Fostered Appearances and Worn Out Shoes

  worn out shoes 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

"When we think of those who present a false front or "only"
a front, of those who dissemble, deceive, and defraud, we think of a
discrepancy between fostered appearances and reality." – Erving
Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Pg 59

A long time ago in a land far away I was an Operations Manager at
Circuit City stores. This was before they got their ass kicked by Best
Buy. They were still relevant (I would like to think) back then. No
used car business, just hard core retail. Appearances and reality both.

Anyway, I was 26 and had moved up to being an Operations Manager. For
those of you who didn’t have the pleasure, this is typically considered
the number 2 person at a Super Store. I have to admit I loved the job.
Really. There is a rhythm to running a super store during the holidays.
A cadence. A high velocity rush of helping people and making money, and
well it was actually quite fun. My goal at the time was to be a Store
Manager, but that got busted when I quit (a WHOLE different blog post).

Back then the operations group reported up through district to an
district operations manager. A separate tree from the method they used
towards the end where everyone reported to the store manager and they
in turn reported to the DM, etc. So there were two hierarchies, but
damn if the ship didn’t run TIGHT.

So the shoes. I was in a meeting with my Ops DM. A young Ops myself
looking at this cat’s job as a career path. And I ran a good store so
we were talking about how to improve. What could be better. Who were
the future leaders. This was probably 8 PM because the DOM traveled. A
LOT. I wasn’t a high priority visit store (manage variances, eh? and
this was before Demming was cool) because we did well.

So there I am. Meeting my DOM. And I look down. Not far down as he had
one foot up crossing the other knee. Asking me about shrink. And I look
down and there is a hole in his shoe. Through the sole. A hole. At the
ball of the foot. Clean through. Step-in-a-puddle-soak-your-sock type
of hole in your shoe.

Being the person I am, and was back then as well, I stopped answering
his questions and stated bluntly "you have a hole through the bottom of
your shoe." and then something pithy like "you need new shoes" or "what
gives?" or maybe even "are you OK"?  

Now this man was tired. And clearly nobody asked about him on a daily
basis. He paused. He looks at me. Steps out of the corporate mold for a
brief minute. He says "Ed, I literally haven’t had time to buy new

We stare at each other. I say something like "You gotta make time."
(back off, I was young, it was the best I could come up with). He looks
back at me and says "OK Ed, I’ll get new shoes."

Perhaps the most honest moment we ever had. I knew then he was doomed at CC.

He left the company within the month. I don’t even recall whose
decision it was. And yet I believe he was quite competent. He certainly
supported our store. If you measure work results by, well results, he
was quite good. He just needed new shoes.

So nowadays, I try not to wear my shoes past the point where they have
holes in the soles. Buy new shoes when you need new shoes. That’s all I
am saying. Buy new shoes when you need them.

Or to put it another way, we foster appearances for others. And we foster appearances for ourselves. Does it really matter who the audience is? We still need new shoes when we need new shoes. And clearly from the photo, I needed new shoes. So now. At this age. I bought new shoes.

Thanks for listening. May the souls be with you.