This is a slight deviation from our typical posts but the topic does sort of fit. I’m going to talk about Factory Direct. It started off in 1995 as an electronics retailer and evolved into a merchant of everything refurbished.

It turns out that they are going out of business. Once, they were a popular place to buy products cheap that were liquidated from other stores. Now they are liquidating themselves.

When I was a teenager I always went to this store to get low cost refurbished electronics. It was a great place to shop if you didn’t have a big budget for more expensive products.

After finishing high school, a good friend of mine was able to get me a job as a salesperson at Factory Direct. I was excited, and my knowledge of computers made me one of the top salespeople.

One day the Ontario Government sent us a poster with our rights under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41. I realized immediately that Factory Direct violated them all the time. One in particular, being free from work for at least 11 hours, S.18(1), was routinely violated every time we had to do inventory. Inventory was a process where we were forced to stay late to work, often until late into the morning, and when it was over we had to be there first thing in the morning when the store opened.

The law indicated we should receive 11 consecutive hours free from work. I pointed this out and the manager, John Lem, who told me that this was not a law. I said it was on the poster in his office. He flat out denied that the poster indicated this. I offered to show him and he was not interested. We did get free pizza, but that’s a meme at this point.

He was always full of incorrect information, one time I got into an argument with him over Linux. He tried to say that a license was required to use it and tried to win the argument by saying he bought a copy of Xandros Linux.

During my employment, he got fired over the phone while he was in his office. He opened up the safe and took all the money. He packed up his things and was on his way out of the store. He approached me and told me that he was fired and wished me luck. Later that day, someone from head office showed up and we found out that John stole money from the safe.

It turns out that he gave the money to a stripper at the Sword and Shield strip club, which is now a Days Inn hotel.

After that whole ordeal they replaced the manager with Giancarlo, who they scooped up from Tech Direct (I think). This guy was obsessed with re-arranging the store every day after the store was closed. He had us working approximately 68 hours a week with all of the added mandatory overtime. The door was locked so we couldn’t leave the store and he never asked us permission to work such ridiculous overtime.

This is illegal under S.17(1)(a) and S.17(1)(b) of the ESA, which limits overtime to 48 hours a week. Now, there are exceptions to these laws if the employer obtained permission from the government. This has since been repealed by the Ford government in favour of asking the employee permission.

Some may have liked doing it because it did pay a lot at the time. But I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend. This schedule caused a lot of problems in my relationship with her because I didn’t have a lot of free time.

I was promoted to Senior Technician from sales when they fired the previous Senior Technician. I was in charge of handling customer returns and fixing computers. I had full control of pricing and I would charge $40 for everything. I had a lot of customers and business was booming. Unfortunately, I never saw any commission. Later, Giancarlo was replaced by a great manager who I will not name.

Factory Direct would routinely buy skids of products that they knew were defective. They would test each product at head office and then ship them to the stores if they were deemed to be functional. The testing wasn’t done very well and there were boatloads of returns. I often had massive lineups of people returning products for store credit because we did not offer refunds.

If anyone had a problem with the no refund policy, I got to practice law. I would ask them to show me their signature on the receipt, and then I would point out that they signed an agreement to no refunds (among other things). I often had to do this when refusing to take products back for reasons that were covered by this full page agreement. Imagine going to Best Buy and having to sign a 1 page document every time you bought something. Welcome to Factory Direct!

Here is where things get even more shady. I had to process these products for head office using a little slip of paper called an RMA slip. If I forgot to circle anything on the form, we were slapped with Tech Fines. These fines made it almost impossible for anyone to get commission. It was a device they used to make sure they could make as much money as possible. There were situations where I would test something as defective and they would get it working at head office. Never mind the fact that this in and of itself could be a defect. We were slapped with fines regardless.

No store at Factory Direct ever paid a commission to its technicians while I was there, and I’m not just talking about my store.

Head Office was so out of touch that they brought all of the stores technicians in so they could show us how hard it was for them. This backfired spectacularly. They didn’t have to experience lineups of disgruntled customers who would argue for ten minutes about a refund. They didn’t have to experience people throwing blank DVDs at the store. In fact, John Lem from earlier was fired because he told a customer to contact head office for a refund.

These people had cushy jobs and any stress they claimed to have is nothing compared to being on the ground floor of one of the retail stores. Andrew, Jay and Nick were in charge of the technicians at all the stores. They were the ones who issued tech fines that erased our commission. They spent all day at their desks on the phone with suppliers and doing RMAs.

They did test products that were returned, so they got disgruntled and issued tech fines if you forgot to circle “store credit” on a form.

I even saw Andrew whip a DVD burner at the ground.

None of the people at head office had to deal with the stress of constant disgruntled customers. They got mad if any of the customers contacted them directly. They even had a food truck and got to basically chill and work in a relaxing environment. I didn’t feel bad for them at all. I wanted to be one of them. That was the only motivation I had to do better at that company.

Later, I decided to stop accepting computers for repair because we didn’t get a commission and focused on the customer returns. My great manager left and they brought in a new manager who wanted me to fix computers again. A better store opened up across the street, Canada Computers. A bunch of us left Factory Direct and worked there.

When I was working at Canada Computers, one of the managers from Factory Direct showed up and we had a conversation. I could tell he was jealous because he said “Oh, now you can destroy this store too.”

They destroyed themselves. Who would want to take a chance at buying broken shit from Factory Direct when they can just get functional refurbished items on Amazon and other online stores? They blame inflation, of course. Everyone likes to blame inflation and Trudeau for their problems.

And now I will end this post with a song I wrote while working there, to the tune of Team America – Fuck Yeah:

Factory Direct, Fuck yeah!

Refurbished is the only way now!

Future Shop, your game is through!

Because we are now after you!

Factory Direct, Fuck yeah!