It was the good ol' year of 2007. Barry Bonds broke the HR record and was then indicted for steroid use. The iPhone was unveiled. The last Harry Potter book was released in stores. Oh and some sort of mortgage crisis. But you know, mostly a good year.
I was working at a major electronic retailer, as an LP agent. Mostly standing at the front of the store, watching the cameras, checking receipts. Not the best LP job I had but far from the worst. It was late October when my Manager pulled me into the back office. Store Manager (SM) was concerned. Corporate was being flooded with calls from people complaining about fraudulent credit card purchases. He needed me to investigate. I would get additional hours to work in the office and he needed it done ASAP. Holidays were coming up, sales to be made, yada yada.
Well, I wasn't too happy about the extra hours, but I like a challenge. I started looking at the complaints and the transactions associated with them. Turns out the complaints were all the same.
See a few months previous, around July, the company was pushing magazine subscriptions at the register. You'd come up with your "gold plated" $200 HDMI cables or one of those new high falutin GPS systems everyone was raving about, and during the check out, you'd receive an offer for 3 free months of a magazine, or magazines, of your choice.
The store was pushing these hard. At the end of every pay period, the associate with the most sign ups would get at $25 gift card to the store. If the same associate won 3 weeks in a row, they'd earn a pizza party.
Of course, being a shitty retail environment, it wasn't enough that they push these magazine. They HAD to sell these subscriptions! It was vital to the future of the company! Any good loyal employee would be able to sell these easily! And oh yea if you don't sell enough your hours would get docked.
After all, holidays were coming up, which meant many new hires. If you were getting docked hours, there was a good chance one of the newer associates would take your position come January and you'd be boned.
Of course none of this was ever said out loud, but we all knew the game.
Well, each and every one of these fraudulent charges revolved around magazine subscriptions. People saying they said no, and then were charged 3 months later for magazines even though they never received anything. And the biggest issue was as the months went by, more and more people had complaints.
Through some long investigating we noticed several key things. 1.) One associate was responsible for the first month. She was the weekly winner and won 3 pizza parties in a row. Eventually, every other front end associate started doing it as well. One week they'd have 10 subs, the next, they'd have 50-60. Each. The Front End Managers were ecstatic. They were the #1 store in the country for Subs. Our store was killing it! How could this be a bad thing?
Well, as you have all probably guessed, the first "Golden Associate" was signing people up for magazines without their permission to inflate her numbers. Eventually, she let some people in on what she was doing, and they started as well. Even the new hires for the holidays started doing it. We started monitoring the Front End with cameras, and caught several employees on camera doing it. On top of that, the Corporate Retail discovered one of the geniuses was just sending the magazines to her house. We used that as leverage to get her to talk. We had all the proof we need for Corporate.
This is almost done I swear.
It's a Monday. Next week is Black Friday. I get pulled into the office again with the entire management team. SM tells me that Corporate has reviewed what I gathered, along with Corporate LP. The entire Front End staff is getting fired. Today. Only one associate wasn't involved with this scam, some new kid who started about 2 weeks ago. Everyone else was getting fired immediately, in order to avoid lawsuits.
The entire management team is aghast. Black Friday is 10 days away. The Front End management starts protesting until SM tells them that they are partially at fault for not paying attention. If our associates were that successful they should have found out why and been using it to teach other stores. Instead they sit all day in there, eating, and only come out when called. SM doesn't want to hear any protests from anyone.
They are going to call in all the Front End associates immediately, and fire them. Oh and management will work doubles this weekend; 1 regular shift and 1 shift strictly for hiring. OH, and instead of 10 hour shifts for everyone Black Friday, the entire store must work 16 hours. 8 in their department, 8 in register. Anyone who refuses will be fired.
It's dead silent in there.
SM thanks me for my work and asks me to stay late to help escort people out. I'm kinda stuck there anyways so I might as well. Every cashier we have is called in and fired. Word gets out and some of them don't come in, until they are threatened with police involvement. There are tears, curses, one person being physically restrained. It wasn't pretty.
The management is scrambling to hire people and train them with less than a week of training.
It all came to a head the Tuesday before Black Friday. She comes up and hands me a schedule. It has me on Register from 3am-3pm, and then my previously scheduled LP shift of 3pm to midnight.
I laughed and crumpled it up and threw it out.
She goes on a tear. I'm called in SM's office again and she's raving about how I'm not a team player and I should be fired for refusing.
Me: "LP isn't allowed to handle money except for investigations. It would be against Corporate Regulations for me to work as a cashier. And we wouldn't want to upset Corporate at this critical time, would we?" Insert the world's biggest shit eating grin.
I've never seen someone look like they would blow a vein in anger but this woman was 3 steps away from becoming the Red Hulk.
Black Friday was the biggest fiasco you'd ever seen. Untrained employees on registers making mistakes. Old employees leaving after their shift in their department and skipping the shifts on the registers. Lines circling the store and taking an hour plus to get to the cashiers themselves. Management running around like the sky is falling.
It was glorious to watch in a way. Some men just want to watch the world burn I guess. Especially when those men make minimum wage.