Per the request of my dear friend and faithful commenter, Hilary, this post delves a little bit deeper into the life I led at Uh Oh shirts. I decided the simplest thing would be to share a few entirely ridiculous and completely true anecdotes:
The Pizza Party ~ If, for some reason, you didn’t believe me when I said that this job was high school, perhaps this story will give you a better idea of how that could possibly be an accurate descriptor of the full time job twenty some odd twenty somethings (and ’thirty pluses’) woke up and went to every day, and depended on for their livelihood in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the United States of America.
It all started when the internet went down and didn’t get back up again. The internet going ‘down’ was a fairly regular occurrence ~ so much so that as far as I was concerned, it became the code word to signal the “surprise” birthday pie celebrations we had at the conference table at least as often as the “surprise” This Person is Finally/Already Escaping going away pie celebrations we had at least as often which was basically twice a month. On this particular day, Comcast had just gotten yet another earful from the Customer Service Manager who assured us that it would be fine and we should all just try and be as productive as possible in our entirely internet dependent positions as ecommerce customer service agents, inventory/stock managers, artwork approvers, and cross-coast printer liaisons. Naturally we all just took our headphones off and started goofing around.
It soon became clear that Comcast was impeding the productivity of all of it’s Downtown Berkeley clients, so naturally, the greed-eyed owner of the company who we’ll just call ‘Raymond’, let the CS Manager know that we were all generously excused from the day’s duties if we so wished to be. Since all of us would much rather have gotten paid our lunchmoneyanhour wages for doing nothing than dipping out at 10 am, and because the CS Manager was holding out hope of the internet connection being restored, we stayed.
Given the fact that we’re all in some California Cafetorium three hours behind the rest of the country, we pretty much always started the day ‘behind’ (despite having a 5:30am shift), but it was fairly early in our workday that this happened. To kill some time while negotiations were being made, a team building Taboo tournament was held which my team DOMINATED thanks to myself and my fellow Claims Escalations Specialist. There was also some sort of nerdy Magic Cards game going on for those who didn’t want to play Taboo, someone was reading in the corner, video games were being played on some old school game console, extended smoke breaks were taken, and people were intermittently deucing the rest of us with or without ‘permission’ to wander around Downtown Berkeley.
After our big win, my fellow Claims Escalations Specialist and I were elected to join the CS Manager to purchase pizza for everyone from Slice on Center Street. We also purchased a couple of salads for the vegetarians among us. I guess the toppings that day must have been carnivorous. OH. BUT WAIT. Actually, this was before he was my fellow Claims Escalations Specialist. ha. This was when the guy that trained me had been laterally/semilaterally/probably-legitimately-since-he-was-a-guy-promoted to the Quality Control Specialist, and I was handling every single complaint by my damn self for lunchmoneyanhour wages and empty promises and LIES. haha. I’m not bitter, I promise.
But yeah, at the time this other guy, we’ll just call him ‘Robert’, was in the new batch of customer service peeps, but he was tall and good looking and very smart. Like, probably one of the smartest and most calculating people I have ever met, which was both fascinating and slightly unnerving. So the CS Manger had her eye on him for the higher ranks of the district. ha. I had been trying to convince the CS Manager to pull this other guy that had been at Uh Oh shirts wayyy longer than most of us to be in the Claims Department with me because I had a ridiculously messy crush on him and was constantly finding every excuse I possibly could to go ask him questions I could have figured out on my own, and spending 20 minutes arguing over the The Printer Spreadsheet. haha. But besides me being in love with him, he was also really good with people and very creative and extremely influential and had been around long enough to have valuable insight. But ‘Robert’ was (and probably still is) too ambitious for his own good, and long story short he ended up working in the Claims Department with me. Which was a very interesting experience. ha. But on this day, he was just my fellow Taboo Champion and Pizza Procurement peer. He was basically the Junior that just happens to be cool and good looking enough to get special privileges with the Seniors. ha. So we collected the pizza and traipsed back over to Milvia for the rest of our indoor ‘Internet’s Down’ field day.
