[AMA] I'm an Ex Dick Smith Store Manager - Ask Me Anything

I just made a post on today's Clearance Thread but figured it would most likely get buried, so thought I'd post to the forums as well. I was a Dick Smith Store Manager (and salesperson prior to that) for several years up to 2013. Experienced first hand the Gaming Sale, the uncertainty regarding the Woolies sell-off and the (mostly unadvertised, but now infamous in relation to the way they cooked the books for the IPO) clearance that Anchorage completed just after they purchased the business (most of these items tended to show up individually on Ozbargain back in the day).

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  • +83

    First of all, before you get asked anything, thanks for being here !

    • Yes thankyou for bothering to clarify some issues.

  • +2

    Share some of your funniest, or the most WTF moments in retail. As a salesperson myself I've got one or two stories to share, but I'm interested in yours :)

    • +64

      I'll be concise. :)

      Endless products that were returned infested with cockroaches - some stuff had only been purchased a few weeks prior. I wouldn't want to know the squalor some of these people lived in.

      Several customers returning DVD players that had porn DVDs still inside. Always made sure to power up and eject the customers discs before testing it with AV leads…

      In the early days as a salesperson, an awful manager that was terminated after been caught masturbating in the managers office.

      Boxing Day always astounded me. With exception to a few product categories, our sales always sucked yet in my last 2 boxing days in a CBD location my location had 100+ people waiting for the doors to open.

      Best Story: A couple come in to apply for Interest Free finance for a TV. Needs additional approval/documents and photocopies of ID. Checked the CCTV footage the next day after noticing a stolen display item, found that one of them shoplifted the speaker while the store was busy and I was out the back photocopying their documents. The next day after, the bank approves their finance. We contact the bank and explain the situation (and that we were going to report the theft to the police) and the risk that the customer would default on the interest free terms (they were both employed - one within a government department and would most likely have been terminated after the shoplifting prosecution) if we prosecuted them - they didn't care. Customers came back, sold the TV to them with a smile… immediately after they left and the interest free paperwork was final we filed a police report for the stolen speaker. Couple weeks later, get the speaker back from the cops and with all the info we had collected from the customers, they were able to prosecute them. Never heard anything after that… I wonder how long it took for the TV to be repossessed (or if its still sitting somewhere with the interest building up on the interest free account).

      • +11

        Damn, thats a whole new level of stupidity. Handing over traceable I.D then stealing…

      • +12

        "We contact the bank and explain the situation… they didn't care"

        This is so depressing yet unsurprising - @.@ looking hard at you, Commonwealth Bank

      • Ha thats incredible, I had one incident while completing credit docs for a couple. I left the room for 2 minutes and continued off when I got back. There was a bad smell in the room but we continued..

        After they left I found that one of them had been sick in the rubbish bin.. no bin liner either!

        Yours easily trumps my story :-)

      • One of my favorites - Customer was returning an IPOD on boxing day, had it in the box, perfect condition with receipt. Staff completed the refund and there were no issues, until about a week later when said IPOD was resold and the customer complained it was in Chinese. It wasn't an IPOD, was a $50 Chinese knock off.

    • +4

      Your turn scrim!

      Mine would be kinda harmless but funny. One day a customer in thongs and a singlet came rolling into the store on a skateboard with no joke, a parrot on his shoulder. He dismounted as he got to an aisle.

      • -5

        He dismounted from the parrot?

        He must have some parrot fetish…

      • Them 21st century hipster pirates…

  • +9
    • +33

      Yes. Absolutely 100%. Not long after Anchorage purchased the business, an enormous amount of older inventory (known within DS as "Quit Stock") was put onto a list, and then set to automatically be marked down every fortnight. After some time (just after the start of 2013), this inventory was COMPLETELY written down in the system to $0 value, and stores were given discretion to mark it down as much as they liked. Some inventory didn't even go through this process - We were asked to destroy what would have amounted to Millions and Millions of dollars (across the whole store network - tens or thousands per individual store) worth of distressed or otherwise old stock - this was mostly obsolete products (think old toner and ink cartridges, but considering the size of the store network would have really added up). My store had about 5 trash bags worth. There was no reason at all (with exception to some of the genuinely obsolete stuff like Toners sold for obscure 5+ year old printers) that they couldn't have flogged all this stuff off for $1 or 50c, etc or even more then this. Larger stores would have had maybe 10 times that. Many of the items that were disposed of simply turned up in the store 6 months later in new packaging, and had been re-ordered - this particular factoid really sticks out in hindsight that they were cooking the books when it came to inventory write downs. Depreciation figures on our profit and loss reports simply vanished not long after the buyout too.

