Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s
© Rory Matier 2015
This chapter comprises three episodes.
Please Note this book was written in 2015.
The views within these chapters are mine and may not necessarily resonate with others on the spectrum – however bear in mind the quote by Dr. Stephen Shore .. “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Chapter 10 – Ep 15
‘One Is Glad To Be Of Service’
The Full Monty
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
The day l was employed into the fashion trade, was the day l started on my adventures in that industry, a career that would see me involved with it for a good ten plus years in one format or another, either working for others or myself!
The retail industry receives a lot of grossly bad flak, which many a time is quite unfair, as it is a good industry, or rather it was back in the 80’s. Many people criticise the retail industry, and these are usually people who have never worked it, never had to deal directly with the customer. They mostly ‘assume’ this high and mighty opinion based on poor experiences in store, or because of an overall general dislike for the shopping experience as a whole. I have the uttermost respect for any front line staff like the health industry, retail, catering, telephonic centres and a host of others who have to put up with the attitudes of those who believe themselves to be of a superior intelligence. Most of the time these sorts are always the most awkward of customers to deal with as they have unrealistically high expectations of the shopping experience, never realising that they quite possibly wouldn’t survive one single day on the ‘shop floor’.
Okay, so it was only the Burton Group, but at the time l joined it was marvellously vibrant era to be involved with. The days of Sir Ralph Halpern and the fierce competitor George Davies from Next, were High Street champions to their causes. It opened up an entirely different world to me that l had not found present in the drab chequered whites from the kitchens in catering! These were the days that were looking to recruit young inspiring minds into new concepts, the days of looking for the go getters who wanted to try something different.
I started as an Assistant Manager, and was spotted very quickly for possessing a flair for merchandising and display, l also sported an interest in bespoke tailoring, and l think that it was a combination of all three that motivated me to study the ’Dandy’. Studying hard in the ancient rituals of fabric and their design, style and influence that made up the factors to one having a unique suit measured and crafted for their specifications’ alone was an inspiring concept alone for me.
All said and done, as much as l loved this industry, l do recall having to ‘pretend’ and wear masks constantly, it could become very draining, especially when retail involved talking to so many people! In order to not become so drained on the work floor, l had designed a huge yellow star to be pinned to the inside of the door leading off to the customer’s floor! It reminded me that l was on a stage and that l was an actor simply performing my role. However that concept caught on in some of the other Burton shops and was used as a training application to further enthuse sales assistants who found it hard to talk to the customers themselves, for to think of it as a ‘stage’ eased their nerves!
It helped me with people, it seemed to help the others and soon under my guidance we had fewer nerves on the floor and more efficiency with sales, which of course led to targets being achieved and higher ones being set! The Burton Group when l joined was not just the likes of Burtons Menswear, but it also boasted Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Topshop and Topman, Principles, Principles for Men and of course the monsters Debenhams and Browns although the latter soon became part of the former. It was a huge chain with many possibilities opening up, thousands of workers and of course new positions for the ambitious minds.
I proved to be very aggressive during this phase in my career, l wanted more than what l had, l was becoming noticed by other managers for my eccentric fashion style which had become more adventurous as time passed me by, l was considered outspoken, which was always an unusual attribute to be awarded in my eyes, for all l ever did was simply point out faults in systems. The problem was that the systems were sometimes outdated and if they were not, it was because managers were longer in the tooth than me with more years of experience in Burtons and as such worked old methods. Fast was l also being noted as an upstart, mostly because of these observations in antiquated systems!
Frustration within Burtons Menswear was present after a year; l was a floor manager in charge of training new staff, casual and formal merchandising, bespoke tailoring and recruiter for the store. I still wanted more and knew that l had more to give, and whilst fellow colleagues would simply state that l had already risen quite high already and rapidly in consideration to others, l needed to be patient and await a transfer to a bigger store or relocation into a different chapter of the Group.
