Sunday, April 4, 2010

Low point at Lowes

Entertainment, as you all know, is my main objective. But that comes at a price and in the recent case of my Lowes application experience it came at the price of my reputation. See, I went there to get the assembly position. I did that job in Los Angeles and as long as there’s one location then it’s fine. Once I started driving to Long Beach and East Bumfuck to assembly shitty bicycles the whole thing lost its appeal. But here in NH I’d probably be assigned to one or two stores and keep the commuting to a minimum. I wanted that job. I took a shower, combed my hair, shaved and put on clean clothes to go get it. I was determined.
How I previously described my adventure there was completely fictional. I wrote it that way to be amusing. I want you to be amused. Also, I was frustrated by the actual events of that day, which might be less amusing but should shine some light on how I take actual events and turn them into entertaining fiction. I repeat, I wanted the job, am qualified for it, and would still take it if they offered it to me. I will demonstrate why that will not happen.

So, all dressed up, shaved and shiny and smelling like orange #5 deodorant I waltzed into Lowes. I’d seen the advertisement on the internet and all it said was Lowes in Greenland was hiring an assembler. That means lawn furniture for the summer, propane grills, umbrellas and lawnmowers need to be assembled to replace the shitty Chinese ones that were destroyed by last season’s use. I’m willing to ignore all these fact because I need the money. So I go to the Lowes in Greenland and walk in. That was the last routine thing that happened in this particular job hunt.
“Hi, my name is Oggy,” I say merrily to the customer service desk. “Could you direct me to human resources.”
The lip ring girl surfing the internet looks confused.
“I saw an ad for a job. I’ve come to apply. Your search is over.”
I like to be positive when arriving at a job interview. They are usually robotic and I like to be personable, cheerful and friendly. I make jokes, yawn, stretch, point to paintings and ask who the artist is, ask them where they went to school, if they’ve ever been to Canada, the usual icebreakers.
“Oh. Hold on.”
The girl gets up and hunts for a supervisor. One comes back and asks me what my intentions are. I feel like the interview has already gone wrong as I explain myself now with the tone of voice of one dealing with slightly deaf people.
“I. Am. Looking. For. Work. Where. Can. I. Apply?”
“Oh. Let me see. Bob, do you know where people go to apply for work?”
By now half of my desire to get the job has vanished. What the fuck! Is this the first time anyone has ever come to apply for a job here? Do they grow their employees in the garden department like pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
“You want to apply?” says the brain surgeon Bob.
“Yes, please. I’m going to assemble every lawnmower you’ve got. Where are they? I’ve got my tools in the car.”
“Huh. Ok. Let me make a call.”
Bob gets on a phone and calls someone. I lean on one leg at the counter as people pass with carts full of paint and hardware and power tools. It’s definitely not a place I want to work.
“Sir,” says Bob, “You see that kiosk there? You can apply there.”
Just the mention of “Kiosk” makes my stomach turn.
“Thank you very much.”
I march over to the kiosk and groan as I see a flickering computer screen. I’ve seen these application stations in Target, Home Depot, Kmart and even some school districts. The smile immediately vanishes from my face because I realize I’m casting pearls before swine; no one here has the authority to hire me so I could show up in pink panther boxer shorts and still be considered for the job. I sit down and mockingly say, “Nice to meet you.” to the monitor.

Call me old-fashioned, but this is complete bullshit. Nevertheless, I want that job and I need that job so I grit my teeth for what I know will be a painful computer experience. See, I’m as computer savvy as the next person, and that means I know a public computer like at the library or airport is going to get serviced about as much as a single speed bicycle and forget about upgrades. Some miserable software company convinced all these companies that this was the future. Streamline the hiring process! Get the applicant to input his own data! Save money! In theory that’s all great. But, let me tell you what that means in reality.
I sit down and am faced with a menu linked to Lowes Corporation employment database. I want to apply for a specific job in Greenland. I don’t need to see job openings in Samoa, but that’s one of the countries on the drop down menu. I click on United States. Then New Hampshire. Then the screen freezes. The mouse won’t move. Come on! So I reboot the thing and wait five minutes for this dinosaur operating system to load. I seriously consider leaving because this is so pointless. I already don’t like the people I’d be working with and any company that uses computer hiring kiosks to hire mechanics is missing the point entirely. I’m the guy with a tool belt who actually reads the assembly instructions before tearing the bag of screws open. Do me a favor and input my personal data yourself!
Finally, the system loads up and I’m brought back to the screen where I can search for opportunities. Ha! Opportunities to have a mental breakdown trying to get a job! I go through the same process and finally get to New Hampshire’s opportunities. Cart Handler and Garden Department come up but no such listing for an Assembler. I just saw this ad for Lowes like three hours ago. In Greenland. The Greenland Lowes. Here I am in the Greenland Lowes, ready to go to work, and the only jobs are for Cart Handler and the Garden Department.
“Excuse me,” I say to a man in a Lowes vest. “I’m looking for an assembler job. Do you know if there’s…”
“The ones on there are the only ones.”
“But I…” and the guy is gone.
I’m as determined to hunt down this job as most people in these stores are determined to find the matching paint for their rec room. I have an idea and search for assembler in the entire United States. Maybe they spelled Greenland wrong. This search takes longer to launch because I have to navigate to a hidden corner of the database where the text fields for state can be empty.
Assembler jobs exist in the United States but not in NH, it seems, but now that I’ve come this far I’m not leaving without applying for something. I click on the Cart Handler job and when I click on the “Apply For This Job” button it takes me back to the start of the whole search process. Then the computer freezes again.
“Come on!” I moan.
I reboot and take my coat off. I’m sweating even though these gigantic warehouses are usually freezing. Finally, I find a workaround to their glitchy data stream and am faced with an eight step process to apply. Diligently, I fill out everything on the application. It’s not much different from a paper application. Have I been convicted of a felony? Do I do drugs? What references will admit knowing me? It takes 20 minutes but I press on and think I am finished when a final screen comes up, “You are required to fill out a questionnaire. Your application will not be complete until you complete the following questionnaire.”
Fine, I’ll answer a few more questions. I click next and am faced with an 85 question multiple choice quiz of a slightly philosophical nature. The questions are like this:
A customer requires your help while you are in the process of helping another customer. You feel you are close to closing the deal. Choose the best and the worst options.
1. Ignore the other customer. Close the deal with the first customer.
2. Help the other customer.
3. Tell the other customer you will be right with him.
4. Call your supervisor and ask for help.
5. Go to Lunch.

