I've only ever been on the other side of an administration; I'm normally the one getting up early to try and get 20 per cent off a TV or a few Xbox games for cheap. This year, for 2013, I'm the one in the firing line. Approximately one hour before I was meant to close my store, I was informed of the news not by my manager, not even by my area manager, but by Sky News. My employer, Jessops incase you hadn't already guessed, was in administration with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
I'll tell you a little more about working for Jessops. It's cushty.
Don't get me wrong, there are alot of things that make me lose my shit whilst working; most unfortunate is the fact that they have hands and heartbeats, but I still insanely enjoy my job. I'm a photographer; I have an incredible knowledge of the products, and I can make an absolutely brilliant recommendation for customers, up until the point that we get to the till and the entire order ramps up to a cost that I look at and scream inwardly "BUY IT ONLINE!" I mean come on, 40 fucking quid for an 8GB Extreme SD card. Are you serious? They cost £16 on amazon. £16.
Let that sink in. Jessops is a specialist retailer, with a 2000+ workforce. All working 'to and for the customer'. But when you ask your staff to offer Care Plans and accessories on everything from a D7000 to a 10x8, it's evident that Jessops were only ever after the customers' money, not for loyalty. I can easily blab on about how they piss incredibly hard targets upon the floorstaff, requiring these most insane targets to be met with no problem at all. An example: if a customer buys a Canon 6D for £1800 and nothing else, it's called a naked sale. No big deal right? Wrong. The Sales Expert gets it in his/her earhole harder than an ill-advised virgin, at an almost torturous level. You get verbal abuse from your managers all because something went out 'naked'. And all despite the fact that you delivered a wonderful customer service experience, and gave the customer nothing but respect and attention, and the product they wanted. All resulting in seeing your pride crushed by your manager because they get a little less money in their bonuses this month.
They are a brilliant company to work for, but on the inside they are viral, visceral and unforgiving. That's exactly how I believe they went into administration. A company this strict, yet this specialised, cannot afford to mark up prices by 300 per cent (in some cases) and then let the customer allow them to leech onto their loyalty hooks and hope they come back in for more.
Anyway, onto this week's administration news.
I'll say this right now; it's scary hearing that word, considering this company keeps the roof over your head. But at the same time, being a younger person you take it on the chin a bit. But a second later, the expectations of the reactions to the ramifications kick in and you realise just how fucked you could be. Now, I haven't actually faced a hoard of pissed-off customers, YET. It's the evening of the announced liquidation as I write this, and I'm just preparing myself for the onslaught of Christmas shoppers who put anywhere up to £500 on a gift card, only to find it's useless for the time being. I say that because I hope to hell they let customers spend them.
Gift cards, returns, repairs. All blocked. There's no chance a loyal customer can come into the store and not get pissed off. It's a seemingly irrelevant process, but apparently the administrators need to understand the business and therefore everything is blocked for the time being, including pre-orders and paid-for stock. So if you are the unlucky man who just dropped £3k on a Canon 6D, couple of prime lenses and a flash gun, and paid for it waiting to come in later to pick it up, it's a pretty unique bit of luck that the company goes into administration meer hours after the order is placed.
All anyone would ever ask for in this whole situation is support. When my manager confirmed the news, he was so stressed about the situation and coming events that he all he wanted to do was go home. Meanwhile, I'm thinking "who is this fucking moron and why is he being paid so much?" I mean seriously, it's his job! That's the exact reason they are there -- to MANAGE. It may seem like a one-sided option, but think about it -- who would any store employees go to when they don't know what to do? And yet the Sales Expert is left hanging by his eyelids as he gets customers demanding their stuff back.
Thinking back to Wednesday, the day I heard the news, I had one customer asking for their back-ordered camera. They hadn't spent alot, only around £200 or so, but the customer was leaving for Heathrow in 45 minutes and needed the camera. We could do nothing but decline any attempt for her to pick up her camera. That's what it's boiling down to now; the Sales Experts are informed of so little, yet they are expect to act upon some kind of super-human response when you openly deny a customer their rightful property. Even when you think about it logically, why wouldn't you? It's paid-for, anything that needs to be done is done, so just give it out! It's this kind of initiative which is lacking in the management. Management, wich has now shot the starting gun to Jessops' last leg. We survived an administration before, but that was in a time where everything was a lot less reliant on computers and such. Sure, Jessops introduced the newest and hottest models as quickly as possible, even offering easy pre-orders, but as always with lady luck, England became a more premium living place; importing got cheaper, and online services stripped effort for all it was worth. And before you know it, 15 mouse clicks before breakfast and you've ordered a memory card for 85 per cent less than you could get it in store.
Despite my above complaints, I'm looking forward to the following few weeks; it'll be a whole new experience for both my career and myself, and I am prepared for an onslaught of customers. With that in mind, if you were given something to be claimed by Jessops, like a gift card, whatever you do, please don't be an asshole. This is a big opportunity for the whole 'do unto others' thing. I have no answers, only facts and figures. I will not be able to do a lot from behind my till, so from one anonymous Jessops employee to you, please be reassured when I say I'm already doing anything and everything that I can.
Spiels From “Them Below” is our new series of columns written by “them below”; the thousands of readers who comment tirelessly on Gizmodo UK. Have you got something to lament? Extol? Ponder? Get in touch at kat.hannaford[at]futurenet.com. Disclaimer: Spiels From “Them Below” don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Gizmodo UK or its editors.