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The proverbial Straw and a meltdown #178

The proverbial Straw and a meltdown

Blog #177 I talked about when Aaron sets up the Zappos interview. In this blog I want to talk about The proverbial Straw and a meltdown

The straw that broke the camel’s back. This  is a phrase usually used when a string of bad events happen that lead to the final thing that makes someone lose their patience. Example would be “everything was going wrong this morning and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I spilled coffee all over myself” The origins of this phrase is unknown. Knowing that a Camel has a very strong back and people early on used them to transport goods you can imagine how it got started.

So back to my straw. The way the job went everyday this week was I would get in at 9 or 10pm and check to see that the trucks were in the dock. The team came in at 10pm when the store closed. Yep we had two trucks tonight. The Logistics team lead came over to me and said half the team was detained by INS tonight for questionable citizenship. Great…This is going to be fun to explain in the morning.

The Hardlines ETL came in and I informed him we had half the team in tonight. We both looked at each like “O’boy.” I was glad he was there to help but he wasn’t very nice to people. He screamed at people to work faster all night long. I told him to lighten up and he said “You don’t understand, you can’t be nice to people, they won’t get the job done.” Not sure if that was the initial straw that broke the camel’s back as I was 100% sure that straw would arrive around 7am.

Unloading the trucks

Unloading the trucks is like a bucket brigade. By that I mean you have two people in the truck throwing the cases to the front (unless its fragile). There are ramps with rollers that make the cases easier to go down the line. Before they are placed on a pallet they are scanned in. There are several pallets set up by department so a pallet gets pulled out by pallet jack to that department once it’s full.

You usually have people on the floor that start filling the shelves with goods. We were half staffed though, so we had the truck team and a small team on the floor. The people that were there really worked 110% that night despite the other ETL swearing and yelling all night long. Dude lighten up! He kept telling me I wasn’t going to make it as a Logistics ETL if I was nice. You can’t be nice. You have to be a dick. Well I wasn’t that guy…

Right around 6am We started pulling stuff to the back and setting it so we could still work the cases during the day, we had no choice. We got further along than I thought. This team had the same results usually with a full team so we did pretty good considering. Now the question was which Store Manager was going to show up. The Nice very personable STL or the Bi-Polar one.

The Morning walk

Most mornings, everything is put away and the backroom is clean and ready to go. When this happens there are Pallets stacked up in the backroom and not all the shelves get re-stocked properly. This was going to be fun…The day ends for logistics with a walk with the STL and a report of how things went.

The STL arrives and I tell him what happened. “YOU ARE GOING TO START WITH EXCUSES!” he screamed. Okay Bi-Polar STL was here today, great…We got to cosmetics and the team leader was putting some of the stock we didn’t get to up on the shelves. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? YOU DON’T DO THAT, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO IT!” And when I say yelled I mean YELLED.

It was brutal every department I got swore at with the F word many many times. Can’t count how many times he said “What are you stupid or something?” This was in front of the team members too.  It was like a walk of shame, except no fun at night either. WHAT THE FUCK, I CAN”T BELIEVE THIS. Over and over, the whole walk. People would actually scurry away from him as he approached. Rule by fear.

Fun part was about to begin, the backroom. The whole walk the hardlines ETL kept saying, “told you not to be nice.” He wasn’t that smart, so I just ignored him. At this point it didn’t really matter. We get to the back and there were stacks of pallets lined up. “YOU AREN’T LEAVING UNTIL THIS IS ALL UP!”

The proverbial straw and a meltdown

With a very intense face, I looked at him and I said “you know what… (pause)  I think…(abnormal pause)  you …(second abnormal  pause)  SHOULD GO FUCK YOURSELF” It was the most amazing feeling to get that out. I towered over him too, which made the effect that much better. “Excuse me” he said. I asked him if he really wanted me to repeat myself, he said no. The Hardlines ETL started to walk away at this point.

