Letter to John

John,

I pray this letter finds you in good spirits. I am reaching out to you regarding the Extra Support Walk that the 1971 Simi Valley Store will be having on September 6th. I have no doubt that you have read my previous letters I submitted to Communications so it should come as no surprise that I have been scheduled off the day of the walk, as have many of my fellow associates who have within them the courage to speak out. Though I will not be present for the walk, I figured that, if anything is to be heard that day, let it be this. I know that you are a busy man so allow me to humbly thank you for taking the time to read my simple words and know that I will do my best to not waste any of your time.

Our store is currently operating at an EOS score of 47. How such a score is allowable without repercussions is beyond me. Steven, the Area HR, in his own demeaning way, did his best to explain the math behind the score, yet it only served to highlight everything wrong with what we are doing here at Lowe’s. The short, and ironically, complicated answer to the difficulties we face is that we are failing our associates. Pure and simple. Were you to walk in to our store, at this very moment, I could have you meet several associates that are unaware of the fact that we offer stock options or 401k plans. The root of this begins in the shoddy training that we offer. New hires are so far from being qualified to be on the floor that they become the very reason we have dissatisfied customers. This is not because they do not care; most of the new hires I have met in my years are quite capable of incredible things, yet we do not provide them with the knowledge needed to care for our guests. Back in my father’s day, they were trained by contractors so each and every associates knew how to set tile, or how to make a concrete slabs, or how to paint a house. Today, in an effort to save money, we have watered down and stripped just about every valuable resource to its most base form which has resulted in our new associates, our lifeblood, to become nothing more than dim-witted zombies. We cannot expect great things from our associates if we do not give them the tools that inspire them to be just that, and without being qualified experts in their field, we are doomed to shun customers with our ineptitude.

I am sure you have heard the phrase “You get what you put into it.” I could not agree more, so how about we practice what we preach and put into our associates what we hope to get from them? What we unfortunately see, at least at 1971, is associates being viewed as nothing more than expendable labor, and believe me when I say that there exists no more disheartening a face than an associate who believes that. This is a direct result of a management team that does not truly value their family.

I was made a Mentor in Building and Lumber and I have yet to mentor anyone, though I can say with a large degree of confidence that I am knowledgeable in that department, thankfully in part of an incredible Department Head I had back when I worked at The Home Depot. I received next to no training when I got hired. I, and many associates before and after me, did not attend any kind of Orientation. I still, to this day, have yet to see the inside of the LP’s office. What exists here is a team (if you could call it that) that is more than willing to submit papers saying they did something than actually doing it. This sort of negligence is rampant at 1971. I was transferred to Appliances because I wanted to learn a Specialist’s role in the hopes of becoming a Pro Desk Specialist. John Botkin asked me to learn Genesis so that I could polish my skills on the ordering side of things. I was promised solid training, even him going so far as to say that I would not be able to go out on the floor until I had passed my training. I have, so far, recieved zero training. No classes, no learning, not even Red Vest Ready certified. I thank the gods that be for Nanci and Russ and Veronica for their patience in training me, not only on entirely new products that I had zero experience with, but also their diligence in making sure I knew the in’s and out’s of Genesis. There is no intention on putting me at the Pro Desk. There never was. What they needed was a body, someone to balance the hours, and they saw the fact that I wanted to further my career at Lowe’s as some sort of malicious opportunity to prevent that from happening.

When we set this kind of status quo we create a work force that has no intention of bettering themselves, and why should they? Why should they when their needs and wants are mere trifles to our alleged leaders? Where is any incentive to do better, to be  better, when we have managers that will tell associates that they are not cut out to be managers directly to their face? Or when we have managers that will tell veterans of our Armed forces, with decades of leading others in the face of death, that they do not possess enough experience in managing others? What we have is a management team that has become comfortable with mediocrity, with never going above and beyond, and why should they? Why should they exert any more resources into our associates when it will be less they will receive in their next bonus? I am sure you are well aware of the investigation between certain managers that were forcing our cashiers to add EPP’s to our guest’s transactions without telling them, as well as using other associates log-ins to avoid hurting the numbers of the front. What became of this investigation? They are clearly still employed, and we both know that if an associate was caught utilizing such a dishonest and underhanded business tactic, they would be fired on the spot. What kind of precedent does allowing this set? We cannot dare talk to our associates about accountability when we fail to hold management to any.

