I’ve done my job. It could be another customer, through word of mouth. But I don’t expect it.”

Peter knows The Warehouse back to front, and side to side.

Where do you find picture hooks?

“Aisle 47.”

Where do you find shampoo?

“Grocery, aisles 2 and 3.”

Where would I find a microwave?

A bit of counting, with the hands pointing, then, “back wall of 22/23”.

That recall is sure to be tested in the coming weeks – the crazy season has begun. Peter says it runs far beyond Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year as people spend the money and vouchers they’ve received right through to the end of January.

“It is mad. It is chaos. For the employees it can be crazy. You’re having people wanting things left, right and centre, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But I do keep up.

“You’re expected to be here, there and everywhere. But some customers do understand that I can’t be in several places at once and they’re quite happy with that.

“It’s the business. Sometimes you need about four or five of me which is no fault of the company. It’s just the way it rolls.”

Peter lives with his Mum and Dad, Patrick and Diane, in Church St.

“I’ve had a few relationships – a few partners . . . it hasn’t worked out, unfortunately for me.”

He has a younger brother, David, who lives in Feilding, and is married with children.

Outside work Peter’s interests include collecting old bank notes and coins, and volunteering at motorsport events.

“I like flag marshalling. They sometimes have rallies through New Zealand that come to Wairarapa. I’m a timekeeper.”

It’s an interesting hobby considering he doesn’t have a driver’s licence. I don’t ask him why – but, ‘learning difficulties are learning difficulties’ flashes through my mind.

There’s no complaint in his voice about his almost daily walk to work – 20 to 25 minutes each way. Occasionally he gets a lift from a colleague.

Then he says something that makes my ears prick up.

“I’ve got a fascination for wolves.”

As I have a wolf statue, wolf ring, and my annual calendar is a wolves calendar, we are now kindred spirits. Reading and documentaries have informed him about their habits.

“It’s just interesting. How they survive, how they keep themselves going as packs, it’s just fascination.”

The wolf pack put the strong at the front and the back, the weakest – the old, the sick and the injured – are right in the middle. Fascinating, indeed.

Christmas Day is a day off – “Nobody works Christmas Day – it’s one day when we don’t work!”

This year he’s also having Boxing Day off. He’s earned it.

“I’m going to spend [Christmas Day] with Mum and Dad. We’ve got traditions – we put flowers on each of our family members graves. Then we’ll go home, and I’ll have a few beers with Dad.

“Just chill out for those two days. If I’m not having a beer with Dad on Boxing Day, I’ll be helping my dad’s friend with wood. He’s a wood merchant. Helping load the trailer. I do it for fun.”

Peter’s ‘poison’ is Double Brown.

“It’s cheaper. It’s what I’ve been drinking all my life. On the odd occasion Tui, just whatever’s going.”

Then it will be back to work, to continue his 24th year of service.

“It’s a good effort,” he says of the recently achieved milestone.

“It does mean a lot to me.

“It’s given me employment and income. It means happiness. It’s given me confidence. It’s given me a sense of getting up every day. It’s given me a sense of wondering what’s going to happen for that day. Am I going to have all happy customers?

“It can be up and down – disheartening when customers are not happy.

“But I love the variety, the not knowing who is going to come through that door and what help they’re going to need.

“I do give credit where it’s due. All the managers that have been in this store, they’ve given me that opportunity.

“I do appreciate that. I do have to put out there a thank you to everybody that’s given me my career.

“It’s an excellent place to be. For me, anyway.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Peter, you really are an absolute star. For as long as I have known you (at least since East School, maybe even Kindy) you have always had the most amazing attitude, a smile whenever you can and the way that no matter how busy you are you will always stop and say Hi. If there were more people like you who were so genuine and caring, who really go out of their way just to be the best person that they can be then I think things would be so much better.
    So proud of you getting in there and putting in the hard yards with your learning….and yes, your customer service is outstanding. Merry Christmas Peter to you and your family x

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