The Making of a Great Retail Store: What Can Be Done for Those with Obsolete Jobs? (Case Study Great Store or restaurant 10)


Yesterday I had to make stops by two stores to pick up some cellphones that we need and are not in stock. In the meantime, I inquired about someone I know who is having many ups and downs.

Two generations ago, when the Baby Boomers ran America one could get any okay American job and expect to spend 30 to 40 years there. That was ruined when my generation (X) entered workforce seriously and Internet Revolution hit all economies. I was taught in college to expect to have 6 to 8 CAREERS and many jobs in each field before I retire. The rate of change had changed because of Internet and jobs became obsolete every few years. That is another story.

Our friend has worked for a retail electronics firm for 12 years. Personally, I think his biggest accomplishment is he can be on vacation all the time. Not too long ago, a typical retail worker was valued for being around more than anything. The low number of workers because of low population of Generation X had put everyone in demand. Manufacturing had been shipped overseas because too few here wanted too much. Many harder jobs were filled by millions of new arrivals from South of the border for lack of available persons. And jobs such as retail which hired but had not easy working conditions tried hard to keep good workers around. Our friend qualified as a very good worker and went as high as assistant manager until the newer economy replaced the economy again. He and many others were no longer valued for reliability and meeting minimum requirements. The nature of the job and the industry had changed.

I remember efforts being made as long as a year ago to push many employees and managers out. The company explanation is always available but it just happens the payrolls would be so much lighter with the departure of senior staff and other reasons. Our friend survived much pressure and many attempts (one may say because he had so much paid vacation time and was not around to get stressed or fired) but the efforts continued. The harshest treatment came a few months ago when I heard he was demoted ( was demoted to regular employee from assistant manager long ago) to store stock person. He was not allowed to sell. It is a bona fide fact that selling is much more than putting numbers on paper (or in computer) and I can best state much by saying if another person is allowed the same selling opportunities, the quality and quantity can be dramatically different so why waste good selling chances?

I checked indirectly as I check on everyone who works in the district for any of 22 stores and our friend’s number showed he worked but sold hardly anything or was on vacation and sold hardly anything. That was the case until very recently when I noticed his numbers were back to normal matching his hours. My visit yesterday also gave me a chance to check on him. As it turns out, he is allowed to sell but not allowed to sell any wireless.

I have been thinking about all this since yesterday and there are many ways to handle a situation such as this but the last solution applied to this employee problem made me think why not? This employee has worked here for many years and qualified for many tasks. Why not assign some staff to doing only older functions of running a store and assign other staff to other functions that demand different skills. In this case, a retail electronic store is half an electronic hardware store and half advanced electronics including wireless sales. Since it is in fashion to wear jeans and t-shirts at work (to be like Apple store) why not make those not qualified for advanced devices wear a humble color shirt and those selling the cool stuff a nice-looking color t-shirt? That is how it will be eventually anyway, right? Whoever made our dress codes was insane anyway. Jeans with polo shirts tucked in? The word “dork” finds new meaning? I have a feeling this person or persons has never wore a polo shirt. That is a different tale but am sure “proper” attire can be assigned by this person for the two groups (nobody tucks shirts in!) and not only a few ten thousand experienced (only some are clock punchers and dead wood. The rest are good but the old job is obsolete.) persons can be productive by keeping jobs trained and experienced in but others can be identified for the new and more challenging positions that are result of new economies? I am not suggesting the answers but one I came across. The problem and problems remain and how we define them will have a great deal to do with the solutions we find. What of this problem? What can be done? Is the only solution abuse and mistreatment till the person gives up what was (fairly or by doing a minimum job) earned over many long years or can some other ways exist?

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