Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Coworkers: Part 101 - The Massacre

Dear Pepe:

   The storm arrived tonight. The store has been smashed beyond repair. Details later. For now, phone Pat. She left in tears. I already called John, I'm sure he's trying to comfort her. Good luck
   I talked to Pat last night. I let her know she is ALWAYS welcome at my house for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Actually at my mom's house, cause she does the cooking :). She'll be over tonight to watch 24. Or at least she says she will. I'll try to coerce her.
   So what IS the deal? I mean, it doesn't seem like a fire-able offense. Was there something else that got Stacey into trouble? Why fire Pat and Joe, too if they were unaware, unwitting, or at worst unconcerned parties?
   Thanks for being so concerned with Pat. It's great to have friends who care.


   The tale is tangled and convoluted.
   For years Camp Bowie led a charmed life. The Boss was able to attract and keep a core of creative, independent and loyal employees. In many regards, we persisted as a Sound Warehouse independent, a singular enclave. The Boss had been named Manager Of The Year many times, and the store awarded Best In DFW in several polls. We operated our own way, and increasingly surfed outside the rules in order to take care of customers, take care of business, take care of ourselves.
   The Boss kidded me that troubles began after I returned from vacation. While my personal troubles have mirrored that of the store's this year, he's wrong about the beginning. The seeds were cast years earlier, and I bear some responsibility for the disastrous fruition.
   Where to begin?
   Wherehouse ... Gift Cards. USED buys. And this guy here.
   Third year, Wherehouse control. We received USED CDs from the Distribution Center weekly. Generated stickers covered obvious promos. Corporate was selling their promotion discs to juice profit margins. Employees began selling their own CDs for cash or credit. This was shadow zone. Overlords might sweep promos into the DC for extra revenue, yet would they tolerate employees doing likewise? The King often asserts privileges denied the Knave. Ever wary, I began to layer.
   I never sold for cash, I thought it bad luck and bad form. I always sold for in-store credit, loaded the balance on a Gift Card. My colleagues were not blind. After a few months, other employees followed suit. Most of us used the same Gift Card, mine was a Britney card.
   Call us lazy, call us mindless, each of us tended to use the same cards, over and over.
   Busy little cards. Getting hot.
   One of my coworkers churned CDs, legit and promos, into their Gift Card at a furious pace.
   After Wherehouse was acquired, I layered deeper. Set up an online account. From now on, I bought from the Internet store.
   I gave up my employee discount.
   As before, others noticed. Yet they could not give up that discount. 20% off $4.99 or $6.99 was about a dollar. I could let it go. They could not.
   That became their undoing.
Pat told me there was no warning. No counseling. She's still devastated. What exactly happened?
The whole horror story.

   The Boss and I were absent much of October. He had family business and the convention. I went to Britain.
   Prior to that, Stacey was apprehensive, she'd had a premonition. New Owners had taken the reins of Wherehouse. Our store, all stores, were under the lens. If there were new rules and guidelines, we didn't know what they were. Rumors and unsettling predictions washed through the chain.
   The new owner's system tracked everything employees did. Especially employee transactions.
   Employee discounts.
   Trouble descended like a shitload of bricks.
   The Loss Prevention Agent strolled into the store Saturday at 4:00. Interviewed Stacey for an hour. Her Gift Card activity had red flagged. Apparently, there were limits. Stacey was terminated. No written warning. No, "In future, this is how we operate," slap on the wrist. Eleven years service. Gone.
   She departed sobbing.
   Monday, the agent returned. Interviewed Joe for over an hour. Fired. Because he had given his employee discount to a cousin. The most picayune reason. Like you, I had been to Joe and Angela's wedding this Spring. And he just had a new son last week. Didn't matter. I gave him a hug and spoke up at the front with him. By now the agent had escorted Pat into the backroom. The situation was a nightmare.
   Pat later said he pressed her relentlessly. "Did you buy CDs from coworkers? Which coworkers? How many times?" The agent was quiet, polite, and directly in her face. After ninety minutes - - ninety minutes - - she broke down. Pat had purchased a handful of CDs from Stacey six weeks earlier. That was enough. She wandered out of the backroom crying and trembling. Dismissed.
   I've worked with Pat for 13 years. We embraced for a long time. I tried to tell her it didn't matter, that I still loved her. We just held each other. Then she was out the door - - out the store - - just gone.
   Then, it was over. The agent grinned, whistled a little song, disappeared into the dark. He had wrecked three lives, and smashed the store days before Thanksgiving.
   I suspect there is a larger agenda behind this. I don't know why those three were targeted for dismissal except they were all AMs. The Agent did not interview me or JD or John. No one else. Aside from The Boss, all of us have bought and/or sold CDs in the store.
   What was the cruelest, was that Pat, Stacey and Joe were not terminated by the Agent. The Agent ordered The Boss to do the firing.
   This completely killed him.
   For me, I am heartbroken. I feel miserable for each of them, in different ways. It is impossible for me to think clearly since I am emotionally involved. Thank you so much for being there for Pat. With both sons now far away, she is alone. Lonely. We both promised to stay close ... but friends seem to fade away so gently into the night.
   In the meantime - - in the meantime - - Time seems suspended. I am written out, wrenching inside. This was my take on what happened. I reassured Joe, Stacey and Pat that all of this would pass. Right now, it's overwhelming. See you later,
   Thank you so much for letting me know. I feel as if someone just sucker punched me in the gut. I can't imagine how you all are feeling.
   I don't really understand the offense. I thought Wherehouse bought and sold CDs, which is what it sounds like was done. Regardless, I'm appalled that they could let Stacey, Pat, and Joe go with no warning over something as trivial sounding as this appears to be. In a world where loyalty is fast going the way of the dodo, firing this group of employees that had so much experience, personality, and so much to offer reeks of stupidity and a lack of class.
   If you get a chance, could you email me their phone numbers? I'd like to call with some words of encouragement their way. Also, please let me know of an address or a number I can contact to voice my outrage over our friend's firing. I'd love to tell them what a stupid move they just made.
   November has been a really cruddy month. Sharon's passing, this latest round of bad news, and some stuff on my end has made me yearn for an end to this year and a fresh start for next.
   I hope December has started better than November ended. I look forward to seeing you but will have mixed emotions entering "the store." It won't be the same. Still time goes on and I have to believe this will end up working out for the best for everyone. Hang in there and give Zelda my best.


Not much to add, Greg. Thanks for your words. The store is wrecked.
A lot of people have dropped in. Sarah, Sonya, Dan, Dave. Many others have phoned. All have been outraged and supportive. Danny offered to hire The Boss if worst came to worst.
I hope things get better. Shopping season begins in two days. There are so few of us. Most are reeling. Christmas will be bitter.
see you later,

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