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Circuit City and the American Dream 835

Posted by kdawson
from the scrambling-for-less dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Circuit City said yesterday that it had fired 3,400 of its highest-paid sales staff — 8% of its employees — and will replace them with lower-paid workers. Sign On San Diego called this 'a risky strategy to cut costs that goes beyond the layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes commonly used by struggling companies.' The fired workers have a chance to apply for lower-paying positions after a 10-week wait, the company said. Quoting a Circuit City spokesman: 'This is no reflection on job performance... We deeply regret the negative impact. Retail is extremely competitive, and if we're going to thrive and operate a successful company... we just have to control costs.' So: work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary."
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Circuit City and the American Dream

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  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:36PM (#18530693) Homepage
    "Work hard, become the best in your field..."

    Yeah, sorry -- the folks working at Circuit City don't generally really qualify as being the "best in their field", unless you're defining the "field" as "people who work at Circuit City". Besides, Circuit City's not on commission anymore so you can't even argue that these folks were necessarily their top performers.

    But let's accept for a moment the premise of this article. If these folks really are such great salesmen, this is opportunity knockin' at their door -- they can get better jobs at higher-end stores, they can start their own higher-end stores, they can get into selling something that has worthwhile commissions involved with it like software or cars or whatever. I mean, let's face it: Being the best sales associate at Circuit City is along the same lines as being the best cook at McDonald's. If that's where your vision ends, that's almost certainly where you belong.

    That aside, what offends me most is that this thread is this horrific notion that we've devolved to a point where the meaning of the term "American dream" has mutated from 'boundless opportunity in the marketplace and the ability to move out of the economic class you were born into' to 'lifetime employment at Circuit City'.

    Speaking only for myself, if that really were the case then I'd want no part of it.

    The American Dream as I understand it is that when you get laid off from a shitty dead-end job you can go out and find or create something better if you have the drive and/or ability for it. And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Applekid (993327)
      Your analysis on the "American Dream" is spot on. And it's so obviously misplaced here:
      The summary and TFA both have no mention of any "Dreams", American or otherwise.

      Not that crappy old Circuit City doesn't deserve some bias the way they treat some of their customers, but bias none the less.
      • Short Circuit City (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:58PM (#18531113) Homepage Journal
        "In the 1980s capitalism triumphed over communism. In the 1990s it triumphed over democracy."
        --David Korten
        • Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:32PM (#18531787) Homepage Journal

          "In the 1980s capitalism triumphed over communism. In the 1990s it triumphed over democracy."

          What do employee/employer relationships at Best Buy have to do with democracy? Nobody has subverted representative government here. One particular corporate entity has made a business decision to cut labor costs by getting rid of some of its more highly-paid employees. There's no violation of contract, no usurpation of rights. There is no right to employment in the United States, and never has been.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by utopianfiat (774016)
            I assume you're somewhat into Computer Science, can you tell me why the UpHeap algorithm is average constant complexity?
            Because generally 50% of the smaller nodes are on the bottom of the tree.
            How many sales associates work under each manager? How many managers work under each store manager? How many store managers work under the regional coordinator? They're pruning the bottom of the tree- rather than take a chunk out of the executive money-sink, they'd kill off FIVE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED EMPLOYEES. They're
          • Re:Democracy? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @03:28PM (#18532877) Journal
            But there is a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The last two are pretty hard when you get fired because some CEO wants to make another $10,000,000 bonus. Liberty: you are only truly free in a capitalist society if you have money. Tough without a job. Happiness: money doesn't buy happiness, but living in a box because you have no job actively contributes to unhappiness.
          • Re:Democracy? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by wsherman (154283) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:21PM (#18533913)

            What do employee/employer relationships at Best Buy have to do with democracy? Nobody has subverted representative government here.

            People mean a lot of different things when they talk about "democracy".

            What I tend to think about is the early history of the USA. Basically, you had bunch of monarchies in Europe with the attitude that "what's good for the king is good for the country". Then, some rather enlightened people in what was to become the USA looked at the situation and concluded that if you let the leaders act in their own best interest then they take just about everything for themselves and leave everyone else with very little.

            The way I see it, the key realizatoin was that, unless leaders are subjected to oversight and compelled to act in the best interest of everyone, leaders will instead act in their own best interest to the detriment of everyone else. At the time, these ideas were applied to the leaders of governments.

