A lesson learned sometime around the time Shakespeare was writing is that specialization is the way forward. William, for example, stuck to what he was good at and look at him now.

Look at Bait & Switch. Their strength is creating big stores selling bait to fishing addicts, and that’s what their focus should be. Right? Right. But they try to be all things to all anglers. Not only do the stores carry the cheapest bulk bait at wafer-thin margins, they also have high-end product for Richie Rich, that most desirable customer. We can serve both ends of the spectrum.

Except we can’t. Management require behavior that the Big Man expects when he’s spending a lot of money. That means spending time talking and hovering, cajoling and validating. However, they only staff and arrange the workload such that we floor people can only effectively stock, sign, tidy and deal with Mr Pickuptruck; he’s only interested in price.

We have two masters, which doesn’t work for either one. If you want to serve high-end folks, then set up an appropriately functioning store. If you you want to serve the dollar-conscious, likewise. Either way it’s mugs like me who get squished in the middle…all for no money. Blech.


Short shift today, 6.5 hours in the middle of the day. It should have been a doddle, a busy-ish Friday with everyone in a good mood.

It should have been, but there’s something about the new Store Manager that puts me on edge. As a colleague noted, the new management group takes this operation waaaaay too seriously. We’re selling to addicts; it’s not difficult. We can be relaxed and be just as profitable as being uptight and making the same amount of money. Let’s choose.

I can’t quite figure out what kept me off-balance, but I did get a partial resolution. At one point I sought some information from the SM on behalf of a customer, who was standing beside me. The enquiry was pretty boring, and it was unlikely he’d have a precise answer, but it was an opportunity for him to make a connection and possibly a positive impression.

The convo turned to baseball, and I made a mildly mocking comment…he says he loves whatever team the customer likes…which I thought was nicely inside baseball (ahem) and self-deprecating. It was a slow ball, center plate for him to hit out of the park. He had the opportunity to make himself look humble and sharp simultaneously, but no, he went the defensive route.


The customer walked right over it, but the point was made; he’s slightly insecure and not at all interested in taking the human route. Everything is flatly about profit and “serving the customer”. Just like a Stalinist.

Lord, save me.


The new Bait Shop manager is notable thesedays by his absence. Not that it bothers me; the fewer Stasi operatives floating around the place the better.

Flippant as I might appear, the parallel is more real than not. Policy, behavior, production, ways of talking, presentation, response…they’re all proscribed from on high. HQ dispenses solutions and requirements in precisely the same way as the Stalinist Soviet. Nothing is left to personal discretion or individual imagination. Who needs such imaginative elements when we’ve already thought of them?

Tonight, just before we shut up the joint, the closing manager revealed a telling fact. Someone (I’m certain the new store manager or his minion) expressed concern at the kind of jokes we bodies on the sales floor stretch out during the day. You know the kind of thing; a shared giggle at a shared reminiscence, or a mutual movie moment. It’s the kind of high-functioning process that people who can operate at different levels are able to carry off, and in fact need to keep occupied.

Retail sucks, particularly in this business and with this population. It’s a one-dimensional interaction with almost all customers. Oddly, management choose and hire people who can interact effectively with the 1% who require something more, which would be everyone on the current team.

So there’s the friction; most of everyone’s day is mundane and drab, but occasionally we rise to the challenge of a sentient customer. The trade-off is that we must amuse ourselves in the face of the awful standard consumer.

And that’s what they want to stop. You thought oligarchy was dead. Command and control is alive and well.

Ze Kooler

Control over employees is a necessary tool of corporate consistency.

For instance, McDonalds presumably requires certain behaviours surrounding hygiene, food production and service adhered to without question. Customers instinctively must know this too.  The ironclad rigidity of such important elements of – particularly – food preparation are part of the business and social contract. I agree to pay for this food on the basis that it won’t kill me. That kind of thing.

At the Bait Shop, the discipline is the same, but one wonders to what end. We’re not dealing with time sensitive products, for example. Yes, the bait will have a use-by date, but it’s not critical, and it won’t kill anyone. So why is the place so stiff?

In fairness, the structure of my day isn’t policed. It would actually be better if it were. Instead of a clear cut timetable, we floor people are left to spend our time as we see fit. There’s almost always something to do; it’s a big store and the only constant is stock in and out, so merchandising and cleaning are chores never completed.

Tension arises from the post hoc assessment of one’s choices. The new Boss is different from the last one, and in addition we have the Tool and Die person (Bait Manager) to make it all good. The plan appears to be relationship building…but nothing else can be neglected either.

It’s a gulag. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. No-one has responsibility, and everyone has responsibility. We all live or die on collective application or individual merit, depending. You’re off to the cooler for this choice, and praised for this one. Life’s quality depends upon the mood of your jailer.

The chaos exists because it’s (self-evidently) chaotic at the top. Shit flows downhill, as the famous Chinese proverb does, and, being at the bottom,  I’m drowning in it.