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Circuit City and the American Dream

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the scrambling-for-less dept.

The Almighty Buck 835

An anonymous reader writes "Circuit City said yesterday that it had fired 3,400 of its highest-paid sales staff — 8% of its employees — and will replace them with lower-paid workers. Sign On San Diego called this 'a risky strategy to cut costs that goes beyond the layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes commonly used by struggling companies.' The fired workers have a chance to apply for lower-paying positions after a 10-week wait, the company said. Quoting a Circuit City spokesman: 'This is no reflection on job performance... We deeply regret the negative impact. Retail is extremely competitive, and if we're going to thrive and operate a successful company... we just have to control costs.' So: work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary."

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You have *got* to be kidding me. (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | about 7 years ago | (#18530693)

"Work hard, become the best in your field..."

Yeah, sorry -- the folks working at Circuit City don't generally really qualify as being the "best in their field", unless you're defining the "field" as "people who work at Circuit City". Besides, Circuit City's not on commission anymore so you can't even argue that these folks were necessarily their top performers.

But let's accept for a moment the premise of this article. If these folks really are such great salesmen, this is opportunity knockin' at their door -- they can get better jobs at higher-end stores, they can start their own higher-end stores, they can get into selling something that has worthwhile commissions involved with it like software or cars or whatever. I mean, let's face it: Being the best sales associate at Circuit City is along the same lines as being the best cook at McDonald's. If that's where your vision ends, that's almost certainly where you belong.

That aside, what offends me most is that this thread is this horrific notion that we've devolved to a point where the meaning of the term "American dream" has mutated from 'boundless opportunity in the marketplace and the ability to move out of the economic class you were born into' to 'lifetime employment at Circuit City'.

Speaking only for myself, if that really were the case then I'd want no part of it.

The American Dream as I understand it is that when you get laid off from a shitty dead-end job you can go out and find or create something better if you have the drive and/or ability for it. And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (2, Interesting)

Applekid (993327) | about 7 years ago | (#18530815)

Your analysis on the "American Dream" is spot on. And it's so obviously misplaced here:
The summary and TFA both have no mention of any "Dreams", American or otherwise.

Not that crappy old Circuit City doesn't deserve some bias the way they treat some of their customers, but bias none the less.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#18530827)

And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now

After 10 weeks bored out of your mind on the couch, watching tv with a beer in your hand and listening to your wife pestering you to find another job? not sure the red shirt will fit anymore...

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (5, Insightful)

ez76 (322080) | about 7 years ago | (#18530847)

Besides, Circuit City's not on commission anymore so you can't even argue that these folks were necessarily their top performers.

Just because they're not paid for their performance doesn't mean their performance is not evaluated on the basis of sales.

The whole "don't worry, I'm not commission" line that Best Buy made famous is just that, a ploy to comfort the mark.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (2, Insightful)

petabyte (238821) | about 7 years ago | (#18530877)

Ya know, I'm only 20-something but my vision of the American Dream doesn't ever include getting laid-off - and certainly not by a company trying to reduce costs. How do you know these people views this job as dead end?

It involves working hard, making good money, building a family and a good life for all of us. White-picket fence and all of that (though I hate picket fences - I'll take a split-rail please).

If these people were the highest paid sales staff and they aren't making commission, then I would imagine they earned that salary buy sticking it out and being with the company for a long time (my assumption, could be wrong). So you stay with a company and work you way up and then someone decides to can you so you can start all over again. JibJab's BigBoxMart video is playing in my head.


Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 7 years ago | (#18531071)

Then as a 40 something guy who has rode the rollercoaster of business (and done well) let me offer you one piece of advice: The only security you have is in what you can do. You will face layoffs, you will face hard times. If you keep increasing your skills, learning new skills, and improving yourself, then you are less likely to be the one to get laid off. And if you are, you will find it much easier to get a job.

The "constant layoffs" are not new to 2007, it has been going on for decades. The 80's had a bad reputation for the decade of greed for the same reason. Again, all you have is what you know you can do. No company will ever "give" you security.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (2, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | about 7 years ago | (#18531091)

Ya know, I'm only 20-something but my vision of the American Dream doesn't ever include getting laid-off - and certainly not by a company trying to reduce costs. How do you know these people views this job as dead end?

It involves working hard, making good money, building a family and a good life for all of us. White-picket fence and all of that (though I hate picket fences - I'll take a split-rail please).

I'm sorry that your version of the American Dream relies on such a sense of entitlement. Speaking as someone who is almost 30 and entered the job market right before the dotcom bust, I feel that it's my responsibility to point out that you're living in fantasyland.

In short, I think you'll find that nobody owes you jack shit. Your employer is paying you to work because it's a good investment for them -- you make them, or allow them to make, more money than they would without you. This is the way things work. Should this cease to be the case, your "expectations" don't amount to a hill of beans.