It was during covering position of a fellow floor manager that l had spotted Principles for Men, and it was then that l knew, my days with Burtons were over, this new fashion style of power dressing was more me! It ran more in line with my emotions for the likes of the Dandy, for this was the eighties of course and this meant to those who knew – it was the Years of the Yuppie!
‘If you are not in fashion, you are nobody‘
I was accepted into PFM and made a manager in Kingston Upon Thames, it was a dual store for both men and women’s ‘fashion, here l was able to really expand my horizons and here was l truly able to further embark on and explore new concepts and possibilities, which l did so enthusiastically.
My true desires for flair and style were almost exhausted in this position, a dandy to the hilt, my love for fashion was devout, l had fellow eccentrics working beside me, and we all cut a very dashing rainbow of exuberance and entrepreneurial spirit! I finally felt that l was home. I had always had an interest in people, l did not always like them very much l suppose because l never truly understood some of their ways, but was constantly reading psychology books to not only better myself but to understand these strange beings that constantly confused me, especially women!
In Kingston PFM, l was managing a successful store above an equally successful women’s chapter, ran a small but elite team of staff, but found that l was attending more and more seminars, training events and so on with the company, which had me out of the store for several days. So many exercises were we being taught that l had at one point firmly started to believe that perhaps we were going to become teachers rather than retailers!
It was during one such external seminar that l was approached with a new concept by the recruitment department, a headhunting role with a difference, looking purely for individuals that were seen to excel in their fields of management, merchandising, display and marketing. Staff advertising and interviewing was something l had done on a few occasions both in retail and catering, so employment of people was not a big problem. But this was going to be different – a totally new approach, to ‘specifically’ get the right people into the Principals banner.
They were to class it as a new style of recruitment – profiling. Which was l believed at the time more of an in depth study of the mind used by American forensics and sciences. I knew quite a bit about demographic marketing and had used it extensively for some time already with my own store in so far as reaching external markets. If l understood what the market comprised of, l could act so accordingly, perhaps it was why my branch was successful in what it did. But this concept looked into the actual minds of the demography in many ways; it dug deeper into those who worked the markets. It was more of an aggressive psychological headhunting position, and instantly it appealed, l said yes!
The profiling was an exciting recruitment style for 1] fashion personnel and 2] for the eighties, it allowed me to study people quite closely without at times even looking at them, but l was able to observe people quite closely, and learned if l am honest some very astute behaviours of them – it was quite possibly one of the most direct forms of people watching l was ever involved in.
Back then, the biggest problem or rather my biggest pain was a mind that wanted more information all the time, l was constantly learning and eager to learn something new, and at times it seemed this way almost on a daily basis. I worked men’s and also ladies fashion, took on auditory roles, anti theft roles within high loss stores, the list was endless, but eventually after some years inside the Burton Group found that it was no longer what l wanted from my life.
I was very good in the positions l took on board, enacted each role with 100% dedication, loyalty and commitment, was seen as fair if not quirky especially as l had this in built sense of righteousness which at times got me into more trouble than l was investigating – soon l had a reputation for being a whistle blower, a turncoat, because whilst l was able to sniff out certain problems, or ‘corruptions’ if you wish, it was almost as if l was too good, and certain management teams would no longer wish to have me on board their units.
Towards the end of my days in the Group, l simply became bored, and lost concentration with what l was doing, and knew that l had to look elsewhere. Towards the end of my days with Dorothy Perkins in Canterbury as manager, l had opportunities to run certain fashion shows, some small and profitable for charities and one large and disastrous, which burned me deep to my core. I had been a fool with that last fashion show and not only lost my job but lost my confidence. I had organised a very large show for the Baby Care Unit of Canterbury hospital, and two things had occurred, a person l trusted with the finances had not done everything required and much of the so called profits had disappeared, what was left was then having to be used to pay for the horrible list of bills in running the show itself. It had been a great show, but a complete and utter disaster resulting in nothing earned for the BCU.