If we are to attempt to fix any of this mess, we must first start by setting standards. We simply cannot continue to operate like this. We cannot accept an EOS score of 47 to be passable. There is no more clear an indication of failure than this, and we must be willing do stand up and see the problem for what it truly is. If we are going to be in business, and truthfully and genuinely be about helping our guests love where they live, then we must be willing to do things the right way. We cannot accept dishonesty. We cannot accept hypocrisy. We must hold our managers to the same level of accountability as we do our loaders. There simply is no other way.

What we need, John, are leaders. Passionate people that are not satisfied with mediocrity, who thrive in thinking outside the box. Dedicated individuals who can inspire the greatness that exists within every associates here at Lowe’s. When we can put the right people in the right places, we can watch miracle after miracle after miracle occur. It is my sincere belief that a true leader does so from behind, not the front. They do not use intimidation or bullying to complete meaningless goals, but rather, subtly ignite the spark that spurs their team to fly to untold heights. A book I know describes leadership in what I believe to be the most pure expression of the term. It is this,

“The best leaders are those their people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised …

The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When they have accomplished their task,
the people say, “Amazing!
We did it, all by ourselves!”

Allow me to be clear, John. I am not calling for people to lose their jobs. However, when we allow ourselves to revel in mediocrity, we breed conflict. What I humbly ask, as both an associate and a human being, is a severly critical look at 1971. We need unannounced walks. Stop by in plains cloths and say nothing. Merely observe how things are. What you all see when you announce your walks is merely a facade, a miserable illusion, only to return to ruin the moment you leave the store. This is your chance to make things better, not just for yourself, but for the countless beautiful lives that work under you. We are tireless, passionate, dedicated, and courageous, but we can only give so much to a team that undervalues our work and ultimately, ourselves. Listen to us, John. We are the voice of Lowe’s. When guests walk through those doors, they don’t come in to see you. They don’t come in to see Marvin. Maybe a handful come in to see Mike. However, the vast majority come in to see us. We are the front line, the middle men and women between the guest and the product, and the last smile they see before they leave us. Knowing this, does it not make the most sense that when we provide for our associates, truly enable them to love where they work, we can get that much closer to helping each unique and wonderful person that walks through our doors love where they live? Isn’t this what we claim to be about?

Help me help these people, John. We might be the only ones that will.

Thank you.

Your friend,
Harrison Dalrymple
Simi Valley Store#1971

Letter to Lowe’s 3

Marvin,

It is truly unfortunate that you were unable to respond to me directly. While I will admit that it may have been naive of me to think that you would, a part of me still hoped that you would, at the very least, send me someone who had the capability of thinking freely and open to the idea that Lowe’s is not as great as it once was. Instead, I was given a parrot in a red vest who seemed content to regurgitate years of failed Lowe’s policy and the delusional line of thinking that has become the very source of the problems we face. While I have no doubt that the panel who filters your mail will never let this or the other letters I have sent ever reach your eyes, it is my hope that this, my final letter, reaches you and provides you with enough insight to see that now, more than ever, is the time for a different type of leader. One that is bold enough to go against the grain, to do what no other company has done, and exert the patience to see our new strategies pay off. If I had to applaud the managers at the store level for one thing, it would be their ability to generate problems where none exist so that they may create “solutions” in an effort to seem like they are doing something worthwhile. I can only imagine the amount of time, energy, money and associates that this has cost the company but, seeing as how there is very little in the way of ramifications for doing so, it is not too difficult to see the correlation between the current state of Lowe’s and the level of ineptitude of our “chosen leaders.” It is therefore my intent in this letter to provide solutions to the real and genuine issues that many in management would prefer we did not solve.

Allow me to first preface this discussion with the fact that I am not a thoroughly educated man. You will find no Masters in Business hung on my wall, nor will you find my name amidst any of the pages written in Warren Buffett’s books. As I have stated before, I am a 27 year old nobody with a penchant for writing. I can say with great certainty that what I DO know is people. I have triumphed with them at their highest and have grieved with them at their lowest. All of what I am about to suggest comes from my own experiences, not just as an associate but as a consumer, as well.

