Sears Holdings Corp. plans to close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores after poor sales during the holidays, the most crucial time of year for retailers.
Sears was my first employer after I graduated high school. I worked on the replenishment team in the men's department, which meant my job was folding and displaying jeans. I didn't work very hard at all; the majority of the job consisted of trying to operate something called a "Gizmo," which was Sears's very first attempt at a computerized inventory management device. It was basically a super-early version of one of those scanning guns you get nowadays if you're putting together a wedding registry at a department store; you go around and scan barcodes into the machine, which then files the products into a database for easy retrieval. It did not work, and it was ridiculously expensive.
But most of the job consisted of shirking work: An hourlong coffee break in the morning, a lunch break that often stretched to a couple hours, and a huge back room full of stock that I could hide in when I didn't feel like working. It was the kind of work that Republicans think all unionized government work is like: I could foist any customer requests off to a member of the sales team, because I was strictly a stocking employee. As far as minimum wage mall jobs go, it was a dream. I can totally understand why the company is falling apart.
Booksellers Waterstone's has apologised for inappropriately promoting Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf as a "perfect" Christmas present.
But the UK's largest bookshop chain has denied it is attempting to bolster sales of the infamously antisemitic work, despite the JC discovering several stores deliberately and prominently displaying the book.
Staff at Waterstone's in Huddersfield used a festive point-of-sale sticker to promote the book as "the perfect present" with an accompanying personal recommendation message by a staff member trumpeting the book as "an essential read for anyone".
A manager at a bookstore I worked at once noticed that a staff member had faced out a copy of The Turner Diaries on its shelf in fiction. He asked the employee why he did it, and the employee said it was to show that we carried everything, regardless of political inclination. The manager agreed that bookstores shouldn't censor the books that they carry, but he added, "Just because we have to carry that piece of shit book doesn't mean we have to make a big fucking production over it." The book stayed on the shelf, but it stayed inconspicuous, spine-out, from that point on. That strikes me as a pretty good rule of thumb for bookstores, I think.
by Dan Savage
on Sat, Dec 17, 2011 at 9:11 AM
"Could you please please please mention this in the slog today?" asks a Slog tipper. "Help local artists and craftspeople pay rent!"
You work hard for that money, and you should spend it on stuff that kicks just as much ass as you do. At the Bizarre Bazaar, you’ll find uniquely bizarre wares for your holiday shopping pleasure. The Bazaar features gifts to fit many budget levels: jewelry made out of hardware, sexy men’s underwear, survival bracelets, badge bling, va-va-voom inspired flirty wear, delicious PacNW-inspired & -sourced snacks, gorgeous handmade wedding & party details, kusadama, puppet art (and/or art puppets), and very much more. Plus! A well-stocked mimosa bar and other beverage refreshments, as well as something for the holiday sweet tooth!
Parking is available on the street, or at any various neighborhood lots. (Favorite cheap one is the Seattle Central lot, at the corner of Pine & Harvard.) Also, you will not starve on Capitol Hill—grab a bite and come shop!
Bizarre Bazaar Saturday 12/17 11 AM-4 PM @ the Erickson Theatre, 1524 Harvard Ave. (On Capitol Hill, between Pike & Pine.)
Avoid the mall! Buy local! Admission is free! Come early! Bring cash!
I promise that I will not recommend this book to you.
Tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm, I'll be sitting in a holiday advice booth at University Book Store. What does this mean for you? It means you can come and ask me for free book shopping recommendations. Need a novel for your cool teenage nephew who really dug the Dragonlance series but is now drifting away from books? Want to get your mom to quit talking about how great The Help was? Looking for a great comic book for your girlfriend? I will happily assist you in finding the perfect book.
I'll be at the advice booth for about an hour, and my old bookselling muscles are aching for a workout. Let me help you find something for everyone on your shopping list, so you can finally know the simple joy of finishing your holiday shopping a full week before Christmas. I can make your shopping experience as painless as humanly possible, starting at 3 pm tomorrow. See you there.
Amazon's promotion - paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed - is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities. Small businesses are fighting everyday to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far...I urge Amazon to cancel its planned promotion, and look for ways to partner with Main Street, not promote anti-competitive behavior that could shutter the doors of America's small businesses.