            While there are differences between governments and corporations, there are also fundamental similarities. In theory, one can avoid being subjected to either governments or corporations (e.g. buy a house boat and live out on the ocean). In practice, for a normal life, one must be subject to both governments and corporations. While it is the governments that most directly use force (e.g. polie and military), in practice the governments use their force on behalf of the corporations so there is little practical difference.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by falconwolf (725481)

              What I tend to think about is the early history of the USA. Basically, you had bunch of monarchies in Europe with the attitude that "what's good for the king is good for the country". Then, some rather enlightened people in what was to become the USA looked at the situation and concluded that if you let the leaders act in their own best interest then they take just about everything for themselves and leave everyone else with very little.

              Actually it wasn't in the US that these enlightened people came from

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hognoxious (631665)

              Basically, you had bunch of monarchies in Europe with the attitude that "what's good for the king is good for the country". Then, some rather enlightened people in what was to become the USA looked at the situation and concluded that if you let the leaders act in their own best interest then they take just about everything for themselves and leave everyone else with very little.

              How ironic that the country ruled by the second King George in close sucession is West of the Atlantic this time. Seriously, the U

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by superdude72 (322167)
              George III wasn't an absolute monarch. England had the Magna Carta, a Parliament that wasn't a rubber stamp, and a well developed legal system well before the American colonies existed. When the American colonists rebelled, they were demanding the rights they felt they were entitled to as Englishmen, having lived under representative governments their entire lives.

              Checks on royal authority and the existence of a broad middle class helped the British monarchs keep their heads while absolute monarchs on the c
      • "Not that crappy old Circuit City..."

        This is just another chapter in an old story. The top management of Circuit City doesn't know what they are doing, so the company has trouble making money, but it is only the employees who suffer.

        --
        Is U.S. government violence a good in the world, or does violence just cause more violence?
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:43PM (#18530827)
      And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now

      After 10 weeks bored out of your mind on the couch, watching tv with a beer in your hand and listening to your wife pestering you to find another job? not sure the red shirt will fit anymore...
    • by ez76 (322080) <slashdot@@@e76...us> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:44PM (#18530847) Homepage

      Besides, Circuit City's not on commission anymore so you can't even argue that these folks were necessarily their top performers.

      Just because they're not paid for their performance doesn't mean their performance is not evaluated on the basis of sales.

      The whole "don't worry, I'm not commission" line that Best Buy made famous is just that, a ploy to comfort the mark.

      • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:49PM (#18532125) Journal
        I recently suggested a solution [slashdot.org] to this dilemma based on someone's remark on that topic.

        Basically, someone should set up "stores" that don't make money on sales at all, but essentially just rent you access to the showroom so you can figure out what you need (and then perhaps rate the people there based on how informative they are -- like Slashdot) and then find the cheapest place online to get it (either using their computers there or just go home having a better idea of what you need). They would have no qualms about telling you, "ah, you don't need this stuff".

        Depending on the money needed to make it work, you could either run them for-profit or as a co-op where your "membership fee" is all or partly your service of working there part-time in a department you're already knowledgeable about. You help people find what computer they should get, and in return, old folks there teach you what gardening equipment you should get (for example).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by petabyte (238821)
      Ya know, I'm only 20-something but my vision of the American Dream doesn't ever include getting laid-off - and certainly not by a company trying to reduce costs. How do you know these people views this job as dead end?

      It involves working hard, making good money, building a family and a good life for all of us. White-picket fence and all of that (though I hate picket fences - I'll take a split-rail please).

      If these people were the highest paid sales staff and they aren't making commission, then I would ima
      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:56PM (#18531071) Journal
        Then as a 40 something guy who has rode the rollercoaster of business (and done well) let me offer you one piece of advice: The only security you have is in what you can do. You will face layoffs, you will face hard times. If you keep increasing your skills, learning new skills, and improving yourself, then you are less likely to be the one to get laid off. And if you are, you will find it much easier to get a job.

        The "constant layoffs" are not new to 2007, it has been going on for decades. The 80's had a bad reputation for the decade of greed for the same reason. Again, all you have is what you know you can do. No company will ever "give" you security.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:13PM (#18531413)

          You will face layoffs, you will face hard times.

          Sorry, no.

          I work for the government. I'm a "civil servant". I make high 5 figures, and I'm not management. I'm a member of a union. I will not be fired / layed off / downsized / whatever.

