The Naughty Bookstore Manager
Barnes & Noble Manager meetings in Florida used to be one hell of a time.
Then the recession hit and the meetings had to go. Before that, they used to pull out all of the stops. Shawn Colvin once played a concert for us but no one knew who she was. Bare Naked Ladies performed a couple of times and someone told me that one B&N manager slept with one of the band members. Paul Simon stopped by to do nothing but wave and tell us to sell his book, during the last meeting ever. It was during this last meeting that I came across the naughtiest bookstore manager ever. I’ll call her, “Suzie”.
I’ve worked for, and worked with, some pretty horrible people but nothing compared to the self destructive force that was Suzie. Unfortunately, her little adventure at the meeting also affected me.
Suzie had the fascade of a serious business woman. She was hired as Store Manager, right before the meeting, in a B. Dalton down the road from my own store, where I was Store Manager. My first impression was that she was a responsible person who knew what she was doing. We were both tiny women, about the same age (mid 20’s back then) and wanted to be taken seriously so we liked to dress in business suits. Unlike me, she was eloquent and always knew the right answer. She was pretty and perky and a danger to my position as top brown nose to my District Manager (DM).
This massive meeting for all Barnes & Noble management would always take place in the fall, usually in Orlando, Florida where we would take up an entire wing in a luxurious resort. Publisher reps and other literary celebrities would be around and they showed us what to expect for Christmas. We would have to be at breakfast at 6am and it was day after day of publishers and classes on how to be a better manager until 9:00 at night. We are all expected to be on our best behavior considering our CEO and other NYC people are there.
We would be paired up for hotel rooms. Every meeting, an older woman and I would request a room for ourselves because we both liked to be quiet. Any new managers were thrown together, two per room, to get to know one another. This is important.
Apparently, the first night of the meeting, when everyone was settling in, there were a bunch of hotel guests yukking it up in the hotel’s outside hot tub, sans clothes. My DM told me that Barnes & Noble COO, Mark Bottini, was taking a lovely evening stroll with some of the other big wigs and as he saw the group of drunk, nekked people, remarked that that he was “glad none of those are ours”. Little did he know.
Bare Naked Ladies played. Publisher reps gave speeches. The second morning, we B. Dalton managers were taking a class together and everyone was blurry eyed and tired. With my spidey sense, I could tell that something was amiss among the big shots who were standing around the doors and on the stage. They were whispering, going in and out of the room.
I had become friends with Suzie’s roommate, Christina, who was a newbie. Christina was also out of sorts. At my table, she was quiet, not her normal bubbly self. Then our District Manager and his boss pulled her out of the room while the class continued without interruption.
I also noticed that I had not seen Suzie that day.
So I cornered Christina when classes stopped for lunch. It was then that she appeared without our bosses and she was eating at a table alone. I stopped to ask her what was wrong as she was so upset.
“I’ve had to sleep in the bathtub the last few nights.” she said.
“Suzie keeps having foursomes in our bedroom.” Christina shuddered, “I tried putting a pillow over my head but it didn’t work so I had to sleep in the tub. That didn’t really work either. I don’t know who those people are.”
A reenactment of what I’m sure went down in Suzie’s room.
I felt bad for laughing out loud, so quickly because Christina didn’t think it was funny. I gathered myself up and asked for more information. She looked around before whispering,
“That’s not all. She got caught doing something else. I don’t think she’s coming back.”
I pressed her some more and she gave in,
“The hotel caught a man and two women having sex in the elevator last night. I mean, they caught them on the elevator camera. They were showing this video around, this morning, trying to figure out who these three people belong to. All of the CEO’s had to watch it. Eventually (our DM) saw it and had to tell them that Suzie was his. He’s so embarrassed right now.”
I tried really hard to hold my laughter. How could anyone be that stupid? I would wear my nicest suits and try to sound smart and here was Suzie, sleeping with everything that moved. Then it started to dawn on me how this would effect my own life. Christmas was coming and if her store didn’t have a manager, I would be the one having to control two stores. I rushed to my DM and asked him what was going on, pretending not to know much.
He told me that Suzie was taken into a room and confronted with her elevator shenanigans on screen as well as the information given to them by Christina. He said Suzie didn’t seem that remorseful until she started to realize that she might be in real trouble. My DM told me there was some disconnect with her, like she had no concept of consequence. The top B&N big wigs gave her a plane ticket for that morning, and she was sent home early while they considered what her punishment would be. She also admitted to being one of the drunk nudists out in the hot tub on our first night.
The man on camera was not a B&N employee. The other woman was and she was promptly fired before they even placed the return ticket in her hand. How do these people meet? Was there some sort of bulletin board that I wasn’t aware of?
My DM had to fire Suzie when he got back and she, until the end, still didn’t understand that what she did was wrong.
So I had one of the worst Christmas’s ever, having to manage, drive to, and make schedules for, two stores during the holiday retail season and all thanks to Suzie who couldn’t keep her pants on for one minute.
And my stores still made plan. Booyah.
*GIF, Another Period, Comedy Central