Sunday, January 3, 2010

Forced on the Dole

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my bosses, a man of Hong Kong descent who drives from New Jersey to get here in the Lower East Side and manage employees. We began to, or I should say he began to, talk to me about a salesperson’s survival in the individual business we worked for.

The salespeople have a quota, a certain amount of sales that have to be made every month to be considered a worthy salesperson. I think, the (hypothetically) worst salesperson in there sells enough merchandise to make $50,000 - $55,000. To the impoverished and modest of heart, this would be a delicious annual earning [or maybe, just to me]………but it is not quota. There are (in reality) salespeople in there that make six-digit earnings, and others somewhat under that, and under, down to the 50’s. The mid-section of that whole spectrum would be the quota. If after a certain amount of months you rank in the bottom level, a manager takes you into their office to issue you a warning about staying on the bottom ranks, and urges you to be aggressive in attacking customers and forcing money out of their pockets for the sake of your sales increasing. If after another few months your sales do not increase, you’ll be “back out on the dole” as The Streets would say.

Of course, the problem here with the boss’s (who explicitly stated he’s only concerned with money and numbers, as is the person who runs the company) is that this shallow idealism crashes with reality and causes victims inevitably. Only about 10 – 12 customers come into the store per day. Half of those, if even that low of a number, go past the “window shopper” phase and actually buy some of the merchandise. The other half usually are returning stuff or canceling purchases. So, the salespeople, which number about 10, are structurally setup to step on each other for those 5 customers. Systematically, someone is forced to not make the cut for the next round. This kind of working environment is good………no, never good……..valid in a financially prospering nation where someone who doesn’t became some scavenger Spartan salesperson and just wants to make a living can fall and find another job somewhat quickly. Or more easily than they would in this economy, where forcing there to be employees for the cutting floor is ridiculous and anxiety-building.

There was a blog post on the Fox News website about how employers are swamped with hundreds or even thousands of resumes from people answering job posts that those employers put out1. Some companies have resorted to having programs on the computer that search for keywords in resumes and select those, then throw the rest out. One of the comments written on the post railed about how people who e-mailed applications were losers and that real people should be out networking with big wigs for opportunities. They railed on to say that people that thought things should just be handed to them had a really “false sense of entitlement”. And while I left whoever that was to figure out that this isn’t late 1930’s Germany, I started to think that if people aren’t entitled to a living (shelter, food, works), then this would mean that they’re entitled to being left out on the street to starve and have no input on anything. No voice or action. And if we’re to think that they’re not entitled to anything, we can deduct from this belief the subsequent one that there are people who are born to be meaningless to society. But I digress.

These kinds of beliefs and economic systems are setup for those who enjoy destroying other people’s living to make their own. I think it’s pretty obvious that this needs to change, but I feel like people are so used to things being this way that the word “change” frightens and unravels them, regardless of the fact that they know it would be for the better. Bloody hell, the creature of comfort will always be worse than the civilized person of revolt.

1) Why put out an internet post asking people to apply for a job, and then ignore them when they do? Jobs are scarce. If there is an open one and you ask people to apply for it, how many did you think you would get? If you don’t want people to e-mail or fax you their resume, why ask for it that way? Just to see who can get creative with getting your attention? Since when is the job hunt turned into “American Idol”?


  1. It's back to the old argument isn't it -- does the market economy actually meet the needs of society? Is capitalism all that great???

  2. And in response to Roxy's comment - my friend has often said that capitalism doesn't work, but that it works a lot better than all the other systems!

  3. OK - so first a note about sales. I agree entirely with your comments about the staff having to step over each customer to get the sale. The idea is that this is supposed to inspire them, but equally its to keep the sales people scared for their jobs and thus more productive. It's not for everyone and certainly not for me - i've always been keen to avoid any sales related job because at the end of the day you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror.

    With regards to 100's of CVs received by employers for each job - again this is true. Take a look on Monster or another job agency site and you will see that most of the jobs advertised are via agencies.

    The agency is paid on a basis of how much response they generate - so they may have to source 50, 150 or even 200 CVs for each vacancy IN CASE THE EMPLOYER WANTS THEM. In other words the agency may only send 10 of these 200 CVs that closest match the wording of the job description and thus loads of people who could equally well do the job don't even get the chance


What's your beef, sports fan?