      The other thing that Bristlemouth doesn't mention is that Dick Smith was in a much healthier financial position (profit wise) then it seemed after the Woolies buyout, due to a quirk in the way Woolworths does its accounting. One of the reasons why Dick Smith struggled to turn a large profit (and now why Big W struggles) as part of Woolworths Ltd relates to the share the business unit paid internally to Woolworths for using it's "Shared Services" - Shared Services been HR, Security Monitoring, and anything else that was routed through or done through Woolworths Ltd rather than Dick Smith. Take Shared Services out of the equation and a business that was made a <$10m Profit FY 2011/2012 suddenly makes a $40-50m profit once ancourage buys it out, with them doing precious little to change anything. I would suggest that considering many of the Anchorage team were ex woolies execs, they would have used this insider knowledge to know that they could take advantage of the massive increase in EBIT once shared services was out of the equation to give the perception that the business had turned around under their management.

        • +30


        • +5

          Shakespeare wrote in Othello ‘I do suspect this trash / To be a party in this injury’.

          I was unaware that Shakespeare was American. But thanks for clearing that up.

      • +4

        Really interesting comment.. hmm wonder where the ACCC is in all of this??? Seems what Anchorage did was fishy and the investors that got burnt big time buying DickSmith shares ought to get some of their investment back as most of this info was hidden to investors.

        • +2

          Most of the speculation and discussion after that Bristlemouth article essentially described what occurred as technically legal, though extremely unethical. IMO, Anchorage most definitely misrepresented the overall health of the business, but as described most of what was written in the Bristlemouth article (except my little addition on shared services and EBITDA - and they would have had no obligation to break down the business P&L to reveal this) was in the Prospectus - not quite in plain english, but there nonetheless.

        • +9

          ACCC ASIC

      • I'm not well versed in financial dealings but that is one hell of a story. Insane stuff.

      • So is DSH stock a value trap?

      • +10

        Yes some of this stuff here is correct. The stock point is unfortunate but remember to actually sell obsolete stock through a retail network even @ $1 takes up precious shelf space and there is a cost associated with staff etc to sell it. Therefore from a management perspective you basically want to get rid of the stuff which is worthless (and remember, selling things for $1 isn't always a good look from a brand perspective for the supplier as well as the retailer) you literally just take it to the tip and get your new product mix up and running as quickly as possible. It isn't "cooking the books" when a business takes a new direction with stock, I can't think of a public retailer outside of DJ's that have gone through a shift of product mix over the last 5 years (obviously not as big as DSH or Myer went through all those years ago) but you'll see that this was disclosed in DJ's financials a few years back, so DSH would have if they were a public business but they weren't and didn't need to.
        The EBITDA increase really came from the decrease in the expenses side of the business and if you know anything about assessing retailers when you saw the IPO prospectus you would have seen that the margin on their gross sales was tiny and not really aligned with other successful retailers. On top of this, their interest cover ratio was one of the worst in retail. So you could see that after "cutting the fat" out of the business had worked its way through the business, you are still left with the issue of growing your underlying earnings and improving sales margins. This is an issue when Dick Smith sell a LOT of stock from retailers like Apple where retailers make hardly any money out of them. Strangely after their store rationalization program the CEO decided to try and open more stores to increase underlying sales after they floated instead of really testing if the new product mix and in-store concessions (both for the in-stores at Dick Smith & the one in DJ's) actually was working or not. So failing on all fronts has really cost the business in this respect.

        BUT my point here is that there really isn't a lot of evil going on here that doesn't happen in other PE buyouts. Which is to buy a business, strip out its costs, take it in a new direction and then look quick smart for a trade sale or IPO once the books look good. I guess mum & dad investors just get caught out by this stuff because they really don't do their own due diligence on this stuff. None of the brokers at the time where that bullish on the name (outside of the ones that may have had a vested interest) so it really is a case of buyer beware.

