Tuesday, December 1, 2009

See No Evil.

It is amazing how much panic sets in among management when the word comes around that a corporate visit is imminent. I am not sure who exactly was due in for a visit today, but last night our store manager was there, one of the daytime co-managers, and several people from other stores were sent in to help prepare for the visit. The department managers came in at 5:00 A.M. instead of their normal 7:00. It is not just Wal-Mart. Kmart did it a lot too. With Kmart I always suspected that the District Manager used it too shake up the store manager. There it was rare for the "visit" to ever take place.

I place the blame for this on the corporate offices. They want to walk into a store and believe that the stores are perfect all of the time. If they were serious about it they would simply walk into a store, get with the store manager, and tour the store. That way they could see any problems and figure out how to correct them. For this visit they even had My Lady dust off the cardboard baler. They were not leaving anything to chance this time. Some times they focus too much on the little things and not enough on the big picture. When we leave in the morning they want the shelves to look sharp, with everything pulled to the front. To achieve that sometimes all of the freight doesn't get worked. Personally I would rather have more on the shelves than they look nice. If you make it look nice but don't stock an item that someone wants to buy, what did you accomplish?

Even having the shelves, as Wal-Mart calls it zoned, does not always make the managers happy. A few years ago we had one manager tell us that the bottles of salad dressing had to be in a perfect line. He actually told us that customers would walk out of the store if they weren't. When you stock them and push them to the back they have a tendency to slide off-center a little. The only way to prevent it would be to have a plastic base on the shelf with dividers for each row. We do use those on some items, but for salad dressing it would not be cost effective. The bottles are not uniform in size. That statement is one of the dumbest things that I have ever heard a manager say. Considering what all I have heard said that is saying something.

I have been trying to think of a good analogy to describe what working in retail is like this time of year. It hit me last night. It is a hurricane. You get hit by the front of the storm, which is Thanksgiving. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving more and more freight comes in. Grocery gets extra because of the big meal. The general merchandise side gets hit preparing for Black Friday. Right now we are in the eye of the hurricane. The trucks aren't as big as they had been. We are not having to work quite as hard. In about a week or so the merchandise will pick up again as the Christmas meal buying begins and the final push to get those last minute gifts hits. After Christmas things slow way down. Usually in January we lose two or three hours a week. By then I am so tired I am all for it. Right now I am starting to feel my age. I am coming home more exhausted than normal. Of course when you consider the alternative to aging I would rather grow older. I am off the next two days and I am going to enjoy it.


Al Penwasser said...

I agree with you-to get an accurate feel for the environment of a workplace, management should walk in, unannounced, to tour the area. When I was in the Navy, everything would stop dead in its tracks while we prepared everything conceivable for the the arrival of this muckety-muck or that. It was a waste of time and I can't believe the aforementioned muckety-mucks thought the smiles they received when they walked aboard were sincere welcomes. Things I don't miss...
As for that comment about bottles of salad dressing...you gotta be kidding me!

Howard Bagby said...

I was not kidding about that salad dressing comment. we still joke about that today.