One of the fondest memories I have as a child was getting to go with my father to The Home Depot. Though I was a child, I vividly remember the smell of freshly cut lumber as I rode on top of the orange flat carts. I remember looking up and being struck in awe by the giant, floating Styrofoam chainsaw with a slowly moving chain. On the guide bar in orange spray paint read the word “Lumber” in big box letters. What I did not know until years later was that this was the work of one of the associates, named George, that worked at this store. He was a retired carpenter and he made giant displays like the one above for every department. The Paint Desk had a huge paint brush soaked in orange next to a massive gallon of paint that was in the middle of tipping over and you could see paint slowly oozing out of it. Garden had a colossal lawnmower hanging over the Seasonal Department, and if you walked underneath it, you could look up to find Styrofoam blades lazily spinning. A few years had passed until one day, I came in to find that they had all been taken down and the associate that had worked hard was forced to leave because he was making too much money.

Another instance of this can be found at an old drugstore that went by the name of “Longs.” I can still remember walking into that store near Christmastime, racing to the middle racetrack to see what new game they had on the demo kiosk. What made this particular Longs special was one particular associate, whom we will call James. He was an older man, well into his sixties, who had a passion for model trains. James loved model trains so much so that he got permission from his manager to build an entire track around the inner perimeter of the store, complete with model stores and cars and people. If you behaved exceptionally well, James would hand you the controller which would allow you to puff little wisps of smoke out of the smokestack and honk the train horn. Until, one day, Longs was bought out by CVS. The train set was gone, as was Jim, and what replaced it was cold LED lights that were reminisce of a sad doctor’s office, employees that aren’t paid enough for quality customer service, and an inferior product.

What I believe makes a small business vastly superior to a big business is not just their size, but their emphasis. Walk into any BMC, barbershop, or that small restaurant on the corner and you will immediately sense the difference between them and a chain store. Small businesses, like big businesses, know that the only way to keep their lights on is money, but they go about getting it in a radically different way. What separates them is customer service. You go to the little coffee shop on the corner because it is the best damn cup of coffee you can get and you love the way that the barista tells you stories of yesteryear. You go to the mom-and-pop hardware store because they always treat you like you’re coming over for Christmas dinner. What the store lacks in superior funding they more than make up for in out-of-this-world customer care.

I believe it is in the transition from small business to big that the emphasis on customer care is lost. No longer do we demand that our associates be of the highest caliber, true masters in their field, when it becomes cheaper to hire those of little value. Stores that were once founts of knowledge and decades of home improvement experience have become barren wastelands of unmotivated, untalented, and perhaps worst of all, uninspired wastes of space. This can only occur when a company starts seeing how much their associates are costing them instead of the value that their associates bring. The James’ and Georges of the past have been forced out because they are worth more than the company is willing to give them, so they push them out in the hopes that they can hire someone far less qualified and pay them just enough to keep them from wanting to be worth more.

The pitiful excuse for an HR you sent me told me of a time where he gave his team 25 dollar gift cards for their hard work, and of course, there was a teammate who felt like they had earned more. They refused the gift card, and the HR told me that he was actually doing the teammate a favor, because if you multiply the amount of money he spent on gift cards by the number of teammates, it would have cost him more than he was willing to spend on his team if he had increased the amount given. The issue I have isn’t that he didn’t give enough, it was that he was already looking at rewarding his team in terms of how much it was going to cost him, not how much he was going to gain by acknowledging their value. It is this mindset that is slowly, but surely, killing our worker base. The terrible truth is that they know this, and they are content with the idea that we will have mindless monkeys meandering the aisles. They do not want to pay us for our value; they want to pay us for our lack of it.

