Friday, April 5, 2013

Well, thats it folks. Every Sears Portrait Studio is Shutting Down Forever

"CPI Corp, in a statement on its website, said it closed all of its U.S. studios "after many years of providing family portrait photography." The St. Louis-based company didn't explain the hasty closure, and calls to CPI went unanswered. However, the company has struggled financially, hurt by the rise of digital photography. 
The news came suddenly to the retailers. "We were notified Thursday that CPI is ceasing its U.S. operations at retailers across the country immediately," Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said. CPI has provided photo services for Sears's customers since 1959 and has been the store's only portrait studio operator since 1986, currently located in all 788 Sears stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico."
Geez--immediately? Anyone on the front lines who can share an anecdote of what went down?

Here's what I hear so far from the comments. Add yours:
"We went to clock in and it said your services are no longer needed 
"Picture Me studios weren't given notice either. We received text messages from District Managers that we no longer were employed. There's been talks of closure for at least a year but were always told things were still profitable. As for the closure, there wasn't any prior notice. The customers are going to be hit the hardest. Former employees have no control of the portraits in studio or in shipment... "

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just a funny story

From the comments: "Just last week I had a 10 o'clock come in at 10:15 and tell me that her child just threw up in the parking lot. She then proceeded to say that he seems fine and is it ok if she goes into the store and gets him a change of clothes. So when we finally tried to take his pics, needless to say they were lousy. Mom says "I don't know why he's acting like this, he's usually so good for pictures!" Duh mom!!!!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Get off the breathing machine and IV and get back to work

(From the comments by fedupwithsps:)

The other day I had a customer come in 2 hours early for an appointment, wanting to be taken early. I had an appointment every hour until her appointment, so I politely explained that I did have other appointments scheduled to come in before her, but that if they canceled or didn't show I would be able to get her in early, then suggested they walk around the mall so that the children did not get restless sitting there there for possibly 2 hours.

She declined and said she would just wait. During the next two hours both appointments showed, and while i was with them, her children were literally tearing the studio up. They knocked down and broke 5 of our hanging pictures and put a hole in the wall. so I again suggested maybe they go play in the play place to keep them entertained. Again she declined.

So I finally made it to them, and began trying to take the portraits, and they children were crying with snotty noses, and they would not cooperate. i tried for a full 30 mins and only got 2 photos. so I suggested that if they came back, we could try again. she threw a fit and said that i was giving poor customer service, because I didn't take their pictures right away... I mean forget about the other people that had appointments.. she yelled and cussed but agreed to come back. ??

She then called in on me the next day, saying that I made her wait for two hours when she had an appointment, and that I kept taking people before her...and then I got mad that her kids would not take pictures and demanded they come back later. So like everything else at sps, instead of listening to what really happened, because the customer is always right, I got a corrective action, because of poor customer service. Now you tell me is that fair? I did everything possible, yet still got in trouble. This company is messed up, and if they don't start treating their employees right, they have none.

And for this entire past week I have had the flu and pneumonia. I have been on bed rest and breathing machines and an at home IV. The meds they put me on, I found did not react well to stomach ulcers...which is how I found out I have one. I called the manager and explained that I would be out for at least a week, told her all the details, and all she said was if you don't have a doctors note, you don't have a job... I received a text today asking when I was coming back.. there were no, " how are you feeling" or " I hope you are doing better" messages at all. It's completely ridiculous that I can be as sick as I am, and the biggest problem in their life is the fact I am sick, and they might have to work a double to cover it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kiddie Kandids Shuts Down Without Warning

In case you haven't heard, Kiddie Kandids (not a CPI company) abruptly filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors, leaving customers without their orders and associates without a job and unpaid. From this article
"Thousands of Utah parents and countless others across thecountry are worried they may have just lost precious family memories. Photographsof their children are locked up, behind closed doors, inside hundreds of KiddieKandids stores that are now closed. The company is bankrupt.

More than 175 Kiddie Kandids studios abruptly closed theirdoors today when employees got word, in the form of a letter from the corporateoffice in Sandy,the company was declaring Chapter Seven bankruptcy. More than 1,700 workers,from part-time college students to full time managers supporting theirfamilies, are now unemployed. Worse, they also found out they won’t be paid forthe past two weeks work."

