Sunday, November 5, 2006

Coworkers: Part 54 - Management Training‏

   As always, Blockbuster knew everything - - knew nothing.
   Within a few months of buying those half dozen music chains, then rebranding the conglomeration Blockbuster Music, lofty minds in the towering palisade decided to show us lowly music minions just how petty and easy our miserable work environment was. Every time there was a "Manager" vacancy at any music outlet, masterminds shifted in an eager Assistant from the video division.
   No real work experience, no music aptitude. The workload daunted them immediately.
   Without exception, video division transfers flamed out.
   Phase Two. The Marines. The Top Dogs. Video Managers.
   Expectations were higher. They were, after all, managers.
   One week, they oversaw their happy store, checked in twenty new titles, replenished snacks, and churned rentals. Thinking was unnecessary. Video rental was so simple, a simpleton could manage a store. Next week, after the transfer, these same happy managers were bouncing mindlessly inside their new music store. Over a hundred new titles landed weekly. Sale lists fluctuated, and all titles had to be priced. That wasn't difficult, it was detail oriented. Orders had deadlines. The manager had to forecast NR, A, and AA Charts. If back catalog, D-Chart, wasn't delegated, the newbie could lose their mind. Inventory was gigantic, yet there were budget constraints. Most of those transfers knew nothing about music other than what aired on the radio. Staffs quickly realized their new managers were an idiot.
   Sank without a whimper.
   A few begged to return to Video stores. Blockbuster, eyes opened to mediocrity, declined.
   Thereafter, transfer requests to the music division ceased.
   Phase Three: The Manager Training Program.
   Outsiders.

   Woody was the first applicant transferred to our store. He looked around 40, so he was older than everyone else. Years ago, he had worked for a mall based, record chain. Music retail experience was a plus. His music knowledge was stale, but he could ramp up to speed within a few months. After a week of cashiering, Listening Center, and stocking, he was sent to me for Receiving 101.
   At his previous record store gig, employees opened boxes, stocked them directly. At Camp Bowie, the Boss wanted one agent to hold accountable. A bad Backroom guy could kill a store. The Boss demanded all product be verified against invoice, then manually entered into the database. He was deeply suspicious about vendors and the Distribution Center. His misgivings were justified. DC errors were rampant, large labels like WEA or Sony were usually accurate, local distributors like Big State were a crap shoot. In addition, once a week Pat or John justified my numbers. He trusted me, but he liked checks.
   Woody grasped the realities of inventory control. He was not fast, and he never would be, but he only needed to know the basics and what troubles to watch for.
   Pat and John trained him on all the office nonsense. Payroll, invoices, bank deposits, boring paperwork crap.
   The Boss worked with him on orders, scheduling, dealing with a store full of lunatics, navigating witless Blockbuster decrees.
   Woody worked our store for two months, then transferred to the tiny Six Flags store for a month, then to North Richland Hills, finally back to us. Blockbuster wanted applicants exposed to a variety of manager styles.
   After four months, Woodster was "good to go" and headed off. That was the fine print. Upon completion of the training period, newly minted managers would be relocated where needed. They had no say in destinations. Woody was sent to San Diego.

   Leroy had no retail experience, had never worked in a music store. For 20 years, he'd been military police. Army cop. Big, imposing man with a friendly front. Listened to current music, but his knowledge was neither deep nor broad. The Manager Training Program was a new opportunity. Most of his colleagues had opted for a US Postal stint, which he equated with zombie work.
   Leroy mastered the usual store elements. With coworkers, he strained. He was accustomed to dealing with bad puppies by tossing them in the cooler. Retail didn't have that option. The ingrained cop was built for apprehending bad guys, not compromise, leniency, clemency. People screwed up in this world, made mistakes, or behaved like idiots. The Boss typically yelled, but usually tried to straighten them or help them. Outside of stealing, he rarely fired people unless they were complete morons.
   And people did make mistakes.
   Leroy discovered a cashier error while training. Told Kristi who was training him and she summoned the pez-head to the back.
   "Worthy, your drawer is $15.00 short."
   "No way."
   "Think you might've / could've given a customer a twenty instead of a five for change?"
   "No way."
   "Worthy ... "
   I usually worked register and processed inventory at the same time. I was one of the fastest cashiers. That said, most managers would probably agree that I wasn't as good a cashier as I blithely assumed I was.
   "OK, OK," she waved me off. "I'll .. fix this ... somehow."
   "Thanks. I owe you."
   "I know. Don't worry, I won't forget."
   Kristi bailed me out, like so many others had over the years. Mister Clueless. Leroy observed our exchange without comment. I felt he would prove a stern manager, but he also had instincts to sift cupidity from stupidity.
   An unannounced job opening was suddenly posted in the Region that Leroy would have been perfect for.
   Loss Prevention.
   Donut Bear was being assigned a partner. Likely, the working partner.
   Leroy had passed the manager training program. He was ex military police. He was big, black, and behind that grin, waited a no nonsense hard-ass.
   Employee-thieves would be completely intimidated by him.
   Leroy would have been perfect. He did not land the position, however. We suspected Donut Bear had a problem with one of his attributes. Or that Leroy was possessed better qualification than the Bear. Instead, the LP post went to Danny, who'd worked at Camp Bowie years earlier. Danny quit the LP job after four months, bored beyond belief, and returned to North Richland Hills.
   Leroy was transferred to Carolina.

   Leroy was the last good manager applicant. Those who filed through afterward had no business aptitude, or weren't intelligent enough, or suffered incompetent people skills. Some were flat out dishonest. The chain could have used Leroy in those situations. None of them successfully completed the training. The final trainee shepherded through the process was Jinxed. That character proved to be memorable.
   After Jinxed, Blockbuster intellectuals discontinued the outside manager training program. Thereafter, the majority of managers rose through the ranks.
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