November 14, 2012

Remembering Stolen Work

It is pretty much common knowledge that I used to work for Fred Meyer.  I met my wife there, I worked there while I finished school, I still shop there, and many of my old co-workers....great people, still work there.  Heck...my wife still works there.


In many ways Fred Meyer is still "my store", but only at the local level.  I learned to hate the company during my time there, especially the folks at the corporate level.  As a rule, the folks at corporate didn't get that the stores made money and their job was to support the sales effort.  The folks at the corporate office did some of the dumbest things and couldn't figure out that their stupidity had huge effects on the company as a whole.  I've complained about the sidewalk sale before, but there were tons of other things:

  • Not willing to spend 2 minutes on an email and another 60 seconds to reclassify a summer item from the mis-classified "Easter" category when they shipped almost $100K worth of product out the night before it goes on sale for 50%, which is below cost.
  • Creating plannograms on the computer.  When an item doesn't fit on the shelf, they simply tweak the picture to make it fit.  At the store level you cannot change the dimensions of the packaging......
  • Mandating that the shelf stock of an item is 2-deep and then not upping that quantity during "Buy 1 get 1" sales....and then slamming the stores for being out of stock.
  • Knowing signage or pricing on something is wrong and shipping the data (signage and tags) out anyway.  Fixing it at the corporate level takes less time than at a single store, much less 100+ stores. 
There is one instance with folks from corporate that really sticks with me....well, actually two, but I already listed one and I was reminded by the other last night at my Toastmaster's meeting.  A Table Topic question was brought up along the lines of, "Has anyone ever stolen your ideas at work?"  I immediately recalled a time when one of the Fred Meyer buyers took credit for my idea.  This wasn't the first time my work has been stolen.

Original Packaging
I was the Home Relief Assistant Manager, which in my opinion is a fancy way of saying "Shift Supervisor".  I ran the Home Department in the absence of the Department Manager and I normally worked evenings and weekends.  One of my other duties was being on top of the seasonal section.  Every spring we would get in these big Outdoor Living patio furniture sets.  The table would come in one tall & thin box, the chairs in another huge box and any ancillary pieces (umbrellas, side tables, etc.) in a third box.
The one piece of identifying information
These boxes  always came a month or two before we needed them, and were rather nondescript.  Your stockroom only has so much space so you'd have to stock all the tables together, all the chairs together, etc.  The problem is the boxes all looked alike.  The only real distinguishing mark was the SKU code on the top and sides.

When we started selling the patio sets it would take a fair bit of time to locate the appropriate boxes.  As the selling season drew near you'd be searching more and more for that one box you needed to complete a set.  Invariably a box would go missing and you'd have to call around to other stores to find a complete set, only to have your missing box show up later.  Customers didn't want to buy the chairs at one store and have to drive to another store for a table.  It was a mess.
My initial color-coding effort
The next season I made a guide listing all of the patio sets with pictures and a listing of the appropriate SKU codes.  As the stock came in I marked the boxes with colored stickers that were also placed in the guide.  An Associate needing to find a particular set would look at the guide, determine the color sticker they were looking for, and quickly locate what they needed.  My system worked out great.

The red band works best!
At the end of the season I wrote up what I had done and how well it worked out for us at the store.  With my Department Manager's approval I sent my results to the corporate buyer with a suggestion that they simply have the boxes color-coded at the production end.  Of course the buyer thought it was a great idea because they implemented it the next year....only he took it as his own idea and got full credit for it! 

I think I knew then that my original plan to finish my degree and then move to Portland to work in the corporate office wasn't going to work. 

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