The Que + The Coupons ~ As crazy and comical as everything about Uh Oh shirts was, I really loved my actual job. Like, if i had been fairly compensated, and the management had been …better, I would have loved to have stayed with this company. After I was laterally promoted from Customer Service to the Claims Department, I got to A) listen to music all day and B) not take calls unless I felt like it. ha. My new role was going through the complaint que on the back end of our ecommerce site and reaching out to the customers to weed through invalid complaints, and make restitution for legitimate ones. Because I LOVE structure and methodology, this was actually a really good fit for me for a while. There was rhythm and my whole purpose was turning chaos into order. Basically, I would start my day by wrapping up the easy claims in my email inbox by copy-pasting a sincere apology and a coupon code, go through my voicemails, check in with the printers about pressing deadlines, and follow up with any other loose ends.
At some point, there was an increased demand for ‘inspections’ by management. Our in-house printers were screwing up an inordinate amount of very large orders and because I am a literal and generous person, I upheld all the sweeping “guarantees” posted all over the website. Raymond was not happy about this, so there was a scale of sorts that determined whether or not I had to create shipping labels and have the person return their garments for inspection. The problem with this logic was that a lot of people would send back all the shirts, be like EFF YOU GUYS I WANT A REFUND, and then file a claim with a BBB. Not the favorite part of my job. ha.
However, I did enjoy going through the Claims Que and prioritizing the fresh claims, looking at the pictures of what went horribly wrong in production, or who didn’t bother to take a look at our sizing chart (LOL), and sending out that first email to get the process started. Having a clean claims que was *the* best feeling, but eventually because no one wanted to pay me for the work I was actually doing, or even send another person in my department to help, I learned to pace myself and make it look like there was more work than there actually was. I know that sounds terrible, but let me further explain:
When you are an hourly employee with very strong work ethic and integrity, you basically always get screwed. The amount of effort it took for me to stay on top of things and deal with all the verbal abuse of grown men who don’t have control of their emotions to the point where they will scream expletives and lewd things to a woman over the phone, coupled with the essential role I was playing in the company, I should have been paid AT LEAST twice as much as I was being paid, or at least have had salaried status with benefits. Therefore, I was like, listen if you’re not going to pay me more money, at least send someone else in my department so that we can both do lunchmoneyanhour worth of work, ya feel? It took them forever, but eventually they did… so then we had to strike a new balance of making it look like we both had enough work to do haha. But the t-shirt biz is cyclical. There are summer camps and weddings and mission trips and then there’s like, one guy orders his girlfriend a stupid looking Valentine’s Day sweatshirt (a relationship move that was doomed from the outset because we were terrible at digitally printing on blended garments…). So because they waited until after the busy season, ‘Robert’ and I frequently ended up playing hangman and having sudoku competitions until he abandoned me for the accounting opportunity he’d been vying for apparently since he started. But the dopest thing about having someone else in my department was the one time I had him screen my emails because one of our angry and most inappropriate customers was harassing me and sending a bunch of emails with attachments and no subject or content. I wanted to protect the innocence of my eyes, so I had ‘Robert’ go through them first to make sure there were no sketchy photos. So that was nice. haha.
The Slideshow ~ Towards the end of…everyone’s time at Uh Oh shirts, A Big Announcement was made. Confirming all the whispers and rumors, ‘Raymond’ announced that the company’s Downtown Berkeley lease would not be extended, and that there would be a Move To Fremont. No, there would be no commuting packages, nor would there be any increase in wages to make up for the increased travel costs of those who were already traipsing from on end of the train line to another, but maybe they’d arrange a free shuttle from BART to the facility since we couldn’t manage to carpool ourselves. In addition to the Move to Fremont, there was An Exciting New Position in the accounting department for one lucky employee, as well as a managerial position for anyone who was interested in uprooting their life and relocating to Indianapolis. The outlined incentives that were so thoughtfully displayed via Power Point Presentation* on a 37” TV bought SOLELY for the purpose of this Big Announcement was that there was a nice library in Indianapolis, and a Walmart and In and Out nearby in Fremont. I. just. could. not. even. My good friend JB and I were just like DONE. I still don’t know how I managed to look at JB and not bust a gut, because a year and a half later from the floor of my studio apartment, I am still in tears at the memory of it all. oh, life. oh, Raymond. oh, uh oh shirts.
*Yes, an actual Power Point presentation. The same person who allegedly designed and coded an entire ecommerce business model from scratch while still in high school resorted to the show and tell methods of a 3rd grade student in the 90s…