Sales Blind

New depths of dummery at the Bait & Switch store yesterday.

It was, BTW, my 7th day straight. Did I mention that?

At our morning scrimmage, the fact of our traffic (retail term for “people”) was down around 10% for the previous day. That’s an enormous number, and yet our average transaction value was up 7%, retail for the traffic spending more per person than the day before.

What shocked me was the congratulatory tone about increased sales of large-format earthworms. Perhaps I should explain: earthworms come in two standard sizes, namely 750 ml and 1.5 l containers. Traditionally the best bait comes in the smaller size and bulk, lower quality bait ships in the larger.

Being a bait and switch operation, even this segment isn’t immune to the Earthworms Direct shenanigans. ED has its own brands, but because no-one in the store cares about bulk items – nor the bogans who buy it – sales of National Brand bait dominate.

For unknown reasons, I spent Sunday and Monday repairing and stocking that aisle of the store. Lo and behold, the sales went up, aided by a 12 case (12 container) online order. And yet the managers were very pleased with themselves based on the resulting daily sales increase. The utter ignorance and non-recognition of what’s happening IN THEIR STORE is breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking.



The awful delusion at the Bait Shop continued apace yesterday.

I arrived to some kind of “gold” or “yellow” theme, designed to highlight the similarly-colored shelf-tags that delineate Earthworms Direct products. In some kind of quality management strategy, the entire world was littered with coupons reducing the price of all in-house products by 20%. There was a minimum purchase size, but for most of our benighted patrons, that was no obstacle.

The effect in the store was of a couple of dozen 50-seat buses arriving at the door every hour disgorging the sick, the indigent, the frail, the weak, the…oh crap, they’re just OLD and CANTANKEROUS…all desperate to feed their habit at a discount. What is it about coupons that raise the curtain on the poorest examples of human behaviour?

In any case, the Earthworm Manager was crowing all day about our numbers, a singular case of self-delusion as bad as I’ve yet seen. Of COURSE we sold a ton of this shit: IT’S ON SALE.  ONE FIFTH OFF.

Additionally, he posits sales targets for each day. Yesterday my target was to sell 15 units of a particular kind of Argentinian earthworm. This is so counter to the way one builds a business. People just don’t buy cases of an unknown product. First, introduce the idea, then get them to fold their life around it and after a while they’ll want to keep it as such.

It’s the Tony Robbins idea: we overestimate what we can do today, and underestimate what we can to in ten years. Slowly slowly catchee monkey.

That’s all lost on this crowd of bogans.

McLaren Vale

On the grape acceptance hopper. Grape type unknown.

Pete’s car was called the Gelato Wagon. Either an HT or an HK Kingswood, it was quite the modern wonder at the time. She was named that in deference to the three-tone colour scheme; bubble-gum blue, polar white and complete tack.

The Italian boys – Giordano Rossetto & Lorenzo Comassetto -who owned Valle D’Oro distributors bought the car for him. it was one of a number that marked my early childhood: waiting for dad to come home with the new car was excruciatingly exciting, so much so that I can still smell those long-chain plastic interiors.

Hard to imagine now just how exotic Italian culture was in Adelaide in the 60s and 70s. Those lads imported all kinds of amazing stuff like olives, anchovies and strange salty cheese, not to mention that they had their own industrial-strength pasta machines. The wonderful smell of semolina flour….mmmmmm.

In addition to (my under-described) food business, they owned a winery in McLaren Vale. Thesedays it’s the Middlebrook Winery but back then it was an amazing warren of open fermentation tanks, pipes, hoses and an amazing basket press that I remember pushing gorgeous juice out of dark red-black skins.

That photo was at the front of the winery, and it must have been February for the hopper to have been that full. For the life of me I can’t remember the grape variety, only that it was Italian. Later, when Dalgety bought out the Italian boys and corporatised the whole smash, they pulled the vines and re-planted.

What might have been had they left those wonders from the motherland be.


The gap between the Bait Shop managers and we workers is clear: we are paid $10 or so per hour, and they get paid a lot more.

Yeah, not much insight there, other than their incentives are different as well. We have no real motivation to do anything more than our jobs. Sales targets are nothing more than abstract numbers, numbers we can influence, but with no upside for us.

Managers benefit from improved or improving numbers they anchor promotion and pay and possibly bonuses. The link between improving numbers for, say, an Earthworms Manager and the likelihood of him obtaining his own store is ephemeral at best, but it must exist.

Our Earthworms Manager drew my attention to his requirement for solid Earthworms Direct numbers only during my six monthly check-up a couple of weeks ago. He’s hopeful of his own store, but needs to prove himself here first.

The problem is that his motives and mine aren’t aligned. I can stop him from reaching the best numbers possible, just as I can help him achieve the best: the key is that doing one or the other makes no difference to me. Our lives don’t change a bit if we go all out to get him his dream, but he can’t do the same for us.

It’s a problem, this alignment conundrum. Solve it, and you have an unstoppable organization.