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10:16 am - Sun 8/29/04
My Name is Jim. I work at Shareholder Books
Sun 8/29/04 (7:12 a.m.)

My Name Is Jim. I Work At "Shareholder Books"

Looking at next week's schedule at work, there was something handwritten at the bottom that I think is good advice for life in general–"Expect Changes".

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Had an exceptionally bad day at work yesterday.

It was mostly about being totally dead-on-my-feet. The day itself might have been a little rougher than usual–business sucks, so we're operating with a skeleton crew–but I was the biggest problem; I just didn't have any "gas in the tank", and the same old stuff I deal with every day (Boredom, asshole customers, the neverending piles of shit to move from here to there) was getting the best of me.

(Speaking of "dead-on-my-feet": There's advice I read about sleeping some time back that's leaving me confused–I read that if you wake up early and can't sleep, instead of being frustrated and upset, and associating your bed with that frustration and upset, you should get up and do something until you get tired again. But if you do that, aren't you just training your body to expect to get up at an early hour?)

I don't know if I can explain it very well, but some days, I'm so tired at work, it leaves me feeling desperate and panicky. I think "I just can't do this...", when I'm only an hour or two into my working day. And the fact that I'm there, feeling like shit-on-a-shingle, and there's no escape, and no end in sight (Yes, the day will end, but I'm just going to have to come back tomorrow, and the day after that, and that day after that, and the day after that, and do it all over again), makes me want to start screaming and crying and lashing out. But I can't do that–that way lies firing, possible jail time, and homelessness--so more often than not, I scream and cry and "lash out" inwardly: Who's fault is it that I haven't successfully dealt with my sleeping problems? Whose fault is it that I have a shit job, getting paid shit wages for shit I don't want to do? Whose fault is it that I don't have any serious money-making skills? Whose fault is it that I waited 20 years to play this young man's game of "Starving Actor"? Whose fault is it that I'm a 43-year-old loser?

I've found myself joking bitterly about the "five year lanyard" (At Borders, their idea of some great fucking honor is that you get a red lanyard when you hit five years of servitude); I've rhetorically asked, "When you get your red lanyard, does it burn like a red-hot branding iron, or do you just go all cold inside, as what's left of your soul dies?".

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It may be good advice to "expect change", but I'm not very good with change. I feel like, 9 times out of 10, it's change for the worse, and more often than not, it serves only to remind me how little power I have over things, as some new thing is just imposed upon me, whether I like it or not, whether I think it's for the best or not, and there never seems to be any choice but to just bend over and take it.

I'm talking specifically right now about the chronic, near-constant moving and re-shuffling of sections in the store.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it's becoming the bane of my existence; in my mind, one of the few things I have over the average customer is that I know where the books are. When you take that away from me, when I go to where I think a section is and it's not there anymore-- "Ummmm...that used to be here...uhhh...hang on a second..."--the customer is frustrated, I feel like an idiot, and there's some more business we're going to lose to Amazon.com.

And the change itself–whether capricious, in my mind, or something that makes at least some sense–is always effected in such a haphazard, half-assed way that entire sections are in boxes for days, then in a jumble on the shelf–More of a jumble than usual, I should say--for weeks afterwards.

The problem, or problems, in my mind? 1: The change is effected "from above", so rarely does it feel organic and "necessary" to the people who are doing it (Hence, there's a lack of "motivation". It just feels like "busy work" or just plain "extra work", for the same old money and to no particular end). 2: We don't have enough "detail-oriented" people (To efficiently organize and affect a change). 3: Even if "motivated", we're too under-staffed to make any kind of change happen in a timely manner (Which takes us back to the "entire sections are in boxes for days" part of this paragraph).

And forget about my own self-esteem issues when things are constantly moving around (The embarrassing "I feel like an idiot" Factor)–Back in the halcyon days when I was a "civilian", I loved feeling like I knew where everything was when I went into a bookstore. In my mind, that's one of the things that makes you feel "ownership" of a place.

When someone I know is a regular customer has to come to me and ask "Where have you moved the such-and-such section?", I feel like we've failed them. This isn't "their" bookstore, any more than it's "my" bookstore–We might as well start calling the fucking place "Shareholder Books".

And if you tell me that all this shuffling and reshuffling, all this moving, then moving things back, is for the customers, that it "drives sales", I will respond by asking you "And how are sales these days?" (The answer to that question is "They're in the toilet).

It's "moving deck chairs on the Titanic".

And the change that should happen, that customers ask for every single day, never does.

An example: Every day, at least one customer asks for "the biography section". But we don't have one; we organize biographies in subject area (And we can't even get that right; it used to be the rule that they were organized by subject–Einstein under "E" in physics, for example–but now it's catch-as-catch-can). It's obviously what the customers want, but basically, fuck them (My theory on this one? I'm guessing it's some kind of marketing ploy. Like in the grocery store, where you have to pass loads of "impulse items" to get staples like milk and bread).

Every time I work in the music section, a customer asks if we have digital listening stations (Where you can listen to snippets of songs on any cd the store carries, instead of listening stations where you can only listen to what the store has picked out).

We don't have digital listening stations. " Too expensive". And this red-headed stepchild of a Borders store doesn't merit the expense . Another invitation for the customer to go somewhere else, where they can listen to snippets of the cd they might want to buy, and not just what Borders wants to force-feed them.

Well, I could go on (And on, and on, and on). But I think you're catching my drift.

Oh, there is one change I've heard about that I can heartily get-behind–They're going to tear out the kids ampitheatre, and use that space for more shelves.

Now, you'd think "Actor Boy" here would find that sad, but I really don't–Borders (This Borders, anyway) has no interest or inclination to do children's events, so the ampitheatre doesn't ever get used for performances. All it does is serve as a playground where parents let this kids run wild (And destroy our stock), an area where perverts can drool over their Maxims and gay porn, where during more quiet times, thieves can break cds and dvds out of their keepers, and a general area for customers to leave piles of shit that they're too lazy to put back when they're done.

And while moving a section from the second floor, to the first floor, then up on the roof, then out in the parking lot, annoys the hell out of me, I don't have much of an issue with having more books. We are a bookstore, after all.

Shareholder Books, to be specific.

 

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