I remember you sent out an e-mail detailing some new program that would enable us to “close the gap” between us and the orange aprons down the street. I like to imagine it like this: Home Depot is an ice cream store that only serves vanilla. Not strawberry or chocolate, just plain old vanilla. It works as a safe bet for them because they know that no matter what, there will always be people that just want vanilla. However, they lose business from those that want anything but vanilla. Instead of trying to beat Home Depot at their own game, why don’t we try being something completely different? Why must we close the gap at all? What if we instead tried widening it, to the point where Home Depot begins to emulate us? We can play it safe, sure, and feel like we’ve accomplished something each quarter and be content with mediocrity. Or, we can set our sets higher and achieve more than we ever thought possible.

How we do this is completely reliant on how we treat our associates. We must look at them in terms of the value that they will bring to the floor instead of how much its going to set us back. When we do this, we inevitably raise our standards because we want associates that are not only knowledgeable, but friendly and are willing to go the distance for our customers. If you talk to any corporate parrot you will hear the phrase “You get what you put into it” more than you would care to hear. Why don’t we try practicing what we preach and put into our associates what we want to get? If we want honest, hard-working, dedicated, and passionate associates then we must first be willing to be the same for them. If that means paying them a little more to show our faith in them, is that truly a price too large? Sir Richard Branson once said “Train your associates well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so that they will not want to.” What we have instead is what I can only describe as a pathetic excuse for training paired with an almost insulting amount of payment for the knowledge we simply aren’t getting.

HR also told me that you have fired some people responsible for this mess, which I think is a good start. However, I do not believe that approaching this from a top-down perspective is going to get you far in achieving success. I believe you need to see things from an associate’s perspective. Anyone knows that a building is only as strong as its foundation, and we are the foundation for Lowe’s. We need to heavily inspect our foundation and see things from the bottom up. I’m not saying push carts for 8 hours in 90 degree weather while head cashiers breathe down your neck as they respond to pressure from their managers because they can’t morally sell EPP’s to customers without telling them, but it might be a good start.

I don’t know if you have read my last two letters but the response to them has been monumental. People from around the country have resonated with what I have said to such a degree that they are printing out copies and passing them around the store. I have spoken with so many wonderful people that wish that you would see the letters in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, you could be the change that we so desperately need. I take the response that I have gotten to be overwhelming evidence that something is terribly wrong in the way we think about retail, so this is our chance to be something different. I want us to rise above this petty “Orange vs Blue” mindset and instead focus on what makes Blue unique. Focus on what makes Blue special. And perhaps, someday soon, you will come to find;

It will always be, quite simply, us.

Your friend,

Harrison Dalrymple
Store #1971

Letter to Lowe’s 2

Before I start detailing the events of my meeting with my regional HR, I want to first state how completely blown away I am by the overwhelmingly positive response this post has gotten. I never would have believed that I would have reached the amount of wonderful people that I have, nor would I have believed that people would resonate with my words on such a level as to print out my blog and spread my words. From the deepest reaches of my spirit and heart, I offer my most humble of thanks.

A few days after my letter started gaining traction, I received an e-mail from my regional HR stating that he would like to meet with my and discuss the concerns I had working for Lowe’s. I was shocked, seeing as how I never believed for a minute that it would have gotten as much as attention as it received. Though I was definitely concerned for my job because this store has employed subtle forms of retaliation, I knew that this might be my one and only chance to change the future for many people. This was not a meeting that I took lightly and the amount of people that resonated with my words gave me more courage than I knew what to do with. I would not waste this chance.

I will admit to my own naivete regarding the outcome of this meeting. My heart wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could appeal to the side of him that many managers seemingly refuse to acknowledge; their human side. I didn’t want to talk to the corporate side of him; I wanted to speak to him man to man, from one human being to another. I thought that if I could just get him to see the suffering that is allowed to exist in our stores that we could work together to create solutions that can change people’s lives for the better.

I was wrong.

For the three hour duration of the meeting, I talked for a total of 15 minutes. Most of the time was spent listening to how great Lowe’s is, and how many associates don’t utilize the tools given to them, and how most of the time, associates are wrong for feeling the way they do. When I could get a word in,  I would do my best to make my points but they were constantly belittled and reduced to nothing more than an associate who is upset because his feelings were hurt.

