Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting (not) Hired at Budget Tapes and Records

Back in 1982, after working at Tower Posters in Tacoma, Washington, then worked at Records, I had finally gotten my AA degree from Ft. Steilacoom Community College (now Pierce College). I transferred to Western Washington University in Bellingham for my Bachelor of Arts and Letters in Psychology.
Fairchild AFB Parachute shop, "Last to let you down"
Now, this was after my having held a Secret level clearance for nuclear weapons in the USAF at Fairchild AFB in Spokan, WA. I ran the parachute shop on the base as an E4 (Senior Airman, the did away with E4 being a Sargeant back about then, because too many guys became Sgt.s and got out, so they tried to make it that if you were a full Sgt., then you were in more than one four year term.

I was literally being responsible for millions of dollars of equipment and people's lives, all emergency chutes, drag chutes and all the chutes the PJs, the Air Force Pararescue Team, jumped every day. I trained the riggers for the Air Force Survival School. I was responsible along with my team for maintaining radiation barriers on all our aircraft. I was responsible, the US Government affirmed that in the most important ways. Before that, in High School, I managed and hired people at the AutoView drive-in snack bar through High School. So I'm telling you, I was responsible. I was even teaching drill in 8th grade to search and rescue cadets.
So when I applied for a job at a Tower Reords competitor, Budget Tapes and Records, as Tower had no store up there, I figured that I would get the job over other lesser applicants. I don't usually think that way but this one really seemed a "no brainer". I mean I felt if I were the manager and I walked in, I would have hired me and said, Thank you.

I had waited for college until after my stint in the military (I got in at the very end of the Viet Nam era so I got a full scholarship and benefits, I was fully ready to go to Viet Nam, but after talking with my old brother's friends who were there and then the guys in the Air Force I worked with who were there, I was kind of glad I missed it.
So, when I got Western Washington University, I was considered a STRATA (STudent Returning After Time Away) student, and therefore, more experienced than 95% of the local student body.

It wasn't a very big store that I applied at, smaller than even the tape section that I had worked in at Tower Records in Tacoma. Pretty much a one man store; in fact, the manager was the only person in the store when I spoke to him about a job.

I gave the chubby, bearded, self involved smuck, my resume and talked with him. Fully expecting a job, as hey, I had worked at Tower and I ran a full shop in the Air Force, I knew I could run his store pretty much, with my eyes closed. Or drunk, high, or whatever condition my college compatriots might leave me in. He asked if I thought I could run his superstore. I said, yes, I could most definitely handle it. But he gave me a leary look. Not quite believing me. Could I do inventory? Yes, most assuredly one thing I could do, was inventory. After all, I had to do it at Tower along with everyone else, and in the service, I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment on a daily basis, not to mention, literally, people's lives.

But he completely blew me off. I got the feeling he didn't think I was competant enough to register his smirk though his poncy beard. As if I had no more experience than having worked at some mom and pop shop, or less, and therefore simply couldn't be up to the standard of his lame ass little company. He was actually condescending, and no, I wasn't being less than humble. I mean, I was trying to a job, right? He was a bit pompous, really. And I played into that, thinking he would like having me as an employee. All my previous bosses loved having me work for them as I always made whoever I worked for, look really good to their bosses.

But in the end, I was beyond amazed at my treatment by this pissant of a manager of a tiny crummy little store in the backwaters of Bellingham, Washington. In fact, I was downright pissed off by time I got home.

But then after I calmed down that night, I figured it would have been a crummy place to work under him anyway. It seemed obvious in hindsight that he had some kind of grudge against the Power of Tower. Tower was a powerhouse back then. And so I thought he would jump at the chance to have someone work for him with experience from a bigger store.

There was a manager of one of the Tower stores who left the company to join a new start up company. When he left he took the operations manaul for the store, something that is totally not allowed. He gave it to his new company, and eventually got laid off. Basically, they had wanted the book, not so much, him. What was interesting in that was after I got out of college I found that indeed, Tower being cool as it was, did hire him back, as a new employee, starting at the bottom again, and allowed to work his way up to manager should he so desire to stick to it. He was a nice guy, but not the brightest bulb in the pack (obviously). I never found what happened to him in the end.

But the point here is, many stores wanted what Tower had. But not bucky boy in backwater BTown.

It's good though, that one goes through this kind of experience in life. It's good to know that even though you are over qualified, you still may not get a job because you would end up working for someone who KNOWS you are more qualified than them and well, I suppose, it can be intimidating. And yes, years later, I was turned down for jobs I wanted from time to time, due to being of all things, OVER qualified. I know that, because sometimes, they would give me that as a resason for not hiring me, not to mention, I KNEW I was over qualified.

I mentioned this situation to my friend Mark, my eventual roommate and manager of the new (at the time in 1984) Tacoma Tower Video store that I worked at for a time, after gruaduating college. See, I went back to Tacoma and worked with him, my old boss from Tower Records who had run the tape section when we worked at Records. Mark eventually became one of owner/founder Russ Soloman's favorite guys to open new stores with. I remember Mark flew out and helped open the Washington D.C. store. There were others but I clearly remember that one.

We had the most theft from the tape section, as they were so easily concealable, more esay than CDs. In fact, we captured a lot of shoplifters. The team of employees we had at Tower Records Tacoma was incredible, we worked like an oiled machine when it came to backing one another up, or busting criminals. We even captured a professional team of four shoplifters once, who traveled up and down the coast, who the police new about, but no one had been able to catch at their nefarious business, though we did; but that's another story entirely. When we stopped one of them at the front door, having surrounded them with male employees, the guy had like 20 albums under his coat and no one even noticed it until the manager put his hand on the guys stomach to stop him and realized he had a lot of something under his coat.

After college, I worked with Tower for a while until I found a job in computers, a situation where I got a half time job that made four times the amount of money I was making at Tower. So yes, in the end a college education does pay. A few years later, I doubled my income again Now after years in the high tech industry, I'm nearing a six figure income. In switching careers now and going into writing, I plan on boosting that figure quite a bit again.

Anyway, Mark had a conjecture as to why that guy managing the store in Bellingham wouldn't hire me, that I found somewhat humorous....

Maybe, he couldn't get hired at a Tower Store.

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