So, what is the best option? #3. The worst? It’s a toss up between. #1 and #5. I pick #5 and move on because pondering philosophical debates happens to be a pastime of mine and I don’t need Lowes to prod me.

Other questions are similarly worded:
Your coworker arrives at work smelling of booze. What is the best option:
1. Call your supervisor.
2. Tell your coworker to go home.
3. Laugh about it.
4. Ignore it.
5. Cover for your coworker

The best option? #2. The worst? #4.

Now, that’s what I put down because that’s what I think Lowes wants me to think. I actually wouldn’t care if my coworker arrived at work drunk. Hell, I’d be surprised if anyone came to work sober these days. But I must project my ethics into the boardroom of whatever clinical psychologist who is on the payroll of these corporations. I’ve got to outsmart him to get this job. What’s the worst that could happen if I ignored a drunk coworker? He might come over and smash this fucking computer kisok! There is no text field to type these expansions on my answer but I amuse myself for nearly an hour as I finish the questionnaire. Sometimes I laugh out loud and gain the attention of the people working the customer service desk. What does that matter? I’m applying for a cart handler job. I’d be working outside even if I did get hired and the chances are very slim that will happen.

So the whole application process took like two hours and at the end of it I get a message saying my application is not complete until I get some email confirmation saying that I authorize Lowes to pry into my personal life. Now, why would I object to that after my wonderful experience with the Lowes computer?

I actually get lost trying to get out of the store. There’s a huge sign marked exit that is behind a barrier. How do I get out? Do I have to buy a step ladder and use it to scale the fence? Then I see that the problem is that I haven’t bought anything so I didn’t see the exit behind the registers. Silly me. Maybe the problem was staring at that flickering green CRT monitor FOR THE PAST TWO HOURS!
The sweat on my skin instantly freezes when I get outside. As I bundle myself up I see next to the building a fleet of lawnmowers and an army of propane grills, all assembled and gleaming. Ah, someone has beat me to it. They might need an assembler later in June but their spring stock is finished. The job post was out of date. I tie my scarf around my neck and move toward my car.

Now, that’s what really happened but I decided to make it more amusing by making it seem like I sabotaged the affair. Not true. I did everything I could to get a job that didn’t exist. And in the process I was reminded of why I hesitate when people say I should apply at Lowes or Home Depot. You are not finished with this article until you answer the following question:

Oggy is looking for work. What is the best option and what is the worst option.
1. Get a $40,000 loan and go to divinity school
2. Get a $40,000 loan and go to Cancun.
3. Pray Work-A-Day labor hall assigns me staff writer job at New Yorker.
4. Become certified masseuse
5. Fake death and collect insurance.
6. Look for a place that will buy these frivolous essays.


Anonymous said...

There are hundreds and dozens of places that will buy these essays...but you'll sit and type at a Lowes screen instead of sending any of them out.

Anonymous said...

could you get a $40,000 loan? I like the cancun idea. Typical job hiring process....such bullshit. I drove 2 hours and 15 mins to an interview in Greenfield, MA for a job that I only slightly wanted, only to get a call from the recruiter 2 days later saying, "bad news, the regional manager who interviewed you liked you, but thought there was some stability issues with your resume and work experience." And I'm thinking, "but...but...didn't he see my resume BEFORE i went on the interview over 2 hours away from my house??" Why did he make me drive all that way to tell me there are "stability" issues with my resume.

Oggy Bleacher said...

I just read a J.S. Foer essay in some magazine and it was obvious he not only is a boring hack but I'm less of a boring hack than him. But I like the idea of posting essays that are better for free. Getting down on a knee so The London Observer can pay me for my writing is gross. In fact, they couldn't pay me to be published in their trashy mag.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.