Color Me Satisfied for Economics of T’giving Sales

Whatever negatives I espoused before Wednesday, I decided to quit any bitching and just produce the final two days, ride Black Friday like a bad boy and see what kind of a sprint we’d need Saturday to achieve Nautica bonus. I admit being TOTALLY wrong about just hanging for several hours–in fact, almost exactly half of $6000 volume came between 12-3am. Happy to report only ONE butthead customer in 12 hours, must be some kind of record.

The ONLY disappointing thing that’s happened since sitting down at 12:30 with brother Steve and doing traditional cigar (a solid Baccarat) & wine as turkey deep fried and discussing/observing Ryan’s bow-hunting, through terrifically entertaining 25 or so persons gathering where everyone understood my having to dine ‘n dash at 7:00 because of overnight shift, 5 delightful hours sleep afterwards, a smattering of college rivalry games like Washington St.’s overtime comeback win against Washington, another short but productive work day, and a Sunday morning cheese omelet and amaretto in my coffee was watching last two USC drives die pitifully on the Notre Dame goal line.

Everyone else was in red shirts at midnight, but I’m guessing I was identifiable to customers desiring help. Wore tuxedo pants and long-sleeve fuzzy black shirt, then decided the proceedings rated blue and flowered Tommy Bahama shirt. Both Friday and “last customer” situations I wound up in Saturday were well handled by managers, but I didn’t get bulldozed either. “My customers” (and rest of Mens Better Sport) usually come later, because as regulars they know the sales times usually won’t matter, and from 6:30 until end of shift at 11:30 I pumped a mess of 50% off sweaters, and average sales were higher because of Nautica Week $25 off $100 purchase postcard. Best possible news came at 3:30 arrival for what I’d demeaned as a skimpy 6-hr. Saturday and learning Jack slayed it all afternoon Fri., finishing at record $12.4 (1000s). That whopping $3400 over plan left us a walk-over $1200 making month on Saturday. People were/are DEFINITELY in buying mode, but more just steady compared to bum rush.

Gotta give props to managers who backed me up (ask anyone in retail how rare but good it feels when that happens!) When I overheard one remarking that 12 hr. shift was no problem, he’d done 14-15 with Macys, I reminded him we called 8 open-to 10-close deals “The Iron” and he smiled. “Yes we did,” and that acknowledges a bit of the warrior mentality you sometimes need in high anxiety moments like some customers bring. Giving him my quick version post-dealing with, thats good management, even a change to applaud if we’ve finally gotten to where sales people aren’t automatically in default position at start. That last person Saturday, trying to get over on me about exchanging $200 jeans and eventually telling manager I’d disrespected him in front of girlfriend, I was half-amazed she took maybe three minutes to have him moving toward the door with jeans in hand and encouraging him to search hard for receipt if just got yesterday. Wow!

So we’ve made bonus, and hey! there are suppoed to be nights in the 20s coming along, so getting some of those good warm jackets moved will become a factor. I’m thinking cruise wear and a celebratory Caribbean swing in late February if cold means buying now vs. 70% off sales like last year.

Keep that optimism going America. Like that commercial that ends “the sky is not falling,” its not all doom and gloom. Pre-election polls showed that even with only 1.3% growth and below necessary numbers of new jobs filled, Americans were feeling things had turned, even a little, for sustainable progress. Predictions of 4% growth sounds somewhat lofty, but hey, would we trade marginal taxes if country wasn’t stuck in mud? Ending gridlock in Congress? Really? Something like that’s even open for consideration? I’ll take the check because we earned it, keep my eye on the rest.

Not sure how much I looked like either a big ol’ gimpy turkey or a pork chop, but nephew Ryan and Steve jumped on my question about how his tennis was going. “He’ll kill you. You won’t be able to handle his serve,” was Steve’s smiling and immediate response. Hope Ryan won’t feel bad about demanding a whole session of hitting and getting used to moving around on clay (new sneakers couldn’t hurt, right?) before trying to put a whuppin’ on me. I swam 100 yds. against a national champ at forty, and I’ll go witcha kid, but this ain’t gonna be like dropping that cow in with the velociraptors in Jurassic Park flick…

Glenn S.

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Rivera-Panthers Future, Wal-Mart’s (lack of) Humanity Not Good

Black Friday is NOT about cool, its about busting sales. Six ladies buying 5 half-price sweaters each at noon beats one drunk at 1 am.

