This is the 2nd post in a weekend series where I am celebrating the Labor Day holiday by reminiscing about what I learned from my first part time job at Wal-Mart that I held beginning halfway through my sophomore year in High School and continuing through the end of my sophomore year in College.
The first part of the series can be found here.
I learned that there are evil people in the world
I discovered that a coworker of mine (who was also a friend) was stealing from the company by ringing up purchases for his friends at drastically reduced prices (i.e. a car stereo for $5.00, CD’s for a dollar, etc.) and then getting the merchandise later. Being immature, I was conflicted about what to do about this. I didn’t feel good about ratting out a friend but I also didn’t approve of stealing so I had to do something about it. I chose the ‘see no evil’ route which I know was the cowardly approach but then again, I was a teenager so….
I confronted the associate, told him he should not do this when I was around and told him I didn’t want to hear any more about this or I’d be forced to report it. I thought that would wash my hands of the issue and I hoped that would guilt him into stopping this but, as you might expect, it didn’t work. I soon found out from another friend/associate that he was made aware of the theft too and he asked me if I was also aware of it. I said yes and since this guy had more maturity than I at the time, he suggested we go to management with this and that is what we did.
What ensued was a kangaroo court that consisted of a corporate loss prevention representative flying in to interview all parties late one night after the store closed. After interviewing all of us, he decided to not only terminate the person who was stealing but also me and the other individual who came forward. Yes, you read that right! I got fired because I didn’t let management know of the theft immediately after I found out about it.
You would expect a company to give letters of commendation to employees who expose illegal activity and I was stunned and dreaded walking into the house and telling my parents that I got fired. In hindsight now, I admit that I should’ve come forward sooner. That was the first time in my life where I was confronted with a friend committing a serious crime and that conflicting situation caused me to take the coward way out. Trust me, I learned from this mistake.
The story does have a happy ending though. A few days after I was ‘fired’, the store manager called me at home and informed me that he had gone over the loss prevention guy’s head and got both our jobs reinstated and I went back to work the next day. I found out later that the store manager had pleaded with the corporate loss prevention guy to NOT fire me and the other person who came forward but it didn’t work. The store manager told me that the loss prevention guy came in the store with a chip on his shoulder and didn’t care about the circumstances and he wanted to terminate everyone who knew about it.
There are evil people in the world and some of them are hard to spot and can even be your friends. Evil people can also exist while hiding under the guise of those who are supposed to uphold justice.
I learned that Higher Education is important
My job afforded a high school/college student ample living wages and while I had to stay on a budget, for my age, I was living pretty well. But then again, I had my parents to provide a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes to wear so my salary was mostly gravy to be spent on things I liked. This whole ‘making a living’ thing seemed pretty easy.
That euphoria quickly faded once I learned that many of my co-workers were adults who were supporting families on similar wages that I was making and I couldn’t believe it. I was doing well for myself on my salary but I didn’t have a house payment, grocery bills, utility bills and other things to worry about but I saw my fellow associates struggling to make ends meet on their salaries.
My parents had always drilled into my head that, although they didn’t have college degrees, I was going to graduate from college with at least a bachelor’s degree. Even as an elementary school kid, I knew that once I graduated from High School, there was but one option – I was going to college. I never questioned that parental direction but if I needed any external validation of that advice, I got it while working my part time job for 4+ years.
It’s not to say that people can’t be successful without a college education but the odds of this happening are very slim so why roll the dice? Give yourself the best possible chance of success by obtaining a higher education whether that be trade schools, Associate degrees or the traditional 4-year college experience.
It is true what they say – Education is the tide that lifts all boats.
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow