Monday, December 29, 2008

Sights and Sounds from the Holiday Maddness!

"With a gun stuck in your mouth and the barrel of the gun between your teeth, you can only talk in vowels."-excerpt from the novel 'Fight Club' by: Chuck Palahniuk

The holiday shopping season is finally over. The longer hours, the sore feet, the never ending stream of bitchy customers, is over.

By all reports on the news and online, America's retail sectors are down this year. I would like to contest any of those reports. I have been in the midst of the busiest shopping season to date in my eyes. The first half of the December the crowds were thin. 7 days before Christmas I would have told you that, yes, retail was down, but in the last 7 days leading up to Christmas, the crowds came, and they spent. My company's location that I work in did almost an entire month's worth of sales in 7 days.

That kind of volume makes you want to eat a bullet. Nothing can prepare you for being that busy.

"Money is not earned or won. It is just a mutual agreement to a change in perception." Dan T's Blackberry Messenger status message

One observation I have made this year, during this 'economic crisis' is that the over all mood of the people is poor. All day long they have to listen to the news reports telling us the economy is in the crapper, the stock markets have lost more points than it did during the Depression. The new President keeps telling us that we are facing the worst economic crisis since the Depression. It is no wonder why the people are depressed.

Now usually I am the biggest Grinch in America during the holidays, but this year, my mood seemed downright festive.

Despite this economic crisis the news said that retail sales were down, but I feel that people were still spending money, but you can tell that they just didn't want to let it go so easily. In my business there is a type of person that we do not like to see. That type of person is called, "Mr. and Mrs. Beeback".

Mr. and Mrs. Beeback represent a retail sales reps. worst fear. That they will come in, talk your ear off, and then think about it, and 'be back' later. All of our sales training that we have been put through is designed to close sales immediately, because we all know that Mr. and Mrs. Beeback are not coming back if they leave and if they do come back, they will either talk to your colleagues or go to a different store all together.

This year, Mr. and Mrs. Beeback actually came back. We kept very meticulous track of all the customers who said that they would be back, and we kept touching base with them. In a week most of out Mr. and Mrs. Beeback's had come back. Our sales went from being in the toilet to being up ahead of what we did last year. The economic crisis in my eyes, isn't the doomsday that the media is making it out to be. People are getting laid off but that is because the company they worked for made bad business decisions. The America auto maker put it eggs in the large SUV basket. They need to learn from it and move on. Pick up another skill. Its not always as easy as that, and I know people are hurting, but people are always going to be hurting. The broad strokes of the issue is not that people aren't hurting, but that people aren't hurting nearly as bad as the media would like us to think. Now in January; it might be a different story. That's when people will get the credit card bills.

"Damn my arm is killing me!" Me-after playing Wii until 4am
I was a part of a lot of other people's gifts to their loved ones this year. It is one thing to give a gift to another person, but the way in which you do it is what makes it all special.

How do you give a cell phone as a gift and make it all original. Many parents like to wrap up the phone in the box and call it. The ringing phone makes a noise, and the kids know what they got, and they tear into the package like a tiger to Roy's face.

This year I wanted to help people make giving a cell phone more fun. At this point calling the phone under the tree is old news. I tried to help people think of more creative ways to give gifts.

Here is a list of some of the ideas I came up with:

1. There is a very popular and very expensive phone that all the kids want. Because of the high demand for it, be had a ton of empty boxes for this phone. Parents were not buying the really expensive phone for the kids' first cell phone although they surely wanted it. So I would give them the expensive phone box and the parents would put the phone they really bought in it and wrap it up. Now many say, well you are just disappointing the kids. My retort is actually one a customer told me. "They can shut up, the phone they got was totally better than the one they had 5 minutes before opening that one."

2. Take the phone out of the box and place it in a much larger box labeled as something else.

3. This one I am particularly proud of. I had a customer who wanted to add on a new line for his girlfriend. He had to do it although he and his girlfriend were 'exploring their best options' with other carriers. He came in and picked out the phone and said he would call me to let me know when he was picking it up. He called me and said, I will be there today, but she is coming with me and she is going to want to talk to a sales rep.

