Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Experience And Lost Time

First of all, I would like to apologize for my absence on this blog recently. I'm hoping to rectify that. It feels like life is intruding more and more and it seems like I find less and less time for myself. It feels like I am just catching my breath, for the first time, after nearly a year of running nonstop.

Many of you are familiar with certain beats of my life in the past five years. I moved from the Chicago south suburbs to Michigan around five years ago. I did it for the best possible reason... love. I found a job fairly quickly and excelled at it. About four years ago, I got married and found myself with a family of my own.

As I advanced in that job, I found myself blogging less frequently. The passion was there, but not the time. It got very hard to find time enough to pull away from family and work obligations. About three years ago, I took a management job at work. It was exactly what I had been striving for since I started. Everything started to get extremely busy about a year ago.

Last August, I found out that I would be one of the managers that would go to third shift. I wasn't a stranger to third shift work, as I had done that for nearly a decade in the late teens to mid-twenties. Prep work would start in September and I would spearhead thirds by late October. Two major experiences happened in late October... my move to thirds and...

... my grandson was born.

My job was in retail, so this was our busy season. I was to take over as one of the managers on third shift for five days, but on the sixth day, I had to work second shift. So there a new baby in the house and I'm working six days a week on a rotating schedule. Let me throw in another wrinkle, the retailer I worked for was Toys R Us.

Third shift did truck unloading, merchandising to the floor, signage, display changes and fulfilling online orders. We were set up with a brand new ordering system that was tested in July. We were sent iPods to use on those orders, instead of the old archaic system we were using, which was a blend of computer and paper. This would ensure no mistakes would happen. This would ensure that order fulfillment rates were up. That was great, until the whole system crashed.

You see, Toys R Us built all of these new improvements on top of a flawed system, then tested it with one hundred orders. It worked fine. In testing. When the orders went up to two thousand, the system shut down. For days. The company lost millions of dollars in that time, not to mention thousands of cancelled orders and countless people soured from that experience that never came back.

I was putting in fifteen hour days, then coming home to spend time with the grandson, just to sleep for a few hours and do it all again. It was worth it for the paychecks. I looked forward to this time of year all year long. Besides, after inventory is done in January, I could take it easy until Easter.

Best laid plans never seem to work out. Just as I was about to settle in to an easier schedule, Toys R Us announced a round of store closings. We knew they were going into bankruptcy since it was announced in September 2017. Bankruptcy does not always equate going out of business, sometimes it is just a restructuring. When they announced those stores closing, we were assured it was part of restructuring. Even though my store was not part of the closings, we still had to deal with the aftermath of that decision. It got tiring explaining the whole spiel to each customer that walked in that our store was not closing, but some were.

After a few months of that, "Wave 2" was announced. It was the rest of the United States stores. We went from having to say no to having to say yes, overnight. Fortunately, we had a pretty nice liquidator, although the experience of liquidation is not something I would recommend anyone to go through. I stayed until the end, as did our entire management team. The worst people come out to shop at a liquidation. And they are never satisfied. While we got to say goodbye to our regular customers, there was little joy in our store and it was extremely hard to get the staff to keep motivated.

To make things worse, our two salaried managers had a bunch of "use it or lose it" vacation time. I have no ill will towards them taking it. I would have done the same. In fact we all encouraged them to take the vacation days, even if it meant harder work for the hourly managers.

Our last day open to the public was June 27, 2018. I gave out a certificate of appreciation, that I made, to the last customer, which happened to be a mother and daughter that were regulars. When the last toy was sold, we shut the doors to the public. As the closing manager that night, I had to stay to clean and let people in for fixture pickups. I turned a lot of disappointed people away, looking for toys.
The managers had to come in the next few days to make sure things were in order and to be present for the handful of people that had not picked up their fixtures. That last morning, we had donuts and orange juice, while we walked our now empty store, searching for stray items that lay forgotten in the empty aisles. The once bursting at the seams aisles that I patrolled every day, were a mere shell, barren of toys and knick knacks. I walked out the door on my last day, richer for the experience and leaving a crew that I considered family.
A few odds and ends from this year that may be of interest. My first White Sox card of the year was Jose Abreu. I was really excited when I found it in my first pack of 2018 Topps. Then I never got around to posting about it. The day that it was announced that our store was going to close, during our morning meeting, the MJ Holdings representative took half of our trading card stock, boxed it up, and sent it back to the company. The day liquidation started for our store, he came back and boxed the rest up. No sports cards, Pokemon, Magic, or any other trading cards even sniffed a liquidation price. The NECA representative never showed up to send their stuff back, so people got some really sweet deals on collectible figures.

I am still contemplating my next move. It's going to be hard to find another job that I love enough to put my heart and soul into it everyday. I genuinely enjoyed going to work every day. It broke my heart to see the place I called home, slowly disintegrate before my eyes. I liken it to watching a loved one go through a terminal illness, where all you can do is show up every day and love them even more, knowing you have precious time left.


Daniel Wilson said...

I wish you the best with whatever it is that you decide to do next. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have very fond memories of Toys R US from when I was younger. It was sad to see them go.

Gilbert Alternative Cancer Treatment said...

thanks for sharing your experience. i learned allot

Surprised by Bruce Wassom Aluminum Boats said...

thanks for sharing something that will make us learn through your experience, 2 thumbs up!

Commishbob said...

Great, heartfelt post! I had a similar experience many years ago when the Houston Post folded. I'd been there in many capacities for many years and the place felt like home to me. Watching it all fall apart was tough.

Jafronius said...

Thanks for posting about the store's last days. Lots of childhood memories of that chain. Hope you are able to rebound soon!

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