Retail Credit Card – When Credit Bites Back

You might think a retail credit card would be harmless. And you may be right. But my good friend told me a story about his wife that left me speechless. (Well, not really, because here I am now writing about it.)

In this particular case, the retail credit card actually got his wife fired from her job. Here’s the scoop:

My friend’s wife (we’ll call her Liz) has been working at Lane Bryant for a couple years now. She’s had glowing reviews. The customers love her. But there’s one little problem.

Liz does not like to push the Lane Bryant retail credit card as hard as the company would like. Sure, she asks each customer if they would like to open an account. Most either already have an account… or decline because they don’t want a retail credit card.

No matter how the customer responds, Liz never gets pushy and usually accepts the customer’s response at face value. Under normal circumstances, Liz’s behavior would be perfectly acceptable. Except there’s a little detail called a quota

Minimum Number of New Retail Credit Accounts

Apparently, when you work at Lane Bryant, you’re actually not in the business of selling clothes. You’re in the business of getting people to open Lane Bryant retail credit cards… and then getting them to buy clothes. Kinda.

Because you don’t actually want customers to buy clothes with cash or anything other than a Lane Bryant credit card.

This is why each employee is required to open 6 new retail credit card accounts every 2 weeks. That’s 3 new accounts per week.

If any employee fails to hit this quota, they can be let go immediately. Fired. On the spot.

Unfortunately, this is what happened to Liz. Not even her glowing reviews or positive customer feedback could make up for her unwillingness to shove credit cards down the throats of Lane Bryant customers.

Lesson: If you don’t feed the beast, the beast will devour you instead.

Mixed-Up Priorities

During the last few years, strange things have happened to the business landscape.

Cash is no longer good enough. Credit is king because stores can make so much more through exorbitant interest, late fees, and fees assessed when you try to pay your bill by phone or the Internet.

Let’s be honest. These are no longer retail stores. They’re credit card companies disguised as retail stores.

This can’t be good. It’s not good in the short term, and it’s definitely not good in the long term.

One retail credit card I recently canceled charged $10 to make a payment over the Internet.

Worse, they put the fee on my NEXT statement in the hopes I’d forget about it. That way they could charge me a late fee on top of a fee that shouldn’t even have been assessed in the first place!

But, hey, this is American business. Anything to keep the shareholders happy, right?

What to Do Before You’re Fired

SkyscrapersThis week I discovered that 15 bread-winners have lost their jobs in the last week. They all attend my church. An announcement was made in class asking us to notify the church of any job openings that could be forwarded to these folks who are now unemployed.

Then, yesterday, as I checked in on my Digg profile, I came across this: “The Great American Jobs Machine Is Conking Out.”

The article reports that in January 2008, the job market shrank by 17,000 jobs. This is not a lot relative to the total number of jobs in the U.S., but it may indicate we are truly headed into a recession.

Which leads me to ask the question: What is your contingency plan in case you lose your job?

For anybody who has debt and loses his job, a $1,000 emergency fund probably isn’t going to cut it. You’ll burn through that in a week or two. And collecting unemployment isn’t really a contingency plan either.

Here’s what I recommend: Develop marketable skills.

What interests do you have? What skills can you develop that are easily marketable?

While I was employed, I continually thought about what I would do if I was laid off or lost my job. Which is why I practiced my copywriting skills quite a bit in my spare time even though I was employed. I figured if I lost my job, I would be able to become a copywriter at another company or even go freelance.

As it turns out, I became a freelance copywriter, which is what I still do to this day.

Another option I had filed in the back of my mind was going to work for a car dealership. I figured it would be easy to get a job there and it would have a good earning potential, especially since I have some experience in sales and marketing.

Other skills that are highly marketable besides copywriting are: selling, marketing, and anything that has to do with growing a business.

In a recession, companies want to know what they can do to grow… to start moving in the right direction again. If you are a person who can spark this growth, then you will be in demand.

I’m sure there are other practical skills that are in demand like accounting, supply chain management, computer networking, etc. But I don’t have any experience in these areas.

The point is, work on improving you so you will be more valuable to the company you currently work for, as well as companies you might work for. In this way, you can insulate yourself against the effects of a recession and a possible job layoff.

Besides focusing on tangible skills, don’t forget to focus on intangible skills as well. For instance, your leadership ability, your attitude, and your influence with others.

Personally, I have purchased and listened to many audio programs from Nightingale-Conant. They specialize in creating personal development programs about almost every subject you can think of. Some of my favorite programs are by Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy.

If you are currently employed, I suggest you spend time working on both your tangible and intangible skills. That way you’ll have an edge over other employees if you are forced to look for another job. If you get an audio program from Nightingale-Conant, you can listen to it every day on your drive to and from work.

And, as always, reduce your debt as much as possible right now, while you have a job, so you aren’t in crisis mode should something unexpected happen–a job loss, pay cut, economic recession, medical emergency, etc.