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TheStreet Open House

My Soul-Sucking Experience Working at The Container Store (Update 1)

After going through some sort of painful training where perky retail lifers read out of handbooks, show videos and lead "team building" exercises, we got down to the real work of building out this new store.

In its most recent S-1 filing, The Container Store, for all intents and purposes, summarizes the process I went through in a sentence:

Training focuses on our culture, leadership skills, product knowledge, space design skills and operational skills.

... space design skills... That's the part that's feast or famine for me. As an employee -- and please take no offense to this if you work for The Container Store -- I'm not sure how you can go into work in the type of retail environment the company creates without wanting to pick up some sort of hallucinatory drug habit. Maybe things have changed over the last decade, however, by the looks of the stores, I reckon that's not the case.

On the feast side, what I will briefly describe likely explains a considerable amount of the success The Container Store has had on its way from private to public company.

When we started filling this new store with product, we were literally in the store with nothing but fixtures -- shelves and so forth. Empty rack after empty rack. Boxes were continually brought in and placed in front of the exact shelf where the contents needed to end up. On each shelf, our spunky management team had taped photographs of an existing store in Virginia, I think it was. Each picture gave us a view of exactly -- and I stress exactly -- how we needed to merchandise the corresponding shelf.

It was excruciatingly mind-numbing work. Zero creativity. No ability whatsoever to think on your feet. You simply sliced open a box with your razor knife, pulled items out and put them on the shelf or rack -- exactly -- the way they appear in the picture. The only way I can describe the hellishness of this experience is to relay the following points:

Number one ... there were times were I felt like I could use that razor knife to harm myself. But then I realized I didn't need to do this.

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