Why don’t you take tomorrow off, the STL said. I told him I was going to take the next two days off, because I knew I had the interview coming up and wanted to get rested. The straw worked in my favor this time…

Yes, I was ready for my leap of faith, the answer was going to be yes I just needed to nail the interview now. When I got to my car that morning I let out the biggest sigh. It was going to be over soon. A smile came to my face. I was going to be okay. It was almost comical, where the hero goes through so much crap and at the end comes through and has that last chuckle. He made it through it. I can hardly wait to call my dad and tell him what was going on. He was my voice of reason and I needed that now.

My Dad

So I went to get some coffee as I was exhausted and had a little bit of a drive home. The coffee wouldn’t keep me up at this point, the anger would though. I called my dad. Told him the story and he said his famous line “You only live once, better to live it happy” He thought the Zappos job was the way to go. We had a nice long chat and I felt good about everything. My dad had a way of doing that for me.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Aaron sets up the Zappos interview #177

Aaron sets up the Zappos interview

Blog #176 I talked about being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening. In this blog I want to talk about when Aaron sets up the Zappos interview.


After a year of bad mood swings I was done. It had affected my marriage so bad I didn’t even know where that was. Fact was I didn’t have time to think about it, I was working too much. At Nordstrom there was always times that were hard on the marriage, Half yearly twice a year and the Anniversary sale. Mostly because I was working Bell to Bell. When I got home I was exhausted and wasn’t in the mood to hear the problems at home.

Add ten times that stress with this Target job. No exaggeration. It’s one thing to work a lot of hours and just be physically tired but when you have someone swear at you too, it becomes mental as well. This store manager was just mean to people. We’d be walking the store in the morning and if he caught someone just standing around he’d scream “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? GET TO WORK!” It was tough. I certainly wasn’t used to treating people like this and even worse witnessing it as an Asst. Manager.

Interviewing again

After a few discussions with Diane on what to do, I decided to start looking. To her credit she thought I would make a great Store Manager, so can’t fault her for thinking well of me. I just wanted out. I applied at IKEA for a logistics position. Went through 3 interviews and was hopeful something would come of it. They seemed pretty nice over there. Never heard anything after that. Not even the form letter declining you, nothing…

The Gap was also hiring so I applied for a buyer position there and knew some people I worked with at Nordstrom there. They were based in SF so I took BART up to the city and went in the morning for the interview. This was like a Nordstrom Reunion as well, saw a bunch of people I recognized there. My interview person takes me to an office and asks me a few standard questions.

Another senior person comes in and asks me what I liked about Nordstrom. My answer was how we were recognized for our good business and the growth potential was really great. “We don’t celebrate wins here, it makes you complacent” Wow he really said that. One thing was for sure I wasn’t going to work there, even if I got an offer. I understand being aggressive and all that but to not celebrate wins? Who would ever want to work that way.

My third interview was with Shoe Pavilion. They had a nice business there and I knew a few people there as well. Small world retail is. Marty, my friend from Nordstrom was working there and we talked briefly before my interview. It was always nice to chat with Marty. Interview went well but we couldn’t come to terms with the medical requirements which was important for our growing family.

As I was leaving I saw Bob who was Martha’s old RMM. As I remember he wasn’t that nice to her so maybe this is a blessing too. I was looking forward to working with Marty again but had to keep to what I needed for the family’s sake. After these three incidents in interviewing I was getting frustrated with myself. I think I was so miserable that it compounded everything. My interview with Martha and Michael was such an amazing experience. Even the Target interview was positive. Is it me? I started to have a twinge of self-doubt.

I know what I need to do now

After a week of this I decided to call Aaron and see what was going on with Zappos. He said I should talk to Fred. Meanwhile he was going to  set something up and have me come in to meet everyone. Fred calls me the next day. “Third times a charm Mike!” We started talking about how great the business was almost doubling the year before. The benefits they had were also pretty good for a startup company.

He put some things on the table and we ended going back and forth a few times. I wasn’t trying to be difficult but I knew I had to sell this to Diane as well. He assured me things would work out. They needed someone with women’s experience and I knew a lot of vendors I could help bring on as well. Aaron sets up the Zappos interview for the following week.

