A Unique Invitation into a Subversive Conspiracy

by  —  January 5, 2008

Process.org cordially invites you, the esteemed reader, to share in a Conspiracy of Subversion. We want to hear your personal tales of lies, embezzlement, fraud, theft, malice, anomy, depredation, despoilation, iniquity and maleficence. We are looking for subversive, destructive, scofflaw employees. In the spirit of the following anecdote, we are soliciting you to post your own tales of subversion in the workplace for possible use in a future publication. Suitable stories will earn their author an official Process.org t-shirt, available no where else (while supplies last, of course).

The Fine Art of Subversion

Less than a week previous, I had pointed an accusatory finger in Tom’s face and declared, “You are going to have to deal with Beanie Babies eventually,” and stormed away leaving him mystified. This encounter must have occurred to him when it finally reached his attention that the metro area had been assaulted by a flier campaign announcing a large Beanie Baby sale at The Store of Knowledge in the local mall; the store at which Tom was General Manager, and I his subordinate. No doubt these fliers caused Tom no small degree consternation, which he didn’t bother to hide – as this was at the height of the Beanie Baby mania that found mindless, trend-swallowing mobs swarming and trampling one another for the opportunity purchase a Beanie Baby, any Beanie Baby at all, and at any cost. This – compounded with the fact that The Store of Knowledge, a Public Broadcasting Station affiliated store specializing in educational toys and books, didn’t actually carry Beanie Babies, and had no intention of ever doing so – made Tom’s voice quaver as he tried to extract incriminations from co-workers I remained friends with.

And the interrogations didn’t go so well. Sam told him to go fuck himself, and Sam was probably the mellowest of the lot, having already been well into a solid heroin habit, viewing the world with sedated, glassy-eyed, chemical pacifism. The Drunken Murphy was later embarrassed that he dignified Tom’s accusations with denials, but he did at least openly laugh at Tom’s distress.

On the day of the sale, Tom was stuck in front of a savage stampede of desperate consumers. He attempted to placate the mob with coupons and apologies. These were a people who were quick to outrage, bolstered in their perpetual indignation by a religious philosophy of customer inerrancy. Tom knew as he saw them collect in front of the store before it even opened, with hungry expressions overwhelming their otherwise vacant features, that he was in for a day of hell. I couldn’t help but call him later in the day from my other job and mock him. He finally broke, and I daresay his speech turned somewhat unbecoming and vulgar.

Fact was, I hated Tom. We all hated Tom. And it was Tom’s fault that Tom was so hated. Tom had removed me from the schedule for three consecutive weeks, each week claiming that “next time” I’d be re-instated. By the third week, I was more than mildly nonplussed – my financial status having turned desperate – and confronted Tom in person. That was when he told me that he still couldn’t “deal with” me just then, and I told him that he’d have to deal with Beanie Babies instead.

Fortunately, my other job was in an office supply outlet equipped with graphic formatting software and copy machines. Using the letterhead from my check stubs, I made a convincing Beanie Baby flier and ran thousands of copies. People I knew were happy to distribute them, and several paper-boys agreed to put them in every copy of the newspaper.

The flyer campaign was so successful that a newspaper article reporting the hoax noted that the store had received over a hundred calls in one day. The store had only one customer phone line. A Store of Knowledge spokeswoman from Los Angeles speculated that the whole thing must have originated from a disgruntled customer.

I never returned to the job, and shortly after the event, Tom disappeared too.

But there are plenty of Tom’s in this world, and they need to be broken in much the same way. There are whole companies of Tom’s operating in America today, adversely affecting their employee’s lifestyles, and greedily benefiting from their sociopathic behaviour on a far grander scale. Unfortunately, few people understand the power that they hold as low-level employees on the inside. One need not hold a sale to hurt a company – I did that for dramatic flair – it’s so easy to just lose a company money. When loss is the goal, it’s easier to achieve than theft, and can be nearly undetectable.

We can control what the corporations are doing, all we need to do is assert our insidious, covert authority to punish the irresponsible…

– doug mesner

Marked as: subversion  —  17 comments   (RSS)

17 Comments so far
  1. FatalTwilight January 5, 2008 2:02 pm

    One time long ago I worked at a slave factory called Pizza Hut.

    My managers would get twizzled(On various Drugs) and make me do all the work…Some times leaving me there until 2am.

