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Jul 2, 2012

IN with Employee.


Jul 2, 2012

It's Easier Without Customers
(1281 words)

“Hey, Bern. You seen this?” Larry said, brandishing a white envelope emblazoned with the Voidmart logo. His eyes were wide and a few strands of hair had slid from his comb-over and plastered themselves across his forehead. Bern snatched the envelope from his hand. His eyes slid over the Voidmart letterhead and lighted on a few phrases: “low sales volume”; “measures to be taken”; “additional staff have been allocated”. The letter finished with a looping, illegible signature and “CEO, Voidmart” printed underneath.
“The CEO’s decided we’re not selling enough, so he’s sending a salesman to this section to help us out. I can’t see any problem with… oh.” Bern stopped halfway through as the full enormity of the situation hit him. He looked around at the shelves around him. They were stacked with kitchen appliances in boxes, each shelf filled to the brim and all the boxes placed perfectly on top of one another and not a speck of dust to be found on any of them. It had taken years of painstaking work from Larry and him to get it to this point.
“You see, don’t you? If we start getting customers in here, then they’ll start looking at things – moving things – Bern, they’ll start buying things off the shelf. We have to stop them, Bern,” whined Larry, entirely failing to keep a note of hysteria out of his voice.
“It’s OK, Larry. We’ll figure something out.”

Three days later, Bern stepped out of the elevator and nearly walked into a tall, blond man in a suit and aviator sunglasses. There was a name badge on his chest, polished to a high sheen and reflecting so much light that his name couldn’t be seen. The only thing Bern could make out was the Voidmart logo.
“Hey man. Is this Appliances Q?” said the stranger. His voice was far more enthusiastic than Bern thought anyone had any right to be before noon. Bern had only just opened his mouth to give some sort of affirmation when the stranger interrupted him. “I’m Sam. Nice to meet you, Bern,” he said, looking directly at Bern’s nametag. He thrust out a hand which Bern shook warily. One second later they disengaged and Bern began to regain feeling in his hand as Sam carried on.
“I got transferred here from Appliances F yesterday. It took me nearly the whole time to find this section. All the signs to this section seem to point to the wrong places, did you know that? I’ve spoken to Maintenance about it, so they should be getting things fixed pretty soon.”
Bern did know that all the signs to Appliances Q pointed to the wrong place. He and Larry had done that themselves, coming into the store at the crack of dawn with buckets of paint and fixing the signs. They’d even got an award for dedication to their jobs as someone from Management had chalked their presence in the store to a couple of dedicated employees taking on unpaid overtime.
“Talking of getting things fixed, I hear this section’s been having some problems with sales volume. Appliances F is the best in the store for sales, so Management’s sent me over to try and pick things up a bit around here. When’s the last time you sold something around here, anyway?” said Sam.
“Over a month ago,” said Bern noncommittally. That was technically true – the last time something had been sold was over two years ago.
“Well, we can do better than that. I reckon we can turn this place right around. What do you say, Bernie?” Sam punctuated this by clapping a hand to Bern’s shoulder so hard it made Bern wince. “You ready to do this or what?”
“I guess.” Bern looked around for an escape route and found one in the shape of Larry standing at the end of the aisle. “Anyway, I gotta go – there’s some, uh, stuff I gotta go talk to Larry about.”

“Can you believe that guy?” Larry was pacing around the break room with a cup of something loosely resembling coffee in his hand. “Just because his section’s sold the most appliances in the last year he thinks he’s got the right to tell us how to run our section. Have you seen the state of Appliances F? Stuff just flies off the shelves there, there’s nothing QA can do to keep it neat for long. I used to work there, you know.” He’d stopped pacing around and stood, slightly hunched, staring at something in the middle distance that only he could see.
“I don’t want this section to end up like that. I don’t want to go back.”

After Bern finished his lunch break, he wandered back onto the shop floor and immediately stopped cold. The product displays, once perfectly aligned stacks of white boxes, were now riddled with gaps which stuck out like missing teeth. Sam was five feet away, talking to a young woman. The world seemed to slow down to almost a stop as Bern watched, helplessly, as Sam finished his sales pitch and the young woman picked up another box and made her way to the elevator. It was then that Bern noticed the signs, all over the displays – his displays! – with “20% off” painted on in the looping, ornate script favoured by Voidmart that season. Before he could say anything, Sam had spotted him, and pounced.
“Bernie! My man! Do you like the new décor? Stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. We can get the ball rolling with a quick sale – you know, word of mouth spreads, people start thinking this section’s the place to be, volume goes up…”
Bern was only dimly aware of what Sam was saying. A plan had just formed in his head. If he could somehow set up a sale in Appliances F… he ducked back into the break room.
“Hey, Larry. You remember when we did the signs a while back?” he whispered.
“Have you still got the paint?”

It was eleven o’clock the following morning, and Bern was pleased to note that not a single customer had turned up in Appliances Q all morning. Sam was prowling up and down the aisles, until his phone rang.
“Hello? Ah… I see. Yeah, OK. I’ll be right back there. Yeah, sure thing, man.” Sam hung up his phone, looking pale.
“Looks like I’ll have to leave you guys after all. There’s been an incident in Appliances F, bunch of angry customers everywhere. They need every hand in there to calm things down.”
“What happened?” asked Bern, fighting to keep his face straight.
“Well, looks like someone put up a load of sale signs around there, and then QA left them up this morning. We’re talking pretty big discounts all over the section, like 90% - it’s chaos now, customers are finding out it’s all a sham but they still want us to honor it. I reckon the QA guys are looking at a nasty performance review, if they even keep their jobs.”

Two days later, Bern found Larry clutching an envelope and looking pale. Larry handed the envelope to Bern wordlessly. Bern ripped the letter from inside it and began to read out loud.

“Dear sirs,

The VoidMart Management Team would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the exemplary performance you have delivered over the years. We have recently received some negative feedback concerning other areas of the store, and in the interests of optimising the capabilities of our work force we have decided to transfer the existing Quality Assurance staff from this section to Appliances F, effective immediately.

Yours sincerely,
Voidmart CEO.”

Jul 2, 2012

[bird pun]. In.

Jul 2, 2012

Grandfather’s Pigeons (245 words)

Every Sunday when I was a very small child, my grandfather and I would go out to feed the pigeons that gathered in the town square. They’d gather round cooing as he sprinkled crumbs from a bag of stale bread. He’d given them all names and he’d greet each one in turn as they waddled to him, beaming from his wrinkled face. To me, they always looked the same but he could always tell them apart.

My mother never hid anything from me with malicious intent. She simply wanted to protect me from everything the doctors and the family were telling her. But it meant that all I was told about my grandfather’s condition as the years passed was wrapped in euphemisms: he’s slowing right down.

Grandfather would call me by my sister’s name sometimes, but he’d still remember the names of each of those pigeons. I used that as a lifeline – all that I had heard couldn’t be right, he was going to be OK while he still remembered what every one of those birds was called. The lifeline broke the day I read that pigeons only lived for six years. By this time we’d been feeding them for nearly ten. I went out that Sunday intending to confront him, but when I saw him smiling down at the birds as if they were his own children, I decided to push that thought to back of my mind for as long as I could.

Submission proof:

Sarkimedes fucked around with this message at 16:44 on Oct 30, 2016

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