        • +1

          Oh and on the Woolies shared services thing, there was a lot of internal gouging going on with the business between Woolies and DSH and also a lot of disconnect at the management level. I'm not surprised it was being run like a dog at the time.

        • @serpserpserp:
          It was no secret that once Grant O'Brien took over that the business had to be dumped essentially at any cost, he didn't hide his disdain for the business even at the final Woolworths National Conference that Dick Smith was part of. Luscombe still had a soft spot for it.

        • @Boochan:

          Yes, to be posted into Dick Smith was like being banished into a management wasteland. People would have rather quit back in the last 2 years of DSH under Woolies ownership than actually take a management position there. Some did.

        • @Boochan:

          Woolies shareholders have Luscombe to thank for destroying value with Masters.

  • +5

    I am quite curious to the answer to this question posted on the above link

    One thing I’m missing: to begin with, why did Woolworths sell a company with inventory worth $312m for $115m? Am I missing another benefit to Woolworths here, or did they not even think they could liquidate it for $115m?

    • +5

      Liquidating the business would have cost a lot more then $115mil. Woolies did make some efforts to try and reduce the amount that they would have to pay out if they went this option (they culled a very large percentage of the permanent workforce in 2012 - essentially all Assistant Managers and 3rd in Charge, as well ALL full time sales people were made redundant and replaced with casuals or new part time team members). However, remember that woolies set aside $420 Million in its 2012 FY accounts (any article about Dick Smiths woes during this time frame will quote this as well as Woolies own press stuff) to prepare Dick Smith for sale - this involved liquidating (selling off all the stock, making all the staff redundant, ending leases early - in some cases exiting leases with 10 years+ on them) about 1/3rd of the store network (all unprofitable stores as well as stores that were profitable but otherwise no longer relevant to the business in the future e.g small ex-Tandy stores). If they had to do the whole thing it would have added up to well over $1 Billion to shut the business down - Woolies couldn't just spin off the business, declare it insolvent and get out of paying creditors. They are now facing the same problem with Masters actually (the irony, considering Dick Smith was essentially dumped so they could focus better on Masters).

      • Basically, Woolies don't know what they are doing?

        • +7

          Across the board they're just been outclassed by the competition. DS was first, then Big W, then Masters and now Woolies… they got complacent after years of strong results.

          Woolies really did try with Dick Smith - they poured so, so much CAPEX in, and renovated about 300 stores in the space of 3 years. Lots of bad decisions though. The Techxperts slogan was a really bad move and they had major problems with the store network (lots of terrible store locations, too much variance in store size - at one point, around 2010 there was stores under the Dick Smith banner ranging from 90sqm to 2000sqm in size - which is just ridiculous for one brand. They changed store layout/format an incredible amount of times, so much so that "new format" stores have about 6 different variations in design and were far, far from uniform. There are also STILL a handful of store in the network that have not had a refit since the Mid-Late 90s. Just think of how the business has changed in 2 decades and imagine how tough it would be for sales staff in those older locations to effectively do their job.

        • @Boochan:

          …lots of terrible store locations, too much variance in store size - at one point, around 2010 there was stores under the Dick Smith banner ranging from 90sqm to 2000sqm in size - which is just ridiculous for one brand. They changed store layout/format an incredible amount of times, so much so that "new format" stores have about 6 different variations in design and were far, far from uniform…

          It's funny you point this out because some of these are the same problems plaguing Masters vs Bunnings

        • @Boochan: I remember though that they used to have smaller stores and "powerhouse" stores. If you wanted something large like a TV or a computer that was the place to get it.

  • Did you you get to take advantage of some great bargains or clearance items from your own store? What were some of the best deals you got?

    • +19

      I could never be bothered buying stuff to resell (I valued my spare time way too much), and didn't really game at all when that gaming sale happened. Never got anything quite like what is been offered at the moment, most of the clearance lines especially during the Anchorage buyout was crap we already cleared in my store or was otherwise unappealing to myself or my staff (e.g. Endless Skylander figurines)

      The only time I ever made an active effort to resell items was when we had specific discounts available to staff only - Back in 2010 we had employee discounts for a whole variety of Vodafone products (50-75% off RRP), which I then ordered and resold on eBay. Mainly Mobile Broadband Modems.

