Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Time For Profit

A failure to communicate

At various times during the fiscal year, Wal-Mart Corporate management, in their infinite wisdom, will decide Wal-Mart associates are earning too much money and adversely affecting their bottom line.

I understand the reasoning here. Payroll is the biggest of all expenses in business. And, one of the easiest expenses to control.

Logically, payroll expenses have a direct effect on profits and/or revenue. So, when revenues are down, steps must be taken to counter the losses. The easiest way to do that is to institute tighter controls on payroll. There are other ways to solve the problem of diminishing returns. They could raise prices. They could search out cheaper suppliers.

They could cut their own salaries and wouldn't even miss the money. After all, Sam Walton's children make over 20 billion (that's billion, with a "b") dollars a year each. And they don't do anything to earn it other than being fortunate enough to be born to Sam Walton and his spouse.

But, cutting the hours of the associates is by far the easiest and least painful (at least, to the corporate officers) solution. Simple.

However, by the time the orders to alter payroll from the corporate executives trickle on down to the local management, the purpose for controlling payroll expenses somehow gets lost in the translation, so to speak. What I mean is that local store managers often fail to comprehend the reasoning behind corporate decisions.

The result of this failure to communicate is bonehead decisions by local management that flies in the face of logic and fiscal responsibility. They seem to forget that the bottom line is profit.

Case in point: If, during the course of these "austerity programs", we accidentally go overtime, we get "coached', which is a sort of code word for a warning against allowing ourselves to go overtime ever again. Going even one minute overtime is considered a major violation of the terms of our non-existent contract.

The assistant managers in our store take the responsibility of monitoring our hours worked per week very seriously, and will invariably show up at least three days before the last day of the pay week to hammer the point home that we are 3 or 4 minutes overtime, and that we must take 3-4 minutes more for lunch sometime before Friday to avoid the dreaded overtime.

I won't even go into the fact that I am perfectly capable of monitoring my own hours without the help of a group of overpaid morons having to explain it to me.

I will instead reveal part of a conversation regarding the avoidance of overtime hours that I had with my assistant manager one afternoon:

He: "You cannot go ten minutes past 5:00 today or you will get overtime."

Me: "I can't guarantee that. If I am in the middle of a cell phone transaction when ten minutes past 5 comes around I can't just stop right there and clock out. I have to finish the process. I have no choice."

He: "Yes you can. You have to or you will get overtime."

Me: "You aren't seriously telling me that if I am not done with a transaction at 10 minutes after 5, I have to stop and tell my customer that I can't sell them a cell phone because I have to go home, are you?"

He: "Yes, I am. You can't go overtime."

Me: "What if there isn't anyone in the department that knows how to do a cell phone transaction? You want me to just tell them I can't help them because I have to leave?"

He: "That's right. Tell them you can't sell them a phone because you can't get overtime."

At this point, I threw up my hands, rolled my eyes and walked away before I said something I would end up regretting.

That's not all. I subsequently told my co-workers about this conversation and was informed by every one of them that he had told them the same thing.

I'm certain that it doesn't take a brain scientist to understand the stupidity of this directive.

The wireless department is the second highest profit making department in the store, second only to the grocery department. The sale of one phone contract can net the store as much as $450.00 in clear profit. If I go 30 minutes overtime, it costs the company approximately $7.00, give or take fifty cents or so.

Hmmm, let's see...$450.00 profit vs $7.00 loss in payroll expense.

Which do you suppose would make the Wal-Mart corporate board happier?

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