One of the first things that was mentioned in this “meeting” was that Lowe’s values results over morals. Consider the following; you have two managers, one that is good and another that is bad. The good manager leads by example; he or she is a paragon of their peers. He or she is loved by many because they understand the plight of the associate and is willing to go the extra mile for their associates because they know that unhappy associates will create unhappy customers. The bad manager intimidates; he or she knows that results can be produced by fear and strong-arming associates into bending to their will. He or she knows they can coerce associates into over performing; not by instilling confidence or passion but by distress and threats. According to HR, the morality of the two managers, though radically different, is meaningless so long as both are producing satisfactory results. This is not to say that the bad manager will not be reprimanded for their actions, but rather, so long as they reign in their destructive tendencies, all is well.  A pitiful excuse for the actions of those managers who sow seeds of resentment and anger among their workforce.

The second point that was discussed was concerning the genius associate that would go above and beyond when it came to selling credit cards and EPP’s. I was told that it must have been difficult to be the SSM in that situation, since nothing the SSM could have done would have been enough. However, the point that I was attempting to make was that it should never have gotten to that point in the first place. Of course there was nothing the SSM could have done at that point, however, if the associate was congratulated and given recognition along the way, the stress felt by both parties could have been drastically reduced.

The third point was, in essence, that associates aren’t doing better because they aren’t putting effort into doing so. Or, in truth, employing that effort in the right ways. HR said that when associates ask for more money, they tell them about the 401k and stock options. However, where this inevitably fails is in the fact that most full and part-time associates are not going to invest in a company that cares so little about the associates voice. Sure, perhaps to the veteran associates and those seeking a career here at Lowe’s have that, but what are we doing for the others? I responded to this by stating there was an associate, right at this very moment in Building and Lumber, who was a new hire. Barely qualified to be on the floor and zero experience under his belt, alone, and without any machinery licenses. I told him that I would bet an entire months paycheck on the fact that he was never told about the 401k OR the stock program, AND the fact that he didn’t have orientation, because I never had that, either. While the look on his face was priceless, it truly opened my eyes to this severe disconnect between what managers say they are doing and what they actually do. I discovered later that day that this associate put in his two weeks because the entire experience was too toxic for him. He went through two weeks of what is barely considering training, only to leave because the environment that corporate is content with maintaining is rife with toxicity and deceit and “do as I say, not as I do” mentalities from some of the “leadership team”. Truly a waste, yet this kind of callous attitude towards new and veteran hires alike is responsible for the dwindling workforce.

Another point that I was able to make when I got the chance to actually speak was regarding the store’s EOS score. As I stated before, it was (and still is) at a solid 47. I asked HR what is being done to remedy this and, to my surprise, was asked one of the most condescending questions I have ever been asked in my life. “Do you even know how it works?” As far as I am concerned, anything that allows a 47 out of 100 is still an F, whether that process is understood or not. However, now that I learned the truth about how EOS works, I will explain it so no one else has to have their HR make them feel like an idiot. EOS takes scores and creates an average based on the numbers that we, the associates, submit. What many of you may or may not know is that it only registers scores if an associate has rated their response a 6 or a 7. This means many scores do not accurately display the current score because it is designed to filter out lower scores, thus creating the illusion of a score higher than what was actually given. HR stated that our score is inaccurate, though I do not know which reality is worse; an inaccurate program that we are still using to judge our managers that still allows a 47 to be acceptable or the fact that we are rigging this program to avoid harsh criticisms of our “leadership team”. Either way, it is an incredibly dishonest tactic.

I was also chided for even publishing this letter in the first place. I was told by HR that I should have gone directly to our Store Manager, as what I have essentially done by going beyond him is calling out and placing the spotlight on every manager. While it is true that I described some as “incompetent” and “spiteful” I had refrained from using names because I needed this to be professional and respectful. Of course I did not mean every manager is this way; in all honesty, the only reason they feel threatened or targeted is because they are the managers this letter is about. It was out of respect for their privacy that I intentionally withheld their names. We have managers that are intentionally lying to costumers by adding EPP’s to their transaction in order to boost numbers without telling the customers  and having them use other log in ID’s if they can’t get one. We also have managers that will work themselves to the bone and take on the responsibilities of the other managers that sit in their office all day and text. Both parties know who they are and that is enough for me.

