Failing the price audit up Lorena, though, now this is Edgar's responsibility. However, even in this instance, he feels the bosses' thinking on this is mighty muddled. Regarding one or two of them, he would even go as far as to say it is willfully muddled – they are making a concerted effort to frame things this way, because it matches the agenda they are determined to push.
“What are you going to do about this price audit?” Don Evans is demanding, having just waltzed into the equipment room. Then he shakes his head and adds, “pricing is a mess!”
Of course, what Don is always insinuating, when he utters his favorite new catchphrase, is that “pricing is a mess” really just means “Edgar sucks at his job.” Edgar would and has in fact disagreed on many occasions already, in the not even two weeks that this store has been open, because he's of the opinion that pricing is not at all a mess. At least, not in the way that the bosses believe and/or claim it is. But today, he's not wasting his breath with this particular argument, because he would rather pick apart and examine exactly what is meant by pricing is a mess. It's too vague of a term, which the Dons of this operation are attempting to wrap around everything. So here are the various possibilities:
a) Edgar has the wrong prices in the system. Verdict? No. Todd can toss off all the cocky rejoinders he likes, but the fact of the matter is, Edgar has followed his instructions to the letter. And to his knowledge everything is humming along just fine on all other cylinders, the ones which didn't apply to that massive MRI price dump.
b) He uploaded the correct prices, but failed to print off the shelf tags. Verdict? No. If anyone ever asked him – not that anyone has, in all his time working here – to see the “paper trail” that certain figures are often heard crowing about, this is extremely easy to verify. Which would apply to point A as well, it's true. He understands that this is a complicated concept, particularly if you haven't worked with such. Yet it's fairly easy to follow, point to point, if you do this every day, or even if the guy who does this every day shows you how this works.
For example, take this randomly selected file, one of the many he broke apart and uploaded from that huge MRI import. It has 328 lines in it, which would mean it is expected to change the retail on 328 items. If we crack open the RU Data program, we can see that this import tripped the print flag on 328 items. So everything's good on that front. Now, if we bounce over to the print history, we can see that 328 tags were printed. There are no errors messages. If you want to dive even further into this rabbit hole, and suggest that the tags were printed, but then never given to anyone, you can go out on the shelves and find the first and last tag from the print batch. This would also indicate that everything is fine, and closes the chapter on this line of reasoning.
c) Everything was uploaded correctly, and the tags were hung, but the retails failed to kick down to the Hupp cash register system. Verdict? Possible, yet highly unlikely. They've obviously encountered instances where RU Data failed to kick a file down to Hupp, but none where it only kicked part of a file down to Hupp. And thanks to that recently installed workaround where it boots the rejected files into that folder, even that scenario has become simple to identify. If especially paranoid you can spot check some prices in the file, to make sure everything is correct – and indeed, when discrepancies are found, this is one of the first things he does check. But so far, it's been an either/or proposition, all of the file has downloaded or none of the file has downloaded.
Sharon actually asked him a somewhat related question on this topic, a few days earlier. “Isn't it a pain for you to upload these huge files?” she wondered.
“Eh, I kinda like uploading the huge files. Because that part of the process is the same either way. It doesn't take any longer to upload. At least with a huge file...either everything is right or everything is wrong, and you're gonna find out pretty quickly which one it is.”
d)The bosses don't like the price. Verdict? Yes, this obviously is true, on many of their products – however, the state auditor doesn't care whether or not management “likes” the price of an item. That's not an infraction.
e) Many product lines are not 100% line priced now. Verdict? Same deal. And one of his frustrations with this concept is that he cannot seem to get these alleged industry veterans to understand what he's talking about on this topic. When you are using more than one supplier to fill a product line, those files do not just magically telepathically communicate to one another. He has to identify these scenarios, tie them together, and maintain them. This does not happen overnight, particularly when your president had you drop a gigantic atom bomb of updates down the night before your largest store opened. The same applies when future items of the same product line are brought in. If some random grocery employee sends you a hand typed, halfway complete new items form with this thing on there, it might not be immediately apparent what this even is. However, again, this is not an infraction. It's not against the law to have one price on strawberry yogurt and a different one on the blueberry.
f) The shelf tags are wrong. Verdict? Ah, now here we are getting somewhere! This is after all what people almost always mean when they are complaining that the “price” is wrong on something. No, 99.99% of the time it's the other way around. The price is correct, the shelf tag/sale sign is not. This is all the more true with the Slingshot system where both functions are connected, or the HSX one that should theoretically be up and running everywhere someday. Those systems to date have never absorbed a file, spewed out a tag with the correct price, but then left the old one active at the register.
