That Reminds Me of a Story

Scott’s post about Best Buy reminded me of the time I worked at Blockbuster for a short stint about 10 years ago, they had just struck up a cross-promotion deal with DirectTV. We were told to walk up to customers wandering the store and sell them service for DirectTV. No one working at the store was a salesperson and we were never told anything about the product, something that would have come in handy if any of us were inclined to start up a sales pitch.

I had only been there a short time when the manager had everyone come in to tell us that our store numbers were abysmal. He was getting complaints from regional higher-ups and he was charged with getting us excited to sell. The manager at the store was the stereotypical, inept manager that seems to be common in poorly written comedies. I’m fairly certain he had a mental handicap of some kind, and I say that after having numerous conversations with him and seeing him go about his day.

During this gathering I brought up the point that by selling DirectTV service that was boasting a large catalog of on-demand movies, we were essentially driving the store out of business. (This was before Netflix became a household name, but they were gaining momentum.) Everyone agreed with me with the exception of the manager who didn’t try to argue his side, but instead told us about the incentive plan. I think I killed the chance of the store ever receiving any kind of incentive after speaking up. My manager went ahead with his spiel, which was coming from a three-ring binder, and then told each of us to take turns talking to a customer about DirectTV. It was the middle of the week. There was one customer in the store. All seven of us talked to the same customer. I was fifth or sixth in the procession and I don’t know what anyone else said, but I was honest with the young woman and quietly and calmly told her my manager was forcing us to talk to her about a product that was going to put us out of a job. I apologized for everyone having to bother her while she was trying to see what new release she might be interested in that evening. I was on the other side of the store, away from the group, so no one heard what I said. I could see my boss looking at me, trying to make signals to, I think, get me to speak up so everyone could hear how I pitched it. When I went back to relay my experience I told my manager that she wasn’t interested and I was fairly certain she wouldn’t be coming back.

After a few weeks with zero subscriptions, my manager gave up. I quit a few weeks later and when I came back to get a paycheck I hadn’t received he was gone as well.

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