I'm sorry if that doesn't seem fair to you, that you feel like showing up to work everyday should earn you the house and the 2.5 kids and all that, but this doesn't change the reality of the situation.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (1)

Ucklak (755284) | about 7 years ago | (#18531187)

Retail is a dead end job.
When your job is in the consumer market pushing products, it's dead end. A machine can do it just as well and with the internet today, well, there you have it. Every employee in retail is replaceable as is the food service industry.
I'll pay the same price or slightly higher for an item if it's delivered to my door than visit a retail store unless I 'need it now'.

If you want to take what Circuit City offers and make it a high-end amployment scenario, then take the goods and design an environment that people will pay for in their homes like any home theatre/entertainment integrator. That would be like becoming an executive chef of a restaurant.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (5, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#18531229)

I read your post, and the first thing that sprang to my mind is that you haven't held a serious job yet.

Your vision of the american dream (the one I had before too) is the stereotypical Horatio Alger story that permeates the entire work culture of the United States, that can be summed up as: if you work hard, you will rise and get a better life. Unfortunately, and this is something that you learn as you get older and have been working for a while for one, more likely several companies, the Horatio Alger dream is just that, a dream. Yes it would be very nice if it was still true, but the reality is that very VERY few better their lives through hard work and perseverance. Very few people start out selling apples and end up millionaires, a-la rockefeller. What happens in reality is that most of the population toils to pays credit, and a sizeable part of the population toils just to make ends meet and stay off the street.

It's my opinion that the so-called american dream is mostly a myth implanted in people's minds early on in their lives to make them work harder for the same wage, constantly hoping for better days. The reality of America today is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class finds the "middle" slowly drifting to the bottom.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a "leftist" who complains about social inequalities, I have nothing against people being rich, and I myself work hard to have a better future, but without much hope because unfortunately, the social elevator that would allow people to make their lives better through hard work is mostly out of order: most of America is inside the cabin frantically pushing the buttons, hoping that it will finally start to rise, and it doesn't. I think you'll come to realize this too one day.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (3, Insightful)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | about 7 years ago | (#18530885)

work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary
Once you've been through this cycle more than twice you will begin to see how the game really works [slashdot.org]. Then you resolve yourself to waiting out the bullsh*t until a real opportunity comes along. Unless you're some spoiled rich brat you have two decisions: keep recycling yourself back into the game or become homeless while waiting for providence.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18530895)

Again, accepting the premise that these employees were the top of the pile, getting fired in this round is like a glowing reference when looking for new work. You can point to it as an indicator that you were one of their top 8%.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (2, Informative)

mungtor (306258) | about 7 years ago | (#18530911)

I think the real problem is related to a previous ./ submission about allowing manufacturers to set the retail price of goods. Depending on your point of view it's either:

a) Retail is an obsolete business model since the internet offers more convenience for lower prices


b) Retail needs protection from the internet in order to preserve jobs

Circuit City is, IMO, doing the only thing they can to try to compete with Amazon, NewEgg, etc. They need to cut costs to keep _some_ people employed or given more time they're all unemployed. It isn't like NewEgg will pick up the slack and need 3400 more people even if every person who shops at Circuit City suddenly started to buy from them.

There comes a time where you have to decide whether it's better to save $5 for yourself, or spend it so that somebody else has a job.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18531001)

They could differentiate themselves from the internet stores by emphasising personal service but seeing as they are cutting their higher paid people I'd say that isn't going to happen.

Have we learned NOTHING from Star Trek? (5, Funny)

onkelonkel (560274) | about 7 years ago | (#18530991)

You DO NOT want to be wearing the red shirt. Especially if you are on the away team.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (1)

ez76 (322080) | about 7 years ago | (#18531121)

That aside, what offends me most is that this thread is this horrific notion that we've devolved to a point where the meaning of the term "American dream" has mutated from 'boundless opportunity in the marketplace and the ability to move out of the economic class you were born into' to 'lifetime employment at Circuit City'.

The American Dream as I understand it is that when you get laid off from a shitty dead-end job you can go out and find or create something better if you have the drive and/or ability for it.

The thing about the American Dream, as I understand it, is that the dream (including where it begins and "dead ends") is wholly subject to the interpretation of the dreamer.

And so it is always "mutating".

So your view, the one that comes part and parcel with condescension to "lesser dreamers", is more aptly named something else.

Maybe the Skyshadow Dream.

Re:You have *got* to be kidding me. (5, Insightful)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | about 7 years ago | (#18531217)

That aside, what offends me most is that this thread is this horrific notion that we've devolved to a point where the meaning of the term "American dream" has mutated from 'boundless opportunity in the marketplace and the ability to move out of the economic class you were born into' to 'lifetime employment at Circuit City'.

Speaking only for myself, if that really were the case then I'd want no part of it.

The American Dream as I understand it is that when you get laid off from a shitty dead-end job you can go out and find or create something better if you have the drive and/or ability for it. And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now.

