On-The-Job Training

Today, Jack and Wendy gallivanted off to sign books, visit bookstores, and see old friends in Philly, NYC, and Charlotte, leaving Shopsitter Andrew Whalen to sort it all out and bravely captain the ship o’ books and its furry, mew-tinous crew.

During my first week in Big Stone Gap I was taught a great deal about operating a small business. There’s accounting, stocking, inventory management, and that cornerstone of every great business: bribing animals with treats so they don’t bark at customers or claw your eyeballs.

But some policies at Tales of the Lonesome Pine are different from your standard multinational mega-conglomerate next door. For one, the training videos are better. The dress code is more lax too, unless slippers are company issue and I didn’t get the memo. (C’mon Wendy! All pajama-related memos are supposed to be delivered in triplicate!)

Perhaps most bewildering for me is the total lack of a customer script. At first I copied some of Jack’s mannerisms. The first time he heard me say, “Hi! Looking for anything special, or just in for a browse?” he gave me a look that would frost every field in Scotland. “That’s my line!” he said, covering his murderous intent in completely convincing joviality. I’ve since learned, through empirical research, that people will listen to a man with a Scottish accent more than a person with a vague Midwestern accent who mispronounces pillow as pellow and milk as melk. Not sure why — further research is required — but initial results lead me to believe it has something to do with a Scottish brogue being (and this is a scientific term here) ADORABLE. With this knowledge in hand, I now know I can’t just copy Jack’s patter, unless eyes glazing over as I ramble somehow contributes to customer satisfaction.

Also, I never saw the Org Chart that lays out the official job titles for the menagerie. Is Bert Head of Security, or Public Relations? Mix those two up and you have a serious problem on your hands. (I’ve since looked this up and found on the blog that Bert is security. I probably shouldn’t have let him write all those press releases.) Owen has been a constant companion, but we’ve had some tussles over chain of command. I’ve since been testing him out in different capacities. Assigning him accounting was probably my biggest mistake.

I’ve now come to think of him as an intern and he’s come to think of me as a clawing post. Progress.

So, while there’s been some hiccups along the way, my on-the-job training is progressing. But I won’t know for sure how I’m doing until CEO Val-Kyttie’s performance review.