Friday, February 27, 2009

"Full time"

I wanted to highlight the following comment because of how well it shows that things are getting worse. Studios are beginnning to cut hours to the point that studio managers have to basically live at the studio:

"Recently CPI has changed the hours of operations on some "test" studios (soon to be changed in all studios). In my studio our new hours will mean we are only OPEN 35 hours out of the week. That means, as a studio manager, I have to work every single hour we are open every single day. It's ridiculous! It also means that my assistant manager's hours will be cut down to practically nothing and my other staff... well... sorry?

To top all that off, we were recently told on a conference call that if we drop below 32 hours a week, then the shorted time will be taken from our PTO time [a combination of sick days and vacation days]. So if I decide one week to only work 5 days, then whatever hours I'm short will come out of the measly PTO time I have. We are forbidden from taking unpaid time off. I think that too is ridiculous. We aren't salary workers. We are hourly. If we want to work less hours, it means they just pay us less! We used to be able to take unpaid PTO with DM's approval provided our studio was covered. Now, we have to basically work 6 days a week with no break but measly pay."
I don't know how Sears can expect to get good assistant managers any more. People that have any kind of relevant experience or skills aren't going to work for the small number of hours. This is probably why, a couple months ago, there were rumors of the assistant manager position being eliminated (which, to date, we've heard nothing of). Eventually, it seems to me that they're going to realize how few hours the assistant managers are getting, eliminate the position, and fill the gap with associates that they get to pay less.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The revolving door

There have been a lot of great comments on the previous entry about the horrible conditions at Sears Portrait Studio, and I wanted to highlight a few. These are in response to another comment that suggested that if you try your best, you'll always be safe from losing your job:

"I was fired for low studio numbers...I did everything in my power to get the numbers up. I was a loyal employee for 15 years. I worked holidays and nearly every weekend; hell, I didn't even take a sick day my first 5 years. I hung in through all the changes and daily BS. My reward? A DM who lied about studio visits, posted my job online before beginning any corrective action, talked smack about other studio managers to me, and played favorites on a regular basis. Don't kid yourself. You are ALWAYS REPLACEABLE. "

And another commenter writes: "The problem with this job is the company feels we are easily replaced. on a recent conference call we were told to interview people weekly so those who are underperforming can be replaced immediately. you CAN and DO get fired for low numbers.and good luck actually getting people to take the job at the lousy starting pay. we are so easily replaced and yet it takes a dedicated person to fully do this job and give good customer svc. we hire any old person off the street and expect a miracle. thats why this company is in the toilet. START WITH THE EMPLOYEES. find your sales rising. (oh look i wrote in caps that means IT WILL be done right?)"

Did you catch that? People are being told to interview people when there aren't even positions open. As many SM and DMs that have had their jobs posted know, nothing says "we don't value you" like actively seeking out new people to do your job.

I left this company about six months ago thinking that it couldn't get any worse over there, but clearly it's gotten worse.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fix CPI: Business model

The CPI business model is more or less the following: bring in people, take great photos, use sales tactics to sell them sheets at 14.99 each, bring them back.

Is this sustainable? I mean, yes, it's incredibly profitable to sell a product at 14.99 that costs you about 17 cents in raw materials, but it doesn't help if you only get a few customers a day. And, thanks to coupons (which will be another day's entry so save up those comments!), some customers pay just 9.99 for their entire package of photos that it took your associate an hour to take.

Times are tough and people are learning how to spend less. I know that the people at Sears take great photos, but how can you continue to convince people that your photos are so great that, rather than spending .26 cents for a cute 4x6 print that they took at Walgreens, they should instead pay many times that for a sheet of 4 3.5x5's, all with the same pose.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Readers, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the problems that CPI faces and figure out what (if anything) they can do to make things better for you. Let's talk about the different aspects of the way that SPS is set up and discuss how you would change them. If you have topics you would like to discuss, let me know.

Let's start with PRS. Working at Sears Portrait Studio means you've got a lot of associates that are part timers, many of them students. In theory, since they're there 10-15 hours a week, they're not that invested in the well-being of the company (not saying this is true, I'm just going through the reasoning). When you as a company want to make more money, it makes sense that you would try to get their average sale up. Bring their average sale (or anyone's for that matter) up, and you bring in more money.

The main problem, of course, is that in practice, everything isn't tied to average sales. For example, when SPS calls people during outreach telemarketing, those sittings typically spend less. So you could have someone who brings in 10 extra sits for herself in a week, but this would reflect on her negatively, since these sittings would bring down her PRS.

We all know how closely PRS is tied to you having a job or not, and as a result, everyone feels like their job is in jeopardy when economic times get tough and people spend less.

Would you change PRS? How would you track job performance? How would you motivate staff to bring in more money? It's easy to say what doesn't work (and if you ask me, PRS has a lot of problems), but it's far more difficult to figure out new ways of doing things.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From the front lines

I wanted to highlight a comment we received just this morning from upsetcpiemployee:

I am a current employee in upper management and things are not getting ANY better, only worse. Since hiring J[name deleted]and K[name deleted], PRS has become a major topic. They have gone to the extent of yelling and degrading TMs, DMs and even studio managers in front of their peers, because we have people who are running lower numbers, and heaven forbid we have not terminated them immediatly after having a bad week. The thought of retraining people (even those who were hired just before Christmas and got the minimal training to begin with) is out of the question. No, we are to terminate them and find replacements. Like we can find people who will work for 7.50 (and that is on the high end in some of the studios across the country) and get 10 hours max. GOOD LUCK.

I feel for all of you that struggled at all levels with this company, and only pray things will change. I miss the old CPI, when we believed in recognizing our top performers and developing those who struggled. Heck, this year we are not even allowed to have awards ceromonies at any level. How is that for recognition! I am sorry that any of you had to feel the need to "fudge" your numbers to keep your job. [This was a comment on the "Screw over your employees" post] We failed you as a company, and I really do appologize. At the same token, I say "we" as if I am Home Office and I am not. I too am constantly worried that my job is on the line, and feel the pressure that the two new additions (J--- & K-----)have placed on us. I am glad I found this site just to speak my mind. I love what I do, and I have for a long time. I love watching associates and managers grow from when the were hired or promoted to becoming tops in the company, but that has been taken from me, and I miss it. Now it is just like our customers at Christmas lately with the lack of staff we have had, a cattle herd. We are not developing anyone, we hire them, give them the bare bones training, and give them 30-90 days to sink or swim. That is not fair to our managers, our employees and definatly not fair to our customers.
I hope Renato himself reads these comments, because we need to go back to the days of developing a staff and creating future managers in all studios. And you cannot get there by the constant turn over. And you certainly will not get there by having people like J--- and K----- come in and take a hatchet to our company and degrade all employees, whether they are on the top or bottom, they will find something they can complain about.

For those of you still employed by CPI, hang in there. It was not always a bad place to work, and I hope some day it will get back there.And please do not "fudge" numbers, ask for help. Any good leader will help you get through a tough time!

[Readers, come back for tomorrow's entry; let's discuss how Sears Portrait Studio can be fixed.]