Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bass Pro Shops in Columbia, MO

Went to check out the Bass Pro Shops in Columbia, MO.

It was a decent place. Not as nice as the Headquarters in Springfield, but nice nonetheless. They have started building stores in many areas, from as far east as Las Vegas, NV, as far west as Hampton, VA, as far south as Islamorada, FL, to as far north as Toronto, Ontario. I was once an employee at Bass Pro Shops back when they had all of the phone operators, both wholesale and retail in the headquarters at 1935 S. Campbell along with the main showroom. Yes I worked there back before the large addition with the waterfall and worked there long enough to see it completed.

I believe in my day the actual employee id number was simply a number incremented by one for each new employee. It would give you a quick idea of where you fell versus others simply by knowing their number. I was employee number 3229. I worked with a lot of great people at Bass Pro Shops and they were good to me, although Bass Pro didn't pay all that well, at least at that time.

I started on phones on the retail side. I worked late afternoon into evening. The phone lines were actually open 24 hours a day. One of my supervisors recommended me to be a lead at one point, but one had to be a full time employee, which I was simply working part-time while going to school at Missouri State (or as we called it in my day, Southwest Missouri State University - SMSU).

It seemed that we were always breaking records for the number of phone calls we were taking in an hour. I believe we were getting upwards of 4,550 calls an hour. I wonder what that number is today, with the additional accessibility via the Internet I wonder if the call volume is actually more or less.

Bass Pro Shops used a lot of source codes. I believe this was mostly used to track their advertising dollars. If you called in to place an order you would be asked for the source code from the flyer, catalog, etc.. Not only did the source code tell you what the item was being ordered from, but based on the code you would be given the pricing associated with the flyer, etc. it came from.

Operator numbers were also used as a source code. For example if you called me and said you wanted to speak to Operator 6, then I knew you had watched the commercial to get your free flyer while watching Bill Dance. That is all the operator number was used for. So, I was operator 1-5 (or however many) as well. It was funny how many people were surprised that they happened to get the right operator right off when they called in.

The most frustrating part at times was getting the individual to follow your instructions. Please give me the quantity, followed by the item number, and then the color or size number. This is the way that it had to be keyed in at the time, thus telling me color first slowed the process down and telling me the actual color and not the number associated with that color did me no good.

It was also interesting how many people don't know their own address. I had people say hold on as they did not remember their house number and you know that they actually ran outside to look.

We use to have phone specials that we could offer. At the end of the call you would ask the individual if they would like to here about your phone special. They were actually phone specials. You could not get them anywhere else. Some people would call in just to ask what the phone special was and then order it. Those working the phones would get a commission for each one they sold. I believe it was a quarter for each one we sold. The commission checks were a nice bonus and Bass Pro was able to get rid of some good merchandise that was being discontinued, etc..

Later on I moved on to the Wholesale Division in the evening. It use to be called the Dealers section, but they were not actually franchises, so it was made clear that we did not call them Dealers. I believe Bass Pro Shops would have had some additional taxes to deal with and probably wouldn't be where they are today in rolling out the big stores they are if they would have franchised. I am guessing Bass Pro is still a privately held company of Johnny Morris, but I am not sure.

It was often easier to take orders in the Wholesale area as those ordering used an account number, which was already associated with their address, etc.. They tell you the number and you were off and running. As long as the computer could keep up, sometimes they would simply say their account number and start firing the numbers off at you. You would interrupt to let them know if something was out of stock or if the system was to slow to keep up.

In Wholesale we had phone specials, but were usually limited to a nickel or dime, with only the occasional quarter on an item. The reasoning of course was that we could potentially have a wholesale buyer buying multiples. What was the most commission I made on one phone call. It was a dime item and I made fifteen dollars. Not bad. It ended up that the buyer recently opened their account and was ordering their initial stock for their store. It just so happened they ordered one hundred and fifty of the ProComp rods that we had on special. COOL! I eventually quit school and started working full time. Shortly before leaving the job and moving to Jefferson City I was promoted to a position they created, called Sales Assistant in the Wholesale Division. This changed things to where I worked up in the front office area (not actually in an office, but more of a cubicle type area) and was not tied to the phones taking orders anymore. It was a nice opportunity, although the pay was still not that great. My wife wanted to move closer to her family and I had no problem with that so we moved back to Jefferson City, otherwise I would probably still be working there today.

I'll try to get some more pics of Bass Pro in Columbia on my photoblog later.

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