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good luck in 2010, everyone

So it looks like SPS is going to last for another year at least. Thanks everyone for leaving comments. I know I've been more spare with posting so let me direct new readers to one of my favorite posts of the year:

What it means to be a "Photographer" in a "Fun Work Environment"

I also just moderated some comments on older posts, so those should appear now as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Everyone loves snotty noses in photos

From the comments:
Tis the season for runny noses, coughing kids and spreading it to ALL employees. Twice this week I had 2 Moms come in with kids that "were too sick to go to school" to come in for pictures. What the hell? One kid even said "Mommy and I are both sick!" Hand sanitizer? Give me a break... what about all the things they are touching and the air I am breathing while they are coughing and sneezing? Our church has a sign up.. "If you are sick, please DO NOT come to church and infect others. OBVIOUSLY common sense does not prevail!
Have other busy season stories? Leave 'em in the comments!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Welp, good luck with this one.

Ok, so let's get this new pricing straight. Let's say you're coming in for senior pictures. You have the option of getting

-One 15 minute session to do all three outfits in where you pay $169 to get 8 sheets and a CD.

-Three 15 minute sessions (scheduled on different days), each in a different outfit, where for each shoot you pick your favorite pose of the entire shoot and get 4 sheets of that pose (minis don't count as a sheet). Total cost to you? $30. Sure, you don't get a CD, but that's what scanners and reorder sales are for.

Sears is lucky that most parents wouldn't dare do three shoots with a 2 year old.

Above all, I really hope that they don't raise your PRS expectations. That would be insane.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sears Portrait Studio has a Deathwish [updated]

From the comments, here's a rumored price change:
"Just when you thought it was hard enough to get people into collections or out of the $7.99 package SPS announces new pricing starting 10/21.

Sheets = $9.99
Enhancements = $9.99
CDs = $229.99 !!!!!
Greeting cards - get this... now there's a $10 fee to add text to the cards!
Cheapest collection with a CD = $179.99 (Same bronze cd collection as before... only now $50 more.)

Are they trying to put themselves out of business?"
Edit: someone in comments uploaded a 2 page PDF of all the price changes.

I'll see you in the comments for continued discussion. I would love if this price increase were coupled with SPS appointments getting more time and care (since appts are so low anyhow) to justify the price increase. But instead this is just going to make life harder for SPS people and make customers angry (what are you going to do? Tell them before the session "hey, everything is the same except now the price is more"?

On the positive side though, at least it would seem that the customer has the option of doing the $99 collection (without CD) that is definitly really now a better deal than individual sheets (barring any coupons they print). And we all know a $99 sale is better than a 9.99 sale. Of course, at least at my studio, the CD was a major motivation for buying the 129.99 collection. I'm not sure the CD is motivation enough to pay $40 more for the same thing. I think that that's motivation to get in the phone book and look up "Photographers"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

3.99 sheets and .89 chicken ranch gorditas

I had a request that I make a thread about the 40% off sheets coupon and the 3.99 sheet coupon. Here you are; discuss!

I like what our first commenter points out:

"OK. So you flip your customer from the so-called "trial package" to custom sheets at $3.99 per. Then you get written up for low PRS. Can you imagime if every business punished employees for selling an ADVERTISED SPECIAL? Do you really think Taco Bell is writing someone up every time they sell a new chicken ranch gordita for $.89? And I always assumed working at the Bell would kinda suck. I stand corrected. "

I'd also like to remind you that you also get punished for bringing in more customers through outreach since they also tend to spend lower amounts when they get called to come in each month.

While we're on the topic of offers, I think the free 10x13 offer is somewhat laughable. I get it that you're trying to get them used to having larger prints (that sell for 19.99 unenhanced instead of $7.99), but if you always give away a free 10x13, you are kind of not accomplishing your goal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not that this is bad news or unexpected, but you may not have a job next year

One commenter writes:
"The company is only making 88% of its projected sales, even with those numbers having been reduced 10% from last years' sales.
At our conference call on Friday, we were told that we might not have jobs this time next year in the portrait studio....and that if we don't want the company to fold, we need to be working all weekend every weekend.
Oh yeah, and our manager just quit, leaving me in the lurch with little to no idea what to do, and five positions to staff and train in time for the holidays. Great."
On a related note, another commenter writes:
"I'd like to send a big shout out to Neil and his boss Cindy! Thanks again for firing me- I never knew life could be so great! "
This job danger could also be a made up story: we all know how the people up top like to make it seem like everyone's job is in jeopardy as a means of motivation, but still I tend to believe it.