          Have a nice day.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            And that is what's wrong with American government agencies. There are so many ridiculous protections that people have little motivation to do their jobs well, which is why anything the government does ends up half as good and takes three times as long as the private sector. Oh please, lets do elect Hillary so my healthcare can be run like that!
        • by melchoir55 (218842) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:45PM (#18532033)

          Then as a 40 something guy who has rode the rollercoaster of business (and done well) let me offer you one piece of advice: The only security you have is in what you can do. You will face layoffs, you will face hard times. If you keep increasing your skills, learning new skills, and improving yourself, then you are less likely to be the one to get laid off. And if you are, you will find it much easier to get a job.

          The "constant layoffs" are not new to 2007, it has been going on for decades. The 80's had a bad reputation for the decade of greed for the same reason. Again, all you have is what you know you can do. No company will ever "give" you security.
          One of the main points in this article is that the people who DID work hard and improve themselves were the ones who got laid off. Saying they [skilled workers] can just go get a better job elsewhere seems shortsighted since, if they could easily go get a better job, one would presume they'd have already done so.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2007 @03:04PM (#18532429)
            Good points on both ends. It is very true that your skills are the only security you really have, but corporate culture really does need a change.
            I love how all of the large retail business like this are always stressing "team work" and "family" to employees and expect employees to be devoted to the company when most of these same companies will ruin the lives of their employees the second it is 0.001% more profitable for them to do so.
            I particularly love the occasional business article that pops up in which employers have the audacity to complain that new employees show no loyalty to their companies and aren't willing to invest in their jobs. Well, that's because we aren't all morons. Corporate culture set the tone and will now have to live with the results.
      • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:04PM (#18531229)
        I read your post, and the first thing that sprang to my mind is that you haven't held a serious job yet.

        Your vision of the american dream (the one I had before too) is the stereotypical Horatio Alger story that permeates the entire work culture of the United States, that can be summed up as: if you work hard, you will rise and get a better life. Unfortunately, and this is something that you learn as you get older and have been working for a while for one, more likely several companies, the Horatio Alger dream is just that, a dream. Yes it would be very nice if it was still true, but the reality is that very VERY few better their lives through hard work and perseverance. Very few people start out selling apples and end up millionaires, a-la rockefeller. What happens in reality is that most of the population toils to pays credit, and a sizeable part of the population toils just to make ends meet and stay off the street.

        It's my opinion that the so-called american dream is mostly a myth implanted in people's minds early on in their lives to make them work harder for the same wage, constantly hoping for better days. The reality of America today is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class finds the "middle" slowly drifting to the bottom.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not a "leftist" who complains about social inequalities, I have nothing against people being rich, and I myself work hard to have a better future, but without much hope because unfortunately, the social elevator that would allow people to make their lives better through hard work is mostly out of order: most of America is inside the cabin frantically pushing the buttons, hoping that it will finally start to rise, and it doesn't. I think you'll come to realize this too one day.
        • by homer_s (799572) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:28PM (#18531693)
          The reality of America today is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class finds the "middle" slowly drifting to the bottom.

          That is simply not true. Did the poor in the 1950s have access to the kind of healthcare that someone on Medicare has to now? Did they drive better cards? Did they have access to the kind of technology ppl have access to today?

          Yes, the rich get richer much much faster than the poor do - but it is false to say that the poor get poorer. That is only true in socialist paradises like Zimbabwe and soon Venezuela.

          Read this [latimes.com] for some more commentary. There is also a piece by the leader of the communist party of the USA for more 'balanced' coverage.
        • by HikingStick (878216) <z01riemer@noSPAM.hotmail.com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @03:03PM (#18532405)
          I believe there is a couple key point to the American Dream that you (and many others) inadvertantly miss. First, the American Dream cannot be realized by most people if they are willing to work for someone else. The American Dream--time and again--has been realized by those who, for whatever reason, could not or would not allow themselves to be wage-slaves. They started cottage industries--some failed, and some succeeded. Those who succeeded saw the American Dream fulfilled. Those who did not succeed faced a choice--either try again (to achieve the Dream) or believe that the American Dream is a lie. There is a third choice for those who taste failure. Most accept it as the default option but they typically will not assent to it: the American Dream is real, but they reinvent it as being something different--having a modest wage, access to credit, and some luxuries that fit their preconceptions. For them, that is good enough.