In ye olden days – or in other words what they've been somewhat forced to reenact here in Lorena, regarding the sale signs that Park or someone else is making - it's true that such a sign could be created without ever being entered into the system. Either if Edgar has outright forgotten to do so (which has happened a few times over the years, sure) or due to system error (far more common, though not extreme, either). But he hasn't forgotten to enter any sales here at Lorena, and the system error regarding RU Data not firing down to Hupp has been rectified, was not an issue for the specific audit infractions. Way, way more prevalent are situations where the inverse applies: someone asks Park to make a sale sign, or creates one themselves, but forgets to ever notify Edgar. Again, though, this scenario also didn't happen to apply to any of the items on the failed scan audit.
So what they are talking about, then, are by and large instances where prices were changed, tags printed, but then the tags failed to find their way to the shelf. This is not to bust anyone out – those occurrences are unavoidable. Edgar thinks Ashley and Amanda do an amazing job, and they happen to already be two of his favorite coworkers. But things are going to get missed, particularly considering how hectic this opening has been, the scope of the changes, and the number of cooks they've had out there tinkering around in the kitchen.
Two other complications apply as well. One concerns what to do when you have the same item in multiple locations around the store, for which nobody really has a good solution. If the price changes on an item, it's only going to spit out one tag. At present this comes down to the person hanging the tag being aware of such, and personally printing another one or two, for the additional locations. The only remedy is to somehow have the location mapped for every single item, and possibly have RU Data modify their system to crank out multiple tags if multiple locations exist. Needless to say, they're a long way off on that development. As for the other complication, this really only applies right now, and eventually comes up at the tail end of this conversation with Don.
“We need to be realistic,” Edgar says, “This is a huge store. He marked us off for 4 items, out of 50.”
“I heard it was worse,” Don says.
“What?” a dubious Edgar retorts.
“Oh yeah,” Don gravely insists, nodding his head slowly for emphasis, “I heard it was much, much worse.”
“Well, I don't know where you would be getting that. I was right there with Todd and Fred when he handed in the report.”
Don raises his eyebrows in the manner of someone who believes he is making an unexpected, though insightful, point at a company meeting and says, “from what I hear he was just taking it easy on us.”
“I find that hard to believe. From my experience these guys don't go around scanning a bunch of items but not writing them down. And anyway, he shows up here on the morning of our grand opening? What, like that's a coincidence? That was obviously a date he's had circled on the calendar for weeks. Which would tend to imply he is not taking it easy on us.”
“I don't know, that's just what I heard,” Don insists.
“Well, whatever,” Edgar says with a dismissive wave, “that's beside the point anyway. But I mean, okay, out of the four items we missed, one was in a section of vitamins that Ashley and Amanda and everyone else can tell you they hadn't even spot checked yet. They hadn't gotten to that section. Another one was for an old MRI sale sign that was somehow left up on a Pepsi display.”
“That sign still shouldn't have been there.”
“I understand that. And I don't know how it was missed. But you can plainly see that it's obviously an old MRI sign. We haven't even done anything with Pepsi prices yet, because I'm still waiting on the rep to get me the latest price file. So you take those two out of the equation,” Edgar shrugs, “that's only two out of fifty, and we pass.”
“Yeah, well, something needs to be done about this. This can't happen.”