      Got one of the infamous $40 DSi XLs to replace my mothers worn out DS Lite. Was a damaged display unit that got replaced by Nintendo and returned back to the store once the sale was over and once all the clearance stuff was long gone (but was still $40).

      It was really convenient to be able to buy consumables like cables and batteries for next to nothing. Apart from consumables, the only thing that I currently own that I purchased from DS was my current TV, a Sony 55" back just after I left in 2013 - which was a clearance line… at the time it was about half the cost of the replacement model, so that was nice. Also - some of the seasonal lines post Christmas were always reduced well… think getting packs of Christmas Lights, Christmas Trees and other Seasonal decorations for a few bucks from stores that didn't sell them all before Christmas.

      As I quipped in the Clearance Sale post, my staff generally didn't buy anything or very much when it came to the big sales - all of them were too time poor, uninterested or otherwise couldn't afford to resell stuff even if they wanted to, and the focus that I had on clearing stock as a manager, as well as been in a store on the smaller side of things (and tirelessly making sure everything we sold was on display - this is an enormous problem with most dick smith stores, where half the items the store sells are buried out the back and not dragged out onto the shelf until they're too old) meant that we often didn't have much that was appealing to purchase anyway. Just bits and pieces here and there. Quite often the best deals were the result of how inefficient the warranty repairs/replacement system was - something that hadn't been sold for over 12 months would suddenly be couriered to us that had been replaced, and the price on the system was now next to nothing.

      • +1


        First of all thanks for the answers, all very interesting.

        I just have a quick question (more in line with bargain hunting)with your reference to moving old stock to the front.

        Does this mean at most stores (or particuarly at DS) if we are looking for clearance, or a good deal on maybe a slightly older but still excellent TV , or other items, we should go to the counter and personally ask staff if there is any old stock out back for a decent price?

  • You ain't telling us the obvious… A former DSE manager told me how DS buys cheap cables overseas (like 50c a piece) and then flogs them off in the stores for like $40.

    • +19

      Noone has asked yet! I could have wrote an essay on all this stuff but really would rather just answer what people ask/are interested in hearing.

      Every retail business does this with high margin consumables, which really should be common knowledge these days… as long as its house brand/private label - Cables and batteries are the key items at DS but most house brand stuff at full RRP has a margin of at the very minimum 50% (i.e. $10 off a $20 item is profit - this was stuff like full priced Dick Smith brand TVs, Speakers, cases etc) with some as high as 97-98% ($49 of a $50 item is profit - stuff like batteries and cables). If its some other cable brand been sold in the store (e.g Belkin) the margin tends to max out at about 50-70% and the manufacturer gets the rest. One of the problems they're facing at the moment is they have way, way too much private label inventory lying around, which means they're killing their margins trying to clear out stuff that is meant to be sold at a big profit.

      What used to be Dick Smith's bread and butter (hobbyist / component stuff) was all sold at similar margins. When this was gradually phased out between 2007-2009, this is when gross margin really took a dive and never recovered…

    • +3


      Try 12c Or 4c.

      • +1

        Yeah. He accidentally said profit, when he should have said margin.

  • +1

    Why did you quit ds?. Any reason why you stayed with ancorage and didnt transfer to another woolies division during transition?

    • +1

      I was leaving Retail Management anyway in 2013, it was just a matter of timing and I quit just before Anchorage really started making deep cuts to staffing (took a long break then started uni and a role within a different industry part time, I'd been with DS since my teens and wanted a big change). Here in WA only a handful stuck with Woolies (went to Masters, part of me wonders if they're still there), most defected to Wesfarmers (Officeworks) or JB.

      • Did you read the book the DIck Smith Way by Ike Bain, Goes into the history of Dick Smith and how the original stores started and grew from under "Dick"

        • Have heard of it, but not read it. Thanks for the tip, sounds like a decent read.

        • @Boochan:
          it is a good read, but doing business back then could/would be very different from current days…

      • +1

        How old are you?

  • What can you see Dick Smith doing now to turnaround the business… The current sales are pretty short term but what can you see them doing in the long run?

