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.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Call it a hunger strike

I'm not looking to stir up any trouble, but is there a way that those of you still in the fight could be better heard (or at least be in the conversation)? It sounds like a lot of people feel like their opinions and suggestions aren't being heard. Maybe there's nothing that can be done and SPS is just bleeding out, but it would be nice if the employees were at least made aware of the reasons behind why certain changes get made.

I feel like the absolute best thing you could do is send an email (so that it's documented) saying that from this day forward, you are going to take your lunch without interruptions, leaving the studio. I know that the new hours try to force a proper lunch, but it sounds like some people still aren't getting them.

Everyone should be allowed to leave the studio, eat, have get some respite from the trials of the Portrait Studio. And if they try and get upset about it, you have documentation that shows their ill will coincided with when you started actually taking a lunch.


Friday, April 24, 2009

When the upset people come back for more

A story from one of our friends at Picture Me Portrait Studio:

This morning a lady who has been to my studio...oh about 2 times. She came once at Christmas and once about 3 weeks ago to get her son's graduation pictures done.

While taking her son's graduation photos, she was displeased because I couldn't give her the same special prices that she got at Christmas time: She said I wasn't being fair with her because of it and that prices in Kentucky were way better in the Walmart there than here in [redacted]. I explained to her kindly that these were the prices and there was nothing I could do about those prices. Needless to say she gave me a bad survey all because of prices. [Even though her problem was mostly with the company and not with you, I'm sure the negative survey got you in trouble]

This lady thought she would come back again today to get more photos. I politely explained to her that I would gladly take her photos but if questioning my prices or my fairness was called into play then the session would be over. She proceed to call me an ASSHOLE right in front of all of Walmart and told me that I was an indecent human being.

I said "Ma'am, there is no call for obscenity but if you want to continue it further the police department could be here in 2 minutes for a free ride to jail." She proceeded to say it again this time with more severe words...and then the race card was thrown out. Loss Prevention for Walmart was listening to her whole commotion and advised her to leave because the police were on their way.

A big thank you to Loss Prevention of Walmart. I don't make enough to be talked to like that by any customer. We go out of our way to appease the customers at all costs and then get rated poorly on our customer service for the very things that we try to accommodate. This is why when a new job comes along I will be taking it as well...because no one deserves to be treated like that by anyone and the sheer fact the customer service refuses to think for one second heaven forbid that a studio manager might be not be at fault.

CPI is going downhill and I will praise God when a new job comes along...because it is turning me into a person I don't want to be...because that is not who I am nor who do I ever want to become which is a person with no class.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Your own title says it all

First of all, a disclaimer: I saw a lot of great wedding photos taken at Sears Portrait Studio. The photographers could really pull off some creative and inventive photos.

That being said.
Why in the world would you go somewhere expecting that you're going to get great wedding photos exactly as you like them for three dollars and eighty eight cents?

How could anywhere could make money selling photos for $3.88?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some people have a way with words

For those of you that didn't see it, I wanted to highlight this comment:

"Working at CPI was like being in an abusive marriage for 15 years; I was never good enough, and brainwashed into thinking I could not do any better. Then one day my "husband" came home and said he didn't like me anymore, and to pack my shit and get out. I did. When I run into people I've not seen in a while, they always say how great I look-like 10 years younger. That's the stress and anxiety gone from my life. So, if you love CPI so much, stick around. You'll get yours. In the end, literally."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Hours Begin

From the comments:
"I just found out about the new hours today and I have to say I am a little peeved! When I was first getting informed I heard something about more money. Then all I heard was that our studio is going to be down by half of our normal hours. Which also means I will not be getting my normal hours either. I have to let one person go, and the other one who is my best employee by far will get one day and maybe some discresionary hours? Yeah I am pretty sure that she will no longer have the same availability being as that she will need another job to pay the bills. There is no way she will be waiting around week after week to see if maybe she lucked out and got some hours. To top it off I am very sure that all of our customers and potential customers will be taking their buisness elsewhere. Somewhere that is open maybe? Closing at 2 and coming back to close? Are you fricken kidding me? What nut jobs are running this shindig? I for one am a very underpaid manager and now you tell me your going to cut my hours and I will be working by myself? What about my vacation? What if I am sick? Maybe if you give me one hell of a raise to run a show all alone but other than that I can start my own buisness and deal with the same thing. I feel we are going down and fast and I also believe that buying Picture Me studios only hurt us badly. Things were not like this a few years back. I should probably be looking for another job just in case. I will not be working in another studio thats not my own though thats for sure!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This is how it should happen

While browsing the internet looking for a press release someone commented about, I happened upon this story of how it should happen.

Yeah, that's right, I thought I'd take a negative break and post a happy story. If you ask me, the best part of the job was the families that would come back again and again and request you every time. Even in my short time there, there were kids that I got to see grow up quite a bit. Some kids were difficult, sure, but when you surprised the parents with how many great photos you got: that was a very rewarding experience.

(Ok I couldn't keep it completely negativity free): How can SPS expect to keep a customer base when their favorite photographers leave, meaning there's new associates every time they come in?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

SAS, the bane of your existence

I think SPS is the only business that requires two registers to complete a transaction thanks to SAS. From the mid nineties, SAS is a system that CPI is not willing to abandon. I know because I myself submitted it as an idea to save money as did one of my associates (only to be told that their IT people had better things to do with their time).