          The second point that is often missed when discussing the American Dream is what made it possible: something I will call the "American Spirit"--that we, as a people, are willing to reach out and give others a hand along the way. I, by no means, suggest that this spirit is unique to America, but I do believe that--at one time--the world would have been hard-pressed to find more of it per-capita than anywhere else in the world. Today, sadly, it is in decline. Up-and-comers demonstrated this spirit by giving good jobs to their employees, and by contributing to those in need. Socially responsible corporations, while tending to long-term profitability and short-term objectives, did this by having a sense of loyalty to those who helped build the corporation. If we, in America, have had any failure, it is in this second aspect--a failure of the American Spirit.

          What disgusts me most about the Circuit City scenario (which is also played out in many other industries every day) is that these "artificial persons" (for what is a corporation if not a legally recognized entity under law?) have forsaken their responsibility to society in order to worship at the altar of profitability.

          Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that businesses cannot take action to maintain their profitability--my degree is in business management and technology, so I understand the factors--but I would argue that it was a failure of management that brought them to this place. Had the leadership of Circuit City fully exercised their duty to their business, the could have stemmed this time years ago. Yes, I know many of you will scream "armchair quarterback" or "20/20 hindsight," but it was clear (to me, at least) that Circuit City expanded too aggressively, they did little to differentiate from their fierce competitors, and they never looked (successfully, at least) strategically at their industry and market trends. In other words: they should have seen this coming and made a minor course correction before they were thousands of miles at sea.

          After reading the article today, and other recent news on Circuit City, I'm just glad I never accepted a position with them back in 1997. The American Dream is not holy writ that allows us each to pursue our interests at the expense of our neighbors. It is objectification of the notion that we all have the opportunity to reach toward a lofty goal--of establishing a place in this world, a good home for our families, adding stability to our communities, and having a (positive) impact on society along the way. Do all achieve this dream? No, but we can be part of it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Ya know, I'm only 20-something but my vision of the American Dream doesn't ever include getting laid-off - and certainly not by a company trying to reduce costs. How do you know these people views this job as dead end?

        Well, open your eyes, it is a big bad world out there in the 'real world', and it is all business, the dollar is the bottom line, and it isn't even close to being supposedly fair. If you go into it knowing that...it can slide off your back when it happens to you, and you won't waste time fe

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jythie (914043)
          >The company of today, does not care about you or the American Dream, it cares about the bottom line. If you can get the mindset, you can >work within this paradigm and succeed, but, you have to quit thinking like an 'happy employee for life'.

          I think it is less the companies care more about the bottom line then they did in the past, and more the idea of investing in your employees has fallen out of favor. Even in retail, if someone knows their job and has been doing it for a long time, you generally
      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:19PM (#18531507) Journal
        You're confusing the American Dream (being your own boss, owning your own home, having a wife that doesn't work and children in private school) with the French dream (lifelong employment at one employer). The two are completely irreconcilable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary

      Once you've been through this cycle more than twice you will begin to see how the game really works [slashdot.org]. Then you resolve yourself to waiting out the bullsh*t until a real opportunity comes along. Unless you're some spoiled rich brat you have two decisions: keep recycling yourself back into the game or become homeless while waiting for providence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mungtor (306258)
      I think the real problem is related to a previous ./ submission about allowing manufacturers to set the retail price of goods. Depending on your point of view it's either:

      a) Retail is an obsolete business model since the internet offers more convenience for lower prices

      or

      b) Retail needs protection from the internet in order to preserve jobs

      Circuit City is, IMO, doing the only thing they can to try to compete with Amazon, NewEgg, etc. They need to cut costs to keep _some_ people employed or given more time
    • by onkelonkel (560274) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:52PM (#18530991)
      You DO NOT want to be wearing the red shirt. Especially if you are on the away team.
    • by BalanceOfJudgement (962905) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:03PM (#18531217) Homepage


      That aside, what offends me most is that this thread is this horrific notion that we've devolved to a point where the meaning of the term "American dream" has mutated from 'boundless opportunity in the marketplace and the ability to move out of the economic class you were born into' to 'lifetime employment at Circuit City'.

      Speaking only for myself, if that really were the case then I'd want no part of it.

      The American Dream as I understand it is that when you get laid off from a shitty dead-end job you can go out and find or create something better if you have the drive and/or ability for it. And hey, if your lack the skills or the ambition to go out and work to better your situation, you can always reapply -- I'm sure that red shirt will fit just as well in ten weeks as it does now.
      --

      While I appreciate your sentiment and agree that the 'American Dream' is MUCH more than lifelong employment at Circuit City, I'd like to offer an opposing view of what is going on here.

