Blue Devils were Welcome Customers, REAL Devilry Starts Immediately

It was great having the Duke football team in for their shopping spree (Cincy came Sat.) Sunday night, and maybe that’s because they looked an awful lot like what I remember about myself as a college athlete. Duke isn’t sporting a half dozen 6’9″ 347 pound linemen, and having met three of the running backs, including identical twins Jackson (generally fullback) and Christian Conway, I got a flashback to what being young and in primo shape looked/felt like. I won’t go deep on similar getting old and slow blast with all Ryan’s and Ian’s pals around at oyster roast, not when event set whole Christmas vibe up so wonderfully.

Duke provided a Belk Bowl crowd with all the excitement one could expect, a late fumble inside the 5-yard line while driving for a score in a tied game derailing a terrific effort. The final 48-34 score was enough to mark me down as someone who believes the rise of a new force in the ACC is coming. As one player laid it out, “Of course you start each year thinking national championship, but we took a major bite to make a bowl game after so long. I’m a junior; I’m looking forward to what we accomplish next year.” That’s legit, as was the player bringing over a sweater with a small broken button and asking if that might get a little further reduction. Suuuure–and its still not my stuff we’re shoveling out the door at 50% off (plus a 10% coupon on clearance).

The true Devil coming is an 11% reduction in fulltime associate hours. “Ho! Ho! Ho! peasants,” says store manager MiniMe after gathering all closer, “be glad you’re not being slashed like the maintenance and display people!” Calling for superior effort from those taking *NOT* the 5-6% cut he sorta-kinda tossed on the table as necessary to making budget is bulls**t when nary a single deposit has been made in the Trust part of a relationship. That shows a real cluelessness about personnel/personal concerns, but LYING about it adds an undeniable stench. To wit–hacking 4 hours from standard 36 is 1/9th or 11%, not 5-6– implies a mentality about everyone having STUPID tattooed on foreheads that he sees clearly. There was literally only ONE dips**t shouting ‘Allright you guys, yay! We can do $530,000!” at Friday meeting. Manager apparently feels he doesn’t have any legs (true enough) to stand on about ask/demanding more than starvation budget for hours, which he blew away with almost totally useless ‘extended’ times during December.

DUKE football sent a solid message of hope to many fans, and because becoming as big a deal as Coach K’s hoopsters isn’t a rationale goal, they’ll just build on this year and maybe become another Wake Forest, which suffered MANY years of beatings before getting into spirit of having a ‘real’ ACC program. Every message sent by TPTB is that the accounting unit each employee constitutes is going to be denigrated and abused more thoroughly in at least the short term, because if it works to balance things now, why change back? Managers are reworking their resumes, anyone having alternatives of any kind will be exploring them, and even if Duke returned in 6 months, there might not be anyone to serve them. Customer service numbers be damned-ignored-reinterpreted might also become basis for cutting hourly rates, but I’ve definitely been warning regular customers they’re in for more inconvenient questions than, “Do you work here?” and “Why doesn’t anyone have boxes at Christmas?”

And FYI, I have terrific personal/executive assistant skills…

Glenn S.

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Toast, Oyster Roast, Dad’s Cookies

Yesterday Dad and I went shopping for things he hopes Mom will wear and some flannel shirts we hope the long, tall nephews will like. As a customer I was struck by almost the exact same “geez, what a freaking mess!”-minded feeling about areas I needed to search as I consistently bad-talk those less diligent associates about. Three out of four places we went (Jack obviously not included) said they didn’t have boxes, which is crap, since I KNEW I’d gone to get a supply myself on Monday when four skids worth of shirt/sweater boxes finally arrived.