What's new? Other than that everything is the same

Hi there. Sorry that I haven't had time to put a new post together recently. Let's use this as an open thread for conversation and go from there. Thanks for checking back!

Friday, August 21, 2009


With business coming to SPS and PictureMe less and less, they're now offering to come to you thanks to their new GoPortraits. Admittedly, I don't know much about this: are they doing it as a seperate company? Those of you in the comments seem very much against it so I'm guessing there's some stuff I'm not aware of. While I would never want my wedding photographed by them, I'm guessing that the senior pictures stuff could work out well.

The main thing is though: where are they getting the people to shoot these things: Sears Photographers aren't in any way trained about how to properly expose photos in a non studio setting.

Anyhow, fill me in via the comments or via email. Let's discuss.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holding it down solo.

From the comments on yesterday's post:
"I am the only one who works in our studio. Yup. No Assistant manager...and 2 other girls who are flex. yeah...I work a lot. I would love for them to fire me; they would be so screwed. No one wants to work here. Guess how much I make as a manager? Come on...guess: I am probably the lowest paid. 9 bucks...YUP...9. Why? Because technically I am not the manager. Our manager quit and the AM did too. I should have when they did."

I was going to ask the community what does happen if someone like our submitter quits, but I suspect that I already know the answer: one of those flex people or a integral part of another studio would be picked to take over in her/his place.

I'm not sure how SPS plans to survive if they're working managers 6 and 7 days a week until they quit. But perhaps SPS isn't planning on surviving and is just holding out as long as their current plans dictate.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Final Jeopardy

As all of us know first hand, you're always made to feel like your job is on the line over at SPS and that is your primary form of fun-work-environment motivation. I received an email from an employee who asked a question that I'm not able to answer but that I thought that we might be able to tackle as a community. Her it goes:
"I am a current SPS employee who has, for the previous 6 years, poured my heart and soul into my studio. Since acquiring a new DM about 2 years ago, I feel I am being set up for termination. My studio is getting a "visit" late this week from our lovely DM! I think there are a couple of scenarios that could happen this week...

1: I am fired.....which is the best option at this point.
2: I am demoted.
3: He pretends like everything is fine and we all keep moving on in the so called fun company like nothing is happening.

My question is...If he does try to demote me, is there anything I can legally do to say, "No thanks"? Honestly, I would rather be fired than demoted. I will not take the demotion. I have worked too hard to have someone else try to run MY studio! I don't want to ruin my chances of receiving unemployment by "quitting". Any help for me? Any legal advice?"
Now I don't know much about this situation (I was someone who put in my 2 weeks notice once things at my studio started to get even worse and, talking to past employees now, I'm glad that I did), but it seems like to me if they say "We are demoting you," then they are effectively saying "take a demotion or get let go" which, if you choose to get let go in that sense, it seems like (since it wasn't for your own misconduct) you could collect unemployment.

But I'm not sure which is why I'm tossing it to the community.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sometimes parents can't control their children. Sometimes the parents are children themselves

An email submission with the subject "Sexual Harassment??"
"The reason behind the question marks, is because I'm not sure if you could call it that at all, considering it happens from our CHILD customers!!!! They grope and grab us and their parents just giggle. Not to mention the Fathers staring at our "Goodies" and it sometimes being caught on camera.

Just this past week i was shooting a family of 6, the children being 4 Boys. The second to the oldest was about 10yrs old. I was trying to pose them and this particular boy just kept reaching up and "Honking" (for lack of a better word to describe his gesture) my breast. I looked at him and he got the biggest Cheshire smile on his face.... i thought he wouldn't do it again, but i was wrong. I turned back to keep posing them and he continued to do it over and over and over again, i just kept swatting his hand away.

Another incident was with a fellow employee. I'm unsure of the age of the child, but it was a little boy and he was continuously grabbing her rear-end...for the entire visit at our studio.

