how i knit to stay sane

February 29, 2008

Finished-Up Friday (with a different bent….)

Filed under: Uncategorized — K @ 10:01 am

Today, I’m sharing that I’m finished up with Michael’s….  As long as I can remember, Michael’s has offered a wide range of crafting classes in their stores.  The classes and the class products are as different as you can imagine in different areas, and I’ve been fortunate to see many regional examples in my various travels.  I’m glad I took note at the time, though, because it’s the end of an era for Michael’s.  Michael’s, as a company, has decided to revamp the class system, which, honestly, it needed.  But there are better ways for it to be done.

On the “My Michael’s” community message boards (available by creating a user account on Michaels.com and then selecting message boards), a thread has various pieces of information — some smack of rumor, while others contain overlapping information, making me more inclined to believe them.  The basic gist of the thread is that Instructors across the US were not given prior notice, but instead notified on Saturday or after that, in March, classes would no longer be held, with the exception of Wilton Cake Decorating (I’m thinking this is under a contract, and separate from the Michael’s classes, but that’s just my conjecture — I don’t know any factual information about that.)  Instructors across the country were told to take their class samples home, that they weren’t needed anymore.

Annoying?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Wrong, on the company’s part?  No.  I think it’s a poor decision.  The word through the grapevine is that Michael’s will be revamping their class system, and has expectations to begin the new-and-improved program in August.  My thinking is, why not keep talented instructors and crafty customers happy by continuing to offer the classes, as they’ve functioned for years, for another 6 months.  When you have your act together with how the classes will be reformed, inform the teachers at that time, on a case by case basis.  “We are no longer going to be offering beading classes, but you’re valuable to our store.  We’d love to have you apply for one of the new instructor positions we have, or for an associate position.”  Or, “Michael’s will only be offering a Learn-to-Knit class once a month, to teach the basics.  We hope you’re still interested in hosting that for us.”

As sorry as I am for all the instructors who are losing their jobs across the country, myself included, we are employed at-will (meaning that we are not under contract and cannot be punished for just walking out when we’ve decided that we’re done with working there, and likewise, Michaels is not required to give us notice and our employment can be terminated at a moment’s notice).  Of course, upon hiring, we are recommended to give a standard 2-week notice period, so that decisions can be made in advance concerning our class time.  It would have been nice for Michael’s to reciprocate in knid.  At my store, we’re required to turn in our class schedule at the beginning of the prior month.  I have spent hours of my own (uncompensated) time making a class outline, researching the information to share, making in-progress projects, worked to a certain point of the knitting to demonstrate a tricky stitch (a la Knitty Gritty), and otherwise preparing for classes for March and April that are not to be.  (A personal note to my students — I will honor the class schedule that was initially emailed out at the same price for the Michael’s classes.  Email me to set up a time that is most convenient for you, or to schedule a private lesson.)

Again, I’m sad that so many people are losing their source of craft money or spending money, but as the classes at Michaels are generally weekly, most people that are losing their teaching positions are not losing money that is necessary for their home finances.  This is certainly not akin to, say, layoffs at Boeing in the effect it will have on families’ finances.  It’s mostly just… annoying.

Here’s where my personal gripe comes in.  I still haven’t been informed.  I was shopping on Saturday in the same shopping center as my Michaels.  I went in to ask a manager what steps I needed to take in order to take a 3 week vacation in April (did I need to fill out a request form, or just say that there were no classes held those weeks on the calendar?)  Remember, Saturday is when the managers officially “got word” or more likely, were officially given the go-ahead to tell instructors.  I asked Store Manager about my calendar, and he said “Well, Michael’s will be redoing their classes, and we’ll be offering only a few classes.  I need to sit down with Event Coordinator and talk about what we’re doing.  After we discuss it, we’ll get back with you to let you know what’s going on.”  No one has gotten in touch with me.  During my class last night, Crochet Teacher/Associate poked her head in, and said “If you’re wondering where your stuff is, all the samples are in a box over there, and you can go through and take your stuff home tonight.”  As I was leaving, I asked Closing Associate what she’d heard, and she said that, as far as she knew, only the cake decorating classes were still open for sign-ups.

While I liked having a specific time, scheduled for me by Michael’s, it was a lot of uncompensated work time to prepare samples and plan for the class, sometimes with a class not having any interest.  If no one signed up for that class, then all of my time was uncompensated.  If I did have sign-ups, I was paid a standard hourly wage — certainly not enough to compensate for my extra hours of work.  I have had more success and happiness in scheduling private lessons, either one-on-one, or small groups where the members are close, for a fun time of instruction.  I know exactly what the students would like to make, and I can tailor the lesson to their level of knitting.  So, I’m not being forced out of teaching — instead, my time at Michael’s has widened my student base, and given me more credibility (when first meeting a potential student, it’s nice to be able to offer a brand name, and there’s no reason that I can’t still use that a bit…. “I have been giving private instructions for over a year to new and intermediate knitters, and also taught at Michaels for several months before they disbanded their class system recently.”  It just gives a little more assurance to someone that you aren’t just going to take their money and then sputter and “Umm” through their class time.)

While I had visions last night of organizing an area-wide strike of Michael’s, as annoying as this situation is, the company has done nothing legally wrong.  Ethically, it’s a little questionable.  Not in eliminating these jobs, but just in giving such short notice.  However, I can see where they’re coming from.  A lot of very-part-time instructors might have been initially upset at the news and responded on the spot with, “Well, then I quit.  You can cancel my classes for the rest of this month, too,”  leaving managers in the position of disappointing customers and refunding monies.  It’s understandable in this era of a lowered commitment of employees to a business that a large chain would need to protect itself by making a unilateral decision to have a “reveal” date for news like this.

So, I guess my main question is, if I never am officially fired or down-sized or let go, can I still get my employee discount?

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1 Comment »

  1. I say yes on the discount!
    That’s a shame. In this day an age on the internet corporations seem to forget that announcements need to be made swiftly and completely, because otherwise the empty spaces get filled in.

    Comment by RandomRanter — March 4, 2008 @ 4:41 pm


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