My last day at the shop began as routinely as any other. I breezed through my opening procedures and settled in to absorb my final eight hours running that location. I even had a procrastinating flight student show up, looking for a book that was carried neither by myself or any of my distributors and that he waited too long to purchase online and was now unavailable. Just a regular day.
Honestly, I was kind of looking forward to taking that day in fully. This was the first time I had ever given notice on a job. It was not, however, the first time I had ever quit a job. That last day came abruptly, after months of changes to policy and procedure that did nothing but marginalize many of the store’s employees. I’ll run through that really quickly, because I enjoy retelling this story, since it was such a shit-show in the end.
I was a part-time retail associate at a large liquor store during college. I was there in total for a year and a half. I was loyal, hard-working, only late a couple of times. I was young and naive, but I busted my ass. I loved my coworkers, and I genuinely enjoyed working there. About a year in, a large liquor chain from Dallas-Fort Worth came up, looking to get a foothold in our area. The best way, they figured, was to buy some existing stores. So, they bought all the ones owned by our original ownership group for millions of dollars, which was considerably more than they should have paid.
The liquor store general manager got promoted, and the beer store general manager moved up to take his place. He favored female employees over the males, giving them better schedules and better incentives (bonuses, holidays, etc.). I was able to deal with all of that for the most part for a while.
Other changes included digitizing the inventory system (which I now fully understand is a massive pain in the ass), cutting back on employee discounts, and potentially eliminating Christmas bonuses. That last one scared us the most as the holiday season loomed over us. That’s when all this came to a head for me.
When the calendar opened up for us to be able to ask off for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, I was the first to ask for those days off. It was 2007, and my grandfather (Paw Paw) would pass the following March. So, figuring this might be our last holiday season with him, I wanted to make sure I was going to be there for it. I was first to sign my name, and I had an excellent reason for getting those days off. I figured I’d get that time.
I got Thanksgiving, but not Christmas. I was demoralized and angry. How could I not be granted that time off to spend one last Christmas with my grandfather? It was infuriating and insulting, and I think our GM knew what it would do, too.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came a week or so before Christmas. We were all worrying about our bonuses. The previous year, which, I was told, was true of the years preceding it as well, we were given generous personal checks from the owner’s account. No taxes taken out, either. It was a wonderful surprise. After being a part-time employee for only six months, I got a $150 bonus check, which is still my largest Christmas bonus to date.
So, with the ownership change, bonuses might not even be a possibility, and looking back on it, we all would’ve been happier had we not gotten any at all. But we did. They handed out envelopes to all the employees. Excitedly, we ripped them open. Then you could feel the air sucked from the room, and there was no joy the rest of the day. After eighteen months working there, I received a $50 bonus check. With taxes taken out, I went home that night with $38. Adding insult to injury was that I was not only the lowest paid bonus of the group, but also the fact that coworkers who had been there less than a year got considerably more than I did.
I was livid. I was determined. I was done.
I had coworkers coming up to me after they heard about my bonus to express their sympathy and share in the disappointment, which I did appreciate, but after a few minutes of stewing, I marched to the office. I found the GM posting the following week’s schedule and told him (not asked, told) that I was leaving to spend my holiday with my family, explaining fully (again) why I needed to be there. He said he understood and let me go for the holiday, adding that I should let him know when I got back so he could put me back on the schedule.
I never talked to him again.
So, that was the first actual last day I ever had, and there was no enjoyment to be had there since I essentially rage-quit. I was looking forward to taking yesterday easy and just savoring my last time being in that place I had put so much of my life into preserving.
Then that went away in a puff of smoke.
The owner walked in two hours into my shift, tying up some loose ends, after which, he dismissed me. I was kind of taken aback. I could leave? On my last day? I didn’t even have to spend it there? It just struck me strangely off guard. I was expecting a full day to count down the hours. Now, there were no hours to count. He left with a handshake and an invitation to return (HA!), and I shuffled out not too long after that, a box of my stuff under my arm and my bag on my shoulder. I took one last look at the store front and the massive lobby of the building, and I left. And that was that.
Four years, on the nose, had come to a bitter, unceremonious end. Fitting, I guess. You can’t always get what you want. That’s just the way it goes.
So, it’s onward and upward now for me, and I’m just glad to finally be moving on to something better. Here’s to the next chapter!
-The Retail Explorer