December 1st, 2003


Pottery Barn - An Experiment in Anarchy

So I've got a seasonal holiday job at Pottery Barn, or "The Pottery Barn" as everyone there refers to it, since they all seem to be under the mistaken impression that they work at the ONLY pottery barn in existence. I've worked there two days so far and my main question is this:
Is anyone running this place?

I went in for a group interview. There were nine of us and we walked in to a room with eight seats and I thought, "Brilliant. They choose their employees through a game of musical chairs."

They don't of course. The process is much more arbitrary. After asking us questions in front of the group I learned that everyone other than myself had worked in retail for at least 2 years. They ask me several questions which I answer poorly. In some cases they ask me a question and I, not having an answer, give them an answer to a DIFFERENT question, sort of like those people on Jeopardy who say, "Oh-- the dates of the Vietnam war? Well I know the dates of the KOREAN war were XYZ."

The "manager," Mark, then asked us to come in one by one and he would tell us who had gotten the job.
So one by one people go in and come out and the ones that come out filter out through the store. I go in and learn that I've gotten the job. "Amazing," I think. If I got the job and I was the least qualified, who on earth did they cut?
"Nobody," Mark tells us. "I hired everybody. I just told you individually because I think it boosts morale. I have a hard time not hiring people because I like them all so much."
Well I'm having a hard time not reaching out and popping that pimple-looking thing on your ear, Mark, but I'm going to try to hold back.
Why, you ask? Because common sense tells me it's a bad idea. Have you heard of common sense, Mark? It's more than just a pamplet you learn about in history class.

Establishing that we've now been hired, he then gives us a piece of paper and tells us to "make up our schedule." This entails writing down when you feel like coming in and coming in at those times. Some people chose to work 6 or 8 hour weeks. No one seems to have a problem with this. I decided to work a 25 hour week. No one seems to have a problem with this either. No one even seems to notice. They just seem pleasantly surprised when you show up.
There was a training session on Saturday, he told us. "If you want to come in for that you can." And if we don't want to? Not a problem. Being trained is optional. Knowing what you're doing is going above and beyond the call of duty. During the holiday season they bulk up their staff from 24 to 75 workers, so that as soon as a customer walks through the door at least 14 employees fall on them like a pack of lions.

I would also like to note that I am, very possibly, the clumsiest person on the face of the earth. If I'm not falling down a flight of stairs I'm tripping on my pant legs or walking into parking meters. I was not blessed with an abundance of coordination or even any at all--I make the three stooges look like Baryshnikov. And yet here is a store who has hired me to do little more than carry heavy pieces of glass and ceramics back and forth across their store and then stack them on top of other heavy pieces of glass and ceramics.

Can we say "Recipe for disaster?"

On the bright side, I get a 40% discount on anything in the store, so those members of my family that stay on my good side should be getting fabulous Christmas gifts this year.
Or they WILL be wonderful Christmas gifts, once I glue them back together.