Sunday, April 4, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 3

The time I spent after the Goleta game store office had closed was glorious. I had more saved income than I had ever had previously, I had unemployment checks rolling in and it was almost summer. At that point in time, most of my friends were either unemployed due to the layoff or they were school teachers preparing to go on their summer break, and after going to the resume workshop that was part of the severance package, I vowed to not even attempt to look for a new job for two months.

I am certain that some people would frown upon this decision, especially considering the economic climate that we currently find ourselves suffering through, but I had not actually had longer than one weeks time without obligations: work, school, etc. At one point, fairly early on in what would be a total of four months off, the payroll company called me, once boss-lady had received documents saying that I would be pulling from their unemployment resources (a SUTA or FUTA employer tax thing) and she offered me a part-time job back at the office. Needless to say, she was not pleased when I told her that I preferred to just "take the time off to decide my path in life." I was preparing to use the system in a way that so many people already had, but I also had the savings, which was not much, but then my wife -- who was my girlfriend at the time -- and I hardly spent anything and were quite poor to begin with. I also knew that I had been burning out after working at the fast food restaurant for two years, the music store for six years, the record label for about a year, the payroll place for two years, and the game store for about two years. I needed a short break to remove the bad taste that had been left after both the record label and the payroll place and to ensure that I did not find myself in another unhappy situation.

For those four happy months, I woke up when I wanted, watched cartoons, played video games, strolled to coffee shops to read, met up with friends for happy hours almost every day -- hell, I was the one to save the tables for us -- and went out at night often. It was fun. It was irresponsible. I knew that it was to end.

I took the cable company local advertising job of Research Specialist, in a misguided belief that it would share the fun and glamor that I had enjoyed at the game store; damn I was so wrong. I went to my first interview with the woman who would be my boss at both this job and the follow up job. I then had to endure my first panel interview with three account reps, and three other office workers, and I won the job after I passed my drug test and when my personality test revealed that I was not a psycho. Speaking of the very long, fill-in-the-bubble scantron personality test, who in their right mind would ever bubble in "At times, I feel the company owes me," or "At times, I like to steal from my company just because I can"? God that thing is a waste of time, but the personality test company probably had a fairly good deal going when they were all the rage.
Anyways, I was happy. I got the job! I was in! Hot damn, I was going to get every cable channel available, a DVR, and high-speed internet all for fifteen dollars a month! The costs, however, very quickly outweighed the benefits. On my first day there, my coworker, Mary, shook my hand and immediately said, "Hi Donist, has anyone warned you about Sandra?" I said that no one had, and Mary went on to inform me not to take on little tasks for Sandra, as the next thing I knew I would be doing all of Sandra's tasks before any of my own. Mary also showed me the time clock punch card trick that would the punched time to the nearest quarter hour, meaning if you ran the system properly, you could get an extra fifteen minutes of lunch time.

I then began the training and began to figure out the office politics. The local advertising reps were all very nice, but each had their own quirks with one woman being incredibly successful, yet very pushy at times; I liked her. The older man was fairly old school when it came to advertising sales and would woo potential clients with golf games and nice lunches out, but he performed a quick second to the lead woman and he was fine with that; I really liked him as well. The remaining reps would roll in an hour or so late and boast about going on "client visits," which involved them going roller blading at the beach, taking friends to lunches with comped gift certificates from the company and leaving early to be first in line at the semi-annual Nordstroms sale. At all times, the reps were given restaurant gift certificates, and other incentives to bring in new business, while working about two or three hours a day and constantly calling me to pull demographic research and to prepare presentations for would be clients, which was my job. Only the older gentleman shared a Circuit City gift certificate with me on one massive deadline deal he had going. The rest...nothing.

