Friday, January 13, 2012

Fire It Up!! (part 2)

If you missed part one, click here


The Culture

So, how do you keep staff at a horrible job with next to no chance for success? Here's were the marketing work that they were promising in their ads really comes in. You essentially create a cult around the business. You ... I don't know why the fuck I'm writing in the second person.

I mentioned the charming interviewers/branch managers and the morning meetings before. These are not minor details, these are the core of the business, especially a business that values constantly hiring new recruits above moving product, since new recruits create new warm markets to move the product into. Every branch manager openly brags about how much money they make in their position every single day. Why? To dangle the carrot, so that hopeless recruits will continue to sling art door to door in hopes of opening their own branch one day.

What else do the short meetings achieve? They kill a longer part of each peon's day, which makes each peon less likely to have a life outside of work. Life outside of work is bad. Outsiders might have crazy ideas about what a horrible job this is, and the less time a peon is exposed to outsiders, ie, friends and family, the better.

The job also thrives on the cult of positivity. If someone said "what's up?" it was forbidden to respond with the usual "nothin' much." The only acceptable answer was "Everything!" See, positivity breeds good feelings toward the company, makes a peon less likely to walk. My unshakable cynicism kept me from ever taking this job too seriously.

What did the meetings consist of? A whole bunch of chants and cheers. Lots of seemingly intelligent people yelling "Fire it up!" in a shitty warehouse in an office park. Lots of loud music. Lots of jumping around. Of course, there was always a recitation of the "5 and 8," ie, the 5 steps of a sale and the 8 steps to success. I wish I remembered them or could find them online.

The message board community regarding these companies is unbelievable too. Try googling any pertinent information in this post - any time somebody starts a thread dissing one of these companies (art or otherwise, they're all the same), there's always a douchy customer response. The response always blames the individual peon because they couldn't hack it, couldn't take advantage of the greatest opportunity ever. You'll notice that I haven't named any names throughout this lengthy post, largely because I don't want to attract the vindictive Kool-Aid drinking victims of this scheme to this space. I've openly attacked Mark Zuckerburg here before (hey Zuckerburg, fuck you!) , but I also know that he and his people are too busy to come down here to NES/NAS, the Gary, Indiana of the internets, whereas my former bosses are not and would totally sue me.

These responses and the meetings also regularly cast aside normal working folk. I was jealous of every single office worker I ever pitched to, because they had a real job. The "company" preached that these people had a JOB, Just Over Broke, and they were slaves to their four walls. We had the whole world to experience on a daily basis, even if that "whole world" was just the next office or store or restaurant on Lincoln Avenue that also wouldn't be buying fake art from me.

The original want ad promised travel, and it did deliver. One week, the whole operation went on the road to exotic Bloomington, Illinois. I was back in Kansas for the first part of the week, so I originally opted out of the trip. I even went out on my own to look for sales.

It came to my attention that I had an ancient bank account in Rock Island, Illinois with $104 in it, and it would be closing and I would lose the money, and I had to collect the money in person. Destitute bastard that I was, I drove 3 hours to Rock Island to collect my cash. Bloomington was now a shorter drive than home, so I joined the work road trip. I shared a room in the Bloomington Motel 6 (as nice as it sounds!) with a fellow peon, and was told my portion of the room would be taken out of my future profits, should they happen. These trips were supposed to be awesome and fun and rock and roll, according to all the hype I'd heard at last weeks meeting. I helped people move art from one hotel room to another. Then, nobody was doing anything. My roommate went to sleep. I went to the liquor store next to the hotel and purchased two 40s, which I proceeded to drink in the hotel parking lot alone. Rock!

Everyone went to breakfast the next day, and I hated it. Spending eight bucks at the Cracker Barrel for breakfast felt obscene, but I couldn't get out of it, it was "team building." Of course, at real team building exercises at real companies, the boss pays for breakfast. My portion of the hotel the night before was $18. On the road, I would have to buy my own lunch rather than eating ramen in my apartment. Add in gas, and $45 of my $104 windfall was gone, and I had maybe 11 bucks in my bank account.

For most of the day, I did horribly in Bloomington, just like in Chicago. At the end of the day, I finally hit a pretty big score at a truck stop restaurant. Lots of the staff, fry cooks, busboys, and other people I was jealous of bought several prints. I went to the hotel to cash out. After room and breakfast, I still got $68. Huzzah! The staff was staying in Bloomington another day. I knew to cash out while I was hot. Rather than paying another 18 bucks for a room, I went home. Why drink 40s alone in a parking lot when I could do it indoors in my shitty apartment while watching TV?

Getting Out

I pretty much hated every second of life working this job. I hated the meetings, I hated the commute, I hated the selling, I hated the lies, and I hated the fact that I made such little money that saving up for rent was pointless - I generally spend half my earnings at the bar.

One day, like any other, I got up early, I fought traffic, I went to the stupid meeting, I fought traffic, and I started hitting up businesses on Lincoln Avenue. Then, I got the call. A phone slinging job in Evanston that I'd applied to and interviewed at months ago wanted to hire me, and wanted me to start work the next day. They paid an actual salary, so I would make a wage every day. They were in Evanston, so I could take the El to work and skip traffic. They were a JOB, but unlike my current "career," I would move from destitute to legit middle class wages in a few months.

The call came at around 9:30. In one of the great moments of my life, I immediately stopped hustlin' Lincoln Av. I drove home, and got there in time for The Price is Right. After that, I took a nap. I read some, and played some Nintendo. I went back to the "office" at 6 and unloaded all of the art from my car. I was impervious to their hard sell as I did it. I was another statistic, another turnover. I suppose I owe them something on the positivity tip, since that was their thing. Basically every single day since I quit that didn't involve a death in the family or a break up has been better than any of the 16 days that I sold art out of my car.

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