While I appreciate your sentiment and agree that the 'American Dream' is MUCH more than lifelong employment at Circuit City, I'd like to offer an opposing view of what is going on here.

My view is basically this: The American Dream, as you defined (and which I think most Americans would agree with) - is crap. And this action on Circuit City's part only confirms that assertion. It's a lie we tell ourselves to take pride in something that is inherently destructive, something that while it seems good in theory, becomes nearly impossible in practice: Capitalism itself.

I have spent the better part of my life attempting to understand the intricacies of human nature, particularly with regard to how they influence our social systems (and thus, what the requirements of those social systems are) - and the one point that has always stuck with me is Capitalism itself.

It seems like such an ideal solution, doesn't it, the economic embodiment of freedom, the nearly boundless promise of free enterprise..

Except that when you make money the motivating factor for why you do things, the things that SHOULD motivate you as a human being in a human culture - cease to function. The RIAA's recent behavior (suing a 10 year old girl.. come on) eloquently demonstrates this assertion.

Oh certainly, money need not be the ONLY motivating factor, and for a long time it wasn't. But over time it becomes harder to justify taking a hit to the bottom line just because you care about your employees, doesn't it? Especially when your shareholders are harping on you to increase the stock's value. Especially when there are, at any given moment, dozens of lawsuits against companies for NOT fulfilling their obligations to shareholders.

And especially, when companies are so richly rewarded for their abuse of the human cultures in which they participate.

What I am getting at is this: Circuit City doesn't care one whit about the success of our civilization, and accordingly, the value of their employees as ANYTHING OTHER than "human resources" is essentially nil. There is no value in seeing them as people, because well, it makes them just slightly less profitable. Can't have that now.

No, society falls to shit, and the money-making business doesn't care.. because if the society fails, there's no need for money anyway, but so long as it exists, those with wealth hold all the cards.

Seeing people as human beings is a liability in a civilization that values wealth as much as we do.

Quoting Heinlein, "a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot."

So take your business to Best Buy (3, Funny)

wiredog (43288) | about 7 years ago | (#18530705)

Boycott Circuit City!

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (1, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 7 years ago | (#18530723)

Turd sandwich... giant douche?

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (2, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | about 7 years ago | (#18531263)

This is not offtopic... It is referencing the south park episode where they had to vote between a turd sandwich and a giant douche. The point is that taking your business to Best Buy is as bad as taking your business to Circuit City.

Personally, I don't see why they need "higher paid" sales guys at circuit city anyways. Most high school kids know enough about technology to answer grandma's questions. They one down turn about this is that people arn't going to be "sold" items, they will have to decide to buy the items themselves which means lower sales at stores that sell high priced items.

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#18530729)

Surely you mean Short-Circuit City...

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 7 years ago | (#18530779)

HAAH. Yea sure. Best Buy pays crap. They also buy out companies then pay them crap wages driving people to leave. For example, did you know Geek Squad used to actually employee good techs till best buy bought them out. They dropped the wages and drove out all but the worse employees.

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (1)

Bastardchyld (889185) | about 7 years ago | (#18531049)

No, I actually thought that Best Buy just had a great idea one day to buy VW Beetles and put a geek in them...

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (1)

Billosaur (927319) | about 7 years ago | (#18531027)

That makes sense... take your business that treats its employees like so much low-grade offal and transfer it to a company that thinks nothing of trying to swindle you... I'll pass.

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (1)

Javi0084 (926402) | about 7 years ago | (#18531123)

I would but I hate their return policy. I'll stick with http://www.newegg.com/ [newegg.com] and http://www.amazon.com/ [amazon.com]

Re:So take your business to Best Buy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531271)

I would but I hate their return policy.

BB has a fuckign awesome return policy, better then most. WHere else do you get 30 days, no questions asked. Shit. I bought a TV there, watched it for 27 days and then brought the thing back. I was asked what was wrong, I said nothing, think I want a LCD. So I traded in for an LCD, returned again after about 20 days and said, no I think I want a WEGA, after 25 more days I realized WEGA was not for me and finally got a plasma.

The whole time BB never blinked.

Wrong place to cry ... we all just got out sourced (2, Insightful)

guysmilee (720583) | about 7 years ago | (#18530707)

Wrong place to cry ... we all just got out sourced!

Re:Wrong place to cry ... we all just got out sour (1)

Magnusite (526038) | about 7 years ago | (#18531089)

Wrong place to cry ... we all just got out sourced!

Bah! I defy anyone at Circuit City to show me source code that is better than mine!

Will Circuit City get (5, Insightful)

Recovering Hater (833107) | about 7 years ago | (#18530751)

what they want or what they deserve? I know if I worked there, I would hope I could find a better job before they could fire me and would be praying that hundreds of other employees would be doing the same. The next time you visit Circuit City just remember how they value their employees. If they can't be bothered to spend the money on quality help what does that imply about their attitude towards their cutomers.