We had to put on like we had never talked and they were a completely new customer. So he came up solo and said, we have 1o minutes before she gets here, so he bought the phone and put it in another bag he had already gotten from another store. He then walked away and said that he would be back.

So when they came back she was asking about phones and asked about plans. I basically sold her on the phone and accessories he just bought for her 15 minutes earlier, but lied and said the phone she wanted in the color she wanted didn't come out until January. She was excited and decided that they would come back after the new year.

Little did I know what he was going to do with the phone. He then took a photo of the engagement ring with the phone's camera and put it in the box.

She opened the phone, laughed, and when she turned it on, the engagement ring was the wallpaper of the phone and the banner read, 'Will you marry me?'.

She said yes and stopped back yesterday to tell me that I was a wonderful actor and he thanked me for all his help.

Its special moments like that; that can turn the crappiest most busy holiday season around. The acknowledgment of all my hard work from a customer is all I needed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Talk about a crazy day!

I am currently sitting in a very very noisy party where I know absolutely no one but my wife and another friend of mine, Char and the host.

Right now Journey is playing very loudly on a an old school hi-fi system. You know the one that Patrick Bateman (played like a genius by Christian Bale) had in the movie American Psycho. Along with the loud music comes a lot of very drunk people attempting to dance.
[note to self: next time I am drunk, stay put in a seat. I can now see what everyone else sees when I drunk dance.]

Oh God, they started singing! Shoot me now!

I am huddled in a corner with my BlackBerry punching out this blog.

[wife just walked through the room 'dancing and singing' Journey is over, on to Abba's Dancing Queen]

The story of why I am here requires a story.

Today was a very busy Saturday. Retail this time of year is crazy, but today was the busiest day of the season by far! So I need to give you background. I sell mobile communication devices. More specifically I am a sales supervisor. So I manage a small staff in a mall kiosk.

[I am now in the car driving home. Thank God-]

In my industry there are 2 things that analysts use to judge success. New subscribers and Churn. New subscribers are a given, pretty self explanatory. Churn is just jargon for the rate in which current customers leave our company. Now Churn isn't something I can measure on a day to day basis. So when we set our goals, we only have new subscribers in mind. Don't get me wrong, current customers count too, but let's face it, growth is the name of the game. Keep the customers you have and attract new ones too. In this economy, if you can show growth, you are a part of a successful company.

With that being said, let me give you an idea of how busy it was today. On a typical Saturday, outside of the holidays, getting 6 new subscribers is a great day. During the holidays getting 10 new subscribers is great. Well today we added 23 new subscribers. It was so busy I didn't have time to think.

Its just one of those days where you just hold on for your life and wait for it to be over.

[I'm home now]

So I got to work about 12:30pm and left work about 11:30pm. 11 hours, a long day no matter how busy, but add 130% more customer traffic and you have a very busy day. Oh, yeah, almost forgot, I was up at 6am with my daughter and her friend. 6 year old sleep overs are not for the faint of heart. So, I've been up for a while. [I cooked Audrey and company pancakes. They rocked if I must say so myself!]

About 10:30 my wife tells me that she is going to a Christmas party and would like me to come along. Reluctantly I accept and when I leave work I go to this party. I trek halfway across the state, or so it feels.

Now this party is being thrown by a friend of ours, a common pleas judge for a neighboring city. To say this guy throws one hell of a party in an understatement. I walk into this house looking for my wife. She was no where to be found. Wading through the crowd felt like I was in a movie. Think Can't Hardly Wait, but with older, more drunk people, and what they were getting drunk on was not cheap keg beer. Most of these people make a decent amount of money. These people work hard, and my god they play hard. I knew the host, and 2 other people. I was not having fun. When one arrives to a party as late as I did, its like coming into a child birth to watch the placenta hit the floor. The beautiful part is over, now all that is left is sloppy seconds.

So now that its nearly 2am, its time to end my day and go to bed!
The only great thing about busy days are that I get paid on commission. Let the crowds come!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

At the end of a long day

This weekend in retail is what we insiders call the 'mad dash'. It's when last minute shoppers run to the mall and shop and shop and shop and shop. The weekend before Christmas is historically worse than Black Friday. The volume is higher, the hours are typically longer, and the deals this year seem to be better.

