Hornets vs. Belk: Fans Thrilled, Morale Crashing

Let’s go to a bottom line set of comparative numbers. After two pretty horrendous seasons, Michael Jordan pulled the $4 million trigger and appealed to the NBA for returning the HORNETS name when New Orleans team decided to change to ‘Pelicans’. Assuming almost everyone knows the back story about voters denying former owner-cretin George Shinn a new arena that caused him to move, the NBA granting Charlotte another team, the city slipping a new *more expensive version* arena (plus major incentives) past TWO negative budget votes, and Bob Johnson sticking his ego on new team with BOB(s)CATS before eventually selling out to MJ with “Don’t feel I ever got support I was led to believe I would,” the possible name change came as a bright ray of hope and fun.

Great. I’ve lived in Charlotte 18 years Memorial Day, and I always enjoyed going to The Hive and seeing Zo, Del, Mugsy, Glenn Rice teams. I’m still proud of a dead-on preseason prediction for ’96-’97 Dave Cowens coached team, the one with a complete changeover that included Vlade Divac (received from Lakers for rights to a kid named Kobe Bryant) and MISTER Anthony Mason, just off an NBA 6th Man season with the Knicks. My brother Mike and I were there when maybe 2,000 braved a snowstorm to see a game, earning another ticket to future game for our loyalty. I suffered through a BRUTAL 68-66 foulshooting-a-thon loss vs. the Heat, and just the other day at work I chatted with Mr. Curry about sweet-shooting son Stephon’s comment about understanding his folks going to brother Seth’s Duke graduation vs. coming to his playoff game.

They’re calling this a ‘reboot’ for Charlotte team that lacks any real character, especially in comparison to that beloved first Hornet team that stamped this city as Major League. Mugsy always had more love-ability in one short leg than the entire 2012-2013 roster.

BELK is a 125 year old icon, a major southeastern retailer that began in Monroe, has its 4-story, $70MM in sales flagship store in Southpark, pumps discount coupons religiously, is headquartered on Tyvola Rd. across from where The Hive once stood, and proudly sponsors a college bowl game. In the midst of a well-recognized recession, it managed to have back-to-back record years, so apparently it continues to do a lot of things right.

Treating their employees like chattel shouldn’t be the reality it has become though.

Do employees consider a massive outlay to rebrand a few years ago or the $4MM spent on new carts and rolling racks etcetra legitimately worth bragging about when their computers are (speaking charitably) from the Ron Regan ’80s? Management repeatedly invokes “you indicated in surveys we needed them to do your job, so its happening,” but that 2010 survey result MIGHT become more current computer equipment *in 2014!* and its actually doubtful dock hardware was ANYWHERE near the top of any desired changes in any survey.

Each player in the most recent and admittedly thrilling bowl game received a $400 gift card and that famous 20% off coupon. Using simplistic math of 80 players per team, that’s $64,000, which is a recognizable number to pose as a question: Why is Belk financially starving its traditionally loyal, generally productive work force by cutting STAFFING SCHEDULES as close to the minimum 30 per week for full timers? This was done in October and again *two days after Christmas* vs. usual reduction in sales-slow February. If a balky computer program for scheduling actually becomes a fact, even personnel in the highly productive Vineyard Vines area will be looking at 31 hr. weeks. BENEFIT COSTS is the easy and sadly correct answer, but in NO way does a family vs. stockholder beholden organization need to screw its work force EXCEPT to bring more $$ to the bottom line.

Capitalism is NOT at its finest when the cost of such a real necessity as benefits is, as Pres. Obama noted in a 3-word tweet ‘It’s. The. Law’ becomes the rationale for trying to run out ‘professional’ salespeople in order to replace them with non-benefit part-timers. (See ‘Papa Johns Pizza’ for similar thought process) Management seems impervious to complaints about customer service, once a real and proud aspect of its appeal. When customer surveys, which are compiled daily, showed a 36 POINT GAP between 76 for ‘Friendliness/Courtesy’ score and *40* for ‘Availability of Assistance’ the store manager continued to state that employees obviously weren’t smiling enough. In France, South Carolina, or Charlotte, the standard response to that is “bulls**t.”

When you go to Southpark aaaaany day except Saturday or for a major sales event like Back to School or Black Friday, see how long it takes to find a salesperson. THEN find out if they’ll be able to tell you whether there’s a particular item you want in stock AND be willing to go find it. Paw through racks in many departments that make it look like you’re in K-mart, stepping over hangers and product on the floor that a singular clerk (probably not a *salesperson*, just someone at a register) doesn’t pick up because they simply don’t care.

The Bobcats becoming Hornets Redeux is a clear signal by Michael Jordan that he’s listening to potential seat-buying fans who would probably be willing to watch quality ACC action FOR FREE 3x a week and bring excitement back to professional basketball in the Queen City. If the Belk organization continues to denigrate and pauperize its most valuable assets and do little more than pay lip service to customer service, maybe it should just fold the ‘biggest family operation’ idea and sell out to Macys. Since they seem bent on low staffing levels, perhaps they should just put tip buckets at the doors and let people throw a couple bucks in for whatever they take. Then there’d be no need for personnel benefits at all.