Addicted

Fishermen are addicts. Being a fisherman so afflicted means you need bait, the nourishment of the great need, a need that Bait & Switch is only too happy to feed.

The morality of accommodating – nay, promoting! – such a thing is up to the individual. There are worse things, but there are better ways to make a living too. It’s legal; at a minimum, and with that one can be satisfied.

Managing the multi-outlet business that is B&S would be a fairly straightforward process. At least that’s what one would imagine. Customers go to a physical store (a Superstore, no less) to purchase their requirements from a vast array. Keep the stores supplied, clean and staffed. As a backbone, it’s pretty clear.

What’s perplexing is the hiring policy. Bait knowledge and expertise is relatively rare. People experienced with the various aspects of bait, production, and what you as a customer might need to satisfy your interest exist, but they’re mostly off in more lucrative endeavors. Retail is the trailer-park cousin in this family.

On the other hand, the skills of retail – excuse me, Big Box retail – are plentiful, what with retail being supplanted by Amazon all over the place. B&S continually employs many retail refugees, which makes sense…except that they have almost zero knowledge of the products. If you don’t fish, or have never fished, or don’t even know one end of a fish from the other, what place is there for you in a chain of stores selling bait to fishermen?

The answer is obvious: Welcome! If you know how to run a cash register and have some knowledge of how to suck up to corporate gods, you’re in. In a blatant example of such madness, our new Bait Manager at the store is a non-fisherman, non-bait non-outdoors type. As a prior alumnus of a related business, (a shop manager for Christmas decorations (sarcasm)), it’s obvious what skills this person brings to our group.

Obviously we’re talking about the difference between importing “talent” and nurturing it from within. This extreme case means that I will earn half the money of a person who has an infinity less knowledge.

Is not that a riddle?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

At 8:00 this morning the officers and troops of the Bait & Switch store gathered to hear him. Yes, the New Broom wanted an hour with us all to provide his insights from two weeks of observation and synthesis.

Forgive the sarcasm. The predictability of this kind of managerial imperialism removes most of its power and the message contained within neuters what remains. Nothing motivates poorly-paid peasants like the word unless.

His problem is that year-on-year traffic (in normal English, the number of people walking into the store) is down around 10%. At B&S HQ, that means an automatic reduction of staffing hours. The correlation was something like for each person we anticipate $100 of sales, so that if we’re down 2000 people we lose 3 full-time employees. Or equivalent. You get the idea.

Let’s get this straight. I’ve been there less than eight months. Because of either poor store position choice, or poor prior management, or poor current management, or cannibalization from the new, other store, I am being threatened with loss of my job. In his words “those who remain will be asked to more with less”.

Oookay.

Simultaneously, we’re going to enforce Victorian-era dress standards, reduce any subversive muttering to zero and learn the name of every customer within ten feet. Say what?

Yep, that’s the secret to our future success. Unlike every other superstore, where anonymity keeps everyone at a (civil) arm’s length, we’re going to become best buds with the addicted arseholes who darken the stoop. More than that, we’ll be handing out business cards and learning what hijinx they’re up to on the weekends.

Nonsense. It’s a reason for the mismatch of expectation and reality, that the clarity of purpose here is lost. If you want a bespoke wine shop, you have to staff, train and equip accordingly. If you think a superstore is the way to go, ditto, but ne’er the twain shall meet.

Whatever happens, it’s gonna be interesting.

And a quick word on subversion. Like every totalitarian authority from Stalin to Castro, the watchword is to watch out for dissenters. The complete foolishness of this play should be obvious to any reader of history; embrace those who don’t agree with you, and laugh with them. That’s the way to diffuse their power.

Ah, but I see my mistake now. All that reading and applying of historical lessons has no place in the world of Bait & Switch.

Corporate Arseholery

Bait & Switch is not a seasonal business; the market in which I live is. One inevitable consequence of large swings in customer numbers (although interestingly, not sales) is that fewer of us are needed on the floor. You know where this is heading; hours are down.

The scheduling is arcane, chaotic and plain unfriendly at the best of times. Now it has all of those qualities in barely two thirds of a full-time employee’s regular hours. This is making for some very unhappy bunnies, and rightly so. High season expectations are high and met by we peons; low season reality does not involve reciprocity.

There are all kinds of ways to look at this, but mine is to wrap the dissatisfaction in a blanket and store it somewhere. One has to look after onesself at all times (when one’s power is usurped by the corporate beast) but absolute power is limited. So guerilla tactics are appropriate, as is timing.

In any case, without the ability to change the number of hours one is allocated, try another path. Manipulating opportunity is a valuable skill. Notwithstanding, it doesn’t change the complete arseholery of the owners.

Promises and Lies

In a company that pays little and expects much, a tactic to keep people is to lie to them.

Two cases in point affected me in the few months I’ve been toiling here. The first time was at my six month “review”, at which I made it clear that I wanted more money.

Manager: Is there anything I can do for you?

Me: Pay me more.

Manager: I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.

Result: Nothing.
The other circumstance is more clearly a lie.

Supervisor: I am going to make sure you are rewarded for sales success.

Me: Great.

Supervisor: What do you want? Bait? Tackle? Food?

Me: More money.

Supervisor: I’ll work it out.

 

Now that sales are up (a lot) you’d think there’d be some kind of feedback apart from the obligatory “good job” and a fist bump. Nope. Being strung along is another dispiriting element of working for buttholes.