First Time Selling Christmas Trees – The Employee Saga Continues

Monday morning we woke up to more rain, but also to two people waiting outside the gate to put in applications.  Initially I was confused and thought they were together, but it was a coincidence they showed up at the same time.  One was available to do deliveries and the other was available anytime and this turned out to be a lifesaver, because my 6’4″ helper chose Monday to say he wouldn’t be working any more with us. The cold and rainy weekend was too much for him, and he wasn’t interested in continuing.  I also had a delivery early in the morning, but thankfully one of the two new guys took the delivery and we got the tree out to the customer very quickly. I am also going to fill the hours with the other new guy.

I think this last incident put me over the edge a bit though, and although I was polite to the guy as he quit, I had a mini rant after he left.  I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about the employees through this process, but at this point it is such a huge part of the experience I have to find a way to express it.  So after sleeping on it, I decided here’s what I am going to do.  I am going to lay out (in a thumbnail sketch) my employee experience to date chronologically.  No names will be used, but I am going to provide the same level of detail that I have been writing on the applications for next year.  This is my compromise to my ethical belief that although people have a reasonable right to privacy, I also have the right to share my experience.  You be the judge after reading it if I handled it appropriately. Plus keep in mind, I can only report what I have heard, the reality of why they chose not to work could be something completely different.  People seem to be pretty honest about it though.  And despite the fact that many people still believe that an unwillingness to work is based on social strata, age, and/or ethnicity I have absolutely NOT found that to be the case.  I have hired a diverse group of people and in my opinion work ethic does not correlate to any of those factors. It also oddly also does not seem to correlate to need.  I really don’t get that.

In summary (because apparently talking about this in detail can get me in trouble) I have hired 18 people.  8 people never showed up or quit after a few shifts.  10 people worked a few shifts and caused issues, so were never called back. 3 have been rock stars and a fourth just started and is doing well. I have had three people with me from the beginning who have been absolutely amazing, and have formed the core of my team.  I have consistently had these three, but the most active employees I have had at any time has been eight people and that barely lasted a full weekend.

Here’s the thing.  I know this job is low paying and hard, but we have done everything we can to be upfront about that and make the atmosphere as pleasant as possible.  (What she’s leaving out is that on numerous occasions we’ve fed our people, she gives them hot cocoa, and we give them lots of breaks whenever possible. We can’t pay more, but we can DO more. – Lee) At the end of the day though, this place requires hard work and most of the people listed above decided the money was not worth the effort.  What bothers me so much, is many of them are living off their parent(s) or are on public assistance.  If you have a better option, absolutely find a different way to make money.  But if you aren’t earning money and are capable of doing this job, then I see no reason why you wouldn’t do it.  It’s only for a few weeks after all, not for the rest of your life.  Yes, my Midwestern background is showing, but seriously this is ridiculous.  And for all those who say illegal immigrants are taking our jobs, I would be thrilled to be able to hire anyone who was willing to do this work, illegal or no.  But that is against the law and we do a thorough ID check before hiring, so that’s just not going to happen.  Lastly, it seems pretty clear that for most people this work is “beneath them.”  That mentality is making me crazy. After all, I have an MBA and I am selling Christmas trees, and I did far less pleasant work when we were young, broke, and needed the money.   Beneath them…give me a break.

OK, rant ended.  I will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday was rainy cold and we only sold 11 trees, but Tuesday the sun finally came out and we had our best weekday ever.  We sold 29 trees and had $3800 in sales. We were also staffed perfectly, hitting the $4 per tree target right on the nose, without feeling like Lee or I were working ourselves to death.   The new guy I hired did a great job and seemed to like it, so he’s on the schedule now, taking the hours of the person who quit.  We had some really nice families come through and  sold wreaths, garland, big trees and had the staff to handle it.  It was a nice day.  Several people said they were going to come on the weekend, but couldn’t face the rain, and frankly I don’t blame them.  Since I was feeling more positive about sales, I placed an order for more trees.  I asked for ten 9-10 footers, ten 7 foot nobles (we had tons of sixes but are out of sevens in back stock) and fifteen more grands.  People on a budget really seem to like them.  Getting the order processed will be challenging with the four people we have, but everyone has expressed a willingness to come in to help with the truck orders and there is no immediate need so hopefully will be OK.  Running the lot with plenty of back stock is so much easier, I’d like to keep it that way instead of waiting until we run low and then getting a huge order.  That’s rough on everyone.


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6 thoughts on “First Time Selling Christmas Trees – The Employee Saga Continues

  1. I sure hope you 2 get the bonuses you are hoping for. You are definitely earning it!
    We are completing our first month gas line surveying. The work is pleasant, the money, including per diem and mileage is very good for workcamping. Unlike the other couple who commented earlier, we have not had any unpleasant experiences yet. The main drawback is not getting to choose where to go. We are in Hot Springs Arkansas now, and will be going to either Texas or Oklahoma after the first of the year. We have only been fulltime for 7 months so we figure we can find interesting things to do wherever we are sent. Hopefully we will have some choice about where to go after proving ourselves. We really enjoy your blog. Good luck with the rest of the season!

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