This price check app promotion got Amazon more bad mainstream press than anything in recent memory. (Even the 1984 Kindle messup mostly simmered on literary blogs.) Between their fight against state taxes and this, they're starting to get on the testy sides of some prominent people. If I were Amazon, I'd be doing some unambiguously good things before the tide of public opinion turns against the public, but then, Amazon has never given much of a shit about the perception of their company, anyway.
Remember when I said that Amazon.com's Flow app was "about as close as Amazon can legally come to stealing from small businesses, taking advantage of their high overhead by treating them as product showrooms without giving them a cent of subsidy" about a month ago? I was wrong. They can get closer:
Apparently concerned that it's not already doing enough to undermine local physical retailers across the country, Amazon.com announced it will pay customers $5[*] to go into a local store, scan an item, walk out, and buy the same item on Amazon. Please don't do this cheap, sad thing.
To get the $5 discount, you're supposed to use Amazon's "Price Check" iPhone and Android app to scan in the bar code of an item and then indicate what price the item is being sold at. This gives Amazon valuable intelligence on how various retailers are pricing various items.
What a great idea! An online retailer convinces customers to do product research for them while simultaneously using small businesses as unpaid showrooms. Someone must have had a huge laugh in the South Lake Union conference room where that idea was brought up. Let me be clear: If you do this, you're a fucking asshole.
* Important notice: The discount is actually 5%, so it isn't really Amazon paying customers $5 unless they buy a $100 product through the app.
The struggles of fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin to compete with real-life office-supply chains like Staples Inc. are a running joke on NBC's "The Office." Now, an online outlet owned by Staples is using the Dunder Mifflin name to try to sell more copy paper. Staples' Quill.com has struck a licensing deal with NBC's parent company to launch a Dunder Mifflin brand. Priced largely above private-label copy paper, the Dunder Mifflin packages will be emblazoned with slogans such as "Our motto is, 'Quabity First' " and "Get Your Scrant on," well-known phrases from the comedy series.
(Alright, big whoop on the Angry Birds candies, but the Dunder Mifflin paper is amazing, retroactively casting the entire run of the series as the world's most amazing product placement. Also, alert me when they manufacture the Andy-from-Parks & Recreation blowup doll.)
Kinston police Sgt. Roland Davis said an off-duty officer the store had hired to help with security during Black Friday shopping used the chemical while trying to make an arrest during a disturbance.
Angel Bunting, who was shopping at the store, said a man fell into a display as people lined up for discounted cell phones. She said she believed it was an accident but security thought there was a fight.
Sideways video of the arrest is here:
Charles was right; we're just all pepper-spraying the hell out of each other nowadays.
You know all that talk about Amazon smothering their employees to the point of heat exhaustion in stifling, un-air conditioned, 100-degree-plus warehouses? Well, never mind. It turns out Jeff Bezos tries to balance things out by allegedly freezing his employees during the winter season.
Multiple warehouse workers were treated at hospitals for exposure after being outside, without coats, in temperatures below freezing for prolonged periods, including one night for about two hours, according to OSHA records.
Workers interviewed said Amazon forced them to remain huddled in the parking lot on frigid nights while many workers were wearing only shorts and T-shirts. After attendance was taken to make sure all employees evacuated, warehouse workers said they were not allowed to go to their cars to keep warm. Instead, they were instructed by warehouse managers to use one another's body heat and told that anyone caught going to their cars would be disciplined and could be terminated, workers said.
Apparently, Amazon was concerned about theft. Warehouse workers normally have to pass through metal detectors on their way out, and the false fire alarms were suspected to be a ruse to sneak merchandise out of the warehouse.
Fair enough. But that doesn't exactly give Amazon the moral or legal right to force their employees to stand outside for hours in sub-freezing temperatures, in nothing but shorts and T-shirts. On one night, according to OSHA records, six employees were treated for exposure at a local hospital. But, you know, at least nobody stole anything, so I guess the end justifies the means.
So sorry, Jeff, for accusing you of running a sweatshop. You're clearly not. At least during the winter months.
