1562 Good Morning, Voice.


When I worked for a little comic shop the owner bought a little, fake, security camera to stick in a corner so people would think they were being watched. There were also some of those mirrors that you see in some places. The round ones that warp your perspective, but are supposed to help you see around corners. Most people weren’t fooled by the camera, but the mirror always got people looking at it to see if we were watching. Only the best shoplifters can do their business without looking like they’re up to no good. Most people start getting twitchy when they steal stuff. I worked in enough shops to be able to spot shoplifters pretty well. I’m also tall, so I could peer over fixtures at them when they thought they weren’t being observed. We weren’t allowed to catch shoplifters. Most places tell you to just be present until they leave on their own, even if they steal right in front of you. They don’t want to deal with the legal issues that arise when you accuse someone of theft. If you can’t absolutely prove it, which is harder to do in court than you might think, they would just as soon take the hit and get the tax break at the end of the fiscal year. And fair enough really. I’ve never worked for a company that felt like it had my best interests at heart. I’m certainly not going to risk my life over Jay Z’s Blueprint album for a store that isn’t going to back me. No, I always felt like the associates were the ones most suspected of being thieves. Which is statistically true, but doesn’t help with morale. I know a lot of people I work with stole a lot of stuff. Less than 50% got caught.
I know I’ve told this story before, but there was a receiving manager that really hated me at one point. I’m not even sure why. I suspect it was because I didn’t take much of anything seriously. I mean, we sold trinkets to assholes. Who cares if things are perfect? The animals just shat all over our work anyway. In any event, she really annoyed the manager too, so he set out to get her on a fireable offense, so she could never work for the company again. He got her for eating a handful of Skittles from a package that someone had opened on the floor. It had to be thrown away, but the rules state that all of the remaining item has to be disposed of, or it’s legally considered theft. so she got canned for probably 15 skittles candies. The absolutely smallest amount of anything I ever knew of someone getting fired over. I was fine with the whole thing. I didn’t like how she ran things, or acted to the rest of the crew, but a friend of mine talked to her about it afterward and her response was so good I had to forgive her just a little. She said “I just wanted to taste the rainbow…” Fucking legend. I salute you, you dumb bitch, wherever you are. Your story makes me laugh to this very day.
As much as I feel like minor theft isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, I understand why companies have rules. I also always felt a little betrayed when someone I knew stole something big, or while I was in the store, because it felt like since it was on my watch they had outsmarted me in some way. Really though, I just trusted people that I worked with and was, at the very least, friendly with. As jaded as I am it’s really easy to trick me if I consider you a friend, because the idea of needing to watch you doesn’t even occur to me. Even now I’m still essentially the same way. If I trust you the suspicious part of my brain just shuts off. In spite of several experiences that prove otherwise, I don’t suspect the people closest to me. I guess that’s just a trade off I have to make so I don’t feel like a monster all the time.
I actually liked working retail sometimes. When people were nice I’d go the extra mile for them, but they were almost never nice. They treated me like a servant. I’ve tried to remember that when I’m shopping myself now. Every person that serves me is just this tiny cog in a machine they can’t even see the scope of. Not everyone in a store is going to have encyclopedic knowledge of the premises. They probably just came in to put some junk on the shelves and get a paycheck like everyone else. If they can help me when I need it that’s great, if not, well they’re just drones trying to keep the hive working as best they can. Chances are there’s a group of people, sitting in an office someplace, trying to control the store without ever having to leave that room, so communication is probably never going to be very good. That’s just the reality of the modern brick and mortar store.
You guys might not believe this, but a long time ago Wal Mart used to be run fairly well. It’s going back far enough that I was a teenager, but it’s true. Sam Walton took a very active part in his operations. My mother once wrote him a letter about our local store being in poor shape, and he showed up, unannounced, one day. Flew in on his own jet to our little airport and wandered into the store to raise hell. He figured if someone was angry enough to actually write him a letter than it was worth his time to get off his ass and see what was going on. His empire didn’t happen by accident. He led the hell out of that operation till he died. His kids tried to keep that going too, but when they died in that plane crash everything got handed over to lesser people, and things spiraled into the shitpit we have now.
It’s hard to run a successful business by committee. One person with a clear vision, and absolute power, works better in most cases.
I firmly believe that if Sam Walton had been alive at the start of the economic downturn it wouldn’t have lasted so long. A lot of that sort of thing comes down to how people feel. When the shelves went unstocked for months it made shoppers uneasy. If they had kept running full tilt, making it look like things were fine, I suspect people would have reacted differently. I think he would have kept shelves stocked, so people could buy the things that made them feel safe, instead of presenting them with a wasteland. That’s just my theory though.