“A place for everything and everything in its place.”
That principle sounds so simple, but the reality of verifying inventory is that receipts get recorded wrong, conversion from cases to eaches gets scrambled, paperwork gets lost, merchandise is “temporarily” stashed in the wrong place, etc.
In fact, there are a thousand and one ways for inventory to go awry. Although, on the spur of the moment, I can account for only 998 of them.
I come by my disdain for taking inventory honestly. When my late father was manager of the local (Lewisburg, Tennessee) farmers cooperative, he would stagger home late, cross-eyed and muttering about hoping he never had to count another Ortho product. (That’s what he got for being a math whiz. If he had been the class clown, he could’ve sat on the sidelines and regaled everyone with “a priest, a rabbi and an insecticide walked into a bar” jokes.)
Doing inventory is a necessary evil. No one wants to promise a customer items that aren’t actually in stock, pay taxes on nonexistent assets or court bankruptcy by remaining blissfully ignorant of rampant shoplifting/employee theft. But, man, it’s tedious! Just how many DVDs of “Debbie Does Inventory” do you see being bought OR shoplifted?
There’s no good time to do inventory. If you wait until after closing, everyone is irritable, muddle-headed and prone to taking shortcuts. (“Six Rolls Royces...give or take.”) On the other hand, if you do it during business hours while merchandise is coming and going, you’d better use Black Friday surveillance tapes for training videos. (“Woman, let me write down that shopping cart full of merchandise, or I’m going to snatch you bald-headed and tabulate the hairs.”)
Doing inventory can be a messy, confusing activity for the rank-and-file factory/retail workers, but occasionally upper management gets a pleasant surprise. (“Hey, I have two more congressmen in my back pocket than I remembered. Sweet!”)
One of the most aggravating things is that you’re usually trying to correct mistakes made by someone else, especially temps or fired employees who are long gone by inventory time. I sometimes imagine them all gathering at a bar to high-five each other and chortle over the chaos they left for everyone else. (Well, high-five or high-four or high-six or whatever their feeble minds can come up with. They’re not good with numbers.)
America’s embarrassment of riches is one of the problems. Inventory involves a maximum of time and confusion when you have to differentiate between left-handed ball peen hammers, Phillips-head ball peen hammers, antimicrobial ball peen hammers, HD ball peen hammers, gluten-free ball peen hammers and all the rest. It’s ALMOST enough to make you jealous of the consumer goods simplicity of Castro’s Cuba, where you’re promised nothing more specific than Garment, Medical Procedure, Foodstuff, Means of Transportation, Hybrid Foodstuff/Means of Transportation, etc.
Inventory items may disappear, but taking inventory is here to stay. So management needs to do its best to boost morale and streamline procedures. They have to remind everyone that “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”
Of course that will be followed by the conflicting message “Actually, our infallible computer database indicates that there are THREE I’s in team. We’re going to keep looking until we find them. I’ll put on a pot of coffee. Hey, I thought we were supposed to have 500 Styrofoam coffee cups...”
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”