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In the trenches: Grocery getter: Miller keeps Aldi warehouse running smoothly

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — A voice booms into her headset: “Aisle 5, slot 15. Repeat check digits. Take four.”

She pulls four items and replies: “Four OK.”

Monica Miller is picking groceries at the Aldi Warehouse in East Spencer as she has done for 16 years. The computerized voice in the headset tells her where to go all day long.

She zooms around the warehouse on her tugger, following directions from her headset, pulling groceries and placing them on the pallet on her tugger. When the pallet is full, standing a little over 5 feet high, she takes it to the plastic wrap stand and wraps it. Then she delivers it to the truck bay to be picked up. All the pallets in a particular truck bay will be delivered to an Aldi store.

A tugger is an electric vehicle, like a smaller version of a forklift. The operator stands on the front of the device, twisting the handlebars to go forward or reverse.

The Aldi warehouse hasn’t been in our community too long, and with 16 years under her belt, Monica is an old-timer. She really enjoys her work.

“I like what I do. I love putting puzzles together, and that’s how I look at it. It keeps me in shape. You get an order, you know how to pick the order; no one is over your shoulder. It’s a challenge, to get it done in time. I like a challenge. I still like putting puzzles together to this day.”

She defines a bad day as one when she spills a pallet.

“Sometimes you build a good pallet; sometimes you build a shaky pallet. I try to build it good and steady, but sometimes I don’t. I drop one about once a year. Sometimes people drop them a lot.”

She smiles. “Sometimes it’s the same people.”

The biggest challenge in her work is to combine speed with accuracy. Monica is a careful person, thinking before she speaks. Accuracy is her preference, but there are goals for how quickly one builds the pallets. Sometimes that’s a challenge.

The work has built some serious guns on her. She’s quite petite but biceps bulge from her Aldi smock. Her health is good and she “very much” thinks having a physical job helps her stay healthy.

Monica is a family-centered woman. She lives with her mom and her 13-year-old son Donavan.

“My mother is a sweet, wonderful kind person,” she says. “On break, I call and check on her. People say I exaggerate, but truly she is wonderful. If I forget my knee brace, she brings it. If my son needs anything at school, she’s right there.”

She continues. “She is the reason I’m the woman I am. She has been there every step of the way. When I have to make a decision, I try to think like her. I thank her often for how good she is, bringing out good stuff in me. She is one of a kind. If there is anything I can do for her, I would.”

And she does. Monica’s taking the family on a cruise next year. For her mom’s birthday, she paid off her car.

Her son is her heart, she says.

“He’s a good kid. He doesn’t ask for nothing, has everything he could want. He has a motorcycle, and his own things. I will always take care of my son. He’s funny. He used to be really shy but now he has a great sense of humor. He’s like me – he stays out of trouble.”

In her spare time she likes to ride bikes with her son, play basketball or shop with her mom. She prefers Lifetime movies on TV, “watching women do stupid stuff.”

The day at Aldi that stands out in her mind the most was “Happy Day,” when management had a meal catered and had a dunking booth so employees could dunk supervisors. “People would throw the beanbag down, run up and just hit the target with their hand to dunk them.”

Monica highly recommends the distribution center.

“It’s a great place to work. Teaching people responsibility. People put their heads on right. I see people who used to get a ride to work with their mama, now they’re driving a nice car. Cars have expenses. People are learning how to take responsibility. All these rules teach them responsibility, too.”

The job takes a little flexibility – employees are sometimes asked to work late and may be asked to come in early. Overall, she is really pleased to work there.

“We’re very close here. Once you learn people in here, you want to keep up with them. We are happy. We smile and wave, say, ‘hi.’ People don’t have an attitude. It works out real good.”

The closeness was evident when Monica’s dad passed away four years ago. Friends from work came to her home and Aldi sent flowers. She still gets a little choked up talking about it.

Monica’s supervisor is Sid Fleury, who has only praise.

“I have worked with Monica for over 16 years and during that time Monica has always exemplified the traits of an extraordinary associate. Monica works hard and always gives 100 percent effort. She is easy to get along with, flexible and willing to help those around her. I believe that Monica understands the importance of her role and willingly accepts the responsibilities that come with the job. We are truly grateful to have her on our team!”

As to the future, Monica is happy where she is. “I’ve done a lot of jobs in here. I thought about auditing, but I don’t know. I’m pretty comfortable picking groceries right now. I’m planning on sticking around here as long as I can. As long as they’ll let me be here.”

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