After the Carolina Panthers spit the bit on an 11-point lead with about 6:00 left and lost to Tampa Bay in OT 27-21 Sunday, the level of negatives I’ve heard (and felt) has gone up in a major way.  It goes beyond Rivera’s 8-18 overall record as head coach too, but giving up late leads four times this year and at least the same number last year obviously aggravates all. When an owner like Richardson, KNOWN to make decisions in a very even-keel manner (vs. Jerrry Jones or the late George Steinbrenner) fires a GM like Marty Hurney, who only evaluates-brings in-pays the players vs. makes tackles and has zero input on what happens for 60 minutes each week, ‘discontent’ is at critical for sure.

This was expected to be a pivot year, away from the 2-14 train wreck of 2010 that got Panthers the right to select Cam Newton who, with an impressive rookie campaign under his belt, had many seeing 9-7 (and playoffs?) in the teams 2012 plans. Last year’s 6-10 *could’ve* been 8-8 with just a couple defensive stops, but Atlanta and Tampa losses this year were especially galling because they seemed to be in the bag. That Rivera said three weeks ago “at some point we’ll make the plays that close people out” is inadequate, and players supporting the coach and vowing to get it righter soon misses the point too. You play until 0:00 is on the clock, and if you back off the gas/play ‘prevent’ defense or run ‘safe’ but vanilla plays that wind up giving other guys another chance, that WILL wind up biting you in the behind.

Green Bay and New Orleans NEVER stop trying to score, and if the Saints have to score 35 a week to win, Drew Brees can do that–you DON’T want to see either of them with the ball and game on the line. Cam Newton shouldn’t be questioning play calling post-game; even WR Steve Smith kept his mouth shut in public when things truly sucked two years ago. Last year Panthers discovered moving the chains with dump down plays to tight ends Olsen and Shockey was a huge advantage for Newton, and I felt sorry for Jimmy Clausen, because as a rookie QB in 2010 he saw continuous hard core blitzes on 3rd-long situations without such a safety blanket. The point is, you change what doesn’t work. Most commentators don’t believe Richardson will make a coaching change mid-season, but Rivera said this week if he’s not back next year, he’ll be A-OK anyway. (HUH?!!) Fan frustration probably won’t change that equation, but armchair QB-ing says examples of what NOT to do are abundant.

As for Wal-Mart employees threatening to walk out on Black Friday because company is working them through the holiday, and a Target employee started a blog that complained about similar treatment, I’m of opinion I’ll spend a majority of my first five hours (in at 11:30pm T’giving Day for 12 hr. shift) doing mostly nothing and I’m ticked about it too. Jack will be *killed* all afternoon because he’ll be by himself, and Nautica plan for the last two days of month total $15,000 and small change. With no secondary register (or me), he’ll have to ring customers,CLEAR THE CHANGING ROOMS/TRY PUTTING S**T BACK IN ORDER, take sensors out and bag everything himself–even the smallest glitch will be magnified and cause customer backups, which is never a good thing. Notice that “helping customers find things” isn’t in the mix.

Our manager was gone as of last Sunday, and schedule for this Saturday is 6 hrs. each with no overlap (9:30-3:30, 3:30-9:30) and that’s another disaster waiting to happen. While we get holiday pay (7 hrs. for T’giving and 45 total hrs. for week), beating the crap out of employees so selectively vs. cut to 32 until just last week, sucks in plain terms even if its Business. I talked in straight-ahead manner with new HR manager Sunday about management’s interpretation of loooow (40%) ‘Availability of Asst.’ numbers, but whether that means anything, I have my doubts. The company obviously doesn’t care that cutting hours meant Jack and I missed getting bonus $$ last month, but with a MASSIVE amount of merchandise in stores, it will behoove them (and ‘them’ includes Wal-Mart, Target et al) to remember you reap what you sow. We sold a lot of ladies boots opening at 3 am last year, but 95% of store saw very little business. Smarter coverage means enough people during max times, not just being open with half-staff in middle of the night.

Stomping on the familial plans/feelings of the peasants WILL eventually cause a backlash like Wal-Mart is facing. If losing $5-800 million or so because people drop stuff and leave would be a decent taste for other operations to consider too.