‘Toast’ is where Jack and I are about possibility of hitting bonus for December, but we’ve been resigned to that for a while. After an $8800 Saturday where we lost another $3000 to plan, only an Arab sheik coming in and buying all the heavier coats for an extended family could make up being so far from $148,500. Store had several days of doing only 54-58% of goal last week, a hit that affected even Polo area and certainly wasn’t expected at this point in the season. While ‘Availability of Assistance’ score is back up, I suspect that’s due to customers knowing salespeople are behind the registers more than totally not there, but genuinely low staffing levels continue to be the case during extended hours (Sunday nights until 12:00 and THEN told not to close registers for 15 minutes? {bleep!} that noise)

Brother Steve’s Oyster Roast is something I’m looking forward to tomorrow in a big way. Nephew Ian did a great job on production two years ago, no roast last year because of Steve’s hip replacement, and because weather isn’t supposed to be ideal, a tent will make sure we’re relatively dry while scarfing and guzzling and enjoying the bonhommie of male bonding with perhaps 40 others. Nephew Paul is back from Oxford (England, not Mississippi) and Ryan, who turned 15 Monday and expects to pass drivers test for permit today are around, so all things are proceeding for family goodness. Mom and Mike making a huge comeback in pinochle the other night, well, that’s a burn I’ll just deal with.

Dad was nothing but cold at last roast and appreciated first white Christmas in 25 years only a little, but pushing him around in wheelchair because he got tired fairly quickly during 1 1/2 hour shopping is one of those moments that makes you realize just how precious time with loved ones becomes. You can’t watch the news about the funerals for those children and people slaughtered in CT and not sympathize with those who won’t be able to wrap their arms around a loved one again. Dad’s always been the Christmas cookie maker in our family, and a container of cantucci bars (I still think of them as biscotti) and haystacks (Chinese noodles with chocolate) are a far cry from the lacy pralines, date-filled or colorfully decorated shapes and other looked-forward to production of the 60s and 70s that will always be memories of The Good Good Times. At 83 he just can’t get up the energy to bake all day so ‘us guys’ can enjoy cookies any time we’re in the house and have tins full of stuff to take home too.

It impossible not to feel a small but real regret about that, even more than being toast about any dab of bonus that won’t appear in a January paycheck. Not when so many, in Conneticut, Syria and elsewhere lack basic necessities like food and heat and no longer around family and friends to laugh with or kiss good-night. I’m sincerely grateful for a haystack and being able to watch NCSI with the folks, even if Dad nodded off. I’ll hug them both for as many Christmas’ as possible, suck down my share of oysters and cold beers, and just maybe learn how to make cookies to bring to others less fortunate in the future.

Glenn S.

Panthers Get it Right, But(thead) Management Lacks ‘Touch’

For all the naysaying about the Panthers failures, everyone contributed a fair share to Sunday’s 30-20 crunching of the hated Atlanta Falcons.  No one, and I mean NO ONE on the Carolina side was forgetting how Atlanta QB Matt Ryan told them to “get off my f**king field!” after he’d survived a seven sack performance to win the season opener 30-28.  I might’ve cooled off a bit since the late manager wouldn’t allow me to leave early last night despite having zero–absolutely true–ZERO customers for nearly three hours and a department in exquisite shape, but I have a feeling there’s going to be similar negative vibes sent his direction in the future.

Give the Panthers credit, especially for the 53-yd. TD from Newton to DeAngelo Williams at exactly the point in game (4:11 in 4th) that they’ve yakked up leads several times this year. Newton silenced, at least for one week, the critics of his less dynamic sophomore year in the NFL with perhaps his most solid effort since that first game, posting a 23/35, 280 yard-two TD day and adding another TD and 116 yds. rushing on 9 carries. Beginning with a high bullet to TE Greg Olsen on Carolina’s first touchdown drive of the day, both sides of the ball performed as most expected them to all year, the offense pounding out 195 yds. rushing while dominating possession (35:47), holding Atlanta to 35 on a paltry 11 carries and building a 23-0 lead before allowing a touchdown with 4:48 left in the third period. Linebacker Luke Kuechly continued his exceptionally solid season with 16 tackles (11 solo).

Of course, most Carolina fans have learned to be afraid of what could happen before the 0:00 mark, but the defense stopped a two-point conversion early in the 4th and recovered an onside kick with :53 left, so a collective sigh of relief was finally enjoyed by all, right Ron Rivera?

