Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's The End Of An Era...

Well, well, well....I certainly have been absent from the world of blogging, haven't I? Well don't you fret, the no ones who read this. Since I am no longer have a job, I will be blogging at all hours...whenever the mood strikes me. Yes, you read that correctly. I am unemployed. Why, you may ask? I'd be delighted to elaborate.

We had a store meeting on Sunday, October 15th at 8AM. It started like any other of our previous store meetings. Our manager Cheryl told us that in the very near future, we'd be able to check in customer online rentals at the store, and they'd then get a free in-store rental. The criteria was explained, etc. Then there was a shift in what we were told. The topic of new store policies began.

Cheryl explained that fairly soon there was to be no more joking around, fraternizing with customers or fellow employees. No longer could we hold movies for regular customers. No loitering allowed. Also, they installed a software system on a brand-new PC in the breakroom. This software would start scheduling our shifts. Initially at the employee meeting a month ago, the corporate people said that it was totally user-friendly and that store managers could edit schedules and that it was flexible with employees and their availability. Guess what? That was a LIE. Let's say the software schedules someone Monday from 8AM-10AM and they have class or a family member gets ill or hurt? If you don't show up, you're fired. How's that for treating your employees right? Cheryl even asked one of their Human Resources guys, "What about employees that have school or church?" He smirked, she said, and replied, "Well, that's where we've gone wrong - putting our employees needs in front of the customers."

When we were franchise-run, even though I was part-time I could still get insurance. No more under corporate control.

Here's one of the big ones - let's say a loved one was rushed to the hospital. The last thing on your mind would be a late DVD rental, correct? So let's hypothesize that the loved one is released a week later and all is well. When you return the item, we're now supposed to say, "Sorry but you've got to pay us." Our modus operandi was to always make the customer happy. These guys see it another way apparently. No late fees to be removed -- EVER.

They don't want us to foster friendships with our loyal regulars. They don't want us to be family to our customers or our fellow employees. They want us to be soulless automatons. I'm not naive. The main goal of a business is to make money. However, our store has proven time and again through the years that you can marry profitability and personality and get a winning combination that equals in a pleasant and welcoming environment that keeps your customers coming back time and again, knowing that they're, to borrow Cheryl's always-on-target mantra "Welcome, Wanted, & Appreciated." In the six years she's run that store, our district manager never received a single complaint. It's qualities like that that show just how dedicated we as a staff, a team, a FAMILY have endeavored to make that a video store worth frequenting. Hell, we've even had people who live across town come in and tell us that they prefer us to the video store nearest to them and don't mind driving halfway across town simply because of our superior customer service.

For that reason, among many others, we all resigned. Friday, October 27th was the last day for Cheryl, Jeff, and I. I hadn't been off since last Wednesday and I really racked up some hours this last week - 12 hours on Tuesday, 14 on Friday - so blogging has been sparse. Larry, Steve and Ana were to work this weekend, with Steve's last day on Monday (and Friday our DM had Cheryl craft a perfunctory schedule for next week, culling employees from other stores -- an *hour* before she was to leave!; she cobbled something basic together, placed it on his desk for him to finish and then she and Jeff left) Ana and Larry's being Halloween. But then things can and do change, sometimes...

So today I went up to work to print a time card today at 2PM. A "This Store Is Closed" sign was taped to the inside of the front door, along with a hand-written-in-black-permanent-marker sign on the inside of the other door that read:

"This store will re-open on Monday, October 30th.

- Management"

Puzzled, I went home and after lunch I called around (Cheryl, Jeff, Larry). I called work and our District Manager answered. After a long pause (I initially thought I was talking to Steve), I told him I planned to return rentals and wanted a time card copy. He was frazzled to say the least. Jeff said he called as well to see what was going on and also assumed our DM was Steve Roberts. Then the other line rang and our DM told Jeff to hold on, as he needed to talk to him. Jeff immediately hung up and turned off his cell phone. Hmmm...I wonder what our DM wanted to speak with Jeff about? Hmmm? ;)

Jeff, Larry, James, and I went to see Saw III Saturday night at 7PM (we ran into our former co-worker Robin and her husband, who leave home for Ohio on Monday...Saw III was a great flick, by the way) and Larry filled in the gaps...

Steve was to open this morning as scheduled. He, however, was having issues clocking in on the software system on the PC in the back. He called Larry, who arrived shortly thereafter. Larry called Ana in to see if she wanted more hours and she came in. Steve then said that he'd had enough and was going home. Larry replied, "Well, I'm not going to work a double all this weekend with Ana." The three of them looked at each other and agreed in unison to end their employment right then and there. They left at noon, locking the door behind them. Larry said he called Cheryl and she laughed her ass off. Larry shredded our clock in/clock out info/ and apparently the drop box somehow moved away from the window.

I have some of my 401k saved up and I plan to just relax, take some me time off to cool my jets through the end of the year and then I'll get back out there looking for employment. Think of this as a new beginning for all of us. Not a time to mourn but a time to look onward and upward.

So there you have it.

As I think about more and more, I realize that while we treated that store like a home and it truly felt like one, it was not the store that made it feel that way but instead each other that created and fostered the truly dynamic fellowship that we all felt toward each other, customer and co-worker alike.

Cheryl is having a get-together at her house next Wednesday. Pizza will be served and it'll be a great chance for all of us to let our hair down and bullshit about just how clueless our former employers are.

Expect more and more blogging. I've got alot of things to watch and all the time I need to watch them.

We ordered Showtime today so that we can watch the second season of Masters of Horror. The first one was so-so (except for Takashi Miike's Imprint); hopefully Season Two will ratchet up the quality. We're also anxious to see Dexter, the drama about a blood spatter analyst in Miami who's also a serial killer - he only kills bad people, though. It's based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I found the novel to be lukewarm but I hope the series isn't. The showrunner, a former Sopranos writer, was fired mid-way through the season, as Showtime wanted more humor in the series. Let's hope they're not fucking up a series that hasn't even gotten going yet.

My Saw III review *IS* forthcoming. I also need to see Marie Antoinette.

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