I genuinely wished for an open dialogue and legitimate solutions to the concerns that we have. Your responses have been overwhelming and I did my best to have them answered. It is with great sorrow and shame that they fell on deaf ears. They aren’t here for us. They are only out for themselves. HR did nothing more than diffuse our cries for change and reduced them to trifles. To quote my HR; “No one is going to help you. People are only ever out for themselves. The only person that will help you is you.” This mentality only creates conflict and breeds an incredibly toxic “me against you” environment. Though he made it clear that he was here for me, for all of us, it became apparent as the conversation progressed that he was only making sure we would not rock the boat. That we would stay silent. That we would stay complacent and keep our heads down and get back to work. What I have learned is that we only ever allow what we think we deserve. I believe that we deserve better.

Throughout the meeting, HR kept asking me what I wanted. As if it was something as simple as a pay raise or a set schedule. What I want is for there to be a serious and intensive investigation into each and every location. We need to start from the bottom up so that we may clearly see the problems that plague these stores. Will people lose their jobs? Undoubtedly. Is that what I want? Hardly. Change denotes neither good or bad, but it will definitely mean that things will not be the same. That is what I truly want.

I will close by saying that they have begun to investigate those who have printed out my letter at my store. While it honors me that many of you have done so, I cannot accept the idea that I might be responsible for the loss of someone’s job. Be careful, for while I and many others are eager for change, many are not.

Thank you.

