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Mr. Profit

February 19, 2009
I have been out of retail for more than ten years now. If you have never worked in retail you cannot understand the world that most retail workers live in. When you are in retail you see yourself as having a normal job. You think those above you are successful and aspire to get to their level. Everyone below or equal to you is a threat and you want to keep him or her down. Everyone outside of retail considers you a joke.

The retail big shots (for this article big shots are the people above store level who do not have to work in a store) think they are the stars of the world and that they single handedly control how well the chain does and the people who work in the stores are idiots to be discarded and terrorized at will.

Recently the retail company I had worked for went out of business. When I had started working there around 20 years ago this company was very successful. They staffed their stores well. There were usually 2 or 3 workers in the department they operated at any given time. The customers were happy because they could always get the help they needed and the departments were usually neat and clean. They also had huge profit margins. An average item would be a pair of shoes from China that they would buy for around a nickel a pair and sell for 5 dollars or more.

As time went by this company really lost its way. First they started getting more and more big shots. Then they cut payroll in all their stores. Then sales started shrinking and they cut more payroll. The departments became a mess and inventory remained in the stockroom because of lack of payroll, so sales continued to shrink. As sales continued to shrink more big shots were hired to try to correct the problems and more store level employees were fired to save payroll. By the time I left there wasn’t even enough hours to staff the place during all open hours. It became a vicious circle that never stopped until the company recently lost its contract and dissolved.

The company’s vice president in charge of operations last name was Profit. That is actually pretty funny. Mr. Profit would constantly tour the stores and usually they would look great, so Mr. Profit would cut more payrolls. The problem, was that Mr. Profit would always let it slip what stores he was going to go to, so the district managers would always take all their managers into the stores he was going to beforehand, in order to make them look great, while all the other stores pretty much were unshoppable.

The district managers would also threaten the store managers by saying Mr. Profit was coming. This would cause the store managers to work for free to clean up their stores then Mr. Profit would never show up. I became wise to this and would never believe the district manager. If Mr. Profit was really coming, I knew the district manager would send in the other managers to clean up my store. The other managers were definitely not as smart as I was. One of my closest friends worked at the company up until the end and would work at least 20 hours a week for free just so his department would look good, in case Mr. Profit came to town. In those 20 years he probably saw Mr. Profit 3 times.

Now Mr. Profit had started with the company as a store manager back in the early days when the company still staffed its departments well and worked his way to the top, so its hard to tell if by the time he got there was just stupid and did not know what was going on or if he had some naked pictures of the CEO with a barnyard animal in a safe somewhere and knew no matter how bad things got his job was safe. Even a year before the company ended he received a million dollar bonus to stay. Why did he never go to stores unannounced so he could see how things really were?

Every day now you read about another retail company laying off its workers. Sometimes it’s the big shots, but most of the times it’s the small time workers. With competition fierce for every dollar these companies need to realize the customer doesn’t care about the big shots, they care about the stores and their experience in the stores. Unfortunately, though they can never realize this, because the big shots are the ones who make the decisions. We all know that if you have a choice to keep a high paying job and firing low-level workers or losing your job what you would do. It’s just sad.