Slog tipper Ziggity sent this along: At the beginning of November, yoga sidelines manufacturer Lululemon has started printing "Who is John Galt?" on their shopping bags. Yes, because there wasn't enough Atlas Shrugged in your yoga life, Lululemon is bringing the virtue of selfishness to your mat. A Lululemon blog post explains that " lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, first read [Atlas Shrugged] when he was eighteen years old working away from home. Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is lululemon’s company vision)." In his defense, I think guys named Chip are forcibly issued Ayn Rand's collected works when they turn 18. It goes on:
Many of us choose mediocrity without even realizing it. We think we “have” to do things or “aren’t able” to do what we want. We create rules and experience fear when we dream of a life we love. Why do we do this? Because our society encourages mediocrity. It is easier to be mediocre than to be great. ... Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?
The comment section is feisty, with claims that liberals "drool over Marx books." But Ziggity puts it best: "Yes, Bellevue moms, the sweat of your brow belongs to you alone! (Unless you're a 12-year-old Chinese girl with good stitching skills.)"
Starting today, Apple Store managers will have to undergo euphemistically-titled "union awareness" training, to learn about attempts by employees to unionize.
I underwent union awareness training twice—once at Borders, and once during my awful month at Walmart. In my long, awkward career as a retail employee, those union awareness training videos (at Walmart) and meetings (at Borders) were the most awkward part of those experiences. The videos sucked because poorly paid actors in Walmart outfits were reading a dumb script about how evil unions were and I was paid Colorado's minimum wage (I think it was $4.25 at the time—Colorado is a work-for hire state) to sit in a room and watch it. The meetings sucked because the lame-ass manager Ann Arbor had sent to get my store on track kept talking about all the things he wasn't allowed to say to us. (It's been a long time, but I recall him saying a number of variations of this statement: "I can't legally tell you to not vote to form a union, but if I could legally tell you not to form a union, I'd say you should take a look at the other Borders stores that unionized. Because if you did that, you'd see it doesn't help your salaries and they take dues out of your check, so you wind up making even less. But I can't legally talk about that, so I won't.") It was weaselly, nasty, and dumb.
So, you know, way to go, Apple! You're joining a mighty firmament of corporations that have mistreated and misled their retail employees. Heaven forbid those people representing you to the public every day should try to use collective bargaining to make their jobs a little more profitable and comfortable. Good to see you're dead-set on treating your ground-level employees like shit. I bet your anti-union videos will be really aesthetically pleasing, at least.
That beagle must have been a flounder in another life. It's not unusual to see owners leading their dogs around Elliott Bay Book Company, but this was a highly unusual dog. When viewed from above, the thing looked like it was flattened, sideways, against the floor. But not quite against the floor: It was lumpen and seemed to float a couple of inches above its own shadow, somehow. If you weren't looking right at it, it looked like a trick of the light, or a hallucination.
The dog was winding around and through the legs of roughly a hundred people who had gathered at Elliott Bay to celebrate the midnight release of Haruki Murakami's new novel, 1Q84. They browsed the stacks, killing time. Some of them were on dates with people who did not appreciate hanging out in a bookstore at midnight. A few other folks were giddy; some of them had had a few drinks. Customers were frantically filling out trivia forms; the questions ranged from the simple ("The title 1Q84 just might be an allusion to the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by which writer?") to the difficult ("Which three stories in [Murakami's first short story collection] Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman were originally published in 1984?").
Finally, at midnight, the winners of the trivia contest were announced: Three people had tied for first prize, with eleven out of twenty correct answers each. One of the winners couldn't restrain herself; she issued a joyous yelp. They each won an autographed copy of 1Q84. (Murakami's signature looks sketchy, but somehow precise. The characters float above each other in loosely arranged constellations. Find photos of the signature and the night in a slideshow over here.) Seven more copies were raffled off, and then everyone formed a polite line and picked up their unsigned copies. Several people openly grumbled about the dust jacket of the book. As part of his striking design—the book really does look like an event, with a 2001-like stately buildup to the first few pages of text—Chip Kidd chose to make the dust jacket out of a tracing-paper-like material that crumpled easily and didn't want to hold the shape of the thick book. It will be hard to find mint first editions of 1Q84 in a few years. (I wonder how those complainers will feel when they get home and find the glaring typo on the very first page of the book. That's a disappointing stumble at the beginning of a long journey.) Elliott Bay sold about ninety copies. The store was almost empty by quarter after midnight. Murakami's fiction has been known to overtly affect the dreams of his readers; lots of people were going to be sharing the same psychic space that night. Which brings me to my next point:
Citing rising costs, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, told its employees this week that all future part-time employees who work less than 24 hours a week on average will no longer qualify for any of the company’s health insurance plans.
