Costra Nostra

As if the presence of political operatives, spies, double agents and saboteurs weren’t enough, we now have nepotism. The aisles of Bait & Switch store are rife with intrigue.

The new manager-in-waiting  – who is really not waiting that much – installed her toy-boy boyfriend last week. He’s younger by decades, and of somewhat dubious provenance. He was on the phone to someone conversing about jail time and bail applications a couple of days ago; not the kind of milieu that inspires trust.

As you would expect, he’s acting not just as loverboy, but internal informant too. A snout, as the English would have it, with clear pathways to being a grass.

He’s taken a dislike to me, which has a couple of motives. The most likely is that he wants to needle me to the point of exasperation in the hope that I do something for which I can be fired. Ach, that’s not the worst thing. My disappearance would create a space for him to move up the (limited, meaningless) Ladder of Serfs. In turn, that means he’d be in line for more steps higher.

In time his relationship with her will disintegrate. He’s a nonce, a feckless dude on the make who is using her. She’s a dopey trollop with ambition and (in common with him I guess) is using him to an extent she would otherwise be  unable. I’m talking sex here.

Furthermore, she’s gradually surrounding herself with associates and friends from prior jobs. In that sense, there’s a lot of mafia-style manoeuvring, a kind of retail power-grab that the Gambino family would recognize. Hard to believe all this is happening in a simple bait shop.

Despite that, a key to the way this will all implode is the background of discontent swirling around the store. Poor pay, wretched schedules, sky-high expectations and pathetic conditions make not for a happy group. Infiltration cannot by definition include everyone; those who are beyond reach are still a majority, and as even the biggest Kool-Aid drinkers go on, they too will become disillusioned.

It’s gonna be fun to watch.


As jobs disappear and work possibilities shrink, I sense a lot more backstabbing will infect the workplace.

At Bait & Switch, we saw a blatant – and painful – example of this in the last week. One “colleague” ratted on another over the use of one word. One. Word. In a conversation that was supposedly private.

Unfortunately, the accused employee was fired. Of itself, that’s just the way of the world, but in this case, the witness stood to gain from that person leaving. In the days since, that guy’s joy at clearing his path to power is obvious. Others revealed to me his ambition, and, worse, the fact that this guy is a favorite of the managers.

A couple of cancer hotspots in the organization come to light here.  One is that there’s no stopping nepotism, favoritism and blatant front-running at work. When the robots reach critical mass, desperate people will do much more than this to keep a paid position. It’s gonna get brutal.

The other idea is that the model Bait & Switch works on will collapse eventually. Selling physical stuff, as they do, isn’t the basis of retail any more. Ideas and information is the retail proposition; value (cheapness) is expected. Witness the horror of the coupon.

Change is everywhere.

Binders and Bogans

Retail gives one a skewed view on the way we interact, fed, no doubt by the utter mindlessness of it all.

Take today, for instance. Sundays are coupon day, which means those who care about such things find themselves motivated to drive to Bait & Switch for a bargain. The “bargain” forces them into purchasing a specific type of bait for a small discount; one dollar on seven, to give the most consumer-friendly example.

The point is that inducements to purchase like this are not about creating a lasting vendor/customer relationship. They don’t move either party to greater understanding of the customer’s needs, nor do they encourage them to learn more about the range and quality of the vendor’s goods. It’s a strictly pro/john deal.

Which is all fine. Incongruence keeps the mind off-guard, but coupons are the opposite of integrating the new. Coupons reinforce the notion of the buyer (mistakenly, and delusionally) getting one over on the shopkeeper. The conceit is that there is some imperative for the price reduction, which is a patently absurd construct. But so is the human imagination/delusion complex.


I Don’t Agree

The Stalinist Soviet allowed no dissent, and neither does the Bait & Switch organization.

When the new boss arrived, he noted a doctored print ad someone had placed in the mess hall. It showed happy customers and smiling employees, to which some people attached pithy notes. As criticism goes it was so mild it actually looked like praise.

That’s gone now of course. The putsch to clean up malingerers and non-believers cleansed us all of any thoughts other than deification of the almighty owners and their politbureau. How could it be any other way?

It might be otherwise if someone understood that internal dissent is normal. It could also be the best management barometer of employee feelings. All the 360 degree review and other B-School nonsense won’t get to the hearts of people as much as watching the under-the-radar stuff, of the type recently removed.

You could even take that idea and go so far as to encourage open dissent. Provide a place for it – a whiteboard or similar – and critically, anonymity. Simply expressing a contra-viewpoint oftentimes relieves the pressure of daily work drudgery. Being heard, I think it’s called. Smart managers also listen.