Trader Joe's Fires Guy For Wearing Insufficient Pieces Of Flair
Not content with pushing speed sludge to the entire world at all times, Starbucks is yet again trying to save the Union from itself. On Tuesday, Starbucks rolled out a new landfill-bound cup. In an attempt to foster some last minute unity during the collapsing County Fair Ride people call Election 2016, the Brain Behind the Brand felt compelled to do something, ANYTHING, to make us all remember that we're more alike than different.
“During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values, and the need to be good to each other,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement.
The cup is green - the color of money, which is what binds most Americans, and especially tax-dodging corporate behemoths like Starbucks. It has people, some of whom look just like us. This is comforting to self-involved Americans. The pictures of those who don't look like us are just pictures on a cup and not standing next to us in line. Which would be weird for 95% of the country. The picture people are smiling. This is reassuring because many of us are terrified that some mopey, science-hating, sentient wax sculpture like - wait for it - Ron Johnson might get elected. And there's that other "Republican" running for that other office, or, in the alternative, about to publish an alt-right Tiger Beat webzine. It's TENSE out there. So drink 32 ounces of caffeinated burning and chill out, man. And don't you dare go to 538 dot com for another 5 minutes.
You may remember Schultz's previous attempts at affecting change: like encouraging hourly wage employees to address 400 years of racial disharmony by discussing race relations with customers who frequent Starbucks for convenience and caffeine. Maybe well-intentioned. Maybe a little detached. Certainly easy to mock. This time, Schultz took it out of the hands of his employees and put it in the hands of product design.
But in the end, a lot of people weren't happy, because what's "unity" but some bullshit positive message about living together. Some just didn't like the altered cup because it's a thing that someone changed. Like when they changed the mom on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Or when Glenn Beck denounced Trump and absolved himself or creating a movement of hateful, false flag flying maniacs. People are mad online and they're not going to drink your stupid coffee out of your dumb "PC" Unity cup.
Can't say I blame them. Any cup that doesn't slowly leak because of an attached american flag pin is not a cup from which I wish to drink coffee-flavored runoff.
At Trader Joe's, all you need are smiles, smiles, smiles. Or else.
Trader Joe's sits right there with Starbucks in the Yuppie Foods Brands Pyramid. It's known for its uber-friendly staff, always eager to ring bells and point you to something delicious and chocolate-covered.
As far as Corporate People go, Trader Joe's, or "TJs" as your mom probably calls it, was one of the good guys. Friendly staff. Socially conscious. Cheap wine. But following the 2014 death of longtime CEO John Shields, employees noticed a change in the culture. Unsafe working conditions, unreasonable surveillance and unjust discipline are among the allegations against basically every other corporation. Similar allegations have been lobbed at Trader Joe's. And now, some of the staff doesn't want to dance.
According to an unfair labor practices charge filed on Thursday with a National Labor Relations Board regional office, Thomas Nagle, a longtime employee of the Trader Joe’s store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was repeatedly reprimanded because managers judged his smile and demeanor to be insufficiently “genuine.” He was fired in September for what the managers described as an overly negative attitude.
We are all often insufficiently genuine smilers. We are all Thomas Nagle.
Nagle is not alone. But in the oddest of all coincidences, the morale issues are more apparent in some of TJ's largest and busiest stores, including one where a union is running an organizing campaign. Trader Joe's asks its employees to create a "Wow customer experience" like we're all children in a Sharper Image store. It's further defined in the company handbook as "the feelings a customer gets about our delight that they are shopping with us.”
According to Trader Joe's, one of the things that most delights customers are employees who ignore each other. Because according to former employees, management is especially sensitive to employees conversing with each other.
The problem is that preventing employees from discussing working conditions might be a violation of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Something the executives of this $10 billion dollar company won't be smiling about. Still, faking a little delight might be better than an unknown alternative.
Workers at two other stores, including one in Brooklyn, said that good employees who committed minor infractions or asked managers legitimate questions disappeared with no explanation. Weeks or months later, their co-workers learned they had been fired.
"Fired." Sure, Trader Joe's.