    Also what was the highlight of working at a DSE store?

    • +5

      Honestly? I think they won't go out of business, but the share price post Christmas will drop low enough that a buyout will suddenly become very desirable for a variety of businesses - DS has a very strong trans tasman store network. They need a business that isn't Private Equity to buy the stores out and actually attempt to work out a profitable niche, rather then just keep the status quo (or do bizarre things like add Home Appliances, which failed the first time around in the Powerhouse stores). I don't think the current management team and direction will last much longer after Christmas, even though you have most of them personally invested in the business.

      I'm one of those weird people that actually enjoys retail and I had a group of staff that I really liked working with and vice versa. It was a fantastic environment, there was always interesting new products coming in and even with the general BS that comes with retail, it was overall a fun job. If you knew how to manage your time effectively you didn't even need to put in much overtime - and when you did for months like December, generally the bonus that came with a strong sales/profit result was big enough to make the extra work worthwhile. I'm not sure what it's like now, and this might have varied from state to state but there was a lot of autonomy for Store Managers compared to many other businesses.

      • Thanks for your response. I know a couple of friends who work at DSE/MOVE and love working there.

        Hoping the business recovers well too :)

        Do you have any tips/advice about delivering a quality customer experience? You seem to be very experienced in retail and I would really like to hear your perspective.

      • The business in NZ isn't great. I think they need to exit there.

        • It's been dead weight, and deteriorated very quickly once the store format/product mix in 2008/2009. The NZ Consumer Electronics market has may too many businesses vying for market share - I'm still surprised JB entered the market.

        • @Boochan:

          Nobody over there really runs the same value proposition as JB Hi-Fi over there, similar in some respects but not the same. They probably assume they can use there very good stock management to replicate the same thing they have in Australia. But NZ isn't a easy place to beachhead into.

  • +4

    I understand if you do not want to talk about just how far spread this whole con went. There is a major alarm bell in an article from foragerfunds back in 2013 saying that things just didn't add up back then,


    How did all of the big players in Australian finance (brokers, media, etc) not know something was fishy? Someone calling themself Matthew said
    "Who were the fund manager bunnies that fell for all this? Perpetual, AXA, Commonwealth Bank and AMP. Well done guys! Now who can name the investment managers responsible so as we can all give them a wide berth?"

    Assuming they were involved, they facilitated the rip off mum and dad investors, despite foragerfunds predicting in 2013 that something was obviously wrong, and even pinpointing the trick that was eventually pulled. You have to wonder if this was incompetence or worse.

    I am now wondering how much of a patsy is Mr Nick Abboud (the Dicki Smith CEO that the board are now defending). In real life, I've known where someone is asked to 'take the wrap' while others guarantee to cover their ass while the spotlight is shined on the patsy. In return, the patsy is rewarded after the storm dies down.

    • +6

      Abboud was also involved in the Myer IPO and worked for them throughout it in an upper management position - a lot of the staff that he brought over with him were also ex-Myer during that time period. They would have been very much experienced it the type of thing that has happened to DS, as it happened to Myer (not quite a severe price drop though).

      By the time the IPO happened I no longer worked for the business, but as I detailed in an above post the efforts to cook the books started pretty much as soon as Anchorage took over, regarding inventory. Thanks to a knowledgeable middle manager, we were all well aware that the business would suddenly increase its profit/EBIT result literally overnight without anything been done as a result of Woolies no longer charging shared services to the business. I have no idea how fund managers were unaware of this as any Manager, Store Manager and up in a Woolworths Ltd Business unit should know it.

      It's disappointing that so many fund managers got conned - even the more successful floated consumer electronics businesses (HN / JB) have always been risky investments. A business that was on been floated just 18 months on the brink of Woolies shutting it down… I mean, if its too good to be true… it probably isn't.

      • +1

        Fund managers didn't get conned at all. I think it is just a higher risk/reward name to get into in retail. Everyone who had looked at the financials at the IPO can work out what has gone on if they have any idea about PE workouts with retailers (which most should, that is why they earn the big bucks). But I doubt ANY fundies got into DSH thinking that it was a long term hold!