    One time long ago I decided that it would be fun to unplugg all of the T1 cables and phone lines. The network went down and I got to go home, plus it took 3 days to fix, which I dont know why it took them that long to fix a connection. I got a small vacation. =)

  2. santoro93 January 5, 2008 4:15 pm

    Im from buenos aires ,Argentina, and i work in Directv, but i am outsourced there, and they fucked me up every time they can, so one day we decided to tell everyone “anonymously” via mail that one of our supervisors fuck every fat girl he can, so his chief kicked him out… .Not a great story ,but ” “””punk”””” enough haha, bye.-

  3. santoro93 January 5, 2008 4:18 pm

    …i forgot to say that the “fat girls” were from the work obviously…

  4. seekue January 6, 2008 2:48 pm

    Obviously I missed the take-home message, because I am failing to understand how acting on a personal vendetta against a guy you did not like, by way of causing harm to a company who happens to employ said individual, was ‘sticking it to The Man’. I can understand, and at times appreciate, acts of subversion that are prompted by a company policy, but actively harming a company because you want revenge on an employee is misdirected from my perspective. What lesson was to be learnt by the company in the cross-hairs? “Do not hire an Ass*”?

    *And by “Ass”, it is obviously any individual that I consider to be an ass, for whatever subjective reason that may tickle my nose hairs at the moment.

  5. doug January 6, 2008 3:24 pm

    Quantifiable reasons: income. And though in this particular incident my antics were meant to hurt the General Manager, it made me realize how easy it is to hurt a company from the inside. I assert that “we can control what the corporations are doing, all we need to do is assert our insidious, covert authority to punish the irresponsible…”, but this anecdote is meant to convey not a direct example of revenge against an entire corporation, but rather a bit of the creative thinking that can be employed while acting subversively from within. If I were taking it out on the company itself, I would have gone about things differently, and I would have shot off an anonymous message to share-holders, the president, and CEO (if it was irresponsible corporate-wide activity I was objecting to).

    With such minimal accountability for corporate mis-behaviour in current times, some may view subversion as a type of moral imperative. But I’m really looking for a description of the activities and reasons of others, whether I would even agree with them or not. Fact is, subversion takes place all the time, and often the stories are amusing to the rest of us. This is a place where those stories can be submitted and read.

    But, I ask… what is wrong with the message “do not hire an ass”? Or better yet, a message of “this ass must be fired”? Seems a perfectly legitimate message to me.

  6. Loki der Quaeler January 7, 2008 6:57 am

    The problem with a message of “this ass must be fired” is that nothing has been conveyed in the above depiction that makes Tom look like as ass — if anything it depicts you as having acted like an ass. Tom, by your description above, appears to have not scheduled you as you had wished he would have — perhaps he simply didn’t like your work style (a theory, perhaps, corroborated by your story itself). Perhaps Tom really was Stalin reincarnate, but nothing at all above lends to that depiction.

    Were he acting in breech of some employment contract, you’d have legal recourse through which to pursue damages – otherwise take advantage of the beautiful fluidity of the american employment model and find an environment elsewhere, more to your liking.

  7. hatredintheshapeofaman January 7, 2008 8:28 am

    I used to work 3rd shift at a gas station, in the middle of nowhere. I thought that when i applied there it would be a cake walk, because that’s how 3rd shift’s at a gas station usually work out. Well it it turns out that this place was the only “convience” store open within miles so i was deluged w/ the usual debris of humanity that needs beef jerky, cigarettes, a pint of ice cream, nachos & a slurpee at 4 am. Well to get to the point, when i couldn’t deal w/ the press of scum i would just go to the circuit breaker & shut off the lights to the parking lot & store (the outside lamps had the type of bulbs that would take hours to re-lit to full strength), sit outside smoke & tell people that the power went out. It’s not much, but it helped me keep my sanity while working there.

  8. doug January 7, 2008 10:44 am

    Tom may not have liked my work style, in which case he should have said so when I asked him several times why I had not been scheduled. Then I would have sought another job. Tom’s delaying this by promising hours he never delivered had a serious impact on me at a time when petty hourly wages were paying my rent. These were verbal agreements, not contractual. It may just be a personality defect of mine that I didn’t have the humility to attribute this problem with Tom to the possibility that my work was somehow unsatisfactory. In fact, I did go get another job, but I decided to give Tom a real bad day first. That’s just the way I am.
    No, maybe the event didn’t make him look like an ass. Another contributor attributed that message to the act. I merely ask, what’s wrong with that message?
    If I were sitting on a park bench and a police officer approached me and spit in my eye, I wouldn’t instantly resort to thoughts of “maybe I’m sitting offensively to this guy. Perhaps this is my fault somehow. There are plenty of benches. I should just go find another.” Tom launched the first assault. Mis-guided, mean-spirited, or not, I was going to retaliate. I feel that the method I employed here was more creative and ultimately more satisfying (as well as legally safer) than the pummeling I wanted to belabour him with.