Glenn S.

America, Let’s Cheer Catharsis of Sandy

Having mentioned this theory to people repeatedly, I believe the United States, and specifically NYC and NJ area that got thumped so dramatically by Hurricane Sandy, is about to show the world America still know how to unite on a common, obvious problem and git ‘er done. Yes, its going to take some time, but on the PBS NewsHour Friday night, hearing 400,000 without power (certainly less after three more days) sounded like quite an improvement.

No, this didn’t *WIN* election for Obama, but obviously everyone had an opportunity to see straight ahead leadership. I applaud NJ governor Chris Christie who, while stating he was still voting Romney, admitted he was certainly glad to shake hand of the President during New Jersey’s time of disaster. The “most bang for effort/buck” philosophy of restoration was so undeniably equitable, it (almost) smoothed over a HUGE negative issue from months of campaigning. There weren’t any bright lights for those perenially well-heeled residents of penthouses on Central Park West, and I doubt anyone believes gorgeous shoreline estates in the Hamptons received any preferential treatment from the storm either.

There were power company rigs from EVERYWHERE waiting just outside of the storm path ready to roll on repairs, and the difference in response to Bush-FEMA response to Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans is, well, possibly the greatest difference anyone can imagine. Interviews with a particular FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT crew were terrific, showing how complex the restoring power equation is–“sometimes we’re coming through back yards four houses away; people see some trucks but no workers, we’re probably hacking our way in.” I appreciated FPL guys expertise with hurricane damage, and its a long-standing badge of pride among many responders about payback because northern power companies historically send crews south after ‘canes leave a mess. One chief admitted there’s real pride in making a difference at times like this, results being almost as tangible as some extra heft in overtime checks. Maybe Europeans have a similar common sense of purpose, because they are apparently willing to bail out other countries repeatedly, but a hurricane isn’t just a perilous/iffy future situation, it in-your-face REAL.

The Prez mentioned in an economics speech Friday that Americans won’t abide gridlock in silence, but when you know The Right Stuff (power) will get there in relative future, we can all set our personal edge. Fact is, Speaker John Boehner et al will HAVE to recognize the reality of that gridlock remark, and having failed in goal of making Obama a one-term President as they declared on a regular basis, the GOP can only improve its current sorry state of disrespect by handling ‘business’ right. People *will* vote against the clowns who put ideology before the good of the country two years from now if necessary.

To the point of showing the world IT ISN’T JUST REP but The Real Deal about USA!USA! getting something done (no real need to get into that WW II thing, right?), the reality is it HAS to be done, and you simply won’t see the people of the greatest city in the world (lol, or Jersey) wringing their hands in despair. I loved that so many news programs pointed out individual people helping each other in the crunch, because thats part of the deal too. At work I got a kick from several people who said “someobody has to help them!” immediately after blaming Obama for increasing the national debt by $5 trillion (first $12T apparently gets a pass) because where DOES the cash for replacing infrastructure or pumping out the subways come from? My click for Red Cross sure doesn’t go that far.

OK, ‘they’ have to equals NY/NJ, since all we got from 1000 mile storm in Charlotte was a little rain and chill, but riding out a hurricane actually seems like a legitimate dividing line for “how long you been here?” My brother Dave and wife Donna and I visited here shortly after HUGO tore up The City of Trees (and churches) in ’89, so if anyone wants to use that as a badge for being a Charlottean…

Glenn S.

Jeff Blatnick–Sweaty, Most Sincere Victory Speech Ever

Only five guys at work appreciated the quality of knowing Jeff Blatnick when I was discussing how a contemporary had died, and I had to include Jeff’s Greco-Roman super-heavyweight wrestling gold medal in 1984 as the significant reference point first.  You *have to*have to*have to watch the last minute of match (including sign of cross thanks) and interview with ABC to comprehend just how much he deflected credit to an unreal number of others.

http://wn.com/1984_olympic_greco_roman_wrestling_jeff_blatnick is World News bio that includes about 4 minutes of gasping, inspired, 100% sincere and articulate thanks. Physically and emotionally spent as he obviously was, sucking it up and laying the love on for all before finishing with “I’m one happy dude!” was an incredible reminder to watching that original grand moment–I was a bit stunned for forgetting so much of it.

