Merchandising behemoths fall from grace

marching band

I worked as a Retail Merchandiser all through college. After college I fell back into merchandising when jobs were scarce, but the merchandising business seemed to be booming.

What is merchandising and what does a merchandiser do?

“What does the role of merchandiser involve?

Merchandising is about planning and developing a strategy to enable a company to sell a range of products that delivers sales and profit targets. A Merchandiser will work closely with a Buyer to ensure the product that’s bought will enable them to achieve the sales plan.”

~ from Retail Human Resources

I made this occupation work for me on a full-time basis by double dipping. I would sign in the Vendor Log at the Front Desk of whichever big box retailer I was working in that day and skim the book for new company leads. The sign in sheets usually had contact information for the main office and I would simply call and let them know I was available to work that store for them if they ever needed someone. Since I had been doing this for so long, sometimes there were notes attached to my sign in sheet asking me if I was available to pick up extra lines in that location. I made a nice income by combining the number of companies I worked for in each store. Most of them paid my mileage and some companies even provided a monthly car allowance.

If you are currently working as a Retail Merchandiser and reading this, I strongly advise you to start double dipping. You are part-time and hired at-will. What you do with your spare time is none of their business. If they try to coerce you into signing a non-compete, tell them NO. 

After I had been in the industry for many years I took a step up and became an Area Manager. I managed seven states with about 100 part-time merchandisers. I advised each of my merchandisers to do what I had done and combine their efforts by taking on other companies. I was interested in seeing them excel in the business and eventually move into management the way I had.

This was also the time I got to take a look at the bloated behavior going on at the corporate level.

Here I was riding in the back of a limo on my way to the airport, while on the phone with a merchandiser in Podunk, America, telling her/him that the company can only afford to pay them $6 per hour. I remember sitting at the overpriced dinner table listening to a bunch of cheap suited bosses talk about test driving a Jaguar just so they could get a free Mont Blanc pen. We stayed in the finest hotels, ate steak and lobster every meal and one meeting we even had a high school marching band parade through and entertain us. One training about 200 of us stayed at the Woodlands Golf Resort for two weeks! Can you imagine that bill? And yet, we could only afford to pay a merchandiser $6 per hour?

I wasn’t a manager for very long.

I was an Area Manager long enough to win the monetary award for Highest Execution for my territory. That only took about 3 years. Then I jumped ship and landed a national position as a Recruiting Manager. That was the job that spanked my bacon for me.

I got fired.

To be fair to the douchebag that hired me, it was inevitable. I naively boasted having a database with the names and numbers of part-time merchandisers all over the USA, including Hawaii and Alaska. This database was what got me the overpaid job in management. Once I had been employed for the cursory three months I was told I HAD to share my database with the rest of the company, or be fired. Stupidly, I believed them and I shared. A week later I was fired in a Florida airport by my supervisor. He met me at my gate, handed me my walking papers, feigned remorse and sorrow and then told me I was on my own to book a flight back home that same day. According to him, my position with the company was being phased out. Well yeah, now that they had my database why would they need to keep paying my salary?

That was awesome.

I had, all total, on and off over the years, about 10 solid years of experience in the merchandising industry. That last job was when I made the decision that I needed to make a change in my career, so when I landed after the Florida debacle, I never looked back.

Oh I looked back occasionally. Like this week I took a look back and guess what I learned. The merchandising behemoths of my day have all faded into the netherlands. They have all folded, gone out of business, disappeared without a trace. The pomp and the circumstance and the gorging indulgences are all now just dust in the wind. There are still some merchandising companies out there, but they are vastly different. There aren’t as many anymore either. I guess you can only have so many marching bands attend your meetings before the coffers start to run dry, or people start to get wise to your bullshit.

But I’d bet some of them are wishing now that they had paid better than just $6 per hour.

When you’re riding high on the hog while the foundation you’re stomping on is put together with the cheapest materials you can get away with using, don’t expect that foundation to support you for very long.

After learning the fate of the major companies I had worked for over the years, I wanted to sit back and feel just a little bit smug. I confess that I do have a certain sense of satisfaction that I got out when I did, but it’s tinged with a bit of sadness too. The potential that existed with these companies, with the managers in place and the number of people employed, could have been something phenomenal. Instead it went the way of other giants that fell, like Enron, or every dotcom ever conceived. People got greedy. They forgot where they came from and they crapped on the little guy that was doing all the work.

I’m not sure if this is something that will ever change.

I did locate the online resume of one of my old managers though. Guess what he’s doing now. He’s a merchandiser for a greeting card company. I kind of hope he’s making more than $6 per hour.



Filed under All kinds of Advice, Memories good and bad

Taming the feral

by Madeline Laughs
little mama full view

photo credit: Chris Shultz

Raising a litter of feral kittens has taught me a few things about people. I think in some respects, we all have a little bit of feral in us, even if we don’t want to admit it.

I might let you touch me, even though I am terrified of being hurt by you. Even if you show me nothing but love, I’m still going to be wary because there will always be something you do that scares me and makes me want to hide.   Continue reading


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Yesterday sitting around with a bunch of my colleagues was enlightening. One of the men joined the group of us and started out by discussing his ethnicity. He said “Yeah, where I grew up was a Waspy, all white neighborhood and they made fun of me because I was different and had a Latino name, but I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.” He was being funny, so everyone laughed, including me.

Then I looked around the room. There was a Filipino, two African Americans and a couple of Hispanics and me, white, Anglo Saxon…WASPy, I guess.

All week I have worked closely with my colleagues and never once did I see color, ethnicity, or even a bit of difference. I never see those things. To me, they are just people. It took someone who sees nothing but color and ethnicity, to make me even look. The realization made me sad.

I wondered why he told that story.

I wondered if he meant to single me out.

And then I remembered who I am.

I am not the one who is afraid or ashamed of being different. And then everyone went back to being just people I work with. Including him.

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forget me not

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last night one of my friends was supposed to call me…and she forgot.

today I was supposed to go somewhere with another friend…and she forgot to call and tell me it was cancelled.

so I just sent a bunch of “don’t forget me” text messages to random people.   Continue reading


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a Cosmo test?

chris and me

Every time I see an article that starts with “Take the true test of a good marriage…”, I always have to laugh. If you have reached that low point in your marriage where you would have to “test” it using something like this, then trust me, your marriage is either in deep trouble, or it’s already over.   Continue reading

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You be You

Separate your own feelings and thoughts from others.

Be an individual and realize that you are unique, as is everyone.

Another person can not complete you.

You can learn how to stand alone, be independent and healthy, all on your own.

You don’t need anyone else in order to do that.

~Madeline Laughs

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Magazines, they pile up


I have always loved having a magazine subscription. I would look forward to that magazine every month. I remember when Real Simple magazine first came out. I couldn’t wait to subscribe and I saved every one of those magazines from it’s first year in publication. When we moved, I was heartbroken to give them up.  They had so much important information I wanted to go back to eventually.   Continue reading

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learn to Share


When I was very young and outgrew my favorite clothing and toys I was asked to share them with children that would still get use and pleasure from them. If I had an overabundance of something I was again asked to share what I had. I was a child and children are naturally selfish without inhibition, so sometimes when a toy was a particular favorite item, I rebelled. “No! I do not want to give away my favorite shirt or my favorite doll! I will not share just because I have two! Let them get their own stuff!”   Continue reading

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love, sorry, can’t help you

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday about how to deal with someone that tries to make you responsible for how another person is treating them. When an adult tells you “You have to fix this so they will leave me alone!” this is how you handle it…   Continue reading

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