  9. harry speakup January 7, 2008 11:15 am

    I worked at a coffeehouse in New Orleans about 8 years ago; the decent mgr. that I had was canned, and replaced with a first-class a-hole. Said a-hole was the closet-case black sheep of one of the mobbed-up italian families that ran the local seafood distritibution.
    My last straw with this guy was when he took the side of a local nam-vet psycho who accused me of stealing a dollar from him; any rational person would’ve taken my side, as the customer was clearly a nut, but reason is difficult when your devout italian mother is making you repress your desire for cock.
    When I was eventually fired, I got the addresses for the store, the store’s head office, and the office of the Mgr’s family business. Then I got subscription cards for a bunch of gay magazines (Gay Times, The Avocate, etc…) and sent them back under his name and the various addresses.
    I never found out the OUTcome of my little prank, but sure tickled my funny-BONE!

  10. Loki der Quaeler January 7, 2008 12:03 pm

    Did you expose some malignant managerial policy present at PBS affiliated stores? No, probably not – and yet you targeted the store as well as Tom. At the end of the day, Tom was, at worst (unless you’ve omitted further crimes), a lying schlub, a bad manager, and didn’t schedule you as he promised / you wanted. In response, you performed an action which surely affected Tom, but also affected the store and perhaps the company. Were Tom to then quit or be fired (huzzah – tactical mission accomplished), you’ve then again penalized the store and all employees dependent on a person in his managerial position until a replacement was hired and brought up to speed.
    Meanwhile, we’re not talking about positions at RAND here: were Tom to have left or quit, he presumably found an equivalent job with little effort (as would have the adult working under Tom who, dissatisfied with his treatment (and either forgoing or not the reporting to Tom’s supervisor of Tom’s behaviour), then left for work elsewhere).
    To this extent, you’ve cheapened the very words by cloaking your actions in the guise of ‘retaliation’ and ‘subversion’ – why not toss in the now-journalistically-meaningless word of ‘epidemic’ as well…
    Worst of all, your park bench analogy (which doesn’t correspond on any level what-so-ever to anything in your story, and is thereby veiled in the thinnest of tissue to disguise it from being purely inflammatory) belittles us all.

  11. doug January 7, 2008 12:54 pm

    Does retaliation require – in this instance – that I “expose some malignant managerial policy present at PBS affiliated stores”?! As I’ve said, I contrived to give Tom a bad day. And no, these weren’t positions at RAND… so to say that Tom could have easily found another job, and yet I hurt the other employees who may have had to find another job were this store to be seriously affected by my antics is having it both ways. I don’t really think that this dealt a serious blow to the company as a whole. If it did, that’s collateral damage I’m willing to accept. The topic is employee subversion, whether in the spirit of We The People or petty individual gripe.
    I think my park bench analogy is apt in that to expect me to be an “adult” and just chalk-up my own mis-treatment to my own short-comings is exactly the same as asking me to accept spit-in-the-eye on the grounds that it was delivered from an “authority”. Apparently that’s my grown-up responsibility. Tom didn’t have to explain anything. He could lie about my hours, damage my income, and fully expect that I wouldn’t do anything “foolish” that might ruin his day in return. We’re all adults here.

  12. doug January 7, 2008 12:59 pm

    Also – for the record – I don’t object to the idea of my story being seen as “purely inflammatory”.

  13. seekue January 7, 2008 2:22 pm

    “I’m really looking for a description of the activities and reasons of others, whether I would even agree with them or not.”

    Yes, I agree that you made that clear in the post, and I do appreciate that you are also willing to allow for commentary on said activities.

    “But, I ask… what is wrong with the message “do not hire an ass”?”

    loki basically answered it for me.
    If the message is not clear, then there really is no message in my view. The onus is on you to make sure that you are able to communicate to those who you wish to hear the message in a way that they understand that ‘these actions are a result of this policy’ (or in this case, ‘Hey regional manager, Tom is an ass’*). If I am the target, whether I agree with the message or not, does not really matter so long as I understand what it is you attempt to convey to me.

