Team Building Weekend

AKA load of horse shit fobbed onto the management by some pseud who they have not had the good sense or courage to throw out of the building.

I have never been on a team-building exercise – to the best of my knowledge I have never been on a team. And no part of my psyche seems to have suffered.

I have been part of a workforce in a company, and part of a student body on many occasions. I have been the principal of a practice. I am a husband and a father and have been a son and grandson in the day. None of these involved crawling under barbed wire or sitting in a sauna or confessing my flaws – indeed the success of a number of these positions involved hiding them. Whatever I am or am not now has been a result of me and not the team.

If that sounds arrogant – it isn’t. I’m not a very big hill of beans. But the beans are me, not some construct of a psych department attached to a promotions company. If you hired me you got me…not anyone else.

The Trolling Net

I check my net every week to see if I have caught my troll. Some weeks are disappointing but some are a bonanza if he snaps at the bait. I’ve gotten three bites a week in the high season.

You generally hear only bad things about trolls, but that is if they are only popping up on social media and writing irksome things to upset people. Of course that is what they always do, but you can convert the energy they put into nastiness to your own purposes.

Mine is advertising for a shop. I write three weekly columns for it with news of the goods and services that they sell. I get to put in humour as well and the occasional flight of fancy.

[Aside} Never stand under a Fancy when they are flying, particularly if they have had a greasy meal. You’ll never get the stains out.

Well, my troll reads the columns religiously – possibly between human sacrifice days. He erupts in a comment whenever some particular statement attracts his combative nature. The comment can come back as a return to the dashboard – which is an internal thing and not so useful – or it can be splashed on the Facebook page that repeats the column. That’s pay dirt.

You see, I get to see the figures for the readership hits on the main column and they spike whenever Trolly bleats. More people read the column, looking for the controversy, and more people then go on to browse the rest of the store’s website. This is a store that wants on-line trade and every time someone wanders down their electronic aisle it’s money in the bank.

I must confess, I have written a few columns in such a way as to provoke Trolly for just this purpose. Not many, but every so often…

He may be a nasty piece of work at home – I don’t know. He may be a sweetie, and the social star of his street. I just hope for his continued good health and bad digestion – he is the best straight man I have, troll or not.

Re Tales – Part Eight – Essential Or Luxury?

Which to sell – essential goods or luxury ones?

Aye, there’s the rub – and it’s either with a velvet glove or a bastard file. You choose which division of commerce you think will be likeliest to pay and go with that. If you are right you  rake in the cash and if you are wrong you rake leaves in the park.

Essential items are food, water, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and security. Thus we see sellers of prepackaged truffles, designer water, silk underwear, bespoke serviced appartments, day facelift spas, and bouncers doing very well indeed.

Luxury items are every blessed thing else. And not every venture selling these succeeds. However, when they do take off – the camera shop or the hobby shop come to mind – the sky is the limit. People will stint themselves of luxuries to buy essentials but that is called skimping and saving pennies – when it is the other way it works with hundreds and thousand of dollars. The trick of retailing is to be where the money ends up – not where it starts.

Re Tales – Part Seven – The Sale

Every shop has a sale some time. Not the regular sales over the counter of everyday commerce – a SALE that involves vast quantities – of many different things:

a. Time. Even a small impromptu sale that the owner thinks up the last minute before going on holiday involves days and hours of preparation, conduct, and accounting. Fortunately they are on holiday and have left their phone at home. The staff will cope…

b. Advertising. No good trying to get more customers in the door if they do not know where the door is or why they might want to come in. So the retailer spends money with the newspapers, phone book company, on-line IT experts ( the ones that are out of the asylum that week ) and leaflet distributors. The richer retailers use radio and television to blow the trumpet – the more frugal ones just buy trumpets and blow them themselves. 3:00 AM in the car park of the shopping centre is a trying time…

c. Preparation. Re-tagging all the sale stock is a pain. Particularly if you need to re-re-tag it after it hasn’t sold. And you need to be accurate in your pricing. ” Whatever ” is not a price tag that will make a profit for the shop.

Beware of customers who shift full-price stock into the sales bins and then magically ” find ” it and rush to the till. They will then demand to have it for an imaginary price, quoting God and Magna Carta as justification. It is best to have a short club handy.

d. Staff. No-one can stand sales pressure on their own so the wise manager will arrange for extra staff to be present. They may be rostered in on a schedule or just thrown in willy-nilly as the fatalities occur. Warn them that normal meal, break and toilet amenities are suspended for the sale period – if necessary quote Magna Carta. With a bit of luck this regime will seem natural and can be extended to the rest of the year.

e. Old unsalable stock. This is the core of the sale – after all, if it all went out regularly, there would be no need for all the other extra work. Old unsalable stock may be perfectly good, but so far no-one outside of the store’s buyer and the wholesaler have ever thought so. Now is the time to convince others by lowering the price.