However although l had ‘lost’ my job, it was because l had simply resigned out of the disgrace of it all. So yes my days with the Group had indeed ended, but my path as an organiser for fashion shows and promotions had not.
Tripping the Light Fantastic
There were those around me that knew only too damn well that despite the sorrow l felt, l was not to blame. I had by all accounts been foolish to trust some of the administration team, especially those that l did not know that well. But it was also acknowledged that the main stress load had been left to me to organise, whilst the others had enjoyed working with all the ‘ladies’ and the frivolous aspects of the shows trimmings. It was these people that l then formed my own company ‘EDO’ with.
Many of the retailers whom l had organised the bigger event with were still on my side, understanding what had gone wrong, and had wanted to organise another big event to show that it could be done correctly, but l simply could not show my face any more to the likes of the press whom were only too eager to sharpen their knives on my bones again, and were aggrieved that l had not allowed a follow up interview concerning the failure at the show for the BCU.
I moved away from Whitstable where l was living at the time, and moved further south into the likes Ramsgate and Margate, where EDO could slowly start to build up, and l was able to establish firm footing again. I steered clear, well clear of doing any kind of charity work again.
As a business EDO proved to be quite lucrative, we had a small team of girls that we could call upon to work the choreographed routines required for each show, and found small but satisfying success in the likes of large pubs and nightclubs in the southern Kent area. In addition to the fashion concept, l was called upon to write up concepts concerning marketing and promotions for other nightclubs, pubs and even a couple of hotels.
As a business concept it worked well, and perhaps thinking back l should not have started it as far down south in Kent as l had done, and perhaps stayed in Canterbury, but that itself was not an easy thing to consider for the memory of the BCU would haunt me for many years to come. The likes of Dover, Margate and Ramsgate late eighties were not thriving commercial centres and fashion was not the high end of the industry as it was in northern Kent and thus the ‘show side’ started to diminish in both popularity and desire to view. But for eighteen months or so, l had managed to work an unlikely concept into a mobile business to a relatively hard buying market, and in so doing had upped my confidence again.
Luckily l was again able to side track the business itself into my other avenue which was marketing, and as such promote the advertising abilities of my self, it was this that was to become the saving grace to EDO. I was awarded contracts of sorts for nightclubs and pubs to improve their existing promotions with weird and wacky advertising formats to increase their most basic commodity – traffic through their doors – and was additionally given a complete free hand, at times a bottomless finance pit and oodles of creative license to allow my imagination to run amok.
One such marketing concept was to write an entire business plan for the renovations of an old manor found in Nonnington, just outside of Dover located in the Green belt of Kent. A once well run manor estate, which had seen some time in a state of disrepair. It was a huge concept, a massive idea, to turn this estate back again into a thriving business venture, which would comprise of a hotel, nightclub, public house, leisure centre and so on.
The business plan required from consortium lenders a tune of 30 million pounds, we were not granted that figure but were awarded 3 million based purely on the business plan itself, and we were to start a little of the main structural building in order to reap a small profit, before the lenders would consider the rest. However l had been paid handsomely for my creativity again, and moved onwards.
Another exciting concept was to both invest into and actually sell crafted merchandise from Thailand and Cambodia; this arrived in size 6 fashion pieces, black lacquer furniture and beautifully crafted pure silk fans for the house rather than for the hand. It was the little jobs like this that kept the business going for several months after the folding up of the fashion presentations.
Sadly however, my business acumen was becoming as tired as the rest of my mind, body and soul, and the money dried up that l had managed to secure to savings, there was very little work around for either employment with others or for self. I made a very fatal error of again trusting someone l believed to be a close confidant and made a dismal mistake with my company cheque book!
They had purchased security equipment with my cheque book, with a view to selling on at a higher price privately – however – they then did a runner – leaving me with a huge bill, l simply couldn’t pay!