As far as the fathers, ugh. On more than one occasion Ive had comments made about my breasts and Ive also caught them in pictures staring at a photo with their children and wife they are obviously STARING at my chest. How can i tell?! If i have them in a floor pose and I'm squeaking a duck to get the kids to smile, i pull the Duck UP towards the camera...when Mom and the kids eyes are UP but Dads are DOWN and in my direction, we can only assume what he is looking at!"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let's do some math

I know that this is math that we've done before, but with all that we've been talking about how hard it is to find a job, I wanted to revisit this discussion:

Let's say that you work 30 hours a week making 11.50 an hour. That means that before taxes, you bring in $345/wk. Let's imagine that you're looking to make the exact same amount of money working somewhere else. If you find somewhere that is able to give you 40 hours per week, you would only need to make $8.63 per hour. I know sometimes that it seems it's hard to find a job that gives you what you get at SPS in terms of pay, but in the end, you can take a pretty substantial pay cut and make out pretty well (and work 5 days a week).

Plus getting your sanity back is the best paycheck around.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I thought it was bad when they bought the $9.99 plus composite

People used to get around missing out getting all their poses by getting the 9.99 package and then getting a 9-image composite of all of their other poses and scanning it on their computer. An email submitter informs us of another thing that people are up to:

"We all have the cute kid/irritating mom that has 2-3 outfits and then gets the 4.99 or 9.99 package. We recently had one and played dumb and made a few comments to get her on our side and whooaaa: Out comes the truth.

After a session, she goes online right clicks to save to her computer and sends to CVS online and prints wallets, 3x5s and even 5x7s. I call home office they say there is nothing they can do: CVS should ask for the copyright. The problem is though is that the computer doesn't know what that is when you submit online have it mailed to you! not to mention the client who you bend over backwards for those cute belly/maternity pics who only buys 2 sheets then you see a facebook/myspaces and they went saved pictures from online to the computer to then post online."

As one commenter writes, I don't know why they don't just have the online uploading process automatically watermark the image.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sears Portrait Studio drives away its last customers

The latest email:
You must hit 3 appointments per day outreach. The company is coming down hard on this. All associates/managers must make 10 calls per shift. If they don't. It will result in finall/termination. You must average 3 a day.
Thank You!"
Is this going to make associates fear for their jobs? Yes. Is this fear going get them to call with every spare moment (that they don't have)? Yes. Will some of that calling be off the clock? Probably.

I'm not sure how this is even possible for many studios. It was a struggle to hit 10 outreach appointments every week for us, let alone 21.

And let's say you normally have 40 appointments a week this time of year. Is calling the same people over and over again really going to raise that number to 61? Are you really going to be able to add 91 appts to your books each month this way? You may get them to come in more frequently, but you can bet that they aren't likely to spend as much (if they show up at all).

What SPS needs right now is new customers to bring them new sources of income. They aren't going to acquire and retain customers if every time you visit SPS, you have phone calls every day for a week every time 60 days rolls around. That's how you make customers angry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is all your fault

I've probably already used that topic title before since these kinds of issues come up so often, but this time I'm talking about outreach.

The word on the street is that these days, if you don't get your 3 outreach appointments, you're getting written up no matter what. As one commenter pointed out, when CPI makes its reports it says that sits are down because of the bad economy, but on the studio level, they tell you that sits are down because of you. Here are two further comments expounding on the problems:

Anonymous writes:
"I asked what happens if we book 100 appoinments but none of them are for the next week...yup still a write up!"

Anonymous [a different one: you guys have to start choosing names like burntoutmgr did] writes:
"Today on a conference call we were told we have to speak to 10 customers a day during outreach or we get written up. 1st time corrective action 2nd time termination. that means if im alone and booked and only have one hour to outreach 10 people have to pick up the phone and speak to me or im fired? because i control the people at home now too? where is this magical wand im supposed to have to do my job? did it get sent through UPS on my day off? one person asked what if no one answers the phone do we still get written up? the reply was i highly doubt you can call ALL the call lists and not one person answers. i think im gonna go get a job telemarketing. ill make more money and when my schedule says off at 6 ill be actually going home not calling home and saying sorry honey we cant make the movie/dinner/boat ride/5 minutes alone/anniversary/birthday party/BBQ/birth of child/wedding/graduation/too tired to procreate... OH EXCUSE ME LIFE!!! because im chained to my studio. even though i spent all day with no appointments telemarketing myself into depression and someone decides to walk in at 5 effing 55!!!"

And I also hear from another commenter that now some lower volume studios are being tasked with making appointments for larger volume studios: bringing their job title closer and closer to telemarketer.

My main problem with outreach appointments is that a good majority of the time, they wouldn't even show for their appointment: they would just make one to be polite (while I appreciate the appointment, it just makes me look like I'm making fake appointments when so many are no shows).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let's help each other out.