Make no mistake about it. People will spend money and buy anything if they think it is a screaming bargain. Discount death and give vouchers for subsequent deaths and people will line up to pay. This is the principle of a great many school holiday motion picture series.

If you have no junk to sell, contact the wholesalers and ask them to take you out to a long lunch and get you drunk. You’ll eventually wake up with loose clothing and a warehouse full of broken cartons of stock from 2003.

f. Accountancy. No matter what you get for the schmatta, you’ll still have to do the paperwork to write it off. A successful sale pays for the accountant’s time – really successful ones are where you trade old stock to the accountant instead of a fee.

Re Tales – Part Six – ” My Brother-In-Law “

If you have ever wondered where in the land the power of final arbitration resides – Supreme Court – High Court – Sanhedrin – Wherever – we can now enlighten you. It has nothing to do with legal bodies, scientific organisations, or social groups. The person upon whose left hand God sits is The Brother-In-Law.

Retailers have known this for years – as their customers attempt to justify anything they do by reference to The Brother-In-Law. ( Note: some fundamental religions prohibit the mention of the name. In deference to them we will use the code word TBIL. )

Whenever an item is to be demanded or a price to be gouged, TBIL is mentioned. He has done it all, seen it all, or possessed it all before…and done so at a far better price than the shop is asking. He was in last week, next week, and may be lurking behind the loo door now – the final authority upon any commercial transaction.

You don’t have what the customer wants? Why, TBIL got it just last week. It costs $ 10.00? Why TBIL got it for $ 5.00 and a free coffee. And so on.

If the customer is single or has no living family ( they all committed seppuku to avoid being invited to a family party ) there is still hope. TBIL’s International are prepared to lease a BIL for commercial purposes at a nominal fee. Or a TBIL can be accessed on-line and the resultant haggling tirade passed to the retail employee on a mobile phone.

The retailer need not feel distressed about this – after all many of them have TBIL’s of their own that can be deployed to neutralise the effect of the attack. It’s not nice to watch but you have to fight fire with fire.

Re Tales – Part Five – ” We Want You To …”

a. Sponsor our club.

We want you to give us things for free. If you do we’ll say we like you and might buy things from you. If you don’t we won’t like you and  might still buy things from you – but we’ll complain about the prices.

Actually, we’ll do that even if you do sponsor us.

b. Buy our product.

Every shop needs what we have to sell. That is why we go to every shop and try to sell it to them. We’ve already been to see all your competitors and filled their shelves, but we still have some broken boxes of stock to get rid of before we close the warehouse.

Ah, did I say close? I meant move to bigger premises. Where? Somewhere…anywhere…

Of course the goods are good sellers. We managed to sell them to everyone else already. Why should you be suspicious?

c. Subscribe to our service.

Our service provides you with a plan. This will explain the program and the opportunity to become part of a concept. You get in on the ground floor. Everyone is doing it, and we will all be rich. All you need is faith and the ability to enjoy the wonderful benefits of the planned concept program. I own a BMW and I take vacations to exotic places every year, so it must be all okay.

Well, not exactly this year…unless you regard Bunbury as exotic. It can be exotic, if you go while the pubs are still open.

d. Join our movement.

Did I say movement? I meant Party. No. I meant Crusade. Oops. No – no, I didn’t. Our collective. Still not right? Church? Temple? Mosque? Schul?

Anything? Nothing? Can I sell you some cookies to support our good works? I’m tired of eating them myself.

Re Tales – Part Four – ” You Had It Last Week “

We did? Let’s look up the computer record. Yes, we did have it. It had been in our shop for three years and someone bought it just at the end of the week.

” Well I want it. I looked at for years and I want it now. ”

Ah. That may be a problem. The maker of that product discontinued it two years ago. The one you saw on our shelves was the last anyone could get – and it remained unsold for three years as they had introduced the next model.

We do have the next model here on the shelf now. Would you like to inspect it?

” No. I saw the old one last week. I want the old one. ”

But if you saw it last week, my dear fellow, why didn’t you buy it then? It was the last one that anyone could get of that model…

” I didn’t want it last week. I want it now. When are you going to get another? I need it for tomorrow. ”

But they do not make that model any more. They make this one. It is here, now. We cannot get any more of the old one.

” I want to speak to the Manager. I want to speak to the Owner. I want to speak to the God Of Retailing.  This is illegal…I’ve got my rights!…Magna Carta… ”

My Dear Fellow, I am the manager…and the owner…I make no other claims…What more can I – we – possibly do if the old one doesn’t exist any more?

” Sell me the new one at the old price. And I get a discount, too. Because I’m a valuable customer. And now I know the owner…”

 

Re Tales – Part Three – ” I Saw It On A Website. “

In the good old days ( Elvis, dinosaurs) the potential customer would have come in and said ” I saw it in the newspaper. ” or ” I saw it in a magazine. “. Occasionally the special ones fronted the counter and said ” I saw it written in letters of fire in the sky. “. It paid to not doubt them.

