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Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #12 The 5 Hour Meeting

Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #12 The 5 Hour Meeting

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Every job has its meetings, and they are supposedly an important part of any job. It’s the way that the average employee can be filled in, not only on the events of the day or the week, but also any relevant news that might have come down from the corporate offices.

Meetings can be entertaining and informative and a valuable asset to every employee, that is, until you have sat through a five-hour photo meeting. Yes, five hours. Years ago, my current employer would schedule meetings at the district office and each location would send a victim *ahem* volunteer to represent the store and return with valuable ideas which would benefit each location and generate more sales. Now, in theory, there is nothing wrong with this, indeed who does not welcome the exchange of ideas and tips for how your location can make more money and better serve their customers? Sadly, however, this is not what came out of these meetings, ever.

The very last of the five-hour meetings happened back in 2013. I had just been transferred to my new location and had the day off of work. My boss called me and said that there was going to be a meeting at the District Office and would I mind attending it (note how she used the words would I mind, even though she had already told those who would be in attendance that I would be the representative from our store, so it is not as if I had any choice or say in the matter). I reminded her that it was my day off, to which she replied that I would get paid 5 hours of overtime for going, thus I guess that I was going to the meeting.

Upon arriving at the district office, we had to be buzzed in and then sign in, which guaranteed that we would get paid for that day. We were then paraded through the office, where important work was supposed to be happening, on our way to the big meeting room filled with white boards, overhead projectors and screens, and rows and rows of tables, Now before any business would take place (if you can call what it was that we would be doing the next 5 hours), we were told to help ourselves to something to eat. Now there were stacks and stacks of 12 packs of soda, as well as those in the fridge; not to mention the huge ice cream cooler that you would see in your local corner store filled with all sorts of frozen treats, as well as the boxes and boxes of chips and Doritos and other salty snacks. This was to be our lunch/dinner over the next five hours.

Once we had gathered our provisions, we were told to take a seat anywhere and have our notes ready for the meeting. Now, before coming to the meeting, we were told to bring 30 copies of a photo which we felt best represented our location and the work that we were doing to promote our services. each one of them was to have our store number on the back of them so people could see just what stores had taken this project seriously and which had not.

The meeting was about to begin but not without everyone including the cleaning crew and the man who filled the soda machines introducing themselves and telling all those in attendance what it was that they hoped to learn and to achieve from this meeting.

Iain Farrel via Flickr

Armed with our yellow legal pads and our black pens, we took notes, well, we were supposed to be listening and taking notes, but that was not really the case. A quick glance at various legal pads would have shown the following: heated games of tic-tac-toe or hangman between those seated nearby, doodles that resembled Rorschach blotches that should probably not have been looked at or analyzed for fear of what they might say about those who drew them. Then there were those who wrote the company name over and over again, as if trying to figure out why it was that they had actually sought employment with said company.

Each person who took center stage, asked the same questions: Do you know why we are here? Do you know what we hope to accomplish in the next 5 hours? Do you know the way to San Jose and do you wanna dance? Okay, those last two are song titles and not actual meeting questions, but it might have made things more interesting if someone had asked them, might have woken a few of us up from our junk food coma we now found ourselves in. Obviously we knew why we were there: I was there for the OT while others were there to get away from their store for a few hours, which explained why the next part always took place.You see, the longer the meeting lasted, the less time you would have to spend back at the store from which you had escaped, so everyone took it upon themselves to be as childish as possible and ask any and all inane questions to either delay the next presentation or to get the meeting off track. You could expect questions like:

Do you think that you could go over that last part again? What part exactly? All of it, just to make sure that I understand what it was that you just said. I just showed a picture from store# 1234. Well could we see that photo again so I can take notes on it? You have a copy of that photo in the pile that you picked up when you walked in. we were supposed to pick up a packet of photos? Yes, the photos that each store was to bring and mark with their store number and place on the table in front, for each one of you to take and look at while we went through the meeting. Where were those pictures again and I’m not sure that my store brought any to pass around? Did you bring any? Oh those pictures, yeah I think that I brought them, I’m just not sure where I put them. Did you put them on the table when you came into the meeting? Yes. Okay so you have the pictures, can we get back to the meeting now? What were we talking about again?

It is conversations like this that would frustrate those of us who wanted to go home, those of us who did not want to be here in the first place, looking at 30 variations of the same photo, done with different colors or accents, but still the same basic idea. This is why the meetings would last for hours instead of the mere minutes that they should have lasted.

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When the meeting finally got back on track, there had to of course be a trip to the concession stand and the rest room, before once again listening to the same bullet points that we had heard in the last hour or two by anyone who wanted to get up and take a hold of the microphone.

After five hours, when every question ever asked by anyone who ever lived had been asked: Where do babies come from? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? What is love? among others, the meeting was wrapped up. You were told to take what you had learned from the meeting back to your store and share it with your team members and members of management.  Right, I’m sure that those who had not been given the temporary reprieve from work really wanted to hear all about your 5 hour junk food filled, hangman playing, inane question ask and answering session. If everyone was like me, I tossed my notes in the garbage along with the 30 different photos from every store that had bothered to send them along, into the garbage and pretend that nothing happened.

Someone must have had a moment of clarity, because 2013 marked the last of the five-hour meetings, as well as any meeting at the District Office for that matter. It also meant the elimination of those people’s positions who had come up with and run these unnecessary wastes of time, so I guess it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Cover image courtesy of Richard via Flickr

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