18 February 2010

Every time a pallet does not get sorted, we lose money.

Every time a book cart goes un-shelved, we lose money.

Every time a section goes un-maintained, we lose money.

Every time we cut hours for staff, we lose money.

These are undeniable facts.

The problem is, AA does not realize this. On second thought, maybe they do. So the question is, do they care or are the executives, like Mike Edwards, just a bunch of smug S.O.B’s who continue to draw an indecent amount of pay while hours are cut on the front line - a variation on while Rome burns, Nero plays the fiddle?

Granted, these guys and gals can claim they went to college, graduated and should get this money. After all, they’ll assert strongly, they have earned this pay. And God knows, just because the company is going down in flames, does not mean they should abandon that principle cut the hours and pay of the “little people.” Besides, everyone should know, that in graduate school, the first rule is that workers will crumble in the face of adversity. Just keep hammering them on the head with more and more restructuring and they will eventually go away.

How many Borders employees on the front line have left the company, these guys, these gals, who are the bread and butter of the customer service AA says we should have. These passionate booksellers, managers, and inventory people have been replaced by people who barely understand who wrote Confederacy of Dunces, let alone suggest a title. Essentially, customers come to our stores because of the knowledgeable employees. But now they can barely find anyone on the floor, and most -a fair high amount based on the five Borders I’ve worked at - still don’t know how to use the computers. And even when they do, they still need someone to help them find the section -Borders has failed for years to create a store that can easily navigated by anyone.

Where is everyone, their eyes seem to plead. Well, you see, we need to pay Mike Edwards his nearly $ 500,000 a year pay -God knows what the other executives are making. So to do that, Borders has cut hours to the bare minimum, all while spouting the business cliche of doing more with less (I have 2.5 million light years of work to do, but given 34 hours a week to do it. Does not take a mathematician to figure out that a lot of work is going unfinished).

They’ve essentially now use mutated mathematics, linear logic and a tight sphincter to further justify the cutting of hours and staff - all while Mike Edwards gets extra compensation for being the interim CEO.

But the DM’s and RM’s don’t want to hear this when they rattle their Ghost chains at you for not meeting sales goals or RPL compliance (or, until recently, Make Titles). They want to hear that the staff is failing, that all the front-line workers are, essentially, at fault here. That had they not sold just one more item, be it a Make title, a rubber ball, or a large coffee, Borders would not be in the position it is now. But what about the poor leadership being shown by the DM’s and the RM’s? They come into the stores like Godzilla, create a giant mess and leave, all while giving nothing in thoughtful leadership or advice -beyond get it done or be fired (or as RM Mike Steel would say, just do what your told and don’t think).

Usually, there is tension between the front-line workers and management. The real schism is now between us and the executives at AA. As I’ve said before, the staff clearly understands that AA is playing a very different game than we are, one with a different set of rules. So its difficult for us to get behind these classic ideals of “we are all in this together,” to get us motivated, to get behind AA’s goals when we know how different the stakes are for meeting those said goals are for staff and AA.

The solution to these problems is rather simple:

Give us realistic hours to achieve realistic goals. How a BSS can reach an end-of-week RPL compliance on such horrible short hours is beyond me.

Give us realistic hours to get pallets sorted and shelved (with time dedicated to making sure sections do not fall out of alpha order, which they have).

Give us qualified GM’s who understand how a bookstore works. Have the DM’s stop hiring buddies, close friends and old co-workers who clearly don’t care and don’t want to know how a bookstore works (hello, Mira Loma).

Hire someone who understands pop culture. Jebus on a pogo stick, we cater to middle age business women for what reason? Take a page from TV and movies: teenagers spend money like its going out of style. Why we’re not creating eye-appealing sections (and the INK thing does not count, as it was a failure from the word go and no one at this time has any understanding of why its there and what it does. So, if I may paraphrase Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, we haven’t gone out of our way to call attention to INK, have we? I mean, like actually telling anybody).

Give us leadership. The essential success of any large company is based on its leadership. Borders have failed to give us anyone with clear understanding of how to run a bookstore. It is not like running any other retail outfit, no matter how much you guys at AA want to believe it is. It’s unique and needs to be treated like that, and not as Target or a Wal Mart.

At the end of the day, most front-line workers still want and love their jobs at Borders. But they don’t want to be treated like dirt, which is happening now. AA has hurt the brand, and we, the general staff, are paying the price for it. By not getting product out in a timely matter (and due mostly to the cut hours), by not maintaining section standards, by forcing unwanted Make Tiltes down the throats of people (cause it’s all about the margins. Where did that get NBC?) we are basically saying to all our customers this:

“Here’s the address and directions to Barnes and Noble down the street. While the staff here cares for your needs, your wants, our people in AA do not. Interim CEO Mike Edwards needs to pay for that nice house in AA, and drive that overpriced, gas guzzling SUV. So here, take this slip of paper, go to B&N. They might not understand what you fully want, but at least you’ll get what you want. Eventually. And maybe, if I’m lucky, a Barista at B&N will die and I can get their position.”

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