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Who's Knocking At Your Side Door — And Who's Answering?

3 Feb, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

So long ago I hate to admit I remember it, a musician named Gil Scott Heron had a great revolutionary anthem called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

With the way politics are going in this country right now, I was starting to think that might be wrong. With the eradication of the middle class, corporate corruption and the ongoing export of American jobs, I keep wondering when it will all hit a critical mass that has Americans mustering torches and pitchforks to march on their state and federal capitols. Drama like that would be on every TV channel available.

But it's not going to happen that way, even though more than at any other time in history, we live in a media culture. Anyone who doesn't believe that need look no further than the California governor's office. OK, so that little skirmish in the revolution was televised. But that was more of a revolt than a revolution; Californians got tired of stupid spending and lax oversight (and the jury is still out as to whether Gov. Ahnold will change any of that).

I no longer think the revolution will be televised, at least not in any recognizable form. But it is going on all around us, and in much more insidious ways than public marches.

We are in the midst of what I call the “side-door revolution,” a term I coined after a friend related an incident in which he got a piece of merchandise for about a third of the retail cost by buying it from an employee at the supplier's side door for cash. Free downloading is another part of the side-door revolution. A lot of the people snatching music and movies off the Internet for free are sick of what they perceive as corporate greed and are rebelling in their own quiet way. If you own a business, these things may be costing you money.

Controlling “shrinkage” — that marvelously understated euphemism for employees stealing — is nothing new to retailers. But if things keep going the way they are, I think it's likely to get worse both in scope and dollar value.

One commentator I quoted a few months ago noted that the selling price of a used DVD doubles the hourly wage of most drug store workers. That's onesy-twosy compared to the Target loss control manager in Michigan who was charged for allegedly taking DVDs and games out the store's back door and selling them at a Game Station store a few miles away. I'm sure the motivators range from people stealing a little on the side to make ends meet to just plain greed.

I suppose this is a political rant, but anyone who is not treating employees fairly is, in my mind, more likely to suffer these kinds of problems than employers who take care of their people and treat them with dignity.

If you are in business, make a point to set an ethical example for your employees. Make an effort to provide them with the kind of pay and benefits that keep employees loyal and honest. I guarantee most employees who perceive their bosses as fair and honest will try to step up to that standard.

Remember, the revolution will not be televised. Probably not even on your video surveillance system.

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