At one time, sales rep performance became so bad that the company adopted a new program called S.S.I. or Sell Something Immediately, which was so ingrained in the realm of corporate "outside the box" shenanigans it was revolting. The program was simple: make ten brief "You In? You In?" style cold calls to sell a package of minimalist advertising spots on a smattering of various cable channels for bargain basement pricing. For every ten calls, nine refusals were expected, but it was the one taker that counted. I am fairly certain that the company had paid for this method, when all they had to do was flip open an issue of Maxim to find a girl hookup guide that followed the same principles. For a full two weeks, every rep was in the office, making cold calls and following the prewritten script, while the general manager wandered around overseeing the proceedings. I was working feverishly, preparing this presentation and that, pulling demographics and viewership information and Management was giving more and more awards to the sales reps to meet mini-goals and everything building to a final grand prize of a little three day vacation at a spa for the one that sold the most. Mary and I received absolutely nothing for all of the extra work, not even lunch for the days that lunch was provided to the sales reps to actually do their job and show up.

The event ultimately worked in drumming up business, but probably backfired in the end, as the commercials provided exactly what was paid for; a cheap and very budget looking slide show commercial. The customers received some name recognition from this, but they were probably made fun of for the budget commercials as well. Also, it probably set a pricing model for the customer that the cable company would be locked into for quite some time.

Shortly after that, Mary came to work and showed me a stack of government bonds that she had been collecting from her grandmother since she was young. I helped her find a website that dictated how much each bond was worth and she ran off that day to cash them out. The following day she told me that she had just turned in her two-weeks notice, that she was "sick of this shit," and that she was off to travel to South America for a few months. My heart sank. Between her and the IT guy, who is an amazing person, my comrades in arms had been cut in half and the IT guy was usually very busy.

Couple this with the fact that Sandra had begun to harass me on a regular basis, I was becoming more and more bitter about setting foot in that building. Sandra would come from the reception area and I would she would call out as she approached, "Donist...Donist...whatcha doin'?" she would say in a slightly Southern drawl. "Whatcha got goin' on there?" she would say as she came up behind me, hands on my shoulders and leaning in close to look over my shoulder at my computer screen. "You writin' a letter to your girlfriend?" On lunch breaks, I could no longer eat in the break room and watch America's Funniest Animals, which was one of my only enjoyable points in the day, because Sandra had discovered my habit and would come in to talk with me about god only knows what. I soon found myself leaving the building to walk across the parking lot to the abandoned building with a bench so that I could have enough privacy to eat my lunch and read my book in peace. Everything came to a head on the day that Sandra came up behind me, to lean in to the point of her massive breast becoming two enormous earmuffs and her ample weight forcing my chest down into the front of my desk. Thankfully, a quick talk with the Human Resources person put an end to the harassment, but it had forced me to do something that I really disliked. I had to tattle on an adult. That is insane. I had told Sandra multiple times to stop, but it took a talking to from HR to get her to cease bothering me, which thankfully she did. There was some glaring, but I could have cared less.

One would think that the Sandra event was what set me off in my ultimate lack of job satisfaction at the cable company, but that was not the case. I hated this job far before the regularly scheduled harassment sessions. It was mundane and highly preferential to the sales reps, who I fully understand are paid with extra incentives, but at least someone could have kicked down a $5 gift certificate to the chicken ranch every once in a while. Would it have killed them, sales reps or management to at least tell admin that they were important to? That they mattered? So many demands, so little pay, all so the reps could maintain a jet-set lifestyle despite underperforming on a regular basis. I know I sound disgruntled, and I most definitely was. Before Sandra had chased me out of the breakroom, I would openly read books detailing how to start a home based business. I did not care. The funny thing was that one of the reps actually spent a good portion of her time working on her own business while on the cable ad company's time and dime, and she was the one that originally sparked the idea of starting my own business. I have yet to do this, but it put the idea in my head.

Ultimately, I turned in my two weeks notice to follow my boss on her own venture, which is a story in and of itself for another blog entry. I need to point out that I have purposefully left out my boss from that time period, since she was there even less than the sales reps that she oversaw. She is everything that concerns my next job.

*side note. I had begun to train a replacement for my position over the course of a week and one day right before work ended, he told me, "Man...this job seems really boring. I don't know how you could have dealt with it. I don't think I want to do this. You probably won't see me here tomorrow." He ended up not returning and I saw him working at a mobile phone store months later.


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