      My view is basically this: The American Dream, as you defined (and which I think most Americans would agree with) - is crap. And this action on Circuit City's part only confirms that assertion. It's a lie we tell ourselves to take pride in something that is inherently destructive, something that while it seems good in theory, becomes nearly impossible in practice: Capitalism itself.

      I have spent the better part of my life attempting to understand the intricacies of human nature, particularly with regard to how they influence our social systems (and thus, what the requirements of those social systems are) - and the one point that has always stuck with me is Capitalism itself.

      It seems like such an ideal solution, doesn't it, the economic embodiment of freedom, the nearly boundless promise of free enterprise..

      Except that when you make money the motivating factor for why you do things, the things that SHOULD motivate you as a human being in a human culture - cease to function. The RIAA's recent behavior (suing a 10 year old girl.. come on) eloquently demonstrates this assertion.

      Oh certainly, money need not be the ONLY motivating factor, and for a long time it wasn't. But over time it becomes harder to justify taking a hit to the bottom line just because you care about your employees, doesn't it? Especially when your shareholders are harping on you to increase the stock's value. Especially when there are, at any given moment, dozens of lawsuits against companies for NOT fulfilling their obligations to shareholders.

      And especially, when companies are so richly rewarded for their abuse of the human cultures in which they participate.

      What I am getting at is this: Circuit City doesn't care one whit about the success of our civilization, and accordingly, the value of their employees as ANYTHING OTHER than "human resources" is essentially nil. There is no value in seeing them as people, because well, it makes them just slightly less profitable. Can't have that now.

      No, society falls to shit, and the money-making business doesn't care.. because if the society fails, there's no need for money anyway, but so long as it exists, those with wealth hold all the cards.

      Seeing people as human beings is a liability in a civilization that values wealth as much as we do.

      Quoting Heinlein, "a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot."
      • by BalanceOfJudgement (962905) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:11PM (#18531371) Homepage
        I meant to add this, because it alters the tone of my post somewhat, but of course Slashdot doesn't let you edit posts:

        There are features of Capitalism which I do actually really like, and that I still think are workable. But since capitalism is a system we invented, we are consequently responsible for how we run it. The choices we make, the values we hold, influence how we build our civilization. We can choose to be responsible in our pursuit of value, or we can choose to cut every corner, cut every throat, in our grasp for wealth.

        Currently, we are increasingly choosing the latter. It doesn't have to be that way. But Capitalism isn't an end in itself, and its purpose can ONLY BE to serve us.. but we have to make it do so. It's hard, to choose to give up wealth for values, but that isn't really a sacrifice, when we consider how much our values actually mean to us.

        Unfortunately, we don't seem to be making that choice. Or we are, and what we're choosing really is this destructive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AndersOSU (873247)
        Really I think the beef isn't so much with capitalism as it is with corporatism.

        Most of the problems really emerged with widely held companies. Every investor wants a return, and everyone is an investor. The problem is that this is a self-defeating proposition, because to increase profits means to cut costs, and the investor is also an employee. Essentially the investor is urging for his own termination.

        Not that there aren't serious problems with private companies, but when only a few people make the dec
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danpsmith (922127)

      But let's accept for a moment the premise of this article. If these folks really are such great salesmen, this is opportunity knockin' at their door -- they can get better jobs at higher-end stores, they can start their own higher-end stores, they can get into selling something that has worthwhile commissions involved with it like software or cars or whatever. I mean, let's face it: Being the best sales associate at Circuit City is along the same lines as being the best cook at McDonald's. If that's where y

  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:37PM (#18530705) Journal
    Boycott Circuit City!
  • Wrong place to cry ... we all just got out sourced!
  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:40PM (#18530751)
    what they want or what they deserve? I know if I worked there, I would hope I could find a better job before they could fire me and would be praying that hundreds of other employees would be doing the same. The next time you visit Circuit City just remember how they value their employees. If they can't be bothered to spend the money on quality help what does that imply about their attitude towards their cutomers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MoneyT (548795)
      Let's assume that they validly need to cut costs. Doesn't it make sense to cut the highest paid people? Isn't this what we demand that companies do (i.e. stop paying the CEOs and managers so much more than the peons? Furthermore, remember that in order to equal the amount of money saved by cutting our highest paid, you would have to cut many more of your lowest paid. Is it better to fire 100 of your highest paid or 200 of your lowest paid? Circuit city seems to think the former, and I'm not sure they're wr
  • by ivan256 (17499) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:40PM (#18530761)

    work hard, become the best in your field, and get fired so they can offer you a new job 10 weeks later at a lower salary


    There is a huge logical gap between "We're not getting rid of these people for performance reasons" and "These people are the best in their field". I don't think you can read any of this and come away even with the idea that these people were any better than the other, lower paid employees in their same stores. If they think they can employ the *exact same people* for less money in 10 weeks, then clearly these salespeople were paid beyond what the market can bear.