Meanwhile back at Target, The Store Manager wanted me to work graveyard with the logistics team because the trucks weren’t getting finished 100% at night. They could handle one truck okay but if there was a second truck the store looked pretty rough in the morning. My new hours would be 10PM to 7AM.  It was going to be interesting on how I would pull the interview off next week with no sleep.

I started learning Spanish from a Pimsleur audio tape too since most of the team spoke mostly Spanish. I had taken two years of Spanish in high school so it came back pretty quickly. The first few days was rough getting my sleeping patterns down and the kids had to be quiet in the day time so I could sleep. Lucky for me they had school too.

 I couldn’t  figure out what the issue was with them not finishing on time at first but a double truck was coming in a few days, so I’d get the full story soon enough. I asked the hardlines ETL to help me that night, to give me better insight on the problem so I could find the solution. He agreed, so that made me feel a little better, two sets of eyes at least. I was looking forward to the Zappos interview every passing day…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Transfered to the Target Hayward store opening #176

Transfered to the Target Hayward store opening

Blog #175 I talked about how our Target Corporate visit went well. In this blog I want to talk about me being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening.


There was a new store opening in Hayward and I was to be transferred as the ETL for logistics there. I hadn’t really worked with the logistics team too much in the old store but was excited to learn. Basically this position was making sure all the shipments were handled properly. Every night there were trucks and they would dock the container and the overnight team would scan everything in and restock the floor. Everything else would be scanned into backstock.


This position was 2nd in line to the STL or Store Team Leader so I was excited to learn this part in my new career. Part of the responsibility was to work with the overnight team to make sure everything was done correctly. The position itself wasn’t a graveyard position but if things went south you would have to figure out why. I planned on working a few weeks with the overnight team to learn the process.


Other ETL’s in this store weren’t as nice as the team in Milpitas. We were a pretty tight group there and all got along pretty well. This team was different. Couldn’t figure out why but one thing I did know was the Hardlines ETL thought he should have the Logistics position.  Made things a little awkward between us. He was kind of a stiff personality and wasn’t all that nice to people. Plus he was one of those managers that liked to intimidate people and while I always had high expectations I felt you treat all people with respect.




My new STL was super nice at first. He had a very calm personality and was very friendly. We got along pretty well and I enjoyed our conversations. Knowing I was learning this position, he wasn’t too much of a hard ass. He wasn’t a George though…George was really warm and rarely went off on people.


A few times I’d be walking the floor with him and we were having a nice walk and he would just go off the rails on another ETL. I stood there shocked. This was another side that made me a little nervous with how long he would be patient with my learning curve. He would scream at someone then come back still angry then a weird smile would come over his face and he’d talk really calm with me. Like something from a scary movie.


Observing his rants went on for several months and so far I didn’t have any of his anger go my way. To make sure of this I tried to get friendlier with the Hardlines ETL on running a good logistics business. There were a lot of good pointers which I tried to incorporate with my strategy. This helped him out too because the Hardlines area was so crucial to the stores business. You sell a lot of tide and other things at Target.




The regional supervisor came in a few times and he was a real hard-ass. I could see why our STL would have the mood swings, who knew what he had to endure himself. My regional in the other area was a great guy. He was on the quiet side but very professional. Had high standards too but didn’t get into the yelling stuff much. This whole way of doing things was so different than what I was used to.


 At Nordstrom  my RMM could be short with people and make you feel small but never yelled. I grew to appreciate how he treated me poorly now. Funny how things work sometimes. The grass is definitely not always greener on the other side.


People skills are so important on building a strong team. When you yell and scream at people, all that does is make them afraid of you. To truly build a strong team you need to have a vision, get everyone on board and celebrate the wins together. If there are tough times you rally everyone to try harder or a different approach.


When people aren’t living up to your expectations you need to coach them on how to do the job properly. If they aren’t capable of that, you give them notice. Yelling never solves anything. Treating people poorly is the sign of an insecure person. Being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening I thought was going to rejuvenate me. I knew this was going to get old quickly…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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