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Rita Bilamejian

Attempting to put all of the products in place on the rack.

A day as a distributor

See how the products you buy get to the shelves

December 11, 2015

It was exactly 5 a.m. when my mom woke me up. “Wake up and get dressed,” my mother,  Marina Bilamejian said. “It’s time to go to work.” As I reluctantly awoke from my deep sleep and saw the break of dawn, I knew that I had a long day ahead of me.

I quickly dressed, ate my breakfast and sat down to check my phone when I saw my mom calling me that we were late.

My mother and I walked to the van which held the sweets — muffins, danishes and cookies — of the BonAppetit company and drove off to our first gas station, one of the 18 stops we had for the day. It was about a half hour drive and I was already annoyed from the long car drive.

Preparing the products and putting them in boxes for the store.
Rita Bilamejian
Preparing the products and putting them in boxes for the store.

When we finally arrived to a 76 gas station in Azusa we went inside, said our hellos and walked to the section of the store where my mom’s products were. She decided how many products were needed on this day and immediately recorded this on her hand-held device. (This device is like a portable computer where it shows the stops of the distributor and is used to make an invoice of the number of products needed for each stop.) With a portable printer in tact, my mother printed the invoice and we walked to the van to prepare the delivery.

To get started, my mother explained to me that all the products are in boxes. In order to complete the delivery, one needs to look at the invoice and get the same number of products. For example, 18 cheese and berry danishes were needed for the first store; thus I took 18 danishes from the van placed them in a box. This part, in my opinion, was the easiest, though one needs to move fast.

After preparing the delivery, we needed to put the expiration dates on all of the products with a price gun. Next we counted the number of products we had prepared to make sure they matched the total on the invoice and took them inside.

My mom yet again counted the products to the cashier in the gas station to show that the delivery was accurate, and we began to organize them on the rack. Putting the products on the rack was fairly easy, as one needs to push the old products front and the new in the back; it was difficult to fit all the products while making them look nice.

When my mom and I were finished with the delivery, the cashier gave a check for the cost of the products and we were off to the second store. This process usually takes 15 minutes, depending of the availability of the cashier and also the number of products delivered for the store. If the cashier is not busy then it would take two minutes for them to give the check; however, it can take up to 15 minutes just for the whole exchange to take place if there are a lot of customers in the store. If the number of products are small it would usually take 10 minutes to organize them all in place, but if it’s a large delivery, over a 100 products, it would take as long as 20 minutes to put each product in place.

The same pattern continued for 18 stores, and by the last one I couldn’t even walk. It was 3 p.m. and I couldn’t wait to get home. It was then when I knew how difficult my parents’ job was. Not only is waking up early in the morning every day exhausting, but so too is  carrying numerous cases of products from one place to another.

While working with my mother, I thought about the type of customers this business has and how many are willing to come to a gas station to purchase them. According to Boostmyproduct.com, 1,100 customers come to a local gas station per day. Clearly, many people visit a gas station each day and buy different products, some of which are the products my parents distribute.

Final rack of the Bon Appetit products for that store.
Rita Bilamejian
Final rack of the Bon Appetit products for that store.

At our last stop, cashier Tamar Parseghian, working at Arco AM/PM, said, “Your parents are one of the best distributors I have ever met. They are always on time and make the cashiers’ lives so much easier. I have full faith in them.”  Parseghian explained that not all distributors can be trusted, as they might steal from the store, such as putting fewer products in the store than they had written in the invoice.

“It’s a tiring job,” my mom says, “but I can’t sit around all day in an office. Those kind of jobs are not for me.” My father, Viken Bilamejian, who also works this business on different days, agrees. “It can be difficult, at times but I’m happy with that.”

While working with my mother I realized, for the first time, that many distributors from different companies deliver products. Though distributors always distribute their products, they often deliver them early in the morning and therefore most people do not see or notice them. However, according to CeritProSolutions.com, about 24 percent of manufacturers are distributors, a huge percentage compared to the fact that customers don’t see distributors very often.

Another distributor, Misak Fazilian, had recently bought one of the Bon Appetit routes last year. “I was really surprised about the job,” Fazilian said. “It turned out to be really different from any other job I had worked it.”

Junior Christine Ohanyan’s father also works in the Bon Appetit company as a distributor. She like me, went to work with her father, Pargev Ohanyan. ” It’s cool to see my dad in action,” she said. “I can’t believe he spends all his day on the road.”

Bon Appetit, a bakery for French pastry, is the “on-the-go” baker in North America. Buying their route in 2008, my parents have worked in the distribution business for nearly a decade. Being professionals at the business, they work to make their service the absolute best.

My parents go to work every day, Monday to Friday, and some days are longer than others. For example, Wednesday, the longest day of all, has 20 gas stations that need delivery, while Friday, the shortest day, has eight. Though my parents work Monday through Friday distributing the baked goods, they also need to go to the Bon Appetit company to restock the products they run out of during the week. They count the number of products they have and then determine how much is necessary for the following days. SInce they work long days, my parents usually work on Sunday too, in order to get the products since they do not have any deliveries on Sunday.  

One of the best advantages of the job include that there is not a specific time that my parents need to go to work. Whether they wake up at 5 a.m or 10 a.m. doesn’t matter. They simply need to go to the specific stores they have on each day and get the job done. However, my parents choose to wake up early in order to come home early. If they go to work at 10 a.m. then they would be home around 6 p.m. versus going to work at 5 a.m. and coming home at 3 p.m.

The disadvantage of this business is that there are no set vacation days. If a distributor is not able to go to work, they need to make arrangements usually by going to the store the day before, in order to make up the day they missed. Thus, it is hard for my parents to miss a day of work, as they will need to work extra hard the day before to miss that day. Despite these complications, my parents are able to take vacations once in awhile.

Distributors often face long term challenges. Because of their work, most distributors have knee problems and most will even need surgery in the future. My mothe,r a distributor for almost a decade, has begun to experience some of this pain as her knees hurt after a long day of work.

“There are some difficulties and challenges that come with the distribution business,” says Bilamejian. “But I don’t have a choice. It’s my job and I love it.”

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