Here we are. Hyper Home Décor-the flagship store in a chain. After thirty years of dirty politics and deep discounts, Hyper Home Décor is the largest big box home decorating retailer in the U.S.A. And, here the giant sits, in the middle of a quiet parking lot in suburban Washington, D.C. The stark white façade glistens like a Pharoah’s pyramid in desolate, snow-covered landscape. The few cars in the lot have been there for hours, but there’s no foot traffic going in or out of the store. Walk up to the windows, however, and you’ll see the lights on and heavy activity on the merchandise-packed sales floor.
It’s Turkey day. A day when most people gather round the dining room table with friends and family to stuff themselves with average turkey and watch holiday movies they’ve seen a hundred times. At Hyper Home Decor, however, Thanksgiving Day means something completely different. The store is closed for business, but we’re all here, the entire staff, working our asses off, busy as bees.
Everyone had to show up today. The message was “come to work on Thanksgiving or loose your job.” In this economy, you do what you have to do to survive. Our taskmaster, the much feared and despised Lisa, calls us Rochlin’s elves. And, she doesn’t use the word elves as a term of endearment. She says, “Move the ‘s,’ change the ‘e’ to ‘a,’ and pop it over the ‘l’.” You get the picture. No one’s ever amused. We just cringe and go about our work.
So, who’s Rochlin? He’s Hyper Home Décor’s predictably eccentric CEO. His office is located in the ivory tower across the street. Were it not for the fact that corporate headquarters building was ivory in colored…we’ll discuss Rochlin later.
We, the workers, decided to make lemons out of lemonade today. At least some of us get paid overtime. Some of us. There’s some rule Lisa throws around about part-timers not qualifying for overtime. Not paying people to work on a national holiday doesn’t seem fair and it’s probably not legal. But, as Rochlin says when he delivers unpopular news, “it’s not bad, it’s not good…it just is what it is.”
It’s around 4 p.m., in case you’re wondering. We’re running around like chickens with no heads to get the big Black Friday sale set. We’d like to salvage what’s left of the holiday. The sound of rumbling carts-beeping backing up, rumbling moving forward-echoes across the sales floor. Someone over heard assistant manager Bella, Lisa’s right hand woman, say that we could leave by 6 p.m. if we get all the merchandise out of the back room. I know she’s bluffing about letting us leave. I know that according to the impossible-to-please Lisa, nothing’s ever quite right and no task is ever completely done. But, it’s not my job to dash hopes, so I walk the floor, rallying the troops behind the lie.
Who am I? I’m Jean Marie-the other assistant manager. Except for Lisa and Bella, the staff adores me. I suspect Bella doesn’t like me because I’m actually good at my job. She has accused me of everything from taking long breaks to protecting people from being fired. And, she’s right. I do protect good people who need jobs from being unfairly railroaded. Lisa, on the other hand, she knows that if she so much as does one thing wrong-that ends up on the record-she’s out and I’m in. She’ll do anything to get rid of me. She tried to fire me twice for unfounded reasons. There was the time she threw a $3,000 cash deposit that I was supposed to deliver to the bank in the dumpster. Fortunately, my trusted ally, stocker extraordinaire Luis, found the deposit just in time, before the sanitation department hauled the money away. Lisa also tried to fire me for attempting to supersede her authority when I hired bedding department Sam, even though she’d authorized me to fill the open position while she was on vacation.
Aside from the backstabbing and vitriol that characterizes a typical Hyper Home Décor workday, I truly love my job. What can I say, I’m a people person. I’m also ambitious and I’d like to be manager someday. I stick it out because my friends are here. We spend our days in the trenches, making customers happy, bonding, sharing stories and thus our lives with each other. The camaraderie here is second to none. We laugh together. We suffer together. We eat together. We lie to each other. We confess our sins in this place day after day, and everyday we find some reason-whether it makes sense or not-to drag our overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated asses through Hyper Home Décor’s doors.
Up next: Lisa inspects Hyper Home Decor and causes a scandal. Hyper Home Decor employee patience wears thin. Jean Marie overhears a damaging phone call.