Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Yeah, I got yer 'Softer Side' Right HERE, pal!" - Part X - Indignation

Cheers Me Dears!

I come from a small town that's very trusting.  Everybody pretty much knows everybody else. 

As a teenager I could go into any of the Mom and Pop video stores and rent a VHS classic just by giving the staff my name and phone number.  Nine times out of ten they didn't eve have to ask. 

One day I went into one of my usual haunts, picked out a coupla flicks, went up to the counter and was promptly confronted by a young stranger.  Was it the owner's kid or something?

"Could I get your name and phone number?" he asked in a squeaky my-testicles-haven't-quite-dropped fashion.

I muttered my reply as I fished out a couple of bucks.  He scribbled something, turned the rental slip around on the counter for me to sign and then walked away to retrieve the movies.

I picked up the pen and went to sign my Paulie Walnuts but hesitated when I noticed the "Customer's Name" written on the slip of paper:


Wayne Brake?   

'Who the f#@$% is Wayne Brake!?'  I thought.  How did this Clearasil casualty get "Wayne Brake" out of "David Pretty"?

When the l'il nibbler returned with the movies I just thought, 'F#@% it' and signed my name Wayne Brake.  

I then proceeded to watch both movies that same evening and returned them the next day as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.


Here's a letter sent in to The Coast (our free weekly newspaper here in Halifax) by a plucky chap in defense of the recently-cast-aside staff at the Sears Atlantic Call Center:

To the editor
"I read the May 18'th, 2000 edition of The Coast from front to back and could find no reference to the OTHER major news announcement from Thursday, May 11.  Sears Canada, the organization that invites the Canadian upper middle class to 'see it's softer side', is leaving close to 900 Haligonians high n' dry just after Christmas. 

"Perhaps it's the initial media treatment that has already caused this story to drop out of the spotlight.  Yes, these are mostly part-time jobs, but I assure you that in this day and age, most are.  People are trying to raise families and pay mortgages with part-time wages.  

Perhaps it's the fine spin job performed by Nova Scotia's Department of Economic Development.  Gordon Balser seems to think that Haligonians should be happy Sears decided to grace you all with the benefit of 800 "seasonal" jobs as long as they did.  

So why is the call center closing anyway?  Well, if we're to believe Scott Marshall, Sears' Vice-President of Catalog, it's because the internet is killing the catalog enterprise.  But anyone who takes even a cursory glance at the facts can see that this is a total lie.  Revenue for the catalog channel topped $1.45 billion dollars in 1999.  With the Halifax site being the largest and most efficient amongst Belleville, Regina and Montreal, you find yourself asking, why?

Well, two words: maximum profit.  This company is so cheap it won't go through go through the bother of re-locating the call center somewhere else in the city.  Despite extorting numerous handouts from the Nova Scotia government for the privilege of exploiting its workers ($100,000 in grants in 1992, $700,000 more in 1994, plus alleged six-figure tax breaks for each year of operation), Sears has decided to take its shiny, corporate, eleventh-consecutive-quarter-of-record-profit ball and go home.  Did John Hamm's Tories refuse to bow to this sort of piracy and not offer to build the company a new home for free?  Or did the government of Ontario just offer a sweeter incentive package?  

Whatever the reason, Sears is abandoning the Maritimers who did such a good job for them during a period of bitter recession.  You have to remember that the company was going the way of Eatons back in 1992.  It was only due to the unexpected success of the catalog enterprise that this company could afford to buy the ailing Eatons with all the profits.  

I'm guessing that the dedicated workers at Sears are feeling a bit betrayed now.  It's not quite the same scale as non-unionized sweat shop workers being used up and then discarded but it's damned close.  Since the general public is so numb to stories of layoff and downsizing, I encourage those affected by this and other similar crimes to contact the media with personal stories about their own situations.  

I assure you that the company certainly did consider all their options, but none of them had anything to do with the people they're leaving behind.  Stress, divorce, depression, substance abuse and other societal ills are never factored into a decision like this.      

To any customers who have received great service from the people of Halifax, I ask that you write to the Sears Headquarters building and ask why the best, most pleasant and efficient Sears employees they've dealt with are being rewarded with a kick in the teeth.  

Invite the executive officers to Halifax to explain the rationale to the people being effected.  If they succeed, all's well and good.  The company gets away with the abuse and lives to abuse again another day.  If not, the court of public opinion will pass judgment as it sees fit."


Wayne Brake


FAIL: "The company gets away with the abuse and lives to abuse again another day"...sadly prophetic words.

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