How foolish we can be at times, suffice to say, l dissolved EDO, accepted my blame and performed my community service in Kent in Margate and found myself on Cemetery duty of all things, and yes l know l was guilty of fraud, it has been my one and only ever criminal offense in life and whilst it is expunged by many years now, still irks me to this day that l was basically ‘too trusting a twit’, but l did learn that for some reason l could be easily manipulated, and had to somehow come to understand that l had to be more wary of people!
Thankfully l was unemployed for not too long and soon was recruited into the River Island brand, and was to work in Thurrock in Essex. I was in a relationship that to be honest was not really going anywhere, and was not going to proceed further, because l was based in Margate and had to spend nearly twelve hours travelling backwards and forwards to my work every day. My girlfriend, a Mother of three children, did not wish to move away from her family, and this just added to an enormous amount of stress that l was undergoing at the time.
But l enjoyed this job immensely, l was an assistant manager, paid a very good salary, and was back in the hub of the fashion industry. Thurrock was an incredible experience, it was like a fashion show every day, full of beautiful people and culture, something which l believed deep down, southern Kent seriously lacked.
I held this job for nearly two years and for those same two years l stayed loyal in the relationship that was not going anywhere working on the premise that maybe she would change her mind and we would move to Bromley or something. She never did. I endured this awkward travelling nightmare scenario for such a long time, and not once did she ever have the intention of moving, despite saying she would think upon it.
It was all getting to me in honesty, the stress of the relationship, the children, the job, the travelling and again l felt like l was going to break, something had to give!
Nearing the second year of my employment with River Island, l was approached by a head hunter, who just happened to be my ex Area Manager, he himself had been recruited into a company called High & Mighty, an outfitter for large and tall men, based in London. He wanted me to join them as a trainer. My task was to create from scratch a training manual for the company, to work with the C.E.O, the recruiters, the personnel departments and all the staff of the eleven strong retailer outlets.
It was to be a similar move close to that from my PFM days and the work l did in recruitment and profiling, working with demography and training routines again. The offer was way too great to ignore, let alone refuse and l accepted without hesitation. I also did not fail to recognise that once again l could secure my entrepreneurial energy into this position. I had found that when l was awarded a much fuller creative reign with roles, that l was highly successful in comparison to roles where l had to stick rigidly to the rule book.
My girlfriend was thrilled, and the travelling was much easier, not so long winded, not so many connections, just a straight line from Margate to London. Again l asked if she would move and again she declined, stating that the children had to be near their Father, whom she had divorced during our time together.
It was a marvellous position, but my relationship did not last, as l realised she was never going to move, so l ended it and moved into London, and took up residence off Edgware road, oddly enough in a public house, which had at its basement a high class escort agency. However all good things come to an end, and the manual l created was excellent but not ideal for what was still a family orientated business. I have noticed this with family businesses they want to progress but something holds them back, too much emotion with the staffs’ wants and desires l think.
Also, l was involved in a relationship with my analyst who doubled as my manager’s secretary, and l had the line ‘pillow talk’ used against me, which they made a big song and dance about, yet in truth this was just to replace their guilt for letting me go and was more convenient than basically accepting that the training manual was too advanced for them. No that is not meant to be read as pretentious it is a straight forwards fact, and any reader who has come across a similar situation will know l write the truth. So after 9 months with this company, l was made redundant with an excellent pay out – ironic for ‘pillow talk’.
Always one to notice career opportunities if they are present l managed to secure some work in the Escort agency below where l lived and further to that l also managed to find publishers for some rather naughty erotic literature l wrote, at the advice of one of my clients. These two combined allowed me to live with my redundancy a nice comfortable life.
Working as a male escort was an incredible experience if honest, a very rewarding role! Some of my client dates were hot beyond imagination, whilst others quite frankly were not. Some of the dates required more – shall we say time – than others. During this bout of employment l was again able to sate my desires and my constant hunger for sexual activity and experimentation. It was good money for basically what amounted to a clinical detachment mode, and l excelled at that. For that was something l could do, l could and was very unemotional with any of the dates turned partners, it was again just another entrepreneurial agreement if anything that at times required an awful amount of energy to be expended. Luckily for me, l enjoyed expending that energy, my addiction was constant in its expectations.