Re:Will Circuit City get (1)

ryturner (87582) | about 7 years ago | (#18531223)

If they can't be bothered to spend the money on quality help what does that imply about their attitude towards their cutomers.

Re:Will Circuit City get (2, Insightful)

MoneyT (548795) | about 7 years ago | (#18531277)

Let's assume that they validly need to cut costs. Doesn't it make sense to cut the highest paid people? Isn't this what we demand that companies do (i.e. stop paying the CEOs and managers so much more than the peons? Furthermore, remember that in order to equal the amount of money saved by cutting our highest paid, you would have to cut many more of your lowest paid. Is it better to fire 100 of your highest paid or 200 of your lowest paid? Circuit city seems to think the former, and I'm not sure they're wrong (i'm not sure they're right either).

Don't care--won't shop there (1)

n0w0rries (832057) | about 7 years ago | (#18530757)

Terrible customer service. They don't honor their own coupons. They charge more in their store then they do on their website. Lay them all off and close the doors--I could care less. I won't shop there ever again.

Re:Don't care--won't shop there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531143)

So you COULDN'T care less?

Jumping the logical gap. (3, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#18530761)

work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary

There is a huge logical gap between "We're not getting rid of these people for performance reasons" and "These people are the best in their field". I don't think you can read any of this and come away even with the idea that these people were any better than the other, lower paid employees in their same stores. If they think they can employ the *exact same people* for less money in 10 weeks, then clearly these salespeople were paid beyond what the market can bear.

Why do we need to make up negative stuff about this when we could simply point to the fact that the salary savings look pathetic in comparison to what they continue to pay their executives?

Re:Jumping the logical gap. (1)

setrops (101212) | about 7 years ago | (#18530903)

I know it's sales at circuit city, but come on everybody deserves a raise at somepoint.

Basically "Well John your are a good employee we have a raise for you and by the way you're fired!"

Re:Jumping the logical gap. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#18531007)

Have you ever worked in sales? Generally the response to a comment like that is "If you want more money, sell more high commission items."

Re:Jumping the logical gap. (3, Insightful)

dafz1 (604262) | about 7 years ago | (#18531275)

Having been a manager of sales people, the response to "If you want more money, sell more high commission items" is:

"I quit".

I've seen it done, and, unfortunately, did it myself, once. And my best salesman quit.

People determine their value on what they get paid. If they are valuable to your company(high dollar sale people), pay them more to keep them. Don't force them to make it up in more sales. Someone else will pay them the base they're looking for, in addition to the commission. I'd rather pay one person who has great sales 10% more each year, than two people who are little more than warm bodies taking up space.

Re:Jumping the logical gap. (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 7 years ago | (#18530931)

very valid point!

ceo's in the US make something like 400x of what the typical 'worker' makes.

nowhere else in the world are things THAT unbalanced. (ok, maybe in saudi arabia or some other hellhole like that)

while (1) {
  for (emp=0; emp<3400; emp++) {
      salary[emp] = 0;


Re:Jumping the logical gap. (5, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18531085)

Come on! Everyone knows that CEOs are equal in talent and skill to 400 regular employees. They are irreplaceable geniuses. No one could do their jobs for even a fraction of that. Even when they fail they deserve tens of millions of $. It has nothing to do with boards made up of CEOs from other companies who vote for the compensation packages and scratch each other's backs. Nothing.

It's there own fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18530763)

Global Libertarianism will set you free. You have to be dynamic or die. You can't just pretend to suspend the rules of Darwinism. It doesn't work that way.

just printed up my resume to apply for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18530773)

And, I just printed up my resume to apply for a job at The Source by Circuit City.

Didn't they do this years ago? (4, Insightful)

VeriTea (795384) | about 7 years ago | (#18530781)

I read an article several years back about how Circuit City fired all their highest-grossing commissioned salespeople to replace them with hourly workers. It must have been so successful they decided to try again.

Either that or they need the stock boost that comes from indiscriminately firing workers - Wall Street loves that.

The lowest of the low (5, Insightful)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | about 7 years ago | (#18530789)

The truth of the matter is that a Circuit City salesman performs a service to the public which is about on par with picking strawberries or washing cars. People who pick strawberries and wash cars make the minimum wage. These types of jobs are not intended to be long careers, they are supposed to put kids and part-timers to work. The stark truth of economics is that if you want a higher wage you have to do something more valuable. Try machining or engine repair.

Re:The lowest of the low (1)

jbrandv (96371) | about 7 years ago | (#18530889)

Hummm, let see, I have no skills so I can make minimum wage at Circuit City or I can make $10000 per month selling crack. What will I do? Can you say no-brainer?

Circuit City as Jobs program? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531145)

So Circuit City is some kind of keep-kids-from-selling-crack public-assistance program?