    Why do we need to make up negative stuff about this when we could simply point to the fact that the salary savings look pathetic in comparison to what they continue to pay their executives?
  • by VeriTea (795384) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:41PM (#18530781) Journal
    I read an article several years back about how Circuit City fired all their highest-grossing commissioned salespeople to replace them with hourly workers. It must have been so successful they decided to try again.

    Either that or they need the stock boost that comes from indiscriminately firing workers - Wall Street loves that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      >> or they need the stock boost that comes from
      >> indiscriminately firing workers - Wall Street loves that.

      CC is down 71c so far today.
      wall street knows a dumb move when it sees one.
  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:41PM (#18530789)
    The truth of the matter is that a Circuit City salesman performs a service to the public which is about on par with picking strawberries or washing cars. People who pick strawberries and wash cars make the minimum wage. These types of jobs are not intended to be long careers, they are supposed to put kids and part-timers to work. The stark truth of economics is that if you want a higher wage you have to do something more valuable. Try machining or engine repair.
    • No, that is not the truth. That is the bullshit propaganda the Capitalists want you to believe. Without any salesmen, the company can not sell anything and the whole Circuit City collapses. Same thing with the strawberry pickers, without them the strawberry sellers can't sell any strawberries and so goes out of business. Therefore, these people are, for their respective employers, invaluable. The only reasons companies can treat the like shit is.... because they can!

      I'm a developer at my company and I ma
      • by FirstTimeCaller (521493) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:06PM (#18533625)

        The only reason they get paid less is because the company can get away with it.

        Now, now. That's not the only reason. If they decide to replace the janitor, they can train his replacement in a very short time. If they replace a developer, it will take (hopefully) much longer.

        It boils down to supply and demand. If there is a line of equally-skilled people willing to take the job, then the value of that job will be less. Simple as that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Headw1nd (829599)

        If just a few thousand of Circuit City's employees decided to strike for a week or two, they would lose so much profit from lost business that it wouldn't be economical to fire them.
        Hell yeah! Think if 3,400 of their best salespeople just walked out the door, then they'd have to...

        Oh wait. Nevermind.

  • Parody (Score:5, Funny)

    by HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) * <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:41PM (#18530793) Homepage Journal
    Circuit City and the American Dream [slashdot.org]

    Business savvy decision allows new employees a chance at sales fame.

    Top business analysts have determined that a growing number of people have become "too wealthy for their own good", according to one high-ranking Wall Street spokesperson. "It is in the interest of the common good that we allow other, less priveleged folks, to have the opportunity to buy their own food and afford both rent and car payments."

    The dismissed workers, having reached their allowed quota of wealth, were given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on their way out the door and told that they could reapply after their savings had been reduced to zero. While the average lifespan of a salesman's savings is about ten weeks, according to financial analysts, it was widely agreed that dismissed employees would not truly be eligible for reassignment until they had accumulated enough debt to prevent them from ever owning a house or car again.

    "These people were beginning to factor into systems that have long been the exclusive playgrounds of the rich and powerful. We simply could not allow them to tip the scales and upset the balance," said Circuit City spokesman Bill Cimino.
  • It doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dafz1 (604262) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:43PM (#18530813)
    Circuit City is on it's last legs.

    The CC stores I've been in have lots of empty shelves, especially in the home audio area. The center area is mostly CDs and DVDs. They had a decent selection of TVs, which, supposedly, are low margin items, so they're not going to be much help in keeping CC profitable.
  • UNIONIZE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dukerobinson (624739) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:43PM (#18530825)
    This sort of nonsense will continue in retail jobs (and everywhere else) until workers UNITE. There is no sense in taking this sort of abuse. Circuit City employees: your company does not care about you, if you want to receive something like fair compensation for your labor then you have to unite with your fellow employees.
  • by ehaggis (879721) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:44PM (#18530841) Homepage Journal
    Poor employee morale and low pay create the a social petri dish for employee malaise and discontent. Customer service suffers. People stop shopping there. The company continues to lower prices and pay. A vicious cycle ensues. Soon they declare bankruptcy and blame on it everything except poor management decisions driven by short term bottom line numbers.
  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius@driver.mac@com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:45PM (#18530863) Journal
    What other large electronics chains are left that I can buy at? I don't want to support businesses who either cheat their customers (Best Buy) or who mistreat their employees (Wal-Mart, Circuit City.) I'm going to be running out of vendors, soon.

