Tony Reid offers his weekly dose of happenings inside Sports Zone, the Central Pennsylvania shop where he works.
As I’ve probably made it pretty clear in my time doing this weekly Shop Talk piece, we are a pretty busy store, especially having only two full-time employees: Jason, who owns the store, and me.
A local young man who had been coming in from time to time to purchase supplies and other card related items expressed an interest in a job with us. Jason set up an interview with him late last week and it went well enough that he decided to bring him on board immediately.
I walked up to greet him at the front door on his first day of work and let him know that we were in the back, packaging up products to ship out, as we had right around 250 online orders to fill that particular day. I also mentioned that it was a pretty standard day for us. I think that might have caught him off guard a bit.
We walked to the back room and both of us tried to show him the basics of what we do to get those sold items successfully packed up and on their way. It wouldn’t be his only duty at the shop, but it would be an important part. It looked like he was catching on, as much as you could expect in a few hours anyway.
By the end of day, though, our hopeful employee told Jason that he wasn’t sure this job was for him… and you probably know what that means. Before he left the shop, he mentioned that he might be a little late the following day as he had to go to the post office. I have worked for Jason for years now and have never come in late due to the need to run to the post office. Errands are things you generally do on your lunch break.
The writing was already on the wall at that point for me. I knew he wasn’t coming back for day two.
Sadly, I was right as we got a phone call bright and early the next morning. He mentioned there were some personal things he had to take care of and couldn’t make it in but he wanted to come in and talk to Jason the following day to discuss the situation and options going forward. Call me a meanie, but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah.”
In all sincerity, Jason most likely would have given him a chance, even after an inauspicious start to his Sports Zone career but when he called back, he didn’t want that. He wanted out after not quite a full day’s work.
In a past life, I was a manager in big box retail environments for nearly decade. I also managed one of my family’s Subway sub shops for about eight years and I’ve spent most of my adult life in management positions in some shape, form or fashion, so I’ve seen this story once or twice before.
Needless to say we weren’t exactly shocked. I really don’t want to make light of whatever situation or issues he may have had but it was clear to us that whatever made him to quit almost as soon as he started wasn’t anything truly serious. There was no family emergency or anything of that nature. Just day to day roadblocks that this person let get in the way of the chance to have a steady job.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about working at a sports card and memorabilia shop, especially ours, is that you get to just stand around and play with baseball cards all day. Although that would be a hell of a lot of fun, unfortunately, those moments aren’t the norm. Because so much of our business is mail order, much of my day is spent as an unloader, a stocker, a logistics manager and the manager of a small to medium shipping company. At times, we do also get to talk about sports and cards while we help collectors but that’s only a small part of making the business work.
Even in my years at Subway, Walmart and other locations it was difficult to find good help. It appears that it’s getting even harder and harder in our current economic and social climate. The pool is shallow, expectations for employees seem to be getting lower and lower but the expectation for great pay seems to be getting higher and higher, which is a formula that clearly can’t work in the long term for anybody. From our experience and from what we hear from friends and acquaintances who run businesses, people walking in off the street want more money to do less work. I hope we can find our way back, whether that means better compensation offered by employers, better work ethic from prospective employees or a combination of both. Here’s hoping all small businesses struggling to find good help can do just that. I just wish I knew what people who quit or simply don’t apply are doing to make ends meet.
The good news is we do have a few other potential hires in the pipeline, so we’ll see how that works out. We will keep hopes high and our sights set on a better tomorrow.
It was a busy Saturday in the shop where we sold a surprising amount of Pokémon cards which is not generally the case. The flagship 2022 Topps Series 1 Baseball has continued to sell well for us but in the same breath, we’ve had a number of customers coming in asking how much baseball product we’re selling with the current lockout in full effect. My comment was that Topps Series 1 is kind of an outlier in that it will always sell well.
We will see moving forward if collectors begin to sour on this year’s products until there’s some sort of resolution between ownership and the players. A lot of people are sick of the whole thing. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get a deal done and get back to playing baseball. Lord knows the game isn’t exactly endearing itself to the younger generation by having its greatest young stars twiddling their thumbs (or tweeting with them) when the season should be getting underway.
Saturday night ended in a really fun way for me as I was asked to be on my good friend Brian Webster’s new USFL podcast. Brian and I worked together many many moons ago and it’s great to see him conducting interviews and working in the sports world in some capacity. There are few things that bring me more joy than seeing friends pursue their dreams and start to make things happen for themselves.