Friday, May 29, 2015

A Bad Sign

Two jobs ago I was a school administrator. It was one of those nine months programs were you go after high school to learn a skill and get a job.  I was Dean of Students/Director of Student Services at a private for-profit proprietary school.  I mainly had two job functions.  Primarily, I had to maintain the students records, so that at any time I can document to the government that all our students were making academic progress towards graduation.  This was a big deal, many schools that were like ours were taking money from the government and not preparing students for a career.  The other, more challenging, part of my job was to actually prepare students to graduation.  Making surely went to enough of  heir classes, did their assignments, etc.  My academic training was in social work.  That worked because I felt like it was my job to help the students maneuver through complicated process.

I was hired by the President who was the owner of the school.  She had a big office, and used it well.  She was one of those bosses that without saying anything showed you that she was going to work hard and everyone was going to work hard also.  Because she regularly put in a 50 or 60 hour week so did I.  Things changed significantly when she retired and sold the school.  You see, when she owned the school she worked very hard to keep it running.  But eventually the school was owned by some venture capitalists in California.  Suddenly, a bunch of people who didn't do any work had to make a lot of money.

The organizational chart changed when the California people took over.  I didn't answer to a president or director.  I had to report to someone whose job title was controller.  He called me into his office and asked me to close the door."  Michael", he said, "we have a cash flow problem and you can help make that go away."  He told me that the new focus of my job was to not to let any student leave the program until they completed 51% of their required hours.  And that it was crucial to make sure that every new student got to the third week of school.

This is when I started planning my exit.  A big part of my job was to be able to identify the students who were never going to make it to graduation and only cause disruption on the way there.  The tool I used to solve this problem was the fact that if a student dropped out before the 11th day of school they would not be required to pay any tuition.  If I can tell a student who couldn't come to school two days in a row to save his life, that if he decided to quit at the end of the second week he would not owe any money we saved everyone a lot of problems.  And when I say everyone that includes the students who sit in the front of the class and were trying to learn.  Then I had a push them to the halfway point in the program just so the school could keep all of their tuition money.

Yeah, cash flow improved.  But the kids in the back of the class started to outnumber the kids in the front of the class. I wasn't working side-by-side with an owner.  I wasn't proud of the product of my labor anymore.  I was just helping people in California recoup their investment.  And I knew that their need for profit was infinite.   This is among the many reasons I left.

Really, celebrating our fallen
 soldiers with a sale

So there is a running shoe store around the corner from my house.  I remember when it opened, I met the owner.  I met his kids.  He's a neighborhood guy.  A lot of people I know were very excited when he opened more stores in Manhattan.  All of them were places to go if you really want to buy a good running shoe.  Many times I walked in and spent 45 minutes or an hour getting fitted.  I tried on every model that fit and run on the treadmill.  I would walk in and show them my current shoes and say I needed a shoe to run my next race in.  I always felt confident that I walked out with the right shoe.  I knew they weren't trying to sell me something because it was the brand they were making money on or because it was the current fashionable color. 

The four stores was sold to the same people that own a chain of other running shoe stores in New York City. and "is the parent company behind a network of 75+ local running stores across the U.S. and an online" that's a contradiction in terms, how can you be both national and local at the same time?  Their website says "We understand how important local communities are to runners. While your local store is part of a larger network, they are still focused on providing the best running experience in your market. Whether that’s recommending the best running routes in your area or throwing community events for you to attend, they will remain locally focused. Being part of  [mega Corp.] allows your local running store to get access to the best running products from the best brands out there." The person my track club has been told to talk to about our events doesn't reply to phone calls or emails, I don't think she has ever even been in New York.

Well, above all is a picture of last week's window display.  Usually, they paint their window with pictures of their mascot running or swimming or biking.  Sometimes celebrating a local clubs race or a holiday season.  I walked in and said what the fuck, did you find that so I on the floor in Kings Plaza?  The assistant manager told me she had to take a picture and send it to the West Coast People.  
The manager quit, my friend was fired, everyone got a pay cut.....  I guess the investors have to make a profit now.  Kind of like this

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  



2 comments:

  1. It's not just that fictional shoe store in your story, but also the other fictional running guy owned store in Brooklyn & Manhattan: http://www.parkrecord.com/ci_21045895/surefoot-moves-new. If you buy online and use coupon codes to further lower the price, there are significant price savings on running shoes on other items. It had been that the locally owned store argued that it had to sell at full price because of low stock turnover and an inability to get the mass quantity purchase discount, but now that both sets of stores are owned by big corporations, these "little stores" are just robbing us blind with artificially high prices. The markup on running shoes are sometimes up to 100% (ie a $150 shoe costs the store $75). The quality of the sales clerks, which had been high and worth the price difference, is now at the level of Foot Locker. I can get dumb elsewhere for free without paying extra at a store. I'm happy for both sets of owners and understand why they sold and cashed out, but I don't feel loyalty to these stores. At least Paragon has folks who know what they're doing.

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  2. change like this happens. I just wish it didn't. i learned to run and love running with a store just like the one in your story. on a main street in a nice Brooklyn neighborhood near a big park. sometimes i just went in to say hello to the folks who worked there. what began as a joke to try to run a marathon turned into 11 marathons and three triathlons all because of the nice feeling i got walking in there. it's sad. that's really all there is to it. sad.

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You do not have to be nice!

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