Stray Thoughts: Setting Priorities

“He shot for the prize, and missed the target.”

It’s been my observation that whenever a company starts pushing its employees to sell credit cards, that company is on a downward spiral. I’ve seen it at Beall’s Outlet, I’ve seen it at Books-a-Million, I’ve seen it at Wal-Mart. (Who had the sense to eventually quit that.)

Now it’s just started at another place I prefer to leave nameless. I doubt it will go any better there than the other places. Those who want a company credit card generally go looking for them voluntarily. The vast majority of customers who don’t, seriously get annoyed at the waste of time when they’re trying to get out of the store. Needless to say they take this out on the ground-level employees, instead of the upper management who had the delusional brainstorm that this would bring in more profits.

Because that’s what this is; an attempt to bring in short-term profits, no matter the long-term costs to the company. And those costs are not just money and lost customers. There are employees who will quit over this. Customer service means dealing with jerks often enough already, without deliberately antagonizing people.

Employees who quit need to be replaced. Replacing people takes time and money to train them – and also impacts customers who’d gotten used to finding a clerk who knew them and what they were looking for. When a company is already shorthanded, this is nuts.

Some people would blame capitalism for this. Me, I blame the fact that a company has gotten large enough that the people making decisions don’t get hit with the consequences of those decisions straight in the face.

This is something you should consider for story-writing, especially if you have a Massive Secret Conspiracy. There may well be good reason so many of these turn out to be a hidden source of evil. Not necessarily because anyone starts out aiming for evil, but because the people with power are insulated from what actually happens to the people they manipulate in the course of “protecting them” from Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.

Seriously, if you want Fridge Horror, contemplate all the Muggles who end up Obliviated in the Harry Potter ‘verse. The Aurors apparently don’t care what a wizard was doing, or why, or how much they hurt people; they just make sure Muggles forget it ever happened and clean up the evidence. Also see the World Security Council SHIELD was supposed to answer to in Avengers, that thought nuking NYC was a valid response to an alien invasion coming through a portal from somewhere else entirely. They weren’t on the ground and wouldn’t face the results. Fortunately, Nick Fury was….

Consider how close your characters are to the front lines of the fight, whatever the fight may be. Then consider how close their bosses are, and their bosses’ bosses. Think about what orders might come down from which levels. It makes a difference!

8 thoughts on “Stray Thoughts: Setting Priorities

  1. Not only is it annoying and a waste of time to have them pushing a credit card, but personally I would never sign up for one without being able to sit down and look over the terms, comparing it to similar options.

    Standing in the middle of a checkout line, or sitting on an airplane are the exact circumstances where I *don’t* want to do something complicated.

    I can only imagine how unpleasant it would be to try to actually get a credit card under those circumstances.

    “Now fill out this form… while standing here… with a dying pen… on this tiny little tray…”

    Along similar lines, Microcenter has a high-tech solution to checkout lines.
    They have 13 checkout stations, which are usually staffed, and a monitor which tells people in line which station is open at any given moment.

    All of which makes their slow checkout process even more noticeable.

    Every transaction includes an offer for an extended warranty, and a confirmation of address, which are two extra interactions in a noisy story.

    “mumble mumble mumble”
    “Is mumble address mumble the mumble correct?”
    “…Yes? Probably. I don’t care if you have the wrong address.”
    “mumble mumble mumble”
    “Would you mumble a warranty mumble the mouse-pad?”
    “No. I don’t want a warranty for a mouse-pad.”

    I feel sorry for the cashiers.
    It seems like it would be terrible spending all day trying to slog through those responses every time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The funny thing with that is that it’s an example where online checkout/shopping carts have made it harder on in-person checkouts. Online, that option is just one more checkbox to click on (or scroll past) and doesn’t add any extra time to the process. In-person, where things have to be spoken rather than just listed out visually, it adds *a lot* of time and comes off as annoying.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. One of the tendencies I’ve noticed is that an organization where the person in charge is “on the ground” often also “leads from the front”. Which makes a pretty good rule of thumb for if a leader is a decent leader for their own people in fiction.

    People who “lead from the front” can oppose the protagonists, but that they’re on the ground with all the people on their own side who they’re commanding against the protagonists very often winds up meaning their own people have a decent reason for following them; their leader knows what he’s asking his followers to do because he’s doing it right along with them. So there’s that sense of “so *that*’s why their men follow them”. Opponents like that tend to be a lot harder to undermine from the inside as a result.

    While opponents who lead from behind tend to have that feeling of not caring about the people actually doing the action. So it’s a lot easier to try for a “you know your leader doesn’t care about *you*” line of reasoning to start putting cracks in their organization.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The first medical director where I work was finally forced out of her job because she thought she should keep firing herself, which included telling the employee or employees why orally, even though she had had an HR department for years. It was up to a woman who quit working here this year to convince her to set up a 4-rung sliding fee schedule instead of charging whatever she felt like. And to get a practice management system when there was nothing for sliding scale clinics. That was after the first thing.

    We were submitting too few claims for payers to notice something was wrong.

    She didn’t always have an HR department.

    Yes, we had donors. Yes, we still do.

    Yes, I’m trying not to doxx myself by giving too many details. It’s still that small a place.


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