My head has been a little fucked-up this week ladies and gentlemen.
So fucked in fact that writing a column about comics, my attempts at creating them, or others’ successful attempts at creating them would lack the soul central to any worthwhile piece of commentary. Instead, I’ll relate to you the events that have unfortunately been occupying my time, running the risk that my column will begin to channel the energy and focus of Simon’s Monkey House. (Which you should be reading every week anyway.)
This piece of classified information is known to only a select few of my online associates, but when thoughts of breaking into the industry and the Next Big Thing are not streaming through one’s consciousness in a never-ending loop, I enjoy (and I use that term very loosely this week) a position at a shopping center that boasts everyday low prices and sponsors an occasional rollback. You’re intelligent people out there…most of you know of what establishment I speak.
Anyway, for about the last year I’ve been working part-time at the place, despite management’s insistence that I wear that silly-ass blue “smock” on the sales floor. The gig wasn’t bad at all, several of my co-workers became close friends, I worked the department filled with all of the clever blinking gadgets, and being located at the nexus of two large college towns meant beautiful young women strolling past the dept. at such an excessive rate that someone much funnier than I dubbed our outside lane “action alley.” Despite the persistent headaches…I had little problem maintaining some sort of presence in the store as long as the checks cleared, everyone kept laughing, and young women continued to catch the eye. And it was just starting to get warm here too…a conditioned stimulus that results in the abandoning of restrictive garments like turtlenecks and blue jeans.
Sorry…drifting off-topic. So about two or three months ago some poor bastard (we’ll call him Bert) becomes Dept. Manager back in the coolest section of this store otherwise filled with the prerequisite pathetic life forms that populate any interesting place of employment. Bert possesses the qualities that every hourly-wage slave hopes for in a manager. He’s friendly, approachable, and above all else…consistent. The same things that crawl in his ass today are the same things that slithered in there one-month ago. Because of these popular personality traits…Bert becomes well liked. Bert seems to like his hourly associates as well…perhaps too much.
Now, in most cases, display merchandise is never sold to customers or associates. Take note that I said in MOST cases. If the item is to be permanently deleted from the home office’s inventory, than purchasing displays is no big thing. (Usually.) A string of universal coincidences prompted entertainment companies to hyperactively modify the appearance and packaging of their various gadgets, leaving the dept. with a shitload of display TVs, DVD players, VCRs, and computers in need of unloading to make room for new models. Imagine our surprise when Bert began offering to sell us some of the merchandise at discounted prices.
This practice in itself isn’t a large fuckin’ deal either. Management frequently performs markdowns on both display merchandise, and products that are damaged in some significant way, so when Bert began pawning off the excess for really nice prices…it was only natural that the majority of us partook. He’s the dept. manager right? He had the authority to conduct the markdowns right? Right!? Right!!?? Hello?
Several weeks later something ain’t right. Loss Prevention (more on them later) are on site interviewing a handful (not including me) of electronics associates about something, no one’s quite sure, but Bert is running back and forth with tiny beads of sweat pooling on his forehead. He gives the impression that we’ve mistakenly stepped in shit and the aroma slowly wafts into the nostrils as the missing co-workers are returned to the sales floor, under strict orders not to discuss anything that occurred in the bowels of the building. I prod them anyway, but they follow instructions, which isn’t any fun. Bert disappears, and a couple hours later we hear a rumor that he’s been suspended indefinitely. Fuck.
Time passes, weeks even, and the entire dept. unclenches. Bert hasn’t returned but we hear he’s following his suspension with a paid vacation. All is well, the dept. is being remodeled and while the crew performing it is more in the way than anything, our “action alley” has expanded in width and vantage points, so I have a minimal level of complaints.
Until this past Tuesday that is.
I’m late like fifteen minutes because I was cruising through the special features on my Buffy Season 2 DVD set, while making a quick bite to eat. After arriving in the building, the plan is to swing past the clock, swipe the badge, and get out on the floor without anybody the wiser. Halfway down the hallway, some manager emerges from some door and tells me someone wants to see me in some room. Well…okay. Whatever. I travel into some room and am introduced to two men that identify themselves as Loss Prevention. Fuck. I’m only saying fuck because at this point in the game I was officially off-guard. I was waiting for these bastards to call me three weeks ago, had my counter-arguments and explanations mentally rehearsed for what I thought they’d try to hit me with, and was prepared to put this shit to rest as only an egotistical entity such as myself believed he could.
