I quit my job Saturday. Yes, the job I accepted 8 days prior. I worked four shifts and I completed about 2 hours of employee training. It was enough, more than enough. What I learned, what I did, what was expected of me, was appalling. Which is not to say I didn’t do my job well. I received rave reviews of my training, my presence, my aptitude for learning and helping.
But I got headaches, and felt sick to my stomach. I started counting down the time left in my shift, before I had punched in at the time clock. I started dreading my next scheduled shift as I was punching out from the one I was working. I started making snide comments under my breath about corporate codes of conduct and actual practices. I started pacing behind the check out counter, caged, confined by the job and the policies and procedures dictated by some corporate entity whose only concern was profit margin and sales.
Menial work for a paycheck, my soothing mantra was not convincing. Unhappy, unwell, and distracted I was having a difficult time focusing on the other areas of my life, the parts the job was supposed to make more secure. All I wanted to do was pace, walk, brood, avoid.
I made the wrong decision. I made the wrong choice. Not the menial work for a paycheck and security, but the choice of employers. I didn’t do the research I should have done. I didn’t give myself time to consider the ramifications of my actions. I didn’t think about doing the right thing, I just did the expedient thing.
I know better. So I resigned. Complete with a resignation letter. It is below.
I am not very articulate when speaking on the phone and less so in person. For this reason I am writing this letter to clarify my decision to end my employment with ************ as of today, October 4, 2014. I believe it is in the best interest of all concerned that I do this.
I would like you to know that my decision is not based on the conduct or character of any of the persons I met while working in the store. I found all the “team” to be friendly, helpful and eager to encourage me in finding my place on the “team”. I am grateful for all their help.
I have worked retail before, as a clerk, as an assistant manager and as the manager. It is hard work; it is often repetitious and stressful work. Not one of these things was a surprise to me working at ***********. What was surprising, and disconcerting to me, was the level of mistrust, paranoia, and wariness I encountered in the training lectures, company policies and the day-to-day procedures which placed the employees under suspicion from the moment they entered the building until they left. I felt constantly under threat of “termination” for any mistakes, transgressions, whether deliberate or inadvertent. I understand the need for a disciplinary structure in the workplace, but *********** policies seem extreme, arbitrary, and frankly very anti-employee.
In addition to this I found the regimented and unrelenting procedures to be limiting and demeaning. I became convinced that “any warm body would do” for most if not all the tasks I was asked to perform. I was often under the impression that the only reason I was at the check-out counter was because there was no comparable machine yet available.
I have a mind and I have a moral code, and I have principles that provide me with the guidance for my actions, and I expect the same from the company I that employees me. Given the evidence I observed, *********** as company, while espousing the accepted rhetoric of employee well-being in actuality follows a policy of filling positions, not providing people with meaningful work at a living wage. From what I observed, employees, at least from the corporate view, are nothing more than a necessary evil.
In addition I noticed a certain amount of hypocrisy between the business code of conduct and the actual operations on a store level. Specifically the pledge of “helping get, stay and live well” while at the same time selling cigarettes and tobacco products in the store. I found this especially troubling given the admission of the company, in its own tobacco sales training video, that tobacco is directly responsible for 1/3 of the deaths of adult tobacco users. I don’t even want to know what the corporate reasoning is on this point, I am sure, in the end it has something to do with providing the investors with the most robust bottom line, at the expense of the customers. After all, a drug store chain that sells tobacco products guarantees future customers for its drugs and medicines.
In the end, I made a mistake. I made an error in judgment and accepted a position with *********** without doing enough research, and without having enough information. I regret that. I also regret not following my instincts and responding more cautiously to the sense of unease I had when first offered the job. I really wanted this job to work out. In many ways I needed it to work out. I am very sorry it did not.
I did learn I am capable of working in a retail setting. I can operate contemporary computer cash registers and their varied accessories. I am still capable of learning procedures and how to function in a retail setting. For these insights I am grateful.
I have also learned the corporate system, as evidenced in the policies of ********** is a system with little regard for its customers or its employees. As long as the corporate model puts profits and shareholders first, the rest will suffer. I cannot in good faith be part of that kind of system.
I hope you understand. I am not finding fault with the Store or the employees there. My reason for resigning is based on my inability to support the corporate culture I saw at ************. I know I would not survive long under these corporate set conditions. I find distrust, dishonesty and disregard for others intolerable.
Thank you for offering me the opportunity and the experience. I have learned many things about myself and the reality of corporate world. I am sure these experiences will affect my choices and judgments in the future.
So, once again I am unemployed. But more than that, I am obligated to rethink many of my precepts and beliefs. I am looking hard at the idea of convenience and expediency and how these concepts have motivated my daily life and choices.
Cheaper prices, longer store hours, multiple choices in the same place, all these things have driven the world to the corporate run chains. The appalling lack of small local businesses everyone despairs and wails about has come about because as consumers we are making the choices that allow corporate chains to grow and thrive. They make the appeal for low-cost and convenience, and we are lured in with the promise of immediate satisfaction. But when was the last time you considered the person behind the checkout counter as a person, with a life and dreams and concerns and ambitions and worries just like you? When was the last time you considered what your “on sale with coupon” purchase meant to them?
The company I worked for last week had all the right words and phrases listed in the official company code of conduct and mission statement. The words were there, artfully arranged to inspire confidence and positive feelings in those who read them. This appeared to be a company with a social conscience and forward thinking goals. They talked the talk, and it was good.
And I suspect if I were to read the codes and statements of other corporate chains I would find the same attention to social, economic and environmental concerns. They all talk the talk.
But, from personal experience, I know they don’t walk the walk. There is this big caveat at the end of all these propaganda statements, because that is what they are; another statement, usually not seen on the websites and printed pledges, usually not publicized on advertisements, that makes all this socially responsible rhetoric contingent on the bottom line and providing the best outcome for the shareholders.
And you know who is most likely to screw up that outcome for the investors? Well, it is the employees down there are the store level. Those pesky employees with their demands for living wages and safe working conditions, fair treatment and respect. Yup, even worse than those demanding, whining customers, the employees are the bane of the corporate existence.
Cynical? You think I am cynical? You should read some corporate training manuals for retail employees. The term zero tolerance takes on a whole new meaning when the disciplinary action for any error or transgression is immediate termination. My fellow employees were not just docile, they were cowed. A looming threat of dismissal will do that to a person. I believe it is called intimidation. Oppression.
So, I am glad I quit. I know some will say I am naive and idealistic. So be it. I am also motivated and determined. Saturday when I handed over my resignation was the last time I step into that particular chain’s stores. In addition I will avoid going into any corporate chain store. I am not going to support a system I find degrading and dishonest.
So where will I work? Where will I shop? How will I live. Local. Small. Simple.
I will continue to look for a job. I still don’t want more than I need, that hourly wage for honest work. I am implementing a policy of buying less rather than paying less. I will use my purchasing power consciously and mindfully. I will be thinking very seriously about where and what and when I purchase something. I will be thinking of the impact my purchase can have. I will live, to quote one of my heroes “deliberately.”
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
That’s right Henry, once again you nailed it.