  • +8

    "How did all of the big players in Australian finance (brokers, media, etc) not know something was fishy?"
    they probably know - but this is one word that make them support the IPO:

    • Yep grubby pigs stuffing their faces in the trough. Way of the world unfortunately. Just like the recent DS sales.

      • if you work in finance, especially near so called financial advisers, you find out they usually very very keen to recommend you to buy into IPO where they will get some kind of rebate. go figure.

        • +3

          You'd be an idiot to, you're asking a person with training equivalent to a TAFE Diploma to tell you where to put your money. They're essentially the financial equivalent of a used car salesman, just smoother language + better dressed. Would not approach with 10 foot pole. Sadly they are also pretty effective at roping in many mum and pop investors.

          CBA is one of the more publicized offenders, which is also one of the reasons I've ceased banking with them:
          Commonwealth Bank compensation scheme for victims of financial planning scandal 'a joke'

          Learn the markets, do your own fundamental / technical analysis, and seek information / recommendations from sources whom you actually pay for advice.

  • Thanks for all the info posted so far?

    Is there any official policy on staff being able to buy items on clearance in advance and put them away for themselves and friends?

    I know at other retailers I have worked at that would be heavily frowned upon and in some instances a dismissable offence.


    • +15

      There wasn't at all initially. The plan with the Gaming Sale back in the day was to change pricing one week prior to the start of the marketing efforts essentially to have time for staff to buy what they wanted, and for stores to ticket/price/find everything that was on sale and prepare it (essentially throw it all on a table or into bins). Unfortunately for DS management, this was leaked, staff still bought what they wanted and it was the massive PR disaster that it turned out to be. It wouldn't have been quite the PR disaster as the staff buying all the good stuff would have been unknown, but it would have been a very underwhelming sale all the same.

      Every other sale since then had a massive disclaimer advising that staff couldn't buy clearance lines until after CoB. HOWEVER, it never specified that they couldn't be hidden/placed on hold. This was also not policed at all as often the managers would buy stuff for themselves, and the middle management didn't really have the time nor the care to ever try and police this - as it would have involved wasting time checking the CCTV footage to see when stuff was placed away from the shop floor, or when it was purchased. I can't imagine things have change especially now the stores tend to run on maybe 50-75% of the staff they did in 2012.

      On the same topic… any manager that says they can't print a promo list of everything in the store, in stock that is on promotion is a terrible, terrible liar. they can either do that through the ticketing system or through a reports system this spits out promotional information. Some managers (and most of the sales staff) are probably not well educated enough on their own Point of Sale system to know this, but others are probably lying to you.

  • +6

    This post is excellent

    • +1

      A quality read. Thanks again Boochan.

  • +2

    Thanks boochan much appreciated

  • +1

    What's your biggest regret during the time you were a DS manager?

    • Tough question… I could have gone a lot further/earned more money in the business if I really wanted to - I regret that i didn't take more risks that way but at the same time to me back then it was too much of a gamble - the team I had in the store I managed was a huge portion of why I enjoyed the job.

      I didn't network with the middle management I got along with effectively. Even though I know they'd all give me a glowing review, I lost contact with all of them. This hasn't actually affected me at present but if I ever return to the industry it's going to imped me big time unless I find them again (I suppose LinkedIn could help).

      • I am an ex Dicksmith staff member 16 years in total 7 service at Woolworth rest at Dick Smith Tandy then powerhouse store. I am same really enjoy my time with company sadly my powerhouse store close in 2012. Tandy got close in 2009.

      • What do you do now? Do you feel like you wasted all those years as a store manager?

  • +2

    A lot of the questions so far have been on what it was like as a manager with regards to sales etc. I'd like to know did you personally have to make a judgement call about a directive that came from the head office that you might not have thought was right? (Possibly regarding a sale or maybe the treatment of staff.) If you did, how did you come to the decision you made, and what was the impact of your decision in the workplace and relating back to head office? I ask because I know that sometimes retail managers get faced with having to make unpopular and sometimes immoral decisions to boost the profit of the store or to implement a new policy or procedure, and I know of some retail managers who were very uncomfortable with the position head office put them in.

    Thanks for your willingness to answer these questions as well.

    • +2

      Either you work in HR, doing business studies or are a manager yourself. Great question!