There's been a lot of good information going on in the comments about two things: flex time and unemployment. One commenter writes:
"It is true there is no Federal law pertaining to breaks, but each state usually has a set guideline for employers to follow. You can easily find your state by Googling. I do know that in Cali, the law for "flex" or on call does depend on a few things like how long they expect you to take getting to work and if you are restricted as far as how far away from home you can be. If you are unable to be personally productive and respond quickly, then they must pay you to be on call at the rate of at least minimum wage. "
and another adds:
CPI's "flex shift" is not legal in more than a few states. It is considered to be an "on call" shift and employees are to be paid for the hours scheduled whether they were worked or not. A little research would probably net some of you a nice little check for all the times you were ON CALL and not paid for it.
I would love to get resources together for those still at CPI so they can know the law in their state, so if anyone has more further information, please leave it in a comment or shoot me a quick email.

And in terms of unemployment, one commenter writes:
"To the person who inquired about collecting unemployment if depends on your state. Don't willingly step down-make them demote you. You then might be considered "partially unemployed" and the state will supplement your income. You will have to report your earnings every 2 weeks and be looking for full-time employment. In my state, they pay 125% of your eligible amount if you are working."

Please also post unemployment information here as well. Let's help those that are yet to be able to get out.

On one other note, I wanted to point out one other thing: assume that every single thing you do at work is documented and trackable since it probably is. They're able to tell if you don't make telemarketing calls (they check what you check off against the phone logs). They're able to tell if you make fake appointments. They're able to tell everything you do on SAS and in the computers (since they can remotely take over/monitor any system). For your own benefit, no matter how much they screw you over, don't try to skirt around doing certain things because they'll know. Be wary: every single thing in the system has a report associated with it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Working off the clock

I wanted to further highlight an passage of the previous post
"I come in and work off the clock because I have to watch our labor"
This (among everything else in that post of course) really shows the fear that SPS instills in their workers: the workers are so worried about their jobs that they will work for free just to try and keep a number .25% closer to a goal. If that isn't taking ownership of your studio, I don't know what is.

I know that SPS doesn't allow working off the clock, but I spent a lot of time doing it. Shoot, I was already spending most of my lunch delivering out pictures and answering phones anyhow: might as well just devote the whole lunch to working. That way I could maybe get my closing tasks done earlier and not get in trouble for poor time management for taking too long to close when I have an appointment that comes in near close. Better to have a job and give away some free labor than to not have a job at all I figured since ever day seemed like new opportunity to be written up.

Other than Sears Portrait Studio, have you worked at any other dying businesses? How did your time there compare to working at SPS?

Monday, June 8, 2009

What it means to be a "photographer" in a "fun work environment"

Someone known as CPI Hostage emailed us the following well-put submission. Never before have I seen a better summary of what it means to work at SPS.

"I am a salesperson. I can make the sale count 99% of the time. Even if you bring in the 9.99 coupon, I can get you to add-on something extra. I start at the 379.99 collection, and if you don’t ask, that is the only collection I will speak about. I will cheat you out of your money. I know you don’t need 25 sheets of your 3 month old, but I make you feel guilty for not getting them. I feel sick after every big sale, and depressed after every small sale. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a telemarketer. I call you every day, leave you messages, and harass you until you give me an answer. I might have even purchased your phone number from one of your family or friends. I call you in the morning, afternoon, evening, on holidays, on the weekends. But I’m not a telemarketer; I’m giving you a courtesy call. I hate feeling that I’m driving you away from my studio, instead of drawing you in. I hate making you feel obligated to come in. But I need to make 3 appointments a day. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a multi-tasker. I can take deliver photos, make appointments, answer questions, clean the studio, check the studio mail, read the browser, grade photography, check order accuracy, call other studios for my DM (because she is too busy to do so), make sales, ring sales up, and calibrate the camera, all while trying to get a wiggly, screaming 2 year old to stand next to the #2 and smile. I feel drained by the end of the day, my feet hurt, my eyes hurt, my head hurts. This is what Im trained to do.

