If you stopped into the Bookstore over the last month, you may — or may not — have noticed that our in-store elevator has been out of service. For a lot of people: no big deal. Up the stairs, down the stairs. For some people, particularly older and elderly customers, this has been a bigger deal, also so for folks lugging luggage, baby strollers, and especially for booksellers trying to move hundreds of pounds of books to and from the main level.
But the elevator hasn’t been broken. No-sirree. Oh, it’s out of service alright. Here’s why:
Once upon a time, the DC Fire Marshall (I’m sure not him himself, but one of his minions) came in to do an inspection and noted that the elevator was not in compliance with the District’s Fire Code, which apparently states, among other possible things, that an elevator must have a telephone so that should a person become trapped inside of it, they can communicate without the outside world: “Help, help, I’m trapped in an elevator that smells of stale urine.”
Which is a smell no one should have to, y’know, smell.
So, once upon a time, store management went to Corporate and said, “Hey, we need money to upgrade our elevator.”
And so Corporate muckity-mucked about, and I hope at some point consulted a lawyer knowledgeable about DC fire code, and then Corporate came back and said: “Uh, no, you don’t need a telephone, you’re not violating DC fire code.” (I guess that lawyer wasn’t so smart after all).
And so store management said: “Erm. Okaaaaay.” Because, y’know, store management was probably trying to figure out why Corporate didn’t believe that the Fire Marshall or his minions weren’t well aware of DC Fire Code.
And this went on, and on: the Fire Marshall (or one of his minions) came in, looked at the elevator, and said, “You know you’re still not in compliance, right? One of these days, I’m going to shut this down.”
And so store management went back to Corporate, each and every time, and each and every time, Corporate came back and said: “Will you just trust us? Your elevator is fine.”
And so finally, about a month ago, the Fire Marshall (or one of his minions) came in, but this time, instead of saying, “One of these days, I’m going to shut this down”, he (or she) took out a big key and literally shut the elevator down. I wasn’t there when it happened, so I don’t actually know that a key was required for this action, and I also don’t know if he (or she) said “I told you so.”
For that matter, I don’t even know if it was the same Fire Marshall minion or different ones coming in to do this.
In any case, store management went to Corporate and said: “I told you so.”
And Corporate said: “Whoops.” They also eventually agreed to pay for the elevator upgrades, a whopping $15,000 from my understanding, although for whatever reason, it was going to take a month or two to get the elevator fixed. Maybe there’s only one elevator upgrade technician and he’s busy fixing elevators at companies that didn’t procrastinate about getting theirs fixed.
So without a working elevator, I’m pretty sure the Bookstore was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but of course, I could be wrong. But Corporate made no effort for a solution, so we just kind of soldiered on to the best of our ability, lugging huge carts up the stairs, all the while afraid we’d lose our grip, causing great bodily damage to ourselves, and great merchandising damage to the books, and I’m sure the latter certainly would’ve lathered up Corporate more than the former.
There were incidents: an elderly woman descending the stairs to attend the Ralph Nader event slipped and almost fell down the stairs. Fortunately, an employee caught her. She and another woman were later taken out of the store by going through the stock room and to the upper level via the building’s cargo elevator.
Flash forward to yesterday: I came in to work my Sunday all-day shift, which I wasn’t looking forward to – we’ve usually got a pretty small staff working, and two weeks before Christmas? That’s a recipe for some hurt. But I guess Corporate flexed a bit with payroll, because an extra cashier was brought in, and our recently returned GM came through to help with our merchandising.
Also: I was granted permission to open a copy of Bob Dylan’s Christmas album for in-store play. So if you’re on the lower level, from the stairs back to the music department, and you think to yourself, “Is that Bob Dylan singing ‘Little Drummer Boy?'” The answer is: yes, yes it is. Now go buy a copy of the album.
Anyway, so I came in, and I jokingly asked one of the supervisors if the elevator was working again yet. And imagine my surprise when he said: “Sure is!”
And I was all, “Huh?”
And so he explained it to me: seems there’s an agreement Borders worked out with the Fire Marshall, wherein Corporate keeps an employee (with a radio) in the elevator at all times, so that should the elevator break down, said employee can press the “talk” button on his radio and say “Help, help, the elevator is broken.”
Except — that in their infinite wisdom, Corporate chose not to put a Bookstore employee into the elevator, but rather, to hire a temp agency to put one of their employee into the elevator. I don’t know how much temp agencies charge for a temp employee, let’s say it’s $15 an hour. So Corporate is willing to pay, at a guess, twelve-hundred bucks a week to keep someone in the elevator. This kind of pisses me off, because I blogged about how they’d chopped hours only a few weeks ago. Putting a store employee in the elevator would not only make fiscal sense (about $700 per week), but it would provide store staff the hours that were cut from their schedules.
It’s decisions like this that really gotta make ya’ think: what the hell? And stuff like this that makes me think 247wallst.com might be right: April, 2010, this company might just go out of business.