However, after nearly a year of living the life of Riley, with lashings of women, erotica and sex, dining out and what seemed like endless partying and clubbing, l was starting to gradually wear down. There is after all only so many masks you can don, and l was running out of facial display. I adored sex, but there comes a time when it can become rather mundane and tedious, and l found that l longed for a life less stressful and a bit more routinal, and so l started to look for full time stable employment again.
Lock Up Your Staff Girls! 1993
I accepted a job in 1993 that was to be based in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire with a company called What Everyone Wants, its’ head office based in Glasgow. It was to be a discount mega store for want of a way to best describe it. It was also to be a flagship, one of the few biggest stores in the chain that were spread up and down the United Kingdom. Selling a whole array of product, for all the household, its nearest competitor was Matalan.
With the start up of this position travelled a 12 week gruelling training course for all new managerial candidates up and down the Kingdom in the locations of Bishop Stortford, Corby, Glasgow, Nottingham and Liverpool. I stayed in my apartment for the first two weeks of the course, travelling back down from Bishops every weekend, but soon found that it was easier to simply pack up my belongings and store the very few possessions l had with a friend whilst l attended my training. It was by far easier to stay in situ on the weekends rather than travel back down to London.
Strangely l found that my latter days in London had not completely disappeared from my mental state and any stresses l had l simply pushed to one side and got on with the task at hand, so still found myself burning the candles again at bother ends as l engaged into this new position with the vigour of a Lion. Sexual activity and promiscuity were things l could never put down for too long a period, and l relatively early on in the course earned the reputation of a flirt who went all the way.
My exploits between the sheets however got to the attentions of the some of the locations l attended before l did, and l was warned in two of the training stores to leave the staff well alone!! Only to be asked out by the managers! So l obliged, l was well received in more ways than one it could be said, and l passed my twelve weeks with flying colours as well as a few decorations.
Sex is a strange thing, but a remarkable commodity to deal in – there are two types of sex – emotional and unemotional or clinical or as l used to joke “There is sex and fucking sex, two very different ways to describe the act itself”, the latter can still be fun, but the former is way better in terms of fulfilment. I was very good in detached unemotional sex, as they say ‘a hole is a hole is a hole!’ However l was not involved in a relationship, and so l just did what l knew best, shagged my way up and down the country!
All said and done, this company had spent thousands in actually training me in their administrations, methods, protocols, merchandising, everything l could think of, l had received training in, l was very impressed with the way they had handled this new management applicant. The job seemed ideal; it was an above scale salary, with many perks and benefits, what could go wrong? Well atypically to my luck, l was soon to learn that … a LOT could go very wrong!
When l eventually arrived in Peterborough, my own store, this supposed flagship, in fact fourteen weeks after l had been accepted, l was delayed because Liverpool had wanted to keep me on board their management team, and to be honest l wish l had stayed there! For on arriving to my own position, l had found out that it was still two weeks behind its opening day schedule.
It had been re-sited in an old Woolworths store, a monster of a building, some four storeys high not including the basement warehouse facilities, it was huge, that was my first impression as my area manager showed me around that first day, it was unbelievably huge, and undeniably well behind schedule!! Refurbishments were taking much longer to negotiate and secure. There was a small nucleus of actual staff on board that had been recruited by him already, but they were basically clueless as to what was going on, and just seemed to be sitting around doing nothing.
The funny thing is, as any manager will tell you that is experienced at running people, and is all too familiar with store layouts as l was, but to boot fresh out of an intensive training course with other flagship mega stores, you seem to have this energy, this inbuilt Zen going on. You are bubbling over with an excitement and an enthusiasm that others are not likely to share, and l was not overly disappointed that the small nucleus of staff just looked at me like l was out of my head as l tried to induce them into the marvels of working for What Everyone Wants, because l could see that they lacked motivation, and were not convinced of my pep talk!
