Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Coworkers: Part 46 - The Donut Bear

   The chain was swallowed whole by Blockbuster. Complete takeover. Stores were notified to anticipate visitors. Very Important Visitors. New Bromeroids, though that phrase had lost its cachet. All locations, including ours, would be inspected. Evaluated. Prepped before the conversion to the Blockbuster way of business.
   Resistance was futile.
   And the new Masters arrived. Actually, one.
   Big Bear.
   Greeted staff with an unsmiling, "You're fired."
   This was addressed to Dan. Big Bear, as he termed himself, was the Loss Prevention agent. He had chosen The Boss's day off to conduct his preliminary inspection. Classic retail behavior.
   "Ha ha, right," Dan couldn't tell if this guy was joking or was serious. He smiled, but it was a sickly grin.
   "Giving you fair warning," he stated flatly. "I have total authority to terminate anyone in the chain. Field level up to Regional."
   "I'll keep that in mind,"
Dan said.
   "Do that." He surveyed the Backroom, where I was working. Didn't look at either of us. "Clear your things ... you're fired."
   Dan and I looked at each other.
   "Just kidding." Big Bear walked towards the empty corner, past the dead shrink wrap unit.
   I already hated this man, I wanted to saunter away but couldn't. I'd be on his suspect list forever.
   "What are all these CD's?" he demanded.
   "Everything is organized," Dan answered cheerfully. "Defectives. Pulls and Recalls. Promos."
   "Why are they not secured?"
   "Secured?"
   "Locked up somewhere,"
specified Bear.
   "Customers never come back here," Dan laughed.
   "I'm not talking about customer theft. I'm talking about securing them from employees. Surely you don't trust your coworkers?"
   That was our initial encounter with the Blockbuster crime unit. Within a month we would realize this gent was not interested in protecting us from professional thieves, resolve banking errors, track hijacked shipments. Blockbuster only recognized one type of theft. Internal. Turned out they had a long and very troubled history of hiring boatloads of disgruntled employees who stole and stole and stole. Or, that was how Blockbuster perceived their valued associates.
   In five years at Sound Warehouse, I didn't even know if the chain had a Loss Prevention agent. We had our share of internal theft. Managers were expected to detect, identify, and fire sticky fingers. If not, if the shrink was too high, managers were released. Our store shrink was less than 1%, The Boss strived for .5%.
   Big Bear became a regular visitor. The dangerous intruder. Anytime someone went to the restroom, he pulled out his wristwatch. I gave him a skeptical side glance and he fired off, "You think this isn't my job? Well it is. If some goldbrick is stealing time."
   This was the same guy who suggested we install cameras in the bathroom. You couldn't pay me enough for that surveillance duty.
   While he was Blockbuster to the bone, he had no desire to office out of Dallas, let alone Garland. His residence was in Cowtown, so he wanted his office to be in Cowtown. Our little location suited his purposes, and had bonus points. Females Missy and Trina, he took a shine to. They were too pretty to be fired. Why, he even offered to share his donuts with those two.
   Oh, yes, donuts. Every time he strolled in, he cradled two dozen donuts. Then he devoured those two dozen donuts.
   Two boxes. Sticky flour, deep fried in oil, drenched with sugar. Twenty four. The ex-cop's breakfast special.
   I don't think I properly described Big Bear, now referred to as Donut Bear. Maybe I don't need to.
   Most of all, he desperately coveted the Stash Room, where employees locked their purses, jackets, and stashes of CD's and toys they planned to buy ... eventually. The room where Returns were stored and sorted.
   Employees didn't need that room, he argued. Employees ought to keep their purses and lunches in their cars. Returns should be stored in the office, or hallway. Stash Room would be Loss Prevention Command Base, complete with mini fridge he would requisite. It was an honor.
   I think that's what he said. Hard to understand a man who spoke with his mouth full of pastries. While your eye followed half chewed food bits that spilled past his jaw while he issued orders. When you watched wet food plop the carpet, knowing we had a rodent problem. Then he reeled you back, demanding, "Am I right? Am I right? Of course I'm right."
   There seemed no way to reason with the Donut Bear. Even the DM was subdued near him, knowing full well Bear would take full delight in firing. Bear loved firing, he reassured everyone. Every single visit, which had increased, he told someone, "You're fired." He no longer said he was joking. Sooner or later, he would mean it.
   Hopefully, everyone has dreams and plans in this world. Even bears have their dreams.
   Donut Bear's dreams of that Stash Room becoming his sexy Bear Cave crumbled a few weeks later. He'd forgotten our store was receiving a full remodel. Everything would be gutted. The Stash Room was not in the blueprint. Indeed, there were no rooms in the blueprint, only a tiny Backroom / Office.
   Bear fixed his eye on another store. Berry Street. Rob's store, lucky him.
   There was a Dunkin' Donuts right across the street from Berry.
   Anyway, Donut Bear was the first impression we had of the folks who now presided over us.
   More impressions were enroute.
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