    • +22

      There are several times where I defied HO over various nonsense, and I had the backing and support of the Area Manager almost all the time. If the Area Manager I had was spineless, it would have been way harder.

      Lots of judgement calls over making sure staff were paid for the time they were there - I contracted my staff 8:45am - 5:45pm for a 9-5:30 trading day. I tried my best to ensure that employment contracts were submitted, even if it went against what HO wanted / changes with wage budgets. Sadly after I left the business, they (potentially illegally) retracted most of the Salesperson's contracts or forced them to sign ones with reduced hours. Other stuff with HR… I did my own hiring as the Woolworths Ltd recruitment was outsourced to India and it was hopeless getting new employees that way. Again, this was against what HO wanted. Ensuring overtime was paid - I worked 4hrs overtime unpaid a week alongside my best salesperson to set up/change promotions the night prior to them starting, against the wishes of management.

      Something I truly hated was the expectation of staff and managers attending unpaid training, or training paid essentially in Pizza (training evenings at the state office, etc). I told my staff to never attend them and I'd train them up on the product myself.

      Regarding Sales… the pressure to achieve specific KPIs was tedious - especially around extended warranties (which we were told never to give away - however the stores that made the targets always gave them away without any consequence) and Rent-to-own type stuff. No specific decisions here but it was implied that we really should be threatening the staff with cutting hours back, etc if they don't reach their KPIs which was simply wrong and in some cases potentially illegal.

      In 2012/13 the stock system was pretty screwed up and failed to account for shipping delays (only one distribution centre in Sydney, stock send via road freight to WA took 3-5 days), but we had no actual way of ordering additional stock at all, unless we used a loophole in the system (placing a Customer Order under the stores name). I can't count the amount of times we got told off for this but surprise surprise, we always sold the stock.

      Pressure to not mark down old stock. This is one of the reasons why stores in the current sale still have stock from 2013 sitting around stores. We were encouraged to reduce mark downs, even for old stock as a priority above clearing old stock to have space to fit new stock up. This is important in about half the store network as the square meterage of the store meant that you were very limited for space - stores quite often had a whole stores worth of new models of laptops, TVs, etc sitting out the back, not on display because they had to sell the old, undiscounted stock first. If they utilised more common sense when it came to clearing older stock, they wouldn't need to be selling old stock at 10-20% of its original value as they are at present.

      I still have more but these were the key gripes with head office.

      • +4

        Thank you so much for your response. It's given me a lot of insight into some of the quandries that managers can get into. I'm close to becoming a manager myself, although not in retail, and wanted a heads-up on some of the calls I might have to make and the repercussions of those calls.

      • Something I truly hated was the expectation of staff and managers attending unpaid training, or training paid essentially in Pizza (training evenings at the state office, etc). I told my staff to never attend them and I'd train them up on the product myself.

        That is just silly. Is this a common practice in retail?

        • +1

          For training or staff meetings? Reasonably common. They occasionally promised prizes from the vendor as well. I think its absolutely absurd. All these things were optional but I was generally told to lie and say it was mandatory. I'd always make up some kind of excuse on the day and because so many other people did it was never punished.

        • Also commonplace in hospitality- although the better bosses would properly do a sit down dinner + drinks for everyone.

        • @ankor:
          My interest in attending these kinds of things varied depending on what was been done… some of the Vendor run nights were good enough - but even they were far and few between.

        • The is also common practice in health services.

        • +2

          Having worked in retail fir 2 major corporations (1 Wesfarmers the other a singular behemoth (hint hint)), ive ALWAYS been remunerated for training.

          The way it should be.

        • Not just in retail, it happens in computer "retail" or any kind of tech sales industry. I used to work for a computer retailer (similar to PCCG, Scorptec, and MSY) and although it wasnt mandatory to go to sales trainings, there was enough incentive (through lucky dips) to make you want to go.

          Cant imagine that dick smith trainings would have "lucky dips" and give away laptops/tvs/or other worthwhile items.

        • @nairdajun:
          Was dependent on if the vendor operated the training and how generous they were.
          Anything that Dick Smith did was always pizza and soft drink.

        • +2

          Yes but also quite illegal as it constitutes underpayment of wages.