Loss Prevention is like the Internal Affairs of my employer. They march in and diminish the powers of the management team already permeating the store, ensuring impartial investigations and successively fuckin’ anything that moves…and I was next on the blocks. Their methods are fairly basic Psychology, and since I have a degree in that and paid attention in some of my classes, I recognized several of the tricks they used. The establishing of a rapport, the escalation of tension, and the idle threats were expected, but the deflection of responsibility from management was a veritable wild card.
Probably halfway through the interview/interrogation I realized what was happening. These assholes were holding hourly associates completely responsible for decisions approved by members of management. Now, like I said before, I like Bert. But this SWAT team was beating down our door over some shit that he as dept. manager initiated and condoned, so common sense dictated that if some aspect of the practice was improper, than the hammer was falling on his dome. Instead the validity of my degree coupled with a conviction was commented upon, I was asked to remember a series of transactions that took place several weeks ago, and it was strongly insinuated that this was some coordinated effort by nearly every member in the dept. to fuck the company.
Right. So coordinated that we stupidly left keystrokes and traceable payment methods that could be and were easily traced back to us? So coordinated that we thought the closed-circuit camera equipment was malfunctioning while we were paying for the stuff? Sure. Try the other one. No one “under investigation” asked Bert to mark things down, no one was taking shit out of the store and selling it out of their trunks, and I wasn’t running the whole operation from my Creative Writing class with my cell phone. If Bert didn’t have the authority to sell a display television for less than a hundred bucks, tell us he didn’t and send us on our merry way. Apparently, no one batted an eye over it because not even Bert took steps to conceal what we were doing. Who in the fuck knew that someone cared what price I paid for a display DVD player, and who rung it up for me? If I knew it was going to become a federal fuckin’ offense I would’ve just went over to Best Buy.
By the end of things, I was suspended until Friday (when the investigation was scheduled to be completed) and left with a very large bill that amounted to what I owed the store. Basically the difference between what I paid for the merchandise, and what I would’ve paid for the merchandise if I had bought it off the shelf. Apparently the fact that the stuff was displays didn’t quite matter to Loss Prevention. Oh, and for good measure, they threw in a couple of items that I rung up for other associates even though I don’t actually possess the materials…nice huh?
By Wednesday night the entire department is missing in action, and on Thursday some of us convene at an undisclosed location to swear passionately about the bogus state of events. I tell my friends they’re lucky I don’t drink or I’d probably be in the middle of the street screaming, “THOSE MUTHAFUCKAS,” at the top of my lungs with my two middle fingers pointed at the stars.
Friday I wake with noticeable tension comfortably sitting on my spinal column, yet entirely confident that they won’t can a large number of the department to prove their point.
Don’t tell anyone…but I can be hopelessly naïve at times.
They fired the entire department…everybody. Anyone that had some part in this “conspiracy” was given their walking papers. I’m talking like twenty people fired through a series of fifteen-minute shifts and justified by bureaucratic nonsense that missed the whole point of the thing…we’re not managers. The conducting of markdowns occurred at the behest and coordination of our manager. As far as we were concerned, it was all good. Just think about it…the dept. holds about fifteen associates and we all got terminated. That means that everyone either bought display merchandise or rung up transactions for people purchasing display merchandise, and these people attempted to insinuate that the markdowns were done maliciously as some facet of a conspiracy plot that threatened to provide al-Queda with the keys to a suitcase nuke.
The most bizarre and fucked-up thing about the situation is the bonus prize we all received. Not only are we fired from the company but…banned from the premises. Yes, you read that correctly. If I or any of my unemployed-ass friends set foot on the premises then we can be arrested as trespassers and threats to the store’s assets. How fucked up is that? There’s like a million of these places…and I can’t go in any one of them? Now that is the most difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. Securing a new toothbrush could mean leaving in cuffs.
So, because of some decision that wasn’t even made by me or anyone else working for seven bucks an hour, I now have no job, owe my former employers a little over a grand, and will be attacked with Sarin gas upon accidentally setting foot in the store.
That was my week…how was yours?
Next Time: I’m beginning to forget the sheer amount of women that have probably walked past my former dept., and am prepared to deliver a column that discusses the decidedly different approach I’ll be taking at this year’s Wizard World convention. Plans of attack and methods of delivery will be revealed in something that could only be called Reloaded…