Fire Sales: A Reflection From a Former Dick Smith Employee.

Long time readers will know that for a good chunk of my working teenage years, in fact the majority of them now that I think about it, were spent predominantly at the Dick Smith Electronics store in Fyshwick here in the ACT. For what its worth it out of all the jobs I had (I was working up to 4 at times) it was the best of the lot but that could have easily been due to my seniority at the place. In my time there though I was privy to many of the behind the scenes activities that the vast majority of the public are unaware of and it seems recently some of those activities have been called into question again.

The events I’m referring to was the massive game clearance sale that took place just last week. Due to consumer regulations the sale was not allowed to be made public, due to the stampede it would create, but a price list inevitably made its way online and the calamity that ensued had people wondering just what the hell was going on. A major part of this was the apparent disdain for the employees who managed to snag some of the bargains before the public were allowed to have a go at them, something which one current employee has gone a long way to address.

I figured that I might just throw my hat in the ring here as well.

Way back in the day you might remember the little bastard child of a gaming handset cross mobile phone that was the Nokia N-Gage. Dick Smith stocked them and I had the mixed pleasure of trying to sell them to potential customers. It was an incredibly hard sell, one that only worked on the few uber nerds that would seek it out and the cashed up parents who bought their kids the phones they wanted (rather than the ones they needed). Of course one day Dick Smith decided to have a sale on the handsets via a coupon for a modest discount. The wording of the coupon was kind of lax and the system allowed multiple coupons to be used against a single handset, dropping the price to a tantalizing $100.

It was bedlam,the instant that word got around our store was swamped with people looking to pick up on the bargain. We kept the store open well past its closing time in order to service the last few of the orders and nearly every customer walked away with the device they wanted. The benefit for us was that a few of us got to get one of these handsets as well, many of us who then used it as our primary handset afterwards. Indeed the vast majority of ones that we saw up on eBay came from customers who had just purchased them from us not hours before, not the staff who had put them aside.

I’d have more sympathy for the greater consumer market if a couple things weren’t the way they currently are. When I started Dick Smith employees got an amazing staff discount: cost price + 10%. Whilst it didn’t make everything cheaper (games and computers being chief amongst them) it was amazing for many of the things that a budding geek like myself lusted after. About 3 years after I started working there the discount was scrapped, changed to be in line with the greater Woolworths employee discount scheme of a flat 5% off (which we got as well, but could not use in conjunction with our other discount).

There’s also the fact that for the most part this was a clearance sale, I.E. a run out of current stock lines that have either failed to move during their regular sales run or are the last of a dwindling few remaining. The fact that the price list was leaked online prior to the event meant that everyone got the impression that there would be enough stock to satisfy everyone when that was clearly not the case. Had this been a regular run of the mill sale I might have sung a different tune but it wasn’t and, I shudder to say this, sounds like a lot of people acting like entitled little bitches.

Honestly I believe the staff are entitled to have first stab at these things (much like they were for the recent WoW Sight and Sound fire sales, hear anyone whining about that?) because they work there, plain and simple. Retail employees aren’t that well compensated and it’s little perks like these, which are few and far between, that keeps them working there. If you’ve got a problem with staff having first go at sales like these then you’re more than welcome to take up a casual role in order to get the same level of “privilege” that they do. That or you could admit your value proposition for the items in question is so far below the regular retail price that you probably don’t need nor want said item.

This has gotten a lot more ranty than I thought it would so if you’d like a more level headed opinion from a consumer perspective then this piece from Matt Williams is probably more up your alley.

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