I had no idea. It all makes sense now.

Re:The lowest of the low (1)

BigFoot48 (726201) | about 7 years ago | (#18531147)

Uh, people don't destroy customers lives or get arrested for working at CC, so it's a brainer after all.

Re:The lowest of the low (1)

Mprx (82435) | about 7 years ago | (#18531171)

Sadly, the economics of crack dealing mirrors the economics of legitimate corporations: one very highly paid leader and a shitload of workers getting screwed. You'll probably make less than minimum wage.

Parody (5, Funny)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | about 7 years ago | (#18530793)

Circuit City and the American Dream [slashdot.org]

Business savvy decision allows new employees a chance at sales fame.

Top business analysts have determined that a growing number of people have become "too wealthy for their own good", according to one high-ranking Wall Street spokesperson. "It is in the interest of the common good that we allow other, less priveleged folks, to have the opportunity to buy their own food and afford both rent and car payments."

The dismissed workers, having reached their allowed quota of wealth, were given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on their way out the door and told that they could reapply after their savings had been reduced to zero. While the average lifespan of a salesman's savings is about ten weeks, according to financial analysts, it was widely agreed that dismissed employees would not truly be eligible for reassignment until they had accumulated enough debt to prevent them from ever owning a house or car again.

"These people were beginning to factor into systems that have long been the exclusive playgrounds of the rich and powerful. We simply could not allow them to tip the scales and upset the balance," said Circuit City spokesman Bill Cimino.

Re:Parody (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18531151)

Oh, and please continue to buy $1000+ big screen tvs and overpriced homes. The economy (economic elite) depend on your debt driven consumption!

It doesn't matter (4, Insightful)

dafz1 (604262) | about 7 years ago | (#18530813)

Circuit City is on it's last legs.

The CC stores I've been in have lots of empty shelves, especially in the home audio area. The center area is mostly CDs and DVDs. They had a decent selection of TVs, which, supposedly, are low margin items, so they're not going to be much help in keeping CC profitable.

Expen$ive Cables (0, Offtopic)

Spazmania (174582) | about 7 years ago | (#18530819)

I wonder if NOT charging $300 for a 50 foot HDMI cable would help them be competitive enough that they could have avoided a morale-crushing layoff?

Re:Expen$ive Cables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531107)

why do you need a 50ft cable? I agree $300 is excessive, but you need to expect to pay quite a bit when you want that long of a cable in the latest format

UNIONIZE (4, Insightful)

dukerobinson (624739) | about 7 years ago | (#18530825)

This sort of nonsense will continue in retail jobs (and everywhere else) until workers UNITE. There is no sense in taking this sort of abuse. Circuit City employees: your company does not care about you, if you want to receive something like fair compensation for your labor then you have to unite with your fellow employees.


Chicken04GTO (957041) | about 7 years ago | (#18530887)

fuck unions. No one is *entitled* to a job. If you don't like it where you work, quit and move on. A companies job is to make money, not support the populace.


Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531259)

A union just gives us the ability to say "if you fuck with one of us, you fuck with all of us". Do you have a problem with workers doing that? A worker's job is to support his community, not the company.

The will become K-Mart (4, Insightful)

ehaggis (879721) | about 7 years ago | (#18530841)

Poor employee morale and low pay create the a social petri dish for employee malaise and discontent. Customer service suffers. People stop shopping there. The company continues to lower prices and pay. A vicious cycle ensues. Soon they declare bankruptcy and blame on it everything except poor management decisions driven by short term bottom line numbers.

Sounds about right. (1)

C_Kode (102755) | about 7 years ago | (#18530843)

I avoid Circuit City like the plague and always have. To me, an establishment like that shouldn't have commission based sales staff. Every time I went in to their store I always felt as if the staff was attempting to bamboozle me. On top of that, they never have the best price!

I hope this fails miserably (1)

Sciros (986030) | about 7 years ago | (#18530845)

It would be ridiculous if other enterprises started considering a strategy like this... what incentive would there be to excel and command a higher salary if you're going to be booted on a whim if the company has some financial trouble?

The point used to be to become valuable to a company so you would STAY ON when layoffs had to happen. Now how would one go about being valuable to Circuit City, for instance?

Granted it IS Circuit City, which isn't exactly some important IT firm and more like something for college students to work at so they can pay for tuition, but even so this is business strategy that really confuses me.

Re:I hope this fails miserably (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 years ago | (#18531181)

If there is a strategy to guarantee that Circuit City finally craps out and disappears, this appears to be it. Sending the message to sales staff that excelling will cost you your job at worst, or mean 10 weeks of unemployment and being rehired at a lower salaray is (and I hesitate to use the term) at best is simply a recipe for not selling anything. The whole concept behind sales is to well... sell, and higher renumeration for more experienced and better salespersons is pretty much the only carrot a company has got.