Retail this time of year is the equivalent to 14 hour shifts at the plant. I am one of the fortunate that was blessed with the ability to bullshit, so I make a great salesman. My Grandfather, Father, and anyone before me in my family had to work. I don't have to work. I mean I go to work, but I get paid to talk all day. I get paid to tell people what they want. How awesome is America?

Well today was a pretty long day. I worked from 1pm to 11:3opm tonight, and I am beat. Not as much as the wife is right now. I came home and I find my 6 year old passed out on the couch, my daughter's friend sitting on the couch disappointed that her hostess couldn't hang much past 10pm, my dog running around the house all freaked out, and my wife is sitting the chair worn ragged from the kids and dog. This is Audrey's first sleep over, so the wife wasn't sure what to expect. I think she bit off more than she could chew. The next one, I don't think I am going to be allowed to work.

Of all the times I wish I had a camera ready, it would have been tonight when I got home to capture that scene. I wish I could have gotten it, but you win some and you lose some.

After changing into some comfy clothes, putting Audrey and her friend to bed, I poured myself a drink. Isn't always nice at the end of a long day, to have that one drink you always love?

Bourbon and water is my poison. I am pretty sure my wife needed it more than I. I'm sure if she could have found the corkscrew, the case of wine we just bought would have been gone.

**of you hadn't noticed I added a FaceBook badge to my FaceBook page. Feel free to add me**

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things In Life.

I am sitting at home watching House on USA, and I am reading and writing a lot.

This evening I have managed to read 15 different blogs, comment most of them, send an e-mail to the author of one blog of note, and update my FaceBook page. I subscribed to 2 new blogs of the 15 I have read.

I have decided what I am. I am a voyeur. I love to watch people. I guess reading all the blogs of note is the internet equivalent to sitting in a dark room with a long lens snapping photos for my own sick perversion. I like to see what other people think about their surroundings.

I have no idea where I was going with this, and I will retreat back into my blog reading.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who Throws A Shoe?

At the end of my post titled 'LZ Cheer' I promised that there would be photos of Audrey's "war".  Well I am sorry to say that something has happened in the news that cannot go un-commented by me.  

So you have heard that our President of the United States had a shoe thrown at him during a news conference in Iraq.  

Just to fill you in on the details, an Iraqi journalist is a bit pissed off that Bush came in and turned its country on its head.  Never mind that we unseated a tyrant dictator that more than likely made his mother and father gargle his mayonnaise and then was unmercifully killed execution style and then placed in an unmarked grave with about 1,000 other anonymous innocent people.  

Let's assume for a minute that this citizen of Iraq is justified in feeling that America is evil.  Let's assume he is telling the truth when he says we went to war with bad intelligence.  Why would you throw a shoe?  Really?  Isn't that a pretty chick move.  For a culture who is all about the man, and all about suppressing the women, this journalist did the equivalent of a women throwing her high heels at her husband who pissed her off.  

I have some advice for the people of Iraq.  Right now you are the face of the Arab world.  You guys feel that America thinks that your culture and blood are cheap.  You feel that America is the land of supreme evil because we are not a culture ruled by religion.  You are right, religion is not the center of our government.  You are wrong when we think that your blood and culture is cheap.  You have to somehow understand a majority of American's positions on the Arab world.  In the last 20 years there have been numerous terrorist attacks on innocent people.  I am not one to say America is not guilty in this, because Americans overseas in foreign country's make mistakes, but they are not random acts of terror.  We are not targeting the innocent civilians, we are targeting those who continue to undermine the progress of the Arab community.  Do I think America went to war with best intentions?  Yes.  Do I think that now that we realized our intelligence was bad we should get out?  No.  We created a huge mess, and now we need to clean up that mess.  I do feel that American forces need to take more of a back seat.  The reason your police forces are being targeted is because they are backed up by American forces.  So if we used the Segment Addition Postulation, the A= America B=American Forces and C=Iraqi Police then ab+bc=ac.  That means America multiplied by the American Military plus the American Military multiplied by the Iraqi Police equals America is the Iraqi police.  

I think that makes sense.  

So that is why Iraq is so upset.  I am a genius.  