Yes this a serious matter – and no one takes this more seriously than Edgar – but it is also routine. They will be seeing this guy at least once a year for as long as this store is open, as they have his counterpart at every location all along. This is the first such inspection they have failed in eight years, anywhere. He knows the drill by now, as do most employees. Actually, his big takeaway from this is that it kind of seems like Don is the only one who has never been through this before. Maybe this wasn't a state law in Missouri, or something, who can say. Even Todd and Fred are nowhere near as worked up about the audit failure as Don is. Then again, he always has used any opportunity whatsoever to shoehorn a development into this big agenda he's pushing, his theory that Edgar sucks.
“Well, I'm sure we'll get it sorted out,” Edgar tells him, adding, “and see, the other thing is, okay, Todd has me print out thousands upon thousands of shelf tags. So then we hand a bunch of these off to the Universal reps, for the section they're still working on. Because they weren't even done hanging the first wave I gave them a week earlier, for a lot of the same items. So okay, let's say you're a Universal rep, and you've got one tag in your hand – or on the shelf - with your name on it, and another that says MRI. Which one are you probably gonna hang? I'm just saying.”
Don only smacks his lips together and swallows, clearly unmoved by this line of reasoning, and says, “yeah, well, we had better pass the next one. That's all I'm saying,” as he leaves the room.
But Edgar understands how this phenomenon works. Words are leaving Don's lips, therefore they are facts. Even unsubstantiated hearsay is automatically a fact. Whereas Edgar's explanations, even if highly plausible and as far as he is aware one hundred percent truthful, these amount to merely making excuses and are dismissed with a wave. There's not much you can do about this phenomenon, as a mere employee. You just hope to survive it, and work around it.
This is much more insidious and difficult to avoid, however, when a boss is obviously going out of his way to attempt and make you look bad. Then, every development is framed in precisely this manner. Another Wednesday arrives and, while the sales batches all deployed overnight, once again that three layer MRI casserole failed to prioritize correctly. The latest occurrence has renewed his urgency, and, having heard nothing from the purported liaison Ken, Edgar reaches out to Aziz at RU Data, to get another update.
Aziz responds within the hour, saying he thinks he's making some progress. As always, one suspects – which is certainly understandable – that a tech support person such as this isn't exactly working around the clock attempting to solve this puzzle. He has other raging fires elsewhere to douse with a hose. But, this guy immediately struck Edgar as capable, and reliable, and is certain that he has done some work on the case. So it is that by early mid-afternoon, Aziz triumphantly calls him to announce that he has finally cracked this mystery.
A bunch of the explanation involves technical mumbojumbo about what type of file this is, and how RU Data unpacks it. Yet as far as the practical applications of what this all means, that's all simple enough to comprehend. In its current state, if an item appears more than once in the same file, which it often does, for example a simple retail change at one level and a TPR at the other, then the last instance of it will be the one that sticks. Thanks to the prioritizing levels of MRI's files, the TPR ones are stacked up top, followed by the weekly sales, followed by the simple retail changes. Which means it’s working exactly backwards from what is intended.
“Oh...okay...so is there anything we can do about this?” Edgar asks.
“Yes, ha ha!” Aziz cheers, “actually there is! That's the part that took me so long to figure out!”
On the RU Data interface, the tab where he uploads sales batches has dozens of tiny little boxes. The wording on many of these is quite vague, but it hasn't mattered much as Matt had showed him over a month ago which few need checkmarked, which has been set as a default ever since anyway, and required no tinkering. And it turns out by just checking these two successive ones, near the bottom right of this tab, this makes a file such as this, respectively, load in inverse order, and prioritize the lowest retail. Just to be on the safe side, Aziz says, there's no harm in setting the default now to checkmark both.
Once Edgar breaks the news to Ken, Todd, and Fred via email, Slack message, and/or Microsoft Teams message (where applicable), word spreads mighty fast to Don's ears anyway. As well it should, with such comprehensive transmissions! Then he's back in the equipment room, smirking as though finding this entire situation completely preposterous. Which it is, actually, though not at all in the way that Don's trying to spin it.
“So I heard you finally solved what's going on with the sale batches.”
“Yeah,” Edgar nods. “Well, Aziz at RU Data. He did.”
“So what was it?”