    Anyway, this reminds me of a friend of mine. He graduated from college with a degree in History. Yes, a rather un-saleable degree. So he lived on my couch for a few months after he graduated while he tried to find a job. The only job he could find was telephone credit card sales. Yes, he was *THAT* guy. Every day, he came home from his job, the first words out of his mouth were "I hate my job." What made it even worse is that he was *GOOD* at it. His second month there, he set a sales record. His third month, he broke that record. Then he got fired. Because he wasn't following the script to the letter.

    Now, if someone comes in, and, by *NOT* following the script to the letter (he did say all the parts that the law requires creditors to say,) sets sales records two months in a row (he got a plastic slinky with the company name on it in thanks,) shouldn't you have the OTHER people follow his lead, rather than fire him?
    • by kabocox (199019) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:24PM (#18531617)
      What other large electronics chains are left that I can buy at? I don't want to support businesses who either cheat their customers (Best Buy) or who mistreat their employees (Wal-Mart, Circuit City.) I'm going to be running out of vendors, soon.

      Simple truth? The highest paid slashdotter isn't magically worth more than that Wal-mart store greeter. We all should be making min. wage and min. wage should be enough to buy a house, car, food, pay monthly electric, cable, internet, cell phone bills, raise offspring on and then donate more money for boyscouts, girlscouts, schoolfund raisers, or other various charities, and let's not forget about Christmas were you are expected to buy tons of gifts for family and little gifts for special friends and family. (Pity you if you have a large family.) Oh, afford various insurances life, health, auto, home, and anything else that folks need.

      You need to do all that on min. wage. Now, tell me what "min. wage" needs to be. It's been funny reading this. This article assumes that a college educated person can find a job that'll pay 4x5 times min. wage. Um, we aren't worth that much more than a highschool drop out though we'd like to think we deserve a lot more money than them because we made it through college.
    • by djSpinMonkey (816614) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @03:00PM (#18532341) Homepage
      ...shouldn't you have the OTHER people follow his lead, rather than fire him?

      Assuming that "you" are the guy in charge of a credit card telemarketing company? No, that isn't what you should do. You should, in fact, find the nearest wood chipper and jump in.
    • by massysett (910130)
      Newegg.com. Huge selection. Useful reviews. Exhaustive specifications. You can shop at your own home at your leisure.

      Downsides of course are 1) you have to wait for shipping and 2) you have to receive the package. Waiting is not a big deal for me, and Newegg ships fast. You can always upgrade the shipping. Receiving the packages can be a big deal for some, but I live in a building with a desk that takes packages (and that's a big reason I'm not eager to move into a house!)

      If you want a retail experience for
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      shouldn't you have the OTHER people follow his lead, rather than fire him?

      The incentives of the middle manager can be perverse sometimes. The too-smart-for-his-own-good salesman may attract the attention of higher-ups and become a potential threat to the middle manager. The middle manager reacts by eliminating a perceived threat (i.e someone who performs better and is more productive than they are) before it is too late for them to act. The middle manager typically wants to improve overall performance b
  • by bnavarro (172692) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:45PM (#18530865)
    I think The ONN (Onion News Network) summs up the sad situation in our country quite nicely with this little "expose": CEO fired, replaced by illegal immigrant [theonion.com]
  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @01:58PM (#18531115) Journal
    It's not so unusual for companies to lay off at the top and hire at the bottom. It IS unusual for them to do it all at once and to come right out and say that's what they're doing. I'm not sure if their honesty is a good thing or a bad thing.

    It seems that Circuit City has decided that a more experienced and thus higher-paid salesperson doesn't sell much (if anything) more than a high-school dropout hired right off the street. If that's the case, raises and higher pay simply don't make sense and a switch to a model where they hire people who can't get anything better, never give raises, and accept the resulting high turnover makes business sense. Even if it is pretty much evil.
  • Ah yes. (Score:3, Funny)

    by pclminion (145572) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:09PM (#18531325)

    Ah yes, the American Dream: to languish in pitiable work conditions hoping some rare enlightened higher-up will have mercy on you and, if not actually pay you more, at least fail to sack you.