As to ‘Touch’ of that manager, such unimaginative play calling in my particular clutch situation (Newton apparently hasn’t learned to audible past things as well as the Redskins heralded RGIII either), the disconnect is definitely aggravating. The Powers That Be are on record as wanting to support associates with feedback, coaching, and an environment of ENCOURAGEMENT AND TRUST, but hearing, “Oh, you have tomorrow off? Go back and pick up another department instead of leaving a cheesly 25 minutes early” builds nothing but resentment. On the bottom line, the only fact that really helped me chill out was understanding someone between TPTB and him was probably responsible.

An old adage, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done” has come through in discussions with several associates and managers. Let a rising economy and the prospect of carrying health care benefits to another job become a hard core reality, a once-proud ‘team’ might quit on a coach who rules without integrity or charm.

Glenn S.

‘Getting ours’ for Sales, ‘Unreasonable/Un-nice’ Showing Too

There’s no time for being satisfied this time of retail season, and my entire, make that *ENTIRE* sales career, that has meant putting up numbers, getting units out, “making it happen.”  Jack’s still a hero from big effort getting November bonus, but starting Sunday we were on to $148k we need for December. After first week we’re $8000 short, and while we’re considered a ‘self-sufficient’ area, giving ‘new’ area manager ANYTHING more to be concerned about now is beyond overloading the plate. New-ness isn’t her short-coming, more like she’s essentially running TWO major areas (plus us) without making nickel one more than before. She’s never gotten enough hours budgeted to cover all her departmental needs, and she’s almost a poster child for “Abuse as you please, everyone will accept crapola to keep their job.”

Having admitted I was wrong about midnight T’giving opening–at least I won’t quarrel with actual PRODUCTION vs. any crushing of that old-fashioned family gathering hoo-hah–I *guarantee* that The Powers That Be (TPTB) have decided that maximizing results AND denigerating all ‘payroll expense units’ (employees) are inseperable decisions. My paycheck was $200 LARGER this period, part holdiay (7, not 8 hrs.) extra and finally back to regular 36 from 32 hrs. Black Friday is successfully past and despite being behind plan, we’re burning through inventory pretty steady with EVERYONE using EXTRA 25 OFF! coupon. If operation is about having multiple discounts that turn a small mountain of merchandise into $144 sale, so be it.

Know what?

    It’s not my stuff,

and that’s exactly how a lot of formerly loyal but now frequently PO’d workers are acknowledging that the crap-meter seems stuck at the decision level. At least a portion of a VERY strong $11.1 million 3Q corporate profit must’ve come from chiseling those hours I previously mentioned, or maybe it’ll contribute to an even more incredible 4th quarter report. I’m personally not buying OR EVEN EATING Papa John’s pizza after his total s**thead remark/decision to cut hours of his (undoubtedly well-heeled) workers to avoid paying health care for full timers. It’s also blatantly unreasonable for any decent retailer to jigger regular work hours and pull register closing chicanery so peasants are available late to ‘remerchandise’ their AND OTHERS areas at end of shift (NFC!) versus hiring usual seasonal extras. TPTB decisions are moving the needle, well, not redder at all–‘cuz like I said, it’s stuck at Un-nice end. If mgmnnt is afraid of getting crappy temp workers (spare me!) then clarify with agencies how sending duds equates to losing a big account in future. But surprise! you’ll probably/undoubtedly see a LOT of crappy work effort if mistreating ‘payroll’ continues.

I’m working Sunday, and if weathers nice who knows what happens, just expecting to put a real number ($3000?) on the board and also be gone for the maintenance bs. Got to watch several conference championship games with Sat. evening off, thanks for the little things I guess. For sure I’ll be treating myself to a new Michael Kors suit tomorrow, one with a ridiculous reduction and THREE discounts that’ll leave final cost just over $70. People are definitely buying. Even if they’re still bitching about Obama whenever I conclude total with “including the governments split,” $31 sweaters and BOGO pants have a way of talking for themselves.

Wow–Wisconsin is laying waste to Nebraska 42-10 at the half, 63-17 mid-3rd quarter. I agree with commentator Gary Danielson that Georgia probably would’ve been better served by spiking after long gainer and having two throws for end zone in terrific earlier game with ‘Bama. That was a battle that shows whats great about college ball vs. pros. Every ONE of those players and fans truly cared, which ain’t the attitude I hear on the floor from the ‘players’ I’m talking to.

Glenn S.