Harrison Dalrymple
Simi Valley, #1971

Letter to Lowe’s

Marvin,
     I know the chances of you even reading this are slim. Far less are the chances of you responding but I figured that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that you or someone who could make a difference could read this.
     My name is Harrison. I was born in Simi Valley and have lived here most of my life. In my 27 years of life, I was taught the incredible value of hard work, instilled within me a strong sense of dignity and vigilance, and pride in my work. I owe that to my father, who, to this day, is one of the smartest and most wise I have ever known, despite him never having finished college. From him, I discovered that there are seldom any problems that you cannot overcome without strength of spirit and heart. I watched as he gave his blood, sweat, and tears to the companies that employed him, only to see his hard work taken advantage of and unappreciated.
     You see, hard work and diligence DO get you far in life. Farther than I think we may give credit. But without careful nurturing and growth, even the most patient and hard working of us begin to slowly give less and less. I have seen countless associates fall by the wayside because managers abuse their hard working hearts by asking more and more and more. What was once a paragon of customer service and product knowledge withers into laziness and ineptitude,  not because they suddenly turned lazy, but because they CHOSE to give less and less.
     The good news is that this malaise is easily remedied. We need to prevent managers without an ounce of leadership in their bones from becoming 
 hard working associate killers. I have seen employees promoted as well as individuals taken from outside the store without so much a lick of what it takes to truly LEAD others. At the store level, full and part time associates, such as myself, do not need bosses. We need leaders.
     I am not sure if you saw the Farewell post of our last CEO, but there was a particular comment that caught my eye; not necessarily because it was rude or perhaps angry, but because it carried within it the feelings that plague most of if not all of the associates I have come to know and respect. The comment was this:
     “”18 years ago, Lowe’s recruitment program loudly pitched the slogan “Retire Rich” to its prospective hires. I was one of those hired during that time. Since that time, almost two decades ago, I, and others like me, have incurred reductions to both our compensation and retirement security because of corporate decisions resulting in the following: 
Lowe’s termination of the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) 
Lowe’s termination of the 401k Performance Match (which temporarily replaced ESOP) 
Lowe’s termination of Holiday bonuses 
Lowe’s termination of Spiffs and Commissions earnings 
Lowe’s termination of the “Lookback” feature of our ESPP which permitted Lowe’s employees the potential of a greater discount on the purchase of Lowe’s stock 
Lowe’s termination of our employees ability to purchase SOS items @ 10% over cost 
Lowe’s termination of Mutual Fund offerings in our 401k program
Good to see one of us Retiring Rich after all, Bob.”
     This feeling of resentment is far too real and common down at our level. In recent years we have seen Lowe’s take away just about everything that made it a privilege to work for Lowe’s. There simply is NO investment, and, perhaps even worse, incentive for investment, for full and part time associates. Add in a dash of incompetent and spiteful Service Managers who have no business telling another human being what to do and Store Managers who could care less about how associates feel about their job and you have a recipe for disaster.
     I will be honest with you. At the store level where the only thing that comes between a customer and the product they are looking for is the hourly associate, there is little in the way of providing for the associate. Although it is true that the customer pays for our paycheck, without satisfied and well-looked-out-for associates, the negativity and anger that we are breeding into the next generation of associates will undoubtedly wear off on the customer.  As a consumer myself, I find the signs all too easily observed if you pay attention.
     One of my role models is Sir Richard Branson. Not only does he tote one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the world, but he also holds the one of the highest associate satisfaction ratings. He was once quoted saying, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” I could not agree more with this statement. Instead, we see a much greater emphasis of creating “customer value” and “an easy shopping experience” and other corporate buzzwords that, while sounding nice, don’t actually translate AT ALL at the customer level. Service Managers, ASM’s, and Store Managers don’t see the customer as having a family and wanting to create the perfect birdhouse for their son, they see numbers and how much we a can nickel-and-dime then into oblivion with credit cards and EPP’s and other nonsensical plans that offer little value to the customer. This inorganic approach to customer service creates an incredibly toxic work environment, to the point where associates feel an immense pressure to act as inhuman as possible just to line the managers pockets with quarterly bonuses while the associate gets next to nothing for their efforts.
     One of the associates at my store is an absolute GENIUS at generating credit card applications. So much so, that she was consistently netting about a hundred per month. This continued for about two years, and she saw nothing for her hard work. She finally drew the courage to ask for something; nothing major, just some sort of recognition that she was failing to receive. The next day, the Service Manger for that day gave her $20 gift card. I have never seen a woman more ashamed and insulted in my entire life. So overcome with anger and embarrassment she refused the gift card and refused to sell any more credit cards. Every now and then, when the managers threaten her hours unless she generates more credit cards, she gets ten or twenty at a time. It’s an incredible skill she can simply turn on and off, yet is taken advantage of.
     I saw the blog that was posted stating how you had taken the time to work for a day at the Texas store, as a Pro Service Associate. This would allow you to see how we can help customers at the associate level. What I think we are failing to see is how we can help the associates at the store level. These people have beautiful, wonderful lives that do not always revolve around Lowe’s. That is the simple truth. What will be done to help them? What programs can we create that will motivate them to be the best associate that they can be? Doesn’t it makes sense that when we create a harmonious atmosphere that the only logical step is that positivity will shower onto the customer? Isn’t this what we want? Or are we really not about helping people love where they live? How we can promise that, if we aren’t first helping our associates, our lifeblood, love where they work?
     My name is Harrison, and I work at the Simi Valley store, number 1971. Our EOS score is a 47. I don’t know about you, but the last time I got a 47 on something, I had to retake Chemistry. This is your chance to change this company for the better, Marvin. I’m just a 27 year old nobody, but I can tell you that I have met some of the most beautiful, fascinating, and amazing souls at this place. Help us, Marvin. Help us love where we work, and I promise that it will only enable us to help our customers love where they live.
Thank you.
~Harrison Dalrymple
Lowe’s Simi Valley #1971

Tissue

Here’s the thing
about scars.
They aren’t hideous
or unsightly.
They aren’t signs of failure
but rather
a sign of the living.
That you surpassed
whatever it was
that you thought
would kill you.
And perhaps,
even better,
each one is indicative
of an incredible story,
for no two scars
are ever alike.
So wear your scars
like medals,
with pride.

You’ve earned them.

~LT

Distant Worlds

Saturday.
A brisk, October morning
welcomed me
as I stepped outside
for a quiet stroll
before the lunch crowd
came racing back to their homes.
That familiar breeze,
carrying upon it the scent
of the roses that lined the sidewalk,
brought comfort to me,
and I pulled my jacket tighter
and made my way to the park
that lay just short of a mile
from where I lived.

Something about this time of year
in particular brought about
a peculiar sense of contemplation,
and I often found myself
looking forward to this season
for its introspective nature alone.
I came upon the park
and memories set
in sepian tone came flooding through me.

