GETTING MORE TALE #549: E-Commerce Dawning
I had been trying to get out of the storefront for a while. As a manager you can only take so much retail in a lifetime, even in the Record Store. My reservoir for dealing with the public in a buy/sell situation only had about five or six years in it before I was running on pure fumes. Fortunately e-commerce was becoming a dominant force and I was chosen to manage our new website. It was a good website. The boss knew what he wanted, and didn’t settle for less. He listened to feedback and relentlessly tested the site. It was a challenge since our inventory was changing minute by minute, and technology hadn’t caught up to our needs yet. When it was finally ready to go live, it was a slow start. It began as a one man operation.
I was sent out to do some research. The boss sent me to an e-commerce convention at the Waterloo Inn in mid-2000. I returned with plenty of notes and information about how laws would protect buyers and sellers in online sales.
When we first started e-commerce, the website was a part time job. I was still in the store most of the time, because we were only getting 10-15 orders per day. I would have time allotted to go in the back room and get the e-commerce stuff done: processing credit card orders, responding to customers, keeping the books. Customer complaints were infrequent but fun. Often it involved somebody whining that they couldn’t return something because they lost their receipt, or complaining that something was taking too long to come in. Then I’d investigate and get the other side of the story. There was one guy we all remember that was a constant complainer. He picked up his orders in-store. He carried a briefcase with him, and inside that briefcase was a printout of every order he ever placed.
The boss told me, “This is your baby, run it however works best for you.” So I did and it went well until it was just too busy for one person to run alone. Then they decided to run the e-commerce thing full time. I was given a small staff of about three people, all people who also worked in store. We had a tiny office to work out of. It had a computer, printer, its own VISA machine and all the supplies needed to ship CDs by FedEx. We learned as we went.
I had a really good staff back there and it was fun juggling that with the store. I worked a lot of double shifts, but I was enjoying it. Things were going well, and over time we got busier and busier. They decided they wanted a full-time manager for the position. I was frozen out, and landed back in the store full time. I heard that oft-repeated mantra: “Your time is more valuable to us in the store.”
A couple years’ of work on that website, and suddenly it was pulled away and I was back where I didn’t want to be. My goal was to get out of the store, and I worked hours and hours above and beyond the call of duty to do it. I voluntarily came in on the morning of my Christmas Eve off (year 2000) just to process online orders, so we wouldn’t be slammed by too many when we re-opened. I poured all my energy into it knowing the goal of being out of the store was not far away. Then the floor fell out from under.
They had me transitioning into a new position of being a trainer for new staff and franchisees. That would have been fine except that was a small portion of my time. The franchising stalled and that meant most of the time I was running a store. Promises of ever getting out had evaporated.
Like many things from the formative years, I had plenty of fond memories of toiling away on that website. Most satisfying was the feeling that I was climbing the ladder and working towards the goal of getting away from the front counter. Apparently the bosses felt that the front counter was the thing I was best at, and didn’t consider other factors such as morale and personal growth. It was like being kicked back to highschool after I’d already graduated and moved on to university. The ironic thing was one person who eventually ran the website after me was fired for theft. Change isn’t always good. Maybe they should have left things as-is.
The only song related to e-commerce I could find.