“Well, as it turns out, there's these two boxes down at the bottom of the import tab that need checkmarked. That's it.”
Don crosses his arms and scoffs, with the air of someone thinking this development cements a case he's been building all along, and says, “it took you two weeks to figure out you need to checkmark two boxes!?”
“No,” Edgar shakes his head and says, “it took RU Data two weeks to figure that out. First one guy was working on it, then another guy was working on it. It's like, if it takes them that long to figure out how those files work, then how was I supposed to know?”
He could have added that Ken actually handled the sales batches last week, but encountered the same problems, and he's theoretically their pivotal RU Data liaison anyway, not Edgar. So this tends to bolster his case. But of course, such speeches change nothing, as Don shakes his head again and leaves the room, saying nothing more. Because Don is surely still going around and telling everyone, “it took Edgar two weeks to figure out he needed to checkmark a couple boxes,” with a similar head shake and probably an eye roll.
It's still a mystery to him why Don is so determined to assign Edgar the blame for basically every shortcoming this company has. With Todd, though still way off base from a theoretical standpoint, and just plain wrong from a business practices one, at least Edgar can understand where some of that mindset is coming from: RU Data is his big baby, and he simply refuses to admit that this investment is turning out to be a gigantic lemon. Alongside many of his other “hot” innovations and “sweet” deals, yes. Someone else is taking the fall for this crap, not Todd. But with Don it's been like this from day one, and all he can figure is the dude has some sort of cement block sized chip on his shoulder, and one or two people receive this treatment from him everywhere he goes.
This mindset is a problem in itself, yet it's also beginning to have a snowball effect. Once the complainers realize that this is a trending, acceptable go-to, they will also begin piling on you about everything, with full support of management behind them. The complainers themselves become paradoxically bulletproof against all forms of attack, ranging from direct fire to shrapnel, they can even be as rude as they care to, and nothing will become of it. When proved wrong, they can just shrug it off and explain in chummy, offhand manner to their favorite managerial figures, well, we all know Edgar sucks, so it was justified anyway, am I right?
The latest iteration of this phenomenon rears its head this very Wednesday, with a hysterical sounding Candace first calling his cell phone from Central – which he doesn't answer – and leaving a voicemail, then sending him an email moments later. Hey, I just wanted to let you know, none of the sale prices are ringing. None of them! And attaching a PDF of the sales flyer in question.
He already finds this hysteria suspect, because the first thing he did upon waking this morning, before even leaving the house, was logging in remotely and making sure that the sales flyers hadn't kicked out into the reject folder, at any of the stores. Everything was OK on that front, however, which meant that, barring some other outlandish new scenario with the software, what Candace is saying could not possibly be true. It was possible that one or two items had been somehow missed, okay, sure, despite that process of building the sales batches himself, then using the merchandisers' files to double check against it. Though what was almost always pitched as a sale price “not ringing” was in fact a situation of someone slapping the sale sign on the wrong product. This was a far more common scenario. And as far as the entire flyer not ringing? There's just no way, he is thinking.
So he cracks open this PDF and takes one look at it, spots immediately what is wrong, at the top of the first page. This is the flyer for next week. Considerably relieved at spotting the error so soon, he responds with a thoroughly convivial email of his own, and of course a Slack message as well, with Arcadia co-manager Donna Evans copied for good measure on both:
Candace: Well, that was an easy one to figure out. This is actually the flyer for next week. Problem solved! Thanks,
Not even a half hour later, she can't resist slinging back a decidedly less jolly reply of her own. He's aware that with such a short message, he must have violated some jokes-per-paragraph (JPP) protocol, and therefore she has probable cause to rule his email a legally shitty one. Then again, while this might technically be a full paragraph, if you attempted to count it as such on, say, a 7th grade English paper, your teacher would have surely told you to get real. This is more like half a paragraph, thereby throwing all JPP ratios out of whack. At any rate, he must read her response a dozen times in a row, unable to understand where this is coming from:
Okay! Sorry but we must have not seen that. Why do you have to be such a smart aleck and take an attitude all the time?