It was here I first learned to ride a bike,
to play baseball with my dad,
my first heartbreak,
and it was here
that I could look deep within myself
and discover.
I parked myself on old wooden bench,
worn with time,
and just watched the people
that were there.

A couple of guys
playing some pick-up basketball.
The sing-song laughter
of children as they swung through the air
held back only by the chains of their swing.
The barking of dogs
As they frolicked in the warm grass.
New mothers
pushing their little ones
in strollers with their friends.
But there was one person
in particular
that caught my attention.

A young boy,
a shock of auburn hair
upon his head,
and freckles dotting their way
across his face,
just below his eyes.
His eyes were a sad blue
like the sky after a summer shower,
but how they dazzled,
that day.
He couldn’t have been
much older than seven,
yet he played alone,
just as I used to.
In his hand
he held a stick
with just a slight curve
at the end,
and he waved it around
in an incredibly precise manner.

Now,
to the untrained eye,
one might think this was just a stick.
But I knew better;
this simple stick
was Excalibur,
sword of legend,
and he was fending off
whatever vile beasts
dared encroach upon his kingdom.
With smart parries
and daring stabs,
one by one
his foes fell
and he emerged victorious.

Out of breath,
he sat down underneath
one of the many oak trees
that grew within that park,
and cast his gaze to the heavens.
I saw myself
in this young
Warrior of Light,
and I was reminded
of the many days and nights
where I slew my own
imaginary dragons.

And yet,
a cruel sadness swept over me,
for soon,
he will come to discover
that this world
is not ready for heroes
like him,
heroes that will take up the sword
and defend that which he holds sacred.
I had this overwhelming urge to warn him,
to tell him of the dangers that plague this
wretched world.
To prepare him for the unwinnable war
that claims all in its wake.
To tell him to take that chance
on that girl who changed everything
he thought he knew,
to tell him to never take a damn thing
for granted.

I rose,
and walked to him.
The autumn leaves fell
in what felt like slowed time,
the sun radiating its warmth
from amidst silver clouds.
I came to him,
and stopped,
his blue eyes met mine
and I swear
that for a brief second,
a spark of recognition
lit behind his eyes,
as if we were brothers-in-arms
in another life,
in another time.
What do I say to him?
What do I warn him about?
What could I possibly say
to prepare him
for the darkness?

“What is it, mister?” he asks,
eyes squinting
in the autumn sun.
All I could do
was smile,
and I said
“Stay good, kiddo.”

Stay good.

~LT

Descant

I stood there,
feet on the white
and brown tile,
arms resting along the
smooth hand rail
overlooking the plaza.
So many people,
walking to and from
their favorite stores.
Some alone,
others with others,
children running
and screaming.
I look on as I see
people holding hands
with people that matter to them,
and my heart pangs in jealousy.

What makes me so different from them?
I think to myself.

A frigid breath
brushes past the
hairs on my neck,
making them stand
on end.

As if you yourself know not the answer,
the Mantle uttered,
slipping off my back
and onto the rails
on which I rested.

Of course. As if I could forget,
I ruminated.
The Mantle.
Forged in the darkest recessess
of my heart and mind,
granted by my inner shadow
in a desperate bid
to save others from their fate.
None can see it but my self
as it drapes over
my once proud shoulders.
Clad in a cloth of darkest night,
I am more
and less
than I was before it came to me.

So you do remember,
it drawled coldly.
It never ceases to fascinate me
to see you yearn for the Light
when you know full well
that your lust for the Light
is meaningless.


I scoff,
Spare me the false incredulity.
You would not exist if not for the Light.
I am my own judge and executioner,
and you would do well to remember

that it was I who summoned you.


A wry smile escapes the Mantle.
I care not for the Light
or Shadow,
young thaumaturge.
It was you who sought wisdom,
in all of its forms.
Do not place blame on I
for not being satisfied 
with what you see.


I suppose I thought
that things would be
as I envisioned them,
I softly recounted.

Are they ever?
the Mantle finished,
alighting gently on my shoulders.

“No”,
I whispered out loud.

“No they are not”.

~LT