However back in those days, if l was enthused with something, l could make others equally so, a dash of style and plenty of humour and even the most starch faced of individuals would respond. But as l looked around this building l too did not fail to recognise that we had our work cut out for us, if we were to open two weeks before Christmas trading week!
The one thing l did notice within the first few hours was that l had a small nucleus of staff sure, which l learned were mostly shop floor staff, cashiers whom had not specifically worked in retail but other industries, which was not a problem, that in the main they were women or girls which was the way for this company, but was somewhat confusing considering the sheer volume of seriously heavy lifting that had to be performed in a complete refurbishment concerning What Everyone Wants. I had assisted during my fourteen weeks in an overhaul of the Liverpool and Nottingham stores and l knew what it entailed, as well as when the arctic’s arrived and what the deliveries would consist of weight distribution wise!
The store was to have an opening staff of something akin to just over a hundred, we had twelve, now l knew we did not need the larger figure until just before opening trading, but twelve was a tad below what was needed even now!
The other thing that got me was that despite the thousands the company had spent of training this particular management candidate, l could not see any other managers present for my own store team? This did concern me somewhat, and l became even more alarmed when the area manager conceded to the fact that not only had l not actually got any internal management support, but they had not even advertised for any! Nor had they advertised for any administration or warehouse! I was a little scuppered with this information, and deep down knew that despite my own motivations, l would certainly be feeling the stress before we opened the doors to the public!
There was nothing else for it, but to almost class it as a ‘broken arrow situation’, we were going to be over run with problems unless we got a nucleus management support team in, because fine l was good, but l was not that good, and previous years had taught me very well about trusting those l did not know, so l called in support from other flagships whom l had trained with. Thankfully they responded favourably and soon the support started to arrive, so that by the end of the second day, l had a makeshift management team in that could align the tasks at hand with skilled expertise.
None of the staff that had formed the nucleus had received any kind of basic training either and this too presented further problems – we were going to open up a so called flagship mega store with none of the employees familiar with any of the systems!
By the end of my fourth day, l had not eaten, l had not slept, l hadn’t even had the time to bathe. The workmen aside from the support teams from other locations were the only ones who seemingly knew what they were doing, and they were doing fine. Trainers had to then be brought in to educate staff on the correct procedures for cashier work, merchandising lessons were ongoing, and every day something like 9 lorry loads arrived packed to the brim with product from Glasgow.
The warehouse teams were going non stop and everybody was starting to tire very quickly but the humour was high, and so this made things travel a little less strenuously. By the end of the first week, l have to admit to being totally knackered, still l found hidden resources of energy and ploughed on.
The task of interviewing potential managers was hard, for some reason, no one wanted to work in this store, so l had to resort to my old head hunting days and go out searching – in a major city that sounds easy right?
Peterborough was a city, but was not London city, and whilst there were many good managers to be found, they were either already very well established with high salaries in other business’s or did not wish to work for What Everyone Wants – apparently this Scottish based firm, had some kind of stigma attached to it. I figured that it was because it was a discount super store, and despite the popularity of such outlets with the buying customer, internally managers seek a bit more glamour. We did not have glamour that was true, our code was pack them high, sell them cheap!
What made my job even harder was that they only paid their managers high salaries and not under managers, so this made the package not so alluring in a head hunting capacity!
However, perseverance prevailed and l was finally able to secure a warehouse manager, who was ex military and an assistant manager from the supermarket industry, my floor manager came from the last store l had trained in when l was at Corby. At least the latter had W.E.W experience.
It was an incredibly hard slog, but after two weeks we opened our doors to the customer on the 15th December 1993. That first week we made just under a quarter of a million pounds! I had managed to pull in an extra thirty or so staff to act more or less as floor walkers as well as to act as security. We had a security guard but he was a last minute job, and l think he may have himself been kidnapped, for he just seemed to be clueless as to what was going on!
