This week has been a crash course in big business.
I finally got a job and this week was my first one there. Even though I tried to get away from art, I am right back in the middle of it. Turns out the company was highly impressed with my art credentials and work experience. I am a custom framer now in an art supply store.
This week I was shown how things work in a huge retail company. I also got to assemble some custom frames, cut glass, dry mount pictures and mat them. As long as I am back in the framing shop I actually enjoy it. Working with customers, as anyone whom has ever worked in retail can tell you, is a pain in the ass – especially when it comes to art since it’s very subjective. Sure, I have put together some ugly pieces that I wouldn’t have hanging on my wall in a million years, but as long as the customer is happy that’s all that matters.
Or so I thought.
Somehow today, my fourth day working as a framer (I’m really still a trainee) I ended up at a 7 hour regional meeting of the managers in a whole different city. I still don’t quite understand how I ended up there other than my general manager thought it would be a good learning experience. Sitting all around me were around 40 tenured big wigs with intimate knowledge of how to move and groove in the industry while turning millions of dollars in profits a year. Next to me sat the most important person in the region. Occasionally he would accidentally kick my leg. I didn’t acknowledge it.
The meeting began with each manager stating their name, position, length with the company and comfort level on a scale of 1-10 when it comes to working the counter.
“5 years. 8 out of 10.”
“10 years. 7 out of 10.”
“15 years. 9 out of 10.”
Then it came to me, the trainee that hasn’t even been trained to work the counter yet.”
“4 days. 1 out of 10.”
My face turned red and I began to sweat. Several stifled laughs were heard. I was the only non-manager there. They were thinking the same thing that I was:
What the fuck is the noob doing here?
Through several hours of lectures and numbers crunching It became painfully obvious how very little I could relate. The main speaker talked about how her husband was mad that the new flat screen TV they bought should have been a 70 inch instead of a 60 inch because it didn’t look right on the wall. Also there was an engagement ring from a highly accredited jeweler that had to be sent back a few times because it wasn’t quite right. I glanced down at my K mart shirt and Converse sneakers. All of the stories were used to illustrate a point, but they only served to alienate me further. These were rich people problems and, in the long run, highly insignificant and embarrassingly shallow.
I then sat by nervously as my manager, the same one that had been training me and that I had come to respect over the past few days, had her ass chewed out about a 2 percent sales drop.
Next came the conversation about how to make your employees feign interest in people’s lives while trying to up-sale as much as possible.
“Ask about their life and their car. They love that!”
Why was I hearing this? These were things that no lowly employee should ever hear.
I then proceeded to watch the speaker demonstrate, to a room full of people that had been framing for years, how a print should be matted and framed. I also watched as she gave artistic advice that went against everything I had learned from my 14 years in the business. I tried to choke back my dissension. As if by reflex, I still felt my eyes roll. It took all I could muster to keep them from falling out of my head and rolling across the floor.
I don’t know if they are trying to groom me for management, but that’s not going to happen.
I was asked after the meeting concluded what I took away from it. I can only say that I never want to be management there and I am more than a little disgusted with how customers are viewed. Will I be able to hold back my objections because of our desperate need of a paycheck? I honestly don’t know. Some things just aren’t worth it, especially when it comes to morals. I’ve kept secret the most disgusting of offenses to keep the company anonymous for fear of losing employment that I tried so hard to gain. I might come back and delete this post for the very same reason. I just had to get it off my chest. The sad part is, I know MOST big companies operate like this.
Hopefully this job is temporary – but I’ve heard people that have been there for ten years say that they thought the same thing.
Needless to say, I am still looking for a kitchen job.