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 demoted...it 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."