Those weeks in the new store were hard, understaffed in management, quality and experienced management to boot, with a constantly high traffic coming through the doors from the time we opened till the time we pushed them out at close. Thousands upon thousands of pounds worth of sales going through the tills, very little time off to concentrate let alone think on eating and sleeping and trying to relax, targets and deadlines being demanded by the office in Glasgow, mammoth sized deliveries coming in sometimes four times a day to stock the already over filling warehouse space, it was very stressful.
Finally, Christmas arrived, l was off for the duration of the 25th and the 26th, l was to spend them not at my own apartment of which still lay in a state of unpacked disarray but at my new girlfriends’ parents’ house. Actually l remember very little of the two days off, l slept mostly during Christmas and Boxing day, but insomnia attacked me for both nights, and l found myself awake downstairs talking to the families old Labrador. Christmas has never really enthralled me like it captivates others it would be true to say.
Bad luck was to follow me after the Christmas break, as l had somehow come to expect, l came back after my short break and was awarded the sad information that the Glasgow office wished for me to downsize my staffing from 100% to roughly 25%, l was to ‘fire’ some 70 plus staff so that the discount super store was able to operate on a skeleton crew. I write this figure in black and white first, because in actual fact the first message of the day was simply to offload ten staff which seemed reasonable, however by the end of that day the full figure was 83 staff to be discarded!
This was indeed a hardship, having to sort through the staffing levels that we had for what was in fact a four levelled building open to the public, with very poor security in place, a security guard that was ‘just’ above useful, an over stocked warehouse that was already struggling under the pressures of the seasons’ deliveries, short of management, short of quality staffing for the administrations and basically short of any kind of staff that had any kind of hands on hands experience with the company!
It was madness, there is no other clearly defined way to describe these actions, but from other stores and my training time spent there l knew this was the W.E.W way. The difference being that the other stores were established stores and had experienced staffing. I on the other hand, was the only one in store that had received any kind of company training! In effect they were asking me to downsize so that l would run the store single handedly!
It was a long day, sorting through the first ten staff was awkward but achievable, then the next call came and another ten had to go, after that calls just kept on coming in, it was beyond a joke.
After all the surplus staff were offloaded l was left with a nucleus of tired and stressed people, that required immediate training, my under managers were already struggling, the warehouse manager walked out, it was almost like a scene from comedy capers, after the first week, there was myself, my wife to be [administrator], my assistant manager, three cashiers [one for each floor], and eleven staff that were not even classed as full timers, but 30 hours. So whilst l was good with working staff time tables, it became exceedingly stressful to try and produce bread for the 700!
By the second week we were all struggling, by the 3rd week my assistant manager walked out and on the fourth week l had an accident whilst unloading one of the oversized deliveries when a pallet fell onto my right leg and fractured my knee. I struggled on for a couple of days more, but soon had to take time out for the fracture to mend.
It was during this time that l was then fired under the ‘pillow talk’ clause. Because my girlfriend was the administrator and l was the manager. So l was called in and offered an interview with the Glasgow security director, where upon l was offered to take one of two choices, fire the administrator or be fired myself! I advised the director that my General Manager knew of the relationship and had seen no error, only to be informed that my General Manager had been fired that morning, so l did the honourable thing and advised them that they would be foolish to let the administrator go as she was very knowledgeable in the systems, then l told them what l thought of their piss pot operation and was promptly fired.
Ironically a week after my dismissal, she too was fired once they managed to secure a suitable WEW candidate in from another store. It got stranger, in the following weeks all the staff that were left were fired, and new experienced and trained WEW staff and management from a store that was closing down came into run the store. I learned a few years on, that it was all a set up from the start, the closing down store was always in line to run the Peterborough store! I had simply been available at the right time to run their falsehood. One quote from the day was that ‘he ran it like a robot from the time he got there till the time we fired him!’
Chapter 10 – Ep 16 – Soon