    Wait. That's not the American Dream I know about. Oh yeah -- it's more about self-determination and a drive to succeed by the power of one's own capabilities. But hey, I can see how a person could get the two ideas confused...

  • by Grashnak (1003791) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:11PM (#18531361)

    The fired workers have a chance to apply for lower-paying positions after a 10-week wait, the company said.
    Wow, I'll bet there will be a lot of people taking them up on that generous offer... Oh wait, no there won't.

    Circuit City: You make too much money. You're fired.
    Dumbass Employee: What? Noooooooo! My PS3 comes in next week and I need the employee discount! I'll work for less!
    CC: Not good enough. First you must go without a paycheck for 10 weeks to prove you are worthy.
    DE: Aaaggghhhh! Okay, then what? I'll do anything.
    CC: Then you must crawl back here, and I do mean crawl, and beg for your job back at half your previous salary!
    DE: *sobbing* I'll do it!
    CC: Oh, and bring me a shrubbery.
  • by danpsmith (922127) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:24PM (#18531629)
    ...why you can't get any help that's of any use from retail clerks. The corporate model isn't geared toward customer service and nobody seems to be understanding this. I don't know what the alternative is, but I'll tell you when someone has earned multiple raises to become the highest paid in a store, most of the time (if not always), especially in a place like Circuit City, it's because they are good at what they do. They are probably the knowledgeable staff that actually help you with issues versus the weekend/school workers that are just there to collect enough to pay for the keg of beer. Nowadays you have to spend all day researching most purchases just to insure you aren't getting screwed because the staff at the store know nothing, the people that stock the shelves know nothing and sometimes even the people at the electronics companies know nothing about what they are making or selling. You get what you pay for I suppose.

    This country is out of production and manufacturing and is now relying upon sales, research and services for job growth. The simple fact of the matter is that the children of the largest section of the population that lied on factory jobs is waking up to find themselves forced into retail after high school. Certainly there are colleges, education, etc but like it or not some people don't always have these options. When you are forced to get a job out of high school nowadays it's usually at a circuit city or a walmart. Maybe this is why I agree with the Green Party in saying that they should make $10 an hour minimum wage. The simple fact is that it would force companies to pay a decent living wage for these workers they take for granted, play around with, throw everything on top of and then throw out the door once they start advancing their supposed "career." I for one will never shop at Circuit City again.
  • A little insight (Score:5, Informative)

    by kick6 (1081615) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @02:36PM (#18531855) Homepage
    During my time in college I worked for both Circuit City and Best Buy in the same town. Overall I think CC treated their employees better. Everyone wants to boycott CC for screwing their employees over but they're missing a few important bits of information on how things work there. I'll see if I can shed some light. When CC went from commission to non-commissoned sales they gave their old employees one HELL of a deal. They tallied up everything the employee had made in the previous year (including comissions) and made that their new hourly wage. We had people at our store making $19 dollars an hour because of this. $19 an hour........selling digital cameras. Compare this to the $9.50 an hour that someone who came in after the commission/non-commision switch, and you can easily see that there were a lot of SERIOUSLY overpaid sales staff. These people weren't necessarily the best salesman they were just the ones that had happened to have been around at the right time. So this is not a killer of the american dream. This is not a case of canning people who have worked their way up the sales ladder. This is merely cutting some bloat, getting the labor prices back down to reasonable levels. Having been an employee (one of the $9.50 ones) I can say: good for them! Some of the $19 an hour people were WORSE salesman than I was. Now they can possibly get to a situation where people get raises based on merit as opposed to not being able to afford to give ANYONE raises because you have emplyoees being paid twice what they're worth.
  • by skoda (211470) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @03:35PM (#18533027) Homepage
    Circuit City was identified as the best performing company in Jim Collins' book, Good to Great [amazon.com]. Over about 15 years, Circuit City transitioned from a mediocre retailer to a phenomenally performing company, beating the market over 18-fold over 15 years (1982 - 1997)! (p7 of the book).

    So what happened?

    I no longer shop at the local CC if I can avoid it. Black Friday last year they were a complete mess. It took several minutes to process a customer. Rebates were filled out by clerks, keeping the line waiting. Lines were randomly woven throughout the shopping aisles: you didn't know what aisle you were in and customers were kept from shopping by the congestion. Presently, during normal shopping, their checkout system is quite slow and cumbersome.

    In contrast, Best Buy was very well organized and the checkout lines as fast as possible.

    Where did the "great" Circuit City go?

    Even during

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