I am a venting board. I listen to everyone's problems, yours, my associates, my DM. I listen and try to make you feel better. I can’t help that your 10x13 is the same pose as your 9.99 package. Some of you treat me like crap. Curse at me, belittle me, complain about our prices, and worst of all, criticize my photography. I have no self-esteem at work, I will stand there while you take your frustrations out on me, I can’t tell you off, I can’t stand up for myself. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a secretary. I have more paperwork to do than the President's Aid. Summary of Conversations, Site Sales, Sales by Product, Open Orders, Daily Media, Daily Closing, Timecard, Schedules. That just the beginning. I print out 3 different reports, which give the same information every Monday for conference call. I don’t ever look at these again, but when my DM comes on a studio visit, I better have these printed out. I hate the waste of time and paper. But I do it anyway, day after day. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a teacher. I teach photography, sales, time management, and customer service. I grade my associates with a happy face or sad face on their site sales. I try to motivate them, I try to encourage. But my DM is telling me to be harder, to watch closer. Instead of taking my associates aside and talk to them as a human, explaining what I need them to fix, I have to do a summary of conversation. If my associate had a bad week, instead of saying ‘Let’s put this behind us’ I have to document it, make my employee feel like a failure. It makes me feel like a monster. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a janitor. I vacuum, wash windows, wash backgrounds, dust, and organize. I don’t have the proper supplies, so I purchase it myself. I put hand sanitizer on the counter where you pay for your pictures. My DM forced me to remove it because we don’t sell hand sanitizer. I put fresh tissues on the sales table, but we don’t sell those either. I put your child on a dirty background, and lie and tell you we dry clean them. I feel dirty, but there’s nothing I can do. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a technician. I have taken apart a server and restored it on my own. I have installed motorized backgrounds, printers, computers, and cameras. I can calibrate the camera in 60 seconds flat. My hands get cut and dirty. I can easily be electrocuted, but I can’t complain, because this is what needs to be done. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am an artist. I make a so-so photograph beautiful with our enhancements. Now it would have fine in the raw, but I don’t have control over the lighting and my camera is on a tripod. I can’t take beautiful pictures; I have to take company approved pictures. I get the poses I need before I consider your wants. I know you got a tummy pose last month, but I did it in sepia this time. I feel shunted. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a mother. I have no children, but I am cleaning up your child's drool, pee, poop, and vomit. After you leave the studio, I clean up the mess you child made. I tie your husband’s tie, fix your daughters hair, make sure your necklace is straight, and tell you how beautiful you look. I sing to your child, play games, and entertain them. I’ve been thrown up on, but I couldn’t complain. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a machine. I do what I’m told. I hate my job, and dream of quitting, but don’t have the courage to do it. I have no confidence in my skills. I don’t have a passion for what I do anymore. Everything I do for you, I’ve done for the last customer, and for the next. I do everything like a robot. I hate the way I feel when I’m at work. I’ll never let you know though. Ill smile, and make conversation, and make you feel like you are one of the most amazing person I’ve met. This is what I’m trained to do.

I am a workaholic. I work 40 hours a week, but I am in on call 24/7. I have 2 scheduled days off, but I usually work 6 days a week. I answer my phone every time I get a call from one of my associates. I come in and work off the clock, because I have to watch our labor, but we are double booked at 12pm. I make sure that everyone in my studio gets their requested days off. I work on my birthday, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, New Years Day…the list can go on. I clock out for lunch, but work through it. If I get a walk-in at 2pm, and refuse them to take my lunch, I can be terminated for refusing a customer. If I don’t take a lunch and take them in, I can be terminated for not following company policy. I know this is against the law, and that it makes me crabby to my loved ones, but I have to do it. This is that I'm trained to do.

I am not a photographer.

I am a Sears Portrait Studio Manager."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just putting this out there

I submit--for your comparison and discussion pleasure--that I was at a McDonalds this weekend that had posted all the wages for their different jobs. Their full time managers bring in $11/hr (no word as to if full time actually gives you 40 rather than 30 hours).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Also, after you hit a button on the phone, make sure you have DM approval to hit the next button

Quote from an email fwd'd my way:

"Hey all,

All of your studios will need to call/text/email you daily with the number of outreach appointments they've booked for that day at close of business.

You will then call/text/email me.

I will then have to call/email Kellee first thing each morning with the number of outreach appointments booked for the entire territory the previous day.

ALL studios will have a VERY high level of accountability for booking ATLEAST 3 outreach appointments a day. This is what the conference call will be about this afternoon, just to give you a heads up. And home office will have a team dedicated to investigating whether FAKE appointments are being please inform your people that if found, there will serious repercussions. We will execute this legitimately using all call lists and referrals and acquisition.

