How the WORST Company Ever Inspired My Business Philosophy

After sending out 30 resumes, I was getting desperate.

I was 20 after all, and I only had two areas of experience on my resume:

  1. ABC’s Master (aka.extensive filing experience);
  2. and three years of retail customer service (which is actually not that bad for a 20-year-old)

I also lived in Vancouver, BC.

You know the place right? Ranked the most expensive city in Canada to live in, and the third most expensive city in the world to live in. That city where all the young people are making a mass exodus. Yeah, that place.

Getting a job was one thing, getting a job that paid a living wage was simply out of the question.

My prospects were pretty bleak. I needed something part-time so I could still attend University full-time at the other end of the city.

Cue, Gold Wavy*.

They offered me a job on the spot. Looking back, I should have seen this as a red flag.

I wasn’t always this pessimistic about retail.

When I interviewed for the position I genuinely liked Gold Wavy. I had no moral beef with them whatsoever.But that’s before I worked there for a month. Yup, a month. That’s all it took.

Business Paradigm Shift #1

One morning, during one of my crazy early morning shifts, I was opening up boxes of packaged women’s t-shirts and throwing them on the tables. Pretty boring.

And then, it happened. The moment that would change everything. I opened up the box that would ignite in me a rage that will not die.

The box was filled with t-shirts. On the shirts, there was an image of a smiling Earth and some gushy text about saving the planet and recycling or something.

I unwrapped the first shirt and placed it on the table. As I dropped the packaging to the floor I noticed the mess I had made over the course of the last hour, in my package tearing frenzy.

I was standing waist deep in plastic. These shirts, promoting saving the planet, were each individually wrapped in plastic. (As was every other article of clothing I, and everyone else, had unwrapped that morning, and all the mornings before it.)

These plastic mountains would get so high that we had trouble unpacking more boxes.

When we were drowning in plastic (which would happen a couple times per shift) we moved it all into an industrial-sized garbage bin. We were just one store in a massive mall, and we filled an entire industrial size garbage can, at least four times per week.  

In that moment of realization, I knew I could never work for a big corporation again.

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Not only were their policies around garbage, manufacturing, and packaging totally sinister, they were using the idea of sustainability and eco-responsibility to sell products that created a horrific amount of waste.

They were exacerbating a problem that they claimed to care about. They WERE the problem.

Corporate slacktivism at its worst.

Business Paradigm Shift #2

The t-shirt design in question also put the onus of ‘saving the planet’ on the consumer.

Um…Not so fast.

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Environmental initiatives directed at consumers like sustainability, recycling, composting and choosing eco-conscious products are all the rage. These initiatives remind us that we are all individually responsible for the state of the planet.

If you don’t recycle or ride the bus it’s your fault the planet is going to wither away like a sad balloon.**

There is no inherent problem with this kind of eco-shaming, except it shifts the blame and conceals the real culprit: big corporations like the one that owns Gold Wavy.

No matter how much I recycle, or compost, this one Gold Wavy store (of thousands) is still going to be dumping four industrial-sized garbage bins into the local landfill every week. (Obviously, I still recycle and compost, what do you think I am? Some kind of monster?) 

The point is: This company said one thing and did another.

Using social shame to sell products is low, but what is lower is one of the hugest corporations out there turning an important issue into a vacuous slogan to sell shitty, low-quality t-shirts.

I wish I could say this realization was the final straw and that I stormed out in a self-righteous rage, but it wasn’t, and I didn’t.

I was a broke student and I still needed a job.

Business Paradigm Shift #3

The final straw was the worst staff meeting in the history of meetings.

My number one rule in life and business is: Always Be Communicating. So naturally, I am a fan of a good, quality staff meeting.

But this was not like any meeting I had ever been to.

The staff sat on the floor while power-tripping twenty-somethings (aka Management) handed each of us a piece of paper with the layout of the store on it.

We were then instructed to trace out, on the little map, the fastest route from the stock room to a particular section of the store.

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I wish I could say that the garbage ordeal was the angriest I had been while working there, but I’d be lying.

Not only were their policies wasteful in the literal sense, they were wasting company resources on lecturing fully grown adults on how to get from A to B.

What the effing what?

Gold Wavy wasn’t worried about how they were creating astronomical amounts of waste – they were worried about the efficiency of the employees that were making minimum wage.

It was worth more to them to spend money holding a staff meeting to explain the layout of their store to people who had worked there for years, than to train their managers, pay their people properly, and oh, I don’t know, not turn the world into a giant garbage pit.

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So I quit and managed to get a job with one of the little guys.

We lived happily ever after.

Me + Small business = True  ❤ 4 Ever

Since then, I have worked exclusively with small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are a lot of reasons why working for a small business or entrepreneur is great.

The number one reason is heart.

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As a small business owner, if you don’t really care about your business, you will not succeed. This means there is a lot of passionate and interesting people doing really cool work.

These are my people.

Business owners with vision and integrity, with a focus on value-based service, are my bread and butter. Being able to articulate their vision to potential clients and customers is not only satisfying, it is really fun.

I believe entrepreneurship is going to save us. In a world of huge corporations, small businesses give life and culture back to their communities and make the planet a tolerable place to live.

These businesses know what their clients and communities need, and I love being the one who is able to engage their audience and give them the tools they need to spread their message.

It’s all about love.

Want to know more? Find out more about me and what I offer here. If you are interested in any other insights I have come to while standing in a sea of plastic, make sure you sign-up for my newsletter. Or maybe you just like my gifs. Don’t worry, there will be lots of those. Sign up already, gawd.

Disclaimer: I’m a hypocrite. I am actually wearing pants I bought there ten years ago right now and they are super comfy and they lasted forever. 

NOTE: I am also not shitting on people who work in retail, by the way. Customer service is an undervalued performative art that can be extremely challenging. Nothing but respect and love for my friends in retail.

*Company name has been changed because I’m not interested in being sued.

** I know the Earth will not wither up like a sad balloon. I do actually know how science and climate change work. I get that the Earth will be fine and that any emphasis on being environmentally conscious is about the human race, but I have a knack for hyperbole.)

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