So my advice to Iraq, which is a point I started before but got off on a tangent, don't throw shoes.  It solidifies the position of what you think America thinks of Iraq; that Iraqi people are a bunch of little bitches.  

P.S.- Had this journalist thrown a shoe a Saddam Hussein, he would have been tortured and executed.  Instead, he's being ruffed up a bit, and he will live through it.  You're welcome Mr. Iraqi Journalist.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why the UAW and Organized Religion is bad

It's no secret that the economy is in the crapper. Our stock markets are crashing, banks are being bought and sold much like they are for sale on eBay, the retail sales this Christmas are down, and realty stocks are rising while prices are falling.

Another tragic story of this economic downturn is the American Auto Maker. The American Automakers, GM, Chrysler, and Ford [read: Big 3] are petitioning the government for a bailout. They want the America taxpayer to bailout their company in order to stay afloat. To an extent I agree that yes, they need a bailout because the results of any one of these automakers going out of business would be disastrous for our country, and economy.

Late last night the Bill that was passed in the House went over to the Senate. They Senate voted the bill down by a resounding majority. The United Auto Workers (UAW) refused to budge on their position the lower wages to bring them in line with other auto manufacturers (Toyota, Honda) that are building cars on American soil. The UAW flat out refused to make that concession. They knew that they had to make concessions, but they did not want to make that one.

Let's get a little lesson in facts. It is a fact that most of the cars made by the Big 3 are made in Mexico. There are plants in America which are mainly component plants. I know the Chevy Cobalt and the Pontiac G6 are made in Lordstown, Ohio but the majority of their parts, and manufacturing are done outside America. Honda and Toyota [read: profitable 2] make their vehicles for America, in America. They have the leading hybrid technology and they have a more profitable business model. For the most part, the UAW haven't infiltrated the upper echelons of the company and re-molded it to their liking. The UAW has been driving the prices up on the Big 3 for years, and to keep their non-profitable gas guzzling cars coming off the assembly lines, they approve and agree to higher pay with each and every contract, because if they don't the UAW will pout like 3 year olds and strike (temper tantrum) until they get their way. The profitable 2 have lower wages, but they aren't petitioning our government for more money either.

GM hasn't out sold Toyota for almost 2 years, but you have to think, if GM out sells Toyota, that is like the 6th grade bully beating the crap out of a kindergartener. Toyota has 1 major brand, Toyota. They have Lexus too, but for the most part, people are buying Toyotas. GM on the otherhand has, Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Saturn, Cadillac, and Hummer. Yeah, they have 6 major brands against Toyota's 2 maybe 3 if you include Scion. So to say Toyota out sold GM is a major thing.

So the UAW says no way to a wage cut to keep the employer of their members open, they may force the Big 3 into bankruptcy. So they would rather tell their members to hold out for more money, than to guarantee their pay checks. So why are the members of the UAW even paying their leadership?

This brings me to my next point. The economy is in the crapper and many people are pinching pennies and trying to make ends me. I am no exception. A situation has come up where Audrey's tuition for private Catholic school may be in jeopardy. Slumping economy and things of this nature, has forced my ex-wife to use the money she would normally reserve for Audrey's school, to pay bills to keep the lights on.

We had a discussion, so we decided to go to the parish and ask for assistence. Figured if we explained our situation to Father, he would understand and help with some sort of assistence. We weren't asking for a reduced rate, but a special payment plan or something. These were Christian people so why wouldn't they help.

Instead of empathizing they chastized my ex and made her feel like less of a human. If she wasn't able to pay, then Audrey could no longer go to school at St. Mary's. They didn't stop and think about what it could do to Audrey's psyche or what it would do to her further development as a Catholic. They just cared about the all mighty dollar.

I have been searching for a place of worship for sometime now. Everytime I walk into a Church i I feel like they are selling me on why I should come there and because the Bible tell us so, pay them 10% of what I earn. Yes the Bible says to need to give 10%, but no where does it say that it has to be money to a church. It says give 10% to God, so what you do with your hard earned money it never says give it to a guy in a robe at a Church. How ever you choose to remit your 10% to God is between you and God.

All organized religions are the same. They don't care about the Christianity of the matter, they care about how they are going to continue to get your money.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

LZ Cheer

The air had a bit of a chill in it tonight. It has been raining all day and now into the evening it was turning into snow.