SAS is one of the hardest things to get a handle on for new associates and as a result it takes up a huge part of the training process. It is the least intuitive computer system that I've used and I've been computing since the 80's. Looking for customer information? Well you won't find it under the customer tab; it's under Sales. Looking for a transaction? this time it's under Customer. Plus they couldn't think of a way to make all your options visible at once (hint: smaller buttons), so you have to hunt around a bunch of different menus. In the end, it's all memorization as to where you need to go.

But once you've got it memorized, it still loves to screw up. "Oh look," you say "it accidentally added on a second collage when I used this coupon, let me go back and fix it" only to find that when you do that, it adds on a third collage. Try something else and you've got a fourth. You can't delete out any of these items. Your choice:

1) Make the customer wait while you wait in a 30 person queue to talk to tech support, also making your next appointment late
2) Modify the prices down to the correct total price and later be asked/accused about giving away 4 collages for free

Check out should be a quick painless process for the customer: click on the things they got, click on the coupons they used, and ring them out. Done. Or better yet, have the photo ordering software also seamlessly integrate with the register so that it automatically charges them. Just type in the session number and everything pops up.

Now that you don't have to pay me out of Watt's the Big Idea funds anymore, SPS, just do it for your employees and save yourself some training dollars.

It's been a while since I've been on SAS (thank goodness), so leave your experiences in the comments.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy Easter

From the comments:
"Our studio recently got an e-mail stating that if we beat sales for the day, everybody working gets time and a half. We were supposed to get time and a half REGARDLESS since they're forcing us to be open on a holiday!"
(Plus don't forget that you'll be paying for your easter props out of your own pocket)

edit: one commenter asks:
"What is so bad about that? The company wants TO MAKE MONEY. It's a business! Duh..."
I thought about that in making the post. True, they don't have to pay time and half to anyone. But I just imagine Easter across the business happening the same way it did at our studio. Our Easter appointments would vary year to year. Some years they might get 1-2 sittings. Other years they might get 0. Usually it was dead all day partially given that people don't expect a lot to be open on Easter. And out in the mall, you couldn't pull anyone in to get photos since the Sears was usually dead. So it's just the randomness that got me. Through no fault of your own, some poor associate might have no one come in all day and miss out on time and a half. It used to be that when an associate had to run the studio on Easter, at least you got to tell them that they would get getting time and a half as some small concession.

And on top of that, the associate can't do any outreach telemarketing with appointmentless time unless they just want to get people angry for calling them on a holiday.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Don't forget your connection pose. Oh wait, forget it.

Things at Sears Portrait Studio go in cycles. Every quarter there's a brand new crusade against something ranging from labor numbers to an element of 5 star photography. Let's use connection poses as an example, a type of pose that made up your 5 star photography grade.

First off, it was impossible to properly define a connection pose since it was an umbrella term for poses ranging from the child looking at a toy to a cute expression (this is as vague as it sounds). The difficult part was that sometimes in evaluations, we would get marked off points for not having a connection pose despite copying something directly from the training manual. Other times, photographers would get rewarded for having a connection pose and we were unable to figure out why.

The crusade ultimately lead to everyone having to go through their sits weekly to find and track their connection poses (with the free time that no one has). We also had a meeting in which we went through some sample sittings and sometimes we just had to say "You know, you're right. I don't know why you didn't get points for this connection pose" which makes it hard to enforce. Also this meeting was scheduled 2 days ahead of time and was a mandatory Sunday-before-open meeting for all associates, but that's beside the point.

Once we got everyone on the same page with connection poses and were able to get them as consistently as the vague criteria would allow, the corporate office tells us to forget connection poses: we're now going to focus on inventive/extreme angle poses and forget about tracking or grading connection poses.

Time to get on the phone and tell everyone to change their schedules: we've got a new mandatory meeting tomorrow evening.

How are the new hours working?

Over at the Open Thread they've been talking about Easter (which has a dumb way of scheduling) and the new hours the studios are running. I'll let the following comment ask the question for me:
Yeah, one of the worst things you can do in business is have unpredictable hours. Customers give up on you.

My question is how the heck is this a full time job for managers anymore? Are you in the studio every day now to make 40 hours?"
Did you lose any assistant managers when they weren't getting guaranteed hours? Did SMs have to take other people's hours so they themselves could get enough? How's working 6 days a week going?

Either way I figure nothing says "we aren't doing well" like making your store be open fewer hours.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sign and date here please

Someone emailed me on Tuesday and wrote
"Honestly, after reading your blog (which my fiance linked me to) i am
AMAZED that sears portrait studio hasn't had their asses sued up the wazoo
from their employees! How in the hell do they get away with it? That's

And in a this-is-really-wrong kind of way, they're actually very smart about it.
1) On your application they have you sign that they have the right to terminate you for any reason or for no reason. This is called being an at will employer.
2) To further protect themselves, everything is documented. Had too many coupons get used against you? That's a write up. If it happens next week, that's another write up that can lead to your termination for not fixing what you said you would fix and having fewer people bring in coupons.
3) Thanks to all the documentation, you feel like your job is always in jeopardy. I always felt like if I said "Hey, state law says my lunch is supposed to be uninterrupted and therefore I cannot take passports, deliver packets, or answer phones" that I would be seen as someone who wasn't a team player and then they would use all the documentation that they had stored up to give me the boot. Also, in terms of getting lunches, they have it documented that the DMs are yelling at you about making sure you get lunches, but in practice, it's just set up where it can't happen. As I've probably already written, my SM laughed at the fact that people expected to get lunches during their busy season shifts.