I’ve known Jeff since Webelos in Schenectady, NY, and even to our most recent call my Dad still remembers him for always grabbing guys vs. working on knots.  He’d become a major stud wrestling locally (through ’75) and at Springfield (D-2 champ) before I ran into him at the 1983 Empire State Games. I was just back in NY after two years writing for ITS SPORTS! in Tampa, Jeff’s singlet wasn’t hiding much of that classic railroad track scar from collarbone through his chest after treatment for Hodgkins, which he eventually wound up beating twice.  Using that competition and recognizing that just 18 months after surgery he was back to top international level, its tough to imagine how impressive a feat that was.

‘Knowing’ Jeff from attending ‘hate ’em’ rival high schools meant he wasn’t as athletically interesting as the Long Island girls volleyball team I was tracking or a 15 y/old female javelin thrower whose toss in Scholastic Division would’ve won the Womens Open BY 3 METERS! I tracked the girl down mostly because I knew javelin wasn’t a high school sport in NY, so from whence came the awesomeness?

“Well, last year I won a gold for long jumping, but hurt my back not long before trials. I asked coach what I might do that didn’t include getting back jammed a lot, and he said maybe javelin.” Turns out she had all of two weeks training before qualifying first in Adirondack Region, then blowing everyone else up.  I asked if anyone had talked to her about heptathalon, her demurral being “my 800m isn’t that great.”  (Uhhh, in 3 weeks you’re throwing it further than grown women…you get big points for that in hep, and a slower 800 can be worked on)  I recall she left immediately after picking up her medal  because her birthday party was that night.

The last time I saw Jeff was probably 1993-4, just before he got involved with Ultimate Fighting Championship  (1994-2001) as commentator and eventually commissioner. Between sales calls (scholastic fundraising) on a brisk and windy day in Albany, I wound up next to him on a corner and walked a couple blocks catching up, hoping he’d been able to parlay things announcing-wise, wanting to hear what was on the mind of an Olympic champion on a corner almost ten years after The Moment. Turned out the times I’d heard him during two Olympics was most of what ABC ever scheduled him for, and his focus on using his unique skills and tangible results probably benefitted something as edgy-different as UFC. I had no clue he’d authored Mixed Martial Arts Council Manual involved in development of modern rules of the sport.

When I mentioned one particular Russian I’d read about in Sports Illustrated being a terror, Jeff said yeah, guy was only one he’d ever really worried about his physical safety with.  The Ruskies ‘move’ in a sport with no holds below the waist, was to elevate his opponents and then pile drive their heads into the mat. Being someone airborne means either risking spinal injury or protecting yourself during impact, and protecting wasn’t going to stop the guy from scoring points, which are at a premium in Greco.

Between Webelos and those Emipre State Games minutes chatting, I guess I recognize an ephemeral quality, not tight as classmates, frat bros or fellow wrestlers, more of passing decently close to someone/an athlete that actually surmounts big odds. I’ll only briefly include the fact that Russians and lot of Eastern block countries didn’t attend the ’84 Olympics in return for Jimmy Carter keeping US from ’80 Moscow Olympics (props to Frank Famiano, a Schenectady and Brockport guy, best in world at 126 who got screwed) as protest of 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. I’m keeping that video available though, because I haven’t heard a more sincere ‘I love you guys!’ in 30 years since.

And Jeff, I’m hoping there’s someone in your class to grapple with when you get to the next level.

Glenn Shorkey

Haunted Houses Were Our Specialty

So its not a Haunted House shot, its a Halloween shot of Bahnd Jes-Bahnd, the Norwegian Green agent, and friend Ce.

After having discussions about those places customers and coworkers took kids and remembered fondly, I’ll always believe the 10 day-100 person-plus events I helped the Albany Jaycees produce for a half-dozen years were the best deal around in all respects.  It always galvanized our group, as major projects should, and while it was also our major fundraiser, for $2 a kid/$4 adults, the focus was  entertainment value, and we ALWAYS put on a great show.

Mentioning I was a legendary scarer as Chainsaw Jason isn’t just ego–I never missed a kid that should’ve been scared, specifically wiseass 11-14 y/old guys who hold a spider ring or whatever we gave littlest kiddies “to make the monsters be nice” and think they can diss the participants.   Characters just wave and don’t try getting close to small Snow Whites or worried ninja turtles, but gimme a little smoke or strobe, I will be badass, because I will *SELL* the situation to a wiseass.