Now it is  ” I saw it on the internet. ” What they saw may have been an announcement of a new product or the discontinuation of an old one. Or a recall of exploding bed socks. Whatever, they’ve come into the shop with knowledge of something. The knowledge is valuable to them and it might be so for the shop assistant as well.

If the thing they saw was on the website of the shop where they are, the shop assistant can pray silently that the website had the correct price, image, and stock level for the goods. And that the thing that was shown is still somewhere on the premises.  Even if it is holding the loo door open, at least it exists. Unfortunately there is a gap between what the best IT department can show and what can be plonked on the counter.

If the thing they saw was on another shop’s site all hell could break loose – particularly if the ” shop ” is some vague web address in Kowloon. The customer has taken the internet information as the word of God and any attempt on the part of the shop assistant to explain that it is unrealistic here in Australia will fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately deaf ears are sometimes attached to loud mouths and angry tempers. These are fine, as long as they can be confined within the head of the customer. Like road rage, let someone else experience it.

No shop assistant is required by any law – of God, the land, economics, or thermodynamics – to match any price that is waved at them from a mobile phone screen. That may or may not be a real offer from a real seller, but it is not a seller who is paying rent on the premises, wages to the staff, or buying paper for the shop loo. The shop price should be fair and calculated to give adequate return to the proprietor for the effort of business – it is most often just that, and any attempt to oyster-knife discounts based on a badly-spelled website can best be referred back to Kowloon.

Or Wuhan.

Re Tales – Part Two – ” I’ve Changed my Mind “

” And now I’m going to change yours…”

The bane of retail trade is the changer. Whether it is a mind-changer, a shape-changer, or a money-changer, they are trouble as soon as they come over the door sill.

a. Customer buys goods. They are good goods and will do him good. The price he has paid will do the shop good. The money enters the till or bank account by whatever means and starts to make a numerical mark in the accountancy system. All is well, and no further operations need be contemplated.

Until customer comes back next day and tells the shop assistant that they have changed their mind and want to return the goods. From here the trails wind deeper into the bushes:

  • Have the goods been removed from the packaging? Some packages are a one-way affair and will never reassemble.
  • Have the goods been marked? Some changers will insist that they were marked when they got them. Custom factory scratches, missing parts, and loose screws are a special order and you have to indent for them for just months. Most retailers just stock the plain old undamaged goods…Funny how Mr. Changer got the special edition.
  • Can the goods be resold as new? Well, no. They have been in Changer’s hands while he did several things – maul them and then search on the internet for somewhere in China that will sell them cheaper. As much as you might value his money, he could have done that before he walked in the first time…
  • He? Did I write he? Please forgive me. Changing is a gender-neutral game. She will be as keen to screw over the retailer as he will and probably more indignant and entitled as she tries it. They don’t call ’em Karens for nothing…
  • Can the financial trail that the original sale opened be accessed again to clear it? Some accountancy systems require vast amounts of data entry to reverse anything – it can be uneconomic to even try. Which leads us to say to the changer…

No. No, you can’t change the goods for other goods. You can’t get your money back. Not if the goods were in good shape when they left the shop, are working correctly,  and are suitable for the purpose for which they were purchased. Those are the only grounds upon which a legal entitlement to repair, change, or refund exist.

They do exist under a state law, as well as a warranty for a certain period of time. But do not try to quote Magna Carta or lines from The Godfather to try to stretch the law to suit yourself.

You bought something in good faith with the ideas that were riding inside your head yesterday, now go use that mind today to make use of what you bought.

As far as threatening to never shop here again…considering your performance regarding returns…make our day…

Re Tales – Part One – Subiaco Man

Before I start and before the Subiaco City Council organises a lynching party, let me say that he may have been City Beach Man or Peppermint Grove Man. I am not sure of the exact markings that differentiate the species – I just know they can look and behave alike.

The occasion I saw him was at a product launch in the shop where I was once employed. I was there gathering information for the shop’s daily column. The product was a very nice camera from a major maker – and in these Covid days new products to be launched are rare.

The shop did a good show – with professional photographers to give their analyses of the camera after testing and a rare example of it to pass around. The shop put on wine, beer, cider, and plates of hors d’oeuvres to cheer the visitors – and got a capacity crowd. All good.

But Subiaco Man had to have more. He baled up a junior staff member and loudly demanded to know why the price advertised by the shop was higher than a price he had seen on-line. And then over-spoke the sales assistant every time an answer was offered. He sat in the front row and interrupted the professional photographers with fatuous and finicky questions – for much the same purpose.

He probably had a good evening while he was there. Everyone else had a good one after he left. It was a prime example of using a domineering attitude to self-aggrandize at the expense of those who are prohibited by their employment from fighting back.

I do hope he comes to the next product launch and tries again. I’m not employed, as such, and my time and my voice are my own. I fancy a good evening too…