It’s now been many years since I’ve had to do inventory. That’s one of the advantages to working twelve hundred kilometers away from our head office and warehouse.
Earlier in my various careers I wasn’t so lucky.
Inventory, whether conducted annually or more often is one of those tasks that is critical for a business, and yet no one really wants to do it.
My feelings about conducting inventory are best summed by Michael from The Office when he returned from his Jamaican vacation:
Michael: Yeah… Gosh. Great. You know what, Pam? Make a note. I want us all to start having pina coladas every day at three.
Pam: But you can’t today, we’re doing inventory.
Michael: Inventory’s at the end of December.
Pam: We couldn’t do it without you, so we postponed.
Michael: I specifically went on vacation so I would miss it.
Way back in the stone age everything being inventoried needed to be counted by hand, and that was a giant bunch of no fun, especially in a fifty thousand square foot store with twenty million dollars or more worth of inventory on hand.
It was still no picnic years later even when inventory consulting companies like Western Inventory Services could be hired.
Sure, their staff did the actual counting, swarming over your store like ants with barcode scanners, but store staff were still responsible for the pre-inventory tagging of the store’s zones, and chasing down the exception reports that the computer would print out when the scans didn’t match our record: “We’re missing a $20,000 plasma TV, GO FIND IT!”
I suppose that the biggest advantage of more automated inventory management was that you would actually finish your store sometime between midnight and two AM. Doing it the old way we were typically still hard at work counting while the sun rose the next morning.
Which brings me to my pointless but (I hope) moderately amusing story.
At one point the TLC song “No Scrubs” was one of the music videos that was on heavy rotation on the music video channel we ran on many of the screens in the store I managed.
It became a running joke amongst my staff and I, with “No, I don’t want no scrubs” randomly inserted into conversations.
Fast forward to inventory time: 3am, when the pizza is cold, the pop is warm, and work ethic is reaching an all-time low. Everybody by now is sleep deprived, punchy, and wants to go home, but the exception reports keep telling us we’re not balanced.
That was when I snuck off into a corner with a view of the front counter and called the main line on my cellphone.
Nobody expects the store’s phone to ring at 3am. So for nearly a minute my staff just stared at it as if it had grown three heads.
Finally Stan answered the phone:
“Thank you for calling the Sony Store, Stan speaking. How may I help you?”
“Stan!” I hollered “DO YOU WANT SOME SCRUBS!?”
“No” he replied, utterly deadpan. “I don’t want no scrubs.”