If I were a Circuit City shareholder, I'd be seriously considering dumping it now and not waiting a year for the full consequences of this moronic move to take effect. Actually, anyone with any common sense would have dumped Circuit City's stock a long time ago.

Wouldn't it have been easier... (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | about 7 years ago | (#18530853)

to just put them on straight commission-only? Then everyone wins. If they're not performing (and thus not generating any revenue for the company), the company doesn't have to pay them. If they're selling a lot, they get a piece of it and are thus motivated to continue to sell well and often.

It's like any other type of sales, the product is irrelevant. Just follow the money!

First boycott Best Buy, now Circuit City? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | about 7 years ago | (#18530863)

What other large electronics chains are left that I can buy at? I don't want to support businesses who either cheat their customers (Best Buy) or who mistreat their employees (Wal-Mart, Circuit City.) I'm going to be running out of vendors, soon.

Anyway, this reminds me of a friend of mine. He graduated from college with a degree in History. Yes, a rather un-saleable degree. So he lived on my couch for a few months after he graduated while he tried to find a job. The only job he could find was telephone credit card sales. Yes, he was *THAT* guy. Every day, he came home from his job, the first words out of his mouth were "I hate my job." What made it even worse is that he was *GOOD* at it. His second month there, he set a sales record. His third month, he broke that record. Then he got fired. Because he wasn't following the script to the letter.

Now, if someone comes in, and, by *NOT* following the script to the letter (he did say all the parts that the law requires creditors to say,) sets sales records two months in a row (he got a plastic slinky with the company name on it in thanks,) shouldn't you have the OTHER people follow his lead, rather than fire him?

Meh (1)

stratjakt (596332) | about 7 years ago | (#18530897)

I know CC salespeople were higher paid, not too long ago they were on comission. I know the idea was to have better trained employees to help you make selections, etc.

But you have two factors:

1) Doubling someons hourly rate doesn't make them smart. CC employees are the same as Best Buy, trying to sell me monster power cables and extended warrantees, and unable to answer any of my tech questions.

2) The public is more and more aware of electronics, and has less and less need for someone to talk them through buying a DVD player.

Sucks to be those guys, and it's a shit way to treat employees, but seriously, if that was your career, get used to failure in life.

Paying them more simply wasn't producing a better service, at least not in Annapolis, MD.

Nearly everything is cheaper at BB too, so that can't help.

what do they mean by best (1)

b17bmbr (608864) | about 7 years ago | (#18530935)

last couple of times I was in CC (one to buy a sirius radio, the other car GPS), I knew exactly what I watned, and was more concerned whether they carried it or had it in stock. I did the research on my own, got all the advice I sought, and needed the sales staff to ring it up. how much do they need to nkow to do that?

I feel for the guys that are getting laid-off, but the truth is if it added $$$ to the price, I'd have bought it elsewhere. the real question is do they really help CC sell more? I wonder.

The American Dream is dead! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18530937)

When clueless sales floor personnel cannot expect to work years for one company and retire with a pension.

Why do I shop retail over the internet? (1)

DragonPup (302885) | about 7 years ago | (#18530947)

Better service from actual people, which is why I expect to pay more in an actual store. If Circuit City is firing all of their best people, why am I going to pay more there than from, say, newegg?

Answer: I'm not.

Whoop de doo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18530951)

Circuit has been terrible for a number of years for a number of reasons. This is no surprise.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! (1)

gblues (90260) | about 7 years ago | (#18530963)

OK, so you're a struggling business and you're trying to control costs, so you... fire the people who bring in revenue? Circuit City, say goodbye to your institutional memory, loyalty, and say hello to higher turnover; your "savings" are going to be eaten by increased hiring costs and less competent sales staff.

If you got fired, consider yourself lucky and get yourself a decent sales job.

Re:Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! (1)

realmolo (574068) | about 7 years ago | (#18531081)

Yeah, but this is a RETAIL SALES business.

The only people that TRULY bring in money are the marketing people, who don't work at the individual stores, anyway.

"Good salespeople" are kind of an un-necessary evil these days at the retail level. Most consumer products are cheap, and most of them are approximately the same. What can a salesperson do besides try an "upsell" you on stuff you don't need? Which really only works on electronics, and only works on people that don't know better, and most of those people DO eventually learn how to not get ripped-off.

If you want to make money as a salesperson, you need to get a job selling expensive stuff to *other businesses*.

Who's next? (1)

JD-1027 (726234) | about 7 years ago | (#18530993)

So I've been done with Best Buy for a while. Now there is no way I'm going to Circuit City. Hmmm, who's left? Online shops, I guess.

Interesting (1)

LinuxInDallas (73952) | about 7 years ago | (#18531005)

It's interesting that the workers were not offered to simply have a salary cut but were instead fired and then forced to reapply for lower paying jobs. This is obviously an attempt to eliminate any benefits the employees may have had from being long-time employees.