    *from your story it does sound like Tom knew it was an attack against him, but the company was probably clueless why it was being punished

  14. The Soul That Creates January 7, 2008 7:44 pm

    I have done much the same as Doug. Differance being I was at a beer and wine store, working for some Hindus that treated the employees like shit. No raises, time off was almost never allowed, and they did not pay time and a half for over-time.
    I had many unpleasent duties there, gaurding the beer and wine deliveries ( I know it doesn’t sound that bad but, out in extreme heat with no shade and severe cold for eight to ten hours will get to you ). Cleaning the bathroom ( usualy after one of the owners had the curry squirts and left behind an unbearable stench). Cleaning and mopping the coolers and picking up the broken glass. Dealing with high school attending, annoying employees to boot. Not to mention helping carry out case upon case of beer for the ungreatful populace of Dallas Tx.
    After a hard day of exausting heat I was told to clean the bathroom. I cleaned it, but made use of certain household chemicals to induce a chlorine gas attack upon the store. It was cleared out and we shut down the store for the day. A Friday, the busiest day for sales. Now for the grand piss off. I was docked three hours pay for the chemical attack. I was told by the managing/owner, ” Your stupidity caused the store to close so, we will take it out of your pay. Your lucky to still have a job with us. ”
    That was the last straw. I wanted to quit and go out with a bang. I decided that I would print up some ” Free Beer” fliers and have them distributed via a friends rather large papper route ( The Dallas Morning News ). He, at the time, had a quarter of Duncanville Tx. on his route ( about two to three thousand houses ). The flier read, ” One free six pack of your choice with ANY purchase. Valid only on this Labor day 9-3-2005 to the first 200 customers”. I was scheduled to open on Labor day. I went in to work that day knowing I would quit as soon as people started lineing up. When I got there the parking lot was already full. I went in and the boss told me that we would be understaffed that day due to three other employees that had called in sick. So, it would be the manager, the assit. manager and I. Then came the shock of thier collective re-incarnated lives. I quit and walked out as soon as the open sign was lit and doors opened. I sat down by the doors, lit a cigarette, and waited for the mayhem to ensue. I know for a fact all parties involved were pissed. There was thivery, heated shouting matches, and vandalism. I loved every second of it, I went home with a feeling of great satisfaction.

  15. davevontexas January 7, 2008 10:38 pm

    Two 25-pound bags of de-icing salt on my ex-step mother’s shrubs as the winter snow was melting away into spring? The time I pretended to be my boss and called the state troopers on a prank caller during my lunch break doing tech support for Microsoft? Hazy, foggy memories of my apartment’s dumpster on fire? DOS-ing customers at yet another lame call center job who had the bad judgment to harass tech support?

    It’s true that there’s a lot of stuff to pick from, but they’re all sort of artless and petty. But now the Fascisti party for my hometown runs their email on a server where I work, and I’m just quietly biding my time.

  16. doug January 7, 2008 11:30 pm

    Okay. I think the disconnect here comes from the fact that I do use an anecdote that describes a personal vendetta, and I then expand outward into a “we can control what the corporations are doing” conclusion. Clearly I don’t make the transition well enough.
    I’ll admit that the park bench analogy is facile, but I have a difficult time manufacturing an analogy that describes how I was wronged more so than the story itself. In my opinion, the fact that I was wronged is self-evident. Being fired, I can handle. My work being criticized, my hours being cut; that’s something I can deal with. Keeping me on the line with a promise of a paycheck “next time”, and not delivering; that’s too much. So my attack was on Tom. Hurting the company was a by-product of my revenge on Tom that made me realise the power of the petty employee. Viewing the company as collateral damage may certainly be seen as deplorable by many, and to those who feel I needlessly damaged the business I worked for (though I find it hard to believe that they were too terribly devastated) I have no comforting words.
    I use the “Tom” incident because that’s the story I have, and I feel that anecdotes of this type are more entertaining than a philosophical treatise detailing the ethics and potential methods of on-the-job subversive activity, and I want the personal stories of other individuals, rather than any speculative musings. I mention controlling corporations from the inside at all because I am not strictly interested in submissions detailing revenge against individual employers, nor do I think that these acts of subversion need be strictly as self-serving as mine was. Here I am intentionally vague as to what ends I feel this activity may serve precisely because I am soliciting the stories of others. I steer clear of questions regarding the ethics of such things because I want the stories whether the activities described therein would be considered justified by any right-minded individual or not. I wish to colour the tone of the submissions as little as possible by remaining somewhat morally ambiguous. What’s the point? you may ask. I find such stories very entertaining, and I feel that others do too. They often serve to reveal another side of common businesses. It helps pull the mask off service professionals we tend to see as poorly manufactured automatons. It reveals some element of the human side of a mass-produced, contrived, otherwise scripted environment.
    I do appreciate the critiques, as I see this as a testing ground for potentially publishable material. So I’m not trying to put you fellows off – quite the contrary. Please let me know whether or not I have made my message any clearer.

  17. madalynkathryn December 21, 2013 9:07 pm

    During a nasty and extremely messy separation from my ex. I had numerous offers of riddance. He rode a motor cycle… Liked the strung up invisible wire! Hehehe 😉

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