If you...or one of your managers are on vacation, someone MUST be in charge of doing begin immediately. You may want to host a conference call or you can communicate with each one on one. But again...this will begin immediately, beginning tonight for appointments booked today.

Just wanted to give you a heads up...and even though this is additional tracking, and will continue indefinitely, I know it will help our business. And there will be 100% accountability for this "Operation Get Sits" program.

Thank all."


Another one on the way out

This recently got sent to me. I take it I wasn't the only recipient:

"Sears Portrait Studio,
I wanted to let you know why you are losing another talented manager....
I understand the MPC, I understand controlling labor, I actually enjoy setting goals that we can achieve... I understand customer service... That IS our advertising.....I get the call lists... our customers and a reminder.... I am good at the 8 poses per session... very good in fact. I have been in the top ten for 3 years in a row. I met you in St Louis. I have moved from a low volume to a high. But, you as a company have taken away from me as an employee..I didn't even get a year end review this year let alone a raise.No company recognition, even on a district level. I have been through four District Managers, my lunch was always at the customer's discretion. Now I am damned if I take a lunch break.. ie customer service, damned if I don' I have to e-mail why.
I have to achieve three outreach appointments every day, and you won't advertise in the yellow pages. How can I "we" call the same people over and over.
I have had enough of trying to hire underpaid employees and asking them to be "on call' , I am willing to be responsible for my numbers, for my business and my employees as a studio manager, I am willing to be a salesperson PRS , photography specialist 5 star...I just wish that you as a company would appreciate what we in the field have and continue to accomplish as representatives of your company.We are the people that make your company profitable.... I am why the customers continue to come back... not the 4.99 coupons. It's because I have taken more than 15 min in the camera room, because I care enough to give them the best service in every aspect... but because you as a corporation have chosen not to appreciate your employees as we are expected to value our customers, you are losing the talent that has made you a leader in the industry.. It takes quality people to make a quality experience..and a quality product.
I am and can train quality people, but I have neither the hours or the incentive to do so..only threats and company procedure to follow. I am leaving your company, I have had enough, I have seen the "who you know" get promoted to DM and I have seen good people bypassed. I just wanted you to know that sometimes the corporations bottom dollar policies can be detrimental to your business."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sent in untrained and unprepared

An employee who's thinking of quitting after a few weeks on the job sent me an email. Here's an excerpt.
The second day I go in, the district manager is there with 3 other managers,(NOTE:there are a total of 5 employees, 4 of which are managers at my studio). Well I am sitting at the table getting ready to do my e-learning,and I overhear the district manager and the (I guess) assistant manger, whispering (talking) about the store manager after she left to go print out flyers. I thought that was so unprofessional and rude, I just sat there acting as though I wasn't paying attention, because they were whispering LOUD. As my day progressed I noticed that every time my manager was in the camera room showing me something, the DM would come in and cut her off, basically telling her that what she was showing me was the wrong way to do it, belittling the manager in front of me.
And that's of course bad enough, but what I really want to talk about this is the following:
Moving on to the next couple days of work, I did a couple of my e-learning skill assessments, and then she immediately started teaching me how to use Express, SAS, how to make sales at the sales tables, and so on. She has been teaching these things so fast, its hard for me to remember. (NOTE: What happened to training me through the training book/guide???). But anyway she had me posing the teddy bear as an infant and using the posing guide online. Posing infants was the only subject I had learned to pose up to my 3rd day of work.

On my fourth day of work which happened to fall on a Friday she threw me in the camera room cold turkey and I was completely LOST. She was OFF that day as well. To top it off every session I had was GROUPS!!! I had NO idea about posing groups, so that meant every 5 minutes I was running outside the camera room asking for help. I was terrified and so unsure of everything except making a catalog on express LOL. I haven't even been trained on keeping my sessions to a minimum of 15 minutes,so all of my sessions were at least 20-45 minutes long, due to my lack of knowledge. The whole time the ass.manager was running in the room telling me to "speed it up" there are other customers waiting.
This seems to be the norm still unfortunately and a self defeating cycle for SPS. People are going to come to Sears, feel like they're getting photos that aren't up to par because they're done by new [untrained] employees, they're going to spend what the photos are worth [$9.99], and Sears is going to do poorly financially and therefore put more pressure on its people to save more money on labor, encouraging them to spend less time on labor.