Just goes to show ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531021)

that it's a proven fact that wearing a red shirt is detrimental to your livelihood ...

They should have seen this coming (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | about 7 years ago | (#18531025)

I mean come on, even a fresh-out-of-Starfleet ensign knows that wearing a red shirt is a mark of doom. It was inevitable, they should just be happy their sacrifices were for the greater good, and not just an arbitrary display of power by some alie^B^B^B^B contractor.

Legal? (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about 7 years ago | (#18531041)

Is it even legal to fire someone without reason? Wouldn't this open them up to a massive class-action wrongful termination lawsuit? These aren't layoffs (since the positions are being immediately refilled with lower-paid personnel) and they aren't being terminated for performance-related reasons. I can't imagine this is legal but I don't know the US labour laws...

This is unfortunate, however... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | about 7 years ago | (#18531063)

This happens everyday, just not all at once. I will never take a job based upon the company having retirement benefits after 20 years of performance. In the defense industry, for example, it's common practice for an entire department to get laid off just to be rehired to perform the same job for the same company. Why? They didn't want to have to pay out retirement. This is the same shady practice, yet on at a larger scale (which means it gets more publicity).

The sad state of affairs is that companies have to please stock holders and, to please stock holders profits have to go up. Even if your company is making money hand over fist, it gets to a point where you have to find a way to cut margins to please stock holders. It's unfortuante that so many companies take the easy way out instead of finding ways to inovate and manage budgets....

surely this is crazy (1)

jaymz2k4 (790806) | about 7 years ago | (#18531065)

words fail to describe how mental this stragegy sounds, and the fact they're letting people apply for their job back at a lower rate of pay, if thats not a slap in the face for working for these guys i dont know what is. im all for 'you work for the company, the company doesnt work for you', but shit like this just annoys me. im sure someone on their board will make a good bonus this year, maybe someone will figure they dont need them anymore...

god help anyone aiming to make a good wage at cc :/

if they want to pay the lowest wages, go to Haiti (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 7 years ago | (#18531077)

because all of their nervous US potential customers are now going to shun circus city in droves. I have bought a good amount of stuff at CC, but never again.

Only meatheads need apply (1)

Billosaur (927319) | about 7 years ago | (#18531101)

Only the mentally stunted or tech un-savvy amongst them would go back to work for the company that fired them only to hire them back at a lower rate. Anyone with more than just a little brains is going to be offended.

erm... (1)

cosmocain (1060326) | about 7 years ago | (#18531111)

...just how motivated would YOU be if you got fired one day and - in lack of alternatives - apply for the same job again, but for a lower salary. this just must result in an extensive drop of service quality.

err, wait.. Circuit City? Never mind.

Circuit City slogan: "We're evil" (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about 7 years ago | (#18531115)

It's not so unusual for companies to lay off at the top and hire at the bottom. It IS unusual for them to do it all at once and to come right out and say that's what they're doing. I'm not sure if their honesty is a good thing or a bad thing.

It seems that Circuit City has decided that a more experienced and thus higher-paid salesperson doesn't sell much (if anything) more than a high-school dropout hired right off the street. If that's the case, raises and higher pay simply don't make sense and a switch to a model where they hire people who can't get anything better, never give raises, and accept the resulting high turnover makes business sense. Even if it is pretty much evil.

better solution (1)

kurtis25 (909650) | about 7 years ago | (#18531129)

Maybe Circuit City could cut costs by firing all the employees that stand around and do nothing. The past 4 times I've been there I've seen multiple employees standing in a circle talking or playing catch with a promotional stress ball. It took 3 employees to replace the ink in a printer. So part of me agrees that laying off their high paid employees is fine, why pay employees a good amount if they are going to do nothing. If you need people to baby sit your store higher lower wage workers. If you want good employees higher good employees and pay them well. In 4 trips to CC I bought nothing because I felt I was being charged so they could have employees do nothing; fire a few and lower your prices. Then higher back the good ones.Don't fire good or deserving employees just to save money have a good reason. Fire employees who are a waste for you and the customers then re-evaluate.

Shooting oneself in the foot. (2, Insightful)

Radon360 (951529) | about 7 years ago | (#18531133)

Yet another corporate management that views the bottom-end labor as a pure commodity. Can they get more warm bodies in to replace those displaced? You sure bet. Can the displaced find sales work elsewhere? Most likely so as well. Apparently, someone missed the day in class when they discussed intrinsic value. If you have someone that's experienced and good at what they do, they are very likely worth more because they know how to be more productive at what they do. They likely know how to sell and market a product, in addition to helping customers find the product that best suits their needs and desires.

Having a knowledgeable and competent sales staff is usually considered a cornerstone of having a good store. Get rid of that, and you're probably competing strictly on price and not on value. Hey, if that's their new business model, then they probably made a good move towards achieving that model. But generally, taking the service out of a service industry usually is a risky plan.

