The Empty Suit

Andrew was sharing with us the secrets of his success. Devoid of scruples, unrepentant, and unaware of the impression he was creating, Andrew shared with us stories of strong-arming customers, breaking rules, and pushing out employees who wouldn’t play his games. He is invincible. He is the future of retail.

If ignorance truly is bliss, then I was sitting two seats away from the happiest guy in Beachwood.

My father was a retail jeweler. He served as a store manager and supervisor most of his adult life. I grew up in those stores. I witnessed his professionalism. He respected his customers and they loved him. They trusted “Mr. Jerry” to take care of their jewelry needs. I have carried the lessons I learned from watching him throughout my working life.

My father wouldn’t be hired in today’s retail environment. Neither would I.

Walking through the mall is like visiting a carnival. Unwilling to wait for customers to enter the store or express interest, the sales clerks are forced to stand on the lease-line, barker style, and intercept mall patrons. The guys at the cell phone kiosks beg to ask you a question. Dodge them and you may bump into the sample girls from the skin product stand. And the chain stores will have their people do anything for another credit application.

This unpleasantness is available at any mall. Even these deserts of rudeness have an oasis or two. Beachwood Place has a Nordstrom. It is possible to find a positive, motivated salesperson at Saks, Dillard’s, or even at one of the kiosks, but the shopping experience is consistently excellent on all three floors of my favorite store.

Andrew is not a future Nordstrom store manager, but that’s not his goal. He has no need to leave his current employer, yet. For now he is satisfied with being transferred from an irrelevant C level strip plaza to a B level mall. The big time, a major mall store, is in his sights. He is indistinguishable from a pack of twenty-five to thirty-five year old single males who manage the stores of his employer and main competitors. Equally forgettable. Equally replaceable. Sometimes you have to look twice to determine which is which.

Having an audience, especially one that didn’t punch in first, thrilled Andrew and he made the most of his opportunity. His embellishments became more apparent the longer he spoke. Though we felt badly for his customers, our real concern was reserved for his employees who desperately need their jobs.

And one day Andrew will be gone, replaced by another empty suit.

Now Is The Time To Bribe Jim Renacci

Jim Renacci defeated John Boccieri last month in a loud, ugly campaign for Congress. Residents of Cuyahoga County were forced to view countless negative commercials for candidates that weren’t on our ballots. At best, we got to pretend that we rejected both of them.

Mr. Renacci is now accepting cash payments. Let me explain. Congressman-elect Renacci’s campaign raised $1.1 million from individuals and $317,000 in donations from political action committees. You know that that there were more than a million and a half in awful TV ads. Who or what was the source of the other money? Jim Renacci! In what is now a common practice, the candidate loaned his own campaign money, $750,000. The Renacci for Congress campaign spent over $2.2 million.

Jim Renacci is now hosting fund raisers in Washington D.C. He is meeting with PAC’s and lobbyist in an effort to retire his campaign debt. But his campaign debt is owed to one major benefactor, him. If you donate $5,000 to help retire the debt, you are, in fact, donating $5,000 to Mr. Renacci.

Giving money now assures you that your donation will actually go all the way to the target.

Let’s be fair. This practice of legal bribery is common and well publicized. Rich Democrats are just as likely as rich Republicans to loan money to their campaigns. Loan not give. And, this isn’t reserved for federal office seekers. Terri Hamilton Brown, a recent candidate for the new Cuyahoga County Executive, loaned $50,000 to her campaign.

We have established that this practice of lending money to your own campaign is legal, common, and performed by both Democrats and Republicans. May I add that it is also reprehensible?