          MYTH 1: Employees don’t need to be paid for time spent opening and closing a store or attending training and meetings outside normal work hours.

          FACT: Employees must be paid for all the time that they are required to work. For example, if an employee is required to be at work at 7.45am to prepare for an 8am store opening, they need to be paid from 7.45am. If the employee is asked to stay back after work for a staff meeting or training session, they also need to be paid.

          Contravenes Fairwork Act 2009 (Cth) ~ s323

        • @Boochan:

          Did volunteer legal work once, without going into specifics was approached by a concerned parent about their kid's work once.

          Instead of wages the guy paid this kid in drugs (Mj and coke). Kid was just out of high school. =/

          Matter was handed to the police.

  • Did you ever watch Dawn of the Dead (or any movie really) in the store after hours?

    • +3

      Nah. While some of the bigger stores had couches that would make this possible, the store I had… it was office chairs or nothing :P The setup I had for the wall of TVs at the time was a WD TV HD with about 50 movies on it (that we'd update every so often), connected to an HDMI splitter and component splitter. These days stores from what I've seen have to run a promo loop on the TVs so that wouldn't work anymore. We had the same setup with a cheap nasty dealextreme mediaplayer + USB drive and a VGA splitter with our monitors too.

      We did have a vendor supplied internet connection (Vividwireless) that we torrented on, however. Naughty I know, however it was not individually linked to the staff or to DS though and we were encouraged… maybe not to torrent, but to use it so we could tell customers about the speeds and performance we got, show speedtests, etc.

  • Did you get any stuff from DS sales from this past few days? =)

    • +6

      Nah - Unfortunately I had the day off and slept through the start of them on Tuesday otherwise I would have been out and about looking for an SLR for my partners birthday… otherwise don't need and/or can't afford anything else from DS that was worthwhile to get like TVs. That, and I'm well aware how badly some stores treat display stock (TVs and laptops were quite often operational 24/7 because managers were too lazy to turn them off at night) that I wouldn't have been keen to take the plunge if only ex display stuff was available.

  • +1

    Dont you think u can get into any sort of legal trouble while sharing so much information that you are here?

    • +1

      As long as he didn't sign any non disclosure agreements then there is nothing wrong.

    • +7

      Never signed an NDA or anything that excluded me from sharing information when I was no longer employed by the business and I've not worked for the business in 2 1/2 years, and have no interest whatsoever in returning. I also no longer work in the industry in general.

      If I still worked for them, I wouldn't be sharing so much info. Simple as that! :) Just like I wouldn't for my current employer.

      • -6

        Probably not something you want to be doing regardless of what industry you're in. If someone with actual influence in hiring comes across this the first thing they'll think is that you're disloyal and will do this to them in the long run if they hire you. Bad move for you. Good info for us…

        • +4

          Lucky for him, it's anonymous :)

        • +1

          I appreciate the concern and your opinion - practically zero of the middle management (ergo anyone that dealt with me personally) that worked for the business during the time I was there still work for DS - the management turnover was enormous prior to the IPO, thus I have minimal concern. You raise very valid points though. I would never have said a thing while I worked for the business after they tracked me down from a pseudonym on an obscure blog one isolated time (nothing came from that).

          I'll let you know if I get a writ for a cease and desist or defamation suit, though. :)

        • @syousef: I'm not sure what kind of employer is going to go digging much more than looking up his name, etc. I doubt they are going to investigate every potential post by an ex-DSE store manager on every forum on the off chance that one of them might be OP, without a shred of proof.

          Sure, if he started posting his name here, or it somehow got leaked or something, there'd be cause for concern.. but you're being a bit paranoid for him…

        • -6


          A bit paranoid? In a world where one of the first things an employment agency or employer will do is a search for the candidates names and any aliases? I think not.

        • @syousef: That's the thing - it's not like he is going to provide this alias to an employer, or associate it with his real name. In fact, Boochan is quite generic when searching for it. I'm pretty sure he's safe…

        • -5


          You're wrong but I'm not going to try to dox the man to prove it.

        • @syousef:

          Oh crap they're on to me. I'm the only Petey on the internet.

        • -1


          You know this place can be really horrible when you warn people about something. Shoot the messenger syndrome. I'm still not willing to harm the man to make a point.

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