If I were Circuit City's direct competition, I'd seriously consider finding a way to talk to these displaced salepeople. It could be a windfall of people that I wouldn't have to spend too much effort in training myself, and still have an opportunity to weed out any undesirables.

Re:Shooting oneself in the foot. (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 7 years ago | (#18531279)

The Internet has pretty much eliminated "value" from the equation. If you're not cheaper on Froogle, you aren't going to get as many sales. Period. You can have the most knowledgable and friendly sales staff in the world but if your prices aren't lower than the store down the street, people aren't coming in to meet your friendly sales staff.

There isn't a way to sort Froogle results by "knowledge" or "value", just price. Same thing with Pricewatch, PriceGrabber, MySimon and all the other pricing tools on the Internet. Value is pretty much dead for consumer sales.

Unions... (1)

skintigh2 (456496) | about 7 years ago | (#18531149)

Of course, if they were unionized there is no way this could happen, and CC would have a fraction of a less percent profit to give to execs in 8 or 9 figure bonuses and the workers would be feeding their kids instead of looking for work...

Also, of course, I will be attacked for being anti-free-market, lazy, mobbed-up, or whatever other thought-preventing cliche can be churned up.

This seems standard behavior for corps these days. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 7 years ago | (#18531175)

Slash costs by firing the highest-paid (and generally best) people. Rehire low-paid scrubs to do the same job. Then be shocked - shocked! - when morale goes down, department performance goes down, and you can't hit your uptime/sales/response time/no screw-up quotas for the month.

Here's a newsflash, people: saving money by firing the expensive people is a prime example of penny-wise, pound-foolish. Most departments are too dysfunctional to allow them to just pluck someone off the street and plug them into the system - they need the old hands because they make things go.

This seems to be a disease most common among MBAs who have seen a lot of theory and not much practice, or who have never seen the inside of the department they are supposed to administrate.

Response to customer demands. (1)

ErichTheRed (39327) | about 7 years ago | (#18531209)

First off, what Circuit City is doing is stupid. Firing someone just because they do too well in a system you set up is wrong.

But, when you think about it, CC is just responding to customers. In a lot of places, Best Buy has taken out a lot of smaller electronics retailers. It's not because they necessarily have the best selection or good help, but they offer cheap middle-of-the-road electronics for the masses. If you're technically savvy, you do all your research online before you go into a store and buy something. I don't think I've ever interacted with a salesperson beyond, "I want that. Is it available?"

People have to understand the fact that customer service is dead. Nobody under the age of 50 cares about it anymore; they just want the lowest price. As the population that did care about customer service dies, there will be even less need for service-oriented salespeople. Think about it, when was the last time you paid more for a good or service just because people were nicer to you?

no shared pain, indeed (1)

EllynGeek (824747) | about 7 years ago | (#18531231)

Of course the CEO of Circuit City won't suffer. He's getting seven-figure compensation for driving the company into the ground. So this is really a plan in keeping with overall company strategy, which is to reward the failures.

Do they think this news will make me shop there? (1)

DuVader (972962) | about 7 years ago | (#18531243)

So - maybe hospitals should adopt this strategy to keep medical costs down? Dentists? Car mechanics? This kind of behavior should be rallied against in a strong way. If the consumer continues to shop at Circuit City - and accept that a newbie who doesn't really know what he is talking about is selling you your new HDTV, then Circuit City management made a correct gamble. (And - knowing how much we Americans don't get involved in politics, I would assume that this is the way it's going to end up for Circuit City - I would bet most people just don't care - or would even know that the information they are getting is accurate or relevant to what they are asking for or needing.) If however, the retailer saw a drop in sales because their McDonald's worker turned HDTV specialist wasn't able to get people to part with a few thousand for a TV that fit their needs, then Circuit City looses. I would argue here that Circuit City gets it - they get the American public very very well. They know that in the end after a while when this story is long forgotten (what - a week maybe?) that people will go in with their wallets - buy stuff - think they got the right piece of electronics - and nobody is hurt. This is how in the end crap like this will continue to happen more and more - and joking aside - my statement about hospitals doing this might very well become a reality.

Hate to say this, but this is capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18531253)

It sucks, and I feel bad for these people, however, this is the consequences of a free market society. It's not all milk and honey, but frankly if not for this system, white collar nerds who can program computers like most of us wouldn't get the opportunity to make 6 figures.

Lesson #1: Stay in school, kids.

CC, BB, ect.... (1)

drewsup (990717) | about 7 years ago | (#18531273)

CC used to be the place I went if I needed advice when shopping for something new, BB lackies never could answer a technical question. But now, the retail service industry seems homogenized to the point where the staff is just glorified stock boys and cash register operators, what a shame. Radio shack is the same too, you used to able to find someone there with RADIO experience or component knowledge, but no more. I wish them luck in their new endevours.
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