One such twerp had lots to say about our ‘Psycho’ shower scene, and he actually guessed correctly about someone being in a place behind bloody window blinds. Folks, it’s *always* about timing. Kicking the door open automatically activated a killer high strobe, and punk was DOWN and crabbing away when I came roaring out.  My ‘not too cool now’ type remark was lost on the dude richocheting off EVERY panel in EVERY room the entire second half getting out.  I’m wiping tears of laughter, one of a half-dozen times that make the organizing and performing totally worth while.

After Year One we determined that masks needed to be wiped with disinfectant after each shift so we didn’t have 26 achy throated Junior Chamber members the next meeting. We built totally different productions in five different malls, a testament to the work ethic people get on meaningful projects.  I’ll segue a little to offer every best wish to those hurricane survivors who will need that ethic every bit as much as my click to American Red Cross after this spectacular hurricane.  Our greatest engineering feat was three 50gal. drums as counterweight to a zip line with flying witches.  How many times those smaller high school girls geared up in back harnesses, flew blind into curtains expecting to be caught, unhitched and ran back to do it again was truly impressive.

Year Two was an old three level Burger King, the lower a perfect cemetery, upstairs for costuming and makeup, operational control center the ordering window of course.  Biggest challenge was covering HUGE area of sun windows. We learned, as I predicted from professional dealings with Zoning people in that area, they didn’t know or care if we’d gotten away with running LOTS of electric cables under crackling leaves the year before, we definitely wouldn’t be using effective but definitely flammable dark wrapping paper to mitigate the sunlight, which they tore down at first inspection.

When you get a team thing going, thats always the best energy. Four other characters popping out strategically wherever they turned after the appearance of Chainsaw Jason in a BIG cemetery caused one memorable group–seven girls, 2-3 guys– to absolutely pancake on the floot, with guys climbing over the girls to get away, that was epic.  We high fived each other big time on that one.The kids are happy about scaring friends and people they know, our Junior Chamber people got involved in functions like ensuring there was adequate chow and soda on hand for 35-50-70 people on breaks, arranging snacking and feeding supplies a role they might not usually touch as junior bankers or newbie supermarket executives.  We did almost no “-thons” during my year as Community Development VP because signing up people to donate didn’t seem to improve our peoples professional skills. 

Today/tomorrow is one of biggest events in our store every year, lots of charities benefit, and I’ve been ‘pre-selling’ a lot so people don’t have to come in 6 a.m. tomorrow (I’m in at 7) to get benefit of 20% off super-ticket (vs. standard coupon) they’ll have purchased. Through the end of this weekend our monthly goal is about $18k; its sixty-five for the month, and while MTD we are mid-four, this is the time to knock out sales.  Yes, I should be an executive-personal assistant, but with ‘blood in the water’ so to speak, I’m in maximizing sales mode.  Gotta get some paypack this month–when management cut 24 hours out of our collective schedules the last three weeks, Jack and I missed bonus by less than $2,000.

I’ll wind up getting to Men’s Club meeting (not the operation over on Tyvola) late after working a dinky (and management stupid) six-hour 3:30-9:30 shift, only small consolation being my manager will be in by five to ring alllll the pre-sales. If he puts up with that (and a split shift where he’ll work tonight too) instead of having sales associates on non-comm hours arrive at eight to handle their stuff, so be it.  Will probably miss the business part of meeting, but assume that after 17 previous Christmas Tree sales with St. Gabriel Mens Club, I know about date for delivery, so I’ll clear that Tues. before Thanksgiving, even if I can’t make it for selling frenzy first weekend.

This being our 25th anniversary sale, one that supports many areas of community service, I’ve got a commemorative bulb using a family’s favorite pictures that was introduced last year and I wanted to present as an add on sale. Will use the e-route, but its also not teaching THAT dramatic a trick to some of our ‘old dogs’ at the tree lot…

I loved doing Haunted Houses, but its elementally about the comaraderie, the feeling like you’ve made a difference.  A little nip in the air lately, good news for this ex-Yankee and maybe some heavier coat sales.  Last year it was in 50s through New Years, didn’t sell anything until 60-75% off.  Thanks for supporting the economy people!

Glenn S.