In addition, any new employees who average 24 hours to 33 hours a week will no longer be able to include a spouse as part of their health care plan, although children can still be covered.
So what is the Republican response to this? The market, with all its wisdom and compassion, clearly isn't providing health care coverage to its workers anymore, because health care costs are out of control. Are Republicans going to say that if Walmart just didn't have to pay to meet those pesky safety and environmental regulations, they'd be able to provide quality health care for all their employees? That's basically what every single Republican presidential candidate is saying. and it's total fucking bullshit. Government has to do something about health care costs, because even the precious, all-knowing market can't afford them.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (and his iPhone) stopped by University Village this morning to celebrate the grand opening of the new Microsoft Store. Watch as McGinn explains why nobody camping outside the Microsoft Store was arrested.
As always, please excuse the crappy videography; my cameraman was drunk. On the other hand, there's no excuse for McGinn's nervous laugh.
Goldy and I have just arrived at University Village to cover the grand opening of the 12th-ever Microsoft Store. And "grand" this "opening" sure is! Dozens of people "occupied" University Village last night, camping overnight for the privilege of being the first few customers in Microsoft's new retail mecca (good thing nobody told the SPD, eh?). Now hundreds of people, from as far away as Ohio and Australia, are lined up, waiting for the chance to play Kinect with a couple of famous sports stars*, pick up free tickets to a Black Keys concert, and stock up on the newest, hottest models of Zunes, Windows Phones, and Microsoft Word!
The festivities are about to begin (find a full schedule right here), but I just wanted to tell you that it's all so very glamorous here, with Microsoft-citement spreading like the plague! I've even heard a rumor that Steve Ballmer might make an appearance—I hope they've brought a few hunky firemen to catch all the swooning ladies!
Click to enlarge
It's not too late for you to head out to University Village. Just call in "sick" and join the festivities**! If you absolutely have to stay where you are, don't fret: we'll be posting updates right here on Slog! Can you possibly bear the excitement?!!?! Gotta run—don't wanna miss the sure-to-be-scintillating address from Microsoft corporate vice president Rich Kaplan!
* I have four words for you—Edgar, Keller, Martinez, and Kasey; do the match, bitchez!
** It's super-easy to find the new Microsoft Store; it's directly across the parking lot from the Apple store.
Today Shelf Awareness linked to this article on the Reader Privacy Act of 2011, signed into law by California governor Jerry Brown this week. Already in place for libraries, this extension of the law "will require government agencies to obtain a court order before they access customer records from book stores or online retailers."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, who backed the bill along with the ACLU, Google, TechNet, and the Consumer Federation of California, said in a statement:
"Reading choices reveal intimate facts about our lives, from our political and religious beliefs to our health concerns. Digital books and book services can paint an even more detailed picture—including books browsed but not read, particular pages viewed, how long spent on each page, and any electronic notes made by the reader. Without strong privacy protections like the ones in the Reader Privacy Act, reading records can be too easily targeted by government scrutiny as well as exposed in legal proceedings like divorce cases and custody battles."
Good work, California. Get on it, everybody else.
(Related: Remember when American librarians wentallbadass about the USA Patriot Act? Librarians are so dreamy.)
According to a source with knowledge of the project, the idea is simple: these nondescript boxes will be in 7-Eleven stores across the country and act as a sort of P.O. box for Amazon purchases. Once a customer makes a buy on Amazon’s website he can select a 7-Eleven close to work, or on the way home and have the package dropped off there.
1. Rumors are circulating that the new Ultimate Spider-Man* will be black. According to Bleeding Cool, the New England comic book store chain Larry's Comics started posting racist Spider-Man jokes on Twitter in response to the news:
In the comments to Bleeding Cool's post, someone claiming to be Larry from Larry's Comics says he posted the jokes because "Marvel making Ultimate Spider-Man African American is simply a cheap publicity play to bolster sinking sales. I think it's a desperation move, and I took some good natured jabs at it." He continues: "Rich and others take offense when I occasionally use the Word Gay to mean lame. My new England panties do not get bunched up when the english use fag for ciggarette...Anyhoo...I'm not homophobic and I'm not a racist."
I’m done with Marvel and all Marvel Kirby-derived product, period. No movies (I was planning to see Captain America this weekend; that’s forever off the table), no more comics from their Kirby legacy, nothing.