I am sitting on the bleachers on Audrey's cheer practice doing what I do best. Staying quiet and passing judgment.

Cheer practice has become modern warfare in my eyes. The war paint of a cheer leader is not camouflage, but blue glitter. The uniform is not jungle stripes, but a mixture of tailored polyester and other synthetic fabrics. The weapon is not an M-16 but the tooth less smiles of 6 year olds. The more obnoxious the better.

The modern day Huey helicopter is a late model minivan with dual sliding doors.

Today against the cloudy night sky, I parked my car and Audrey climbed out and ran into practice. We were late.

I took my time coming in. I was on a phone call and didn't want the loud music of cheer practice to hinder my ability to communicate.

I hung up the phone and placed my phone back into my pocket and I could hear the faint thumping in the air. I felt like the Vietcong hearing their demise from a H-1 Huey Gun ship filled with highly trained US Army personnel from the 2nd Calvary. The thumping grew louder.

From around the corner came a Chrysler Town & Country. It sped into the parking lot and stopped short in front of the door. The side doors flung open and 8 kids jumped out. The van closed up again and it was gone. The thumping was not of rotor blades, but the massive bass hits of Miley Cyrus.

The whole move had as much precision as Navy SEAL insertion.

I am completely baffled by this whole ordeal. Today is dress rehearsal day. The Cheer Snobs are out in force. They are all criticing their own daughters performance. Who is hurting the team, and who is helping. Of course it doesn't matter that their daughter has been messing up all practice, they are all convinced of their daughters infallible talent.

Audrey's first competition [read: war] is coming up this Saturday. I will have photos no doubt.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You're old, sorry, I don't speak your language!

Well its an early Saturday morning in retail. The malls open a whole hour earlier, so that means the customary mall walkers are out a whole hour earlier. I don't know what it is, but everyone is so grumpy. I have been working for a whole hour and I have already been yelled at by a potential customer because I didn't have any printed literature about a product.

This customer got under my skin in particular because he wanted to know what was new. I show him. He seems interested in what I have to say. He asks if I had anything he could take with him. Well no, we keep all the information on our products online, and I gave him the address. I offer to write it down. He looked at me with such contempt, you would have thought I showed him a video of his wife with a huge black guy named Tiny. He started into me with, you people need to keep the older customer in mind when you are trying to sell us things. Now mind you, this guy couldn't have been a day over 50.

I asked this dude, what he meant. He said that he has been to our website and he is more confused now than he has ever been. He said he came into see me today because he wanted to walk away with something he could read. I asked him what kinds of problems he was having with the website.

He said that every time we sell something to him we assume he knows how to get on the internet.
I can appreciate someone not knowing how to use the internet. I can appreciate someone coming into my store to ask me questions. What I don't appreciate you talking down to me like I am stupid.

Ok I get it. I work in retail. I am somehow less of a human being for enjoying my job, and because you are off on weekends that makes you better than me. And excuse me for assuming you look younger than you are and speaking to you like an adult instead of a child which is what a lot of young people do when they speak to people of your age group. I am not stupid, and when I try and help you understand why we do things the way we do, don't look at me like I am feeding you a line of crap to shut you up.

Now because I can't retort to you in person, here is my retort to you.

You, Mr. Old guy, are the reason this country is in the disastrous downturn it is in. Because of your lack of adaptation and refusal to learn about new technology, is the reason that you still get a paper check for social security. If you got direct deposit it would save ME, the taxpayer millions of dollars in postage. But no, because you were not able to save properly while you were in the work force, you are dependent on the money I pay into the social security system, and when it comes time for me to use that same system that is keeping the roof over your head, there will be none for me. So when you come into my place of work and chastise me for assuming you are smarter than you really are, you need to remember that I and the rest of my generation are paying your bills. Furthermore, if you can't figure out how to type in a question into a search engine, you shouldn't have a computer anyway, let alone looking at a product that will give you that technology in the palm of your hand. So I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart for assuming you know something that you obviously know nothing about. I tried to show you, but your Ben Gay was starting to wear off so you had to leave. So leave. Merry Christmas.