This was always a ridiculous cycle in my studio. Yeah, I get that you're trying to save on labor by getting people going as soon as possible, but you can't send them in unprepared (especially with groups: sheesh). They're going to quit and when they quit, you're going to have to pay for the labor all over again when you hire the next person. I know in my studio they hired in twos since once would always stop showing up. after a few days.

Clearly it's not working when you can't keep anyone around. Something has to change: why not train people correctly and give them the time? I know it's a huge labor investment, but so is having to have the coverage to train a new person every week. I'm not trying to say that this is the studio manager's fault: I think that a lot of the decisions they make are based on the environment that's created by those higher up.

Of course, how in the world can any managers give adequate training when there's only two employees at many studios these days? (And not only that, how can they convince new people that they're going to like working there if they're overworked and run ragged themselves?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How dare you go to the emergency room!

From the comments of the previous entry:

"So now my studio and 3 others around us only have 2 employees. 2 employees to work 7 days. We were TOLD to get rid of everyone else.

So on mothers day I volunteered for a nearby studio since I am not a mother and was visiting mine for dinner. We gotta help our own since the company won't, right? Only 5 appointments were booked in this studio. NONE show up. but as I get there I get a phone call that another studio mgr who I worked with before calls me. she asks me to call some of her appointments because her employee schedule to work was in the emergency room and she was a few hours away doing her mothers day thing with her child.

I start calling these customers who begin SCREAMING that I ruined their mother's day. I'm trying to explain that the poor girl is in the ER and that the other employee is on the way. They don't care of course because I ruined their precious plans. Well pardon me A) I was just helping out another studio so THEY could enjoy mothers day and B) doing a second favor by making these calls. maybe i should have just let them get dressed drive all the way their to find the studio not open and waste MORE of their precious day.

Some of these people demanded I leave the studio I was in to go cover that one. I was an hour away! not to mention already an hour away from my OWN studio. WTF? The mgr of the store that wasn't open kept calling me asking me what to do. At the time I had taken 2 walk ins and was answering the phones from the angry appointments in the other store. I said look lady the manager of THAT studio is on her way there are NO OTHER PEOPLE, not working, close enough to get there and cover those people. now can I go finish the customers that are here in THIS studio so at least one store is making money today?

I can't wait to quit this job. I'd rather be a cashier at a grocery store at this point rather than waste my talent here anymore. Might as well have a talentless job rather than waste myself for nothing. No incentive, impossible bonuses, and no raise."

Edit: also from the comments:

"We have a Studio right now in our district that only has 1 employee...the manager. Because the other girl was working at 2 diff studios and got in a car wreck. This happened the SAME week all our studios were made to get rid of "Extra" employees.

This is already biting everyone in the ass it seems."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Either way you lose

You're at work and you've been given a list of tasks that need to get done. When the list was given to you, there weren't many appointments booked, but with walk in appointments your day has been very full and you have made good sales numbers. Closing time is a half hour away.

Do you:
a) Check in the order packets that came in today, something not on your to-do list.
b) Do the telemarketing that is on your list for the full remaining half hour in attempts to make your weekly goal.
c) Start what closing procedures you can so that you are able to save as many labor hours as possible by leaving as close to 8:00 as possible.

Hint: Either way you're getting yelled at even if you were able to complete two of these. Make sure you have a pen at work tomorrow because you'll need to sign the summary of conversation for poor time management.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When you're not at work, you're at work

We know what a day at work is like. Let's talk about our time away from work.

Most days, I had the evening shift since the SM wasn't going to take it.

Often I would get woken up by phone call (oh how I learned to dream hearing that ring) around 9am when she got in, asking a question or accusing me of something that she could have accused me of when I was scheduled at 1. I then would go back to sleep.

I would try to not waste my entire day by getting up by 10am. Most days I would wake up feeling physically ill for the day ahead and go back to sleep. I realize this makes the work day come even faster, but still, it was hard to wake up. I dreaded going to work, especially knowing that I would be accused again once I arrived in studio.

I finally pull myself out of bed 12:00 and start getting ready for my day, figuring I need to at least need to have a small bit of time to myself before going in. Then I might receive a call saying that my schedule changed and they needed me in as soon as possible. Or I might get a call saying come in an hour later than anticipated.

Then of course I actually go to work. You know how that goes. At some point during the day I call home to deliver this disappointing news say that I'm going to be late since something has come up (last minute at-closing appt for example).

Get home, stay up late so I can feel like the day isn't a total wash, go to bed.