Mass resignation at Journeys reflects mall troubles

Employees at a store in New York quit at the same time and call out their manager online. That's a particularly tough loss when malls are dying and employing fewer young workers than ever.

By Jason Notte Sep 4, 2013 2:37PM
Note left at a Journeys shoe store in Rochester, NY (Via Imgur, time we at MSN moneyNOW write a story about workers in the U.S. that fails to conjure Lesley Gore images of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, we're met with the same response: If the job is so bad, why don't workers just quit?

First off, the actual unemployment rate is close to 11%, and closer to 26% for those younger than 34. Secondly, there's roughly one job is available in the U.S. for every three people who apply. When there are jobs, they're typically low-wage gigs that replaced higher-paying jobs that were available before the recession.

With all that in mind, it's all the more impressive that the staff of a Journeys shoes and apparel store in Rochester, N.Y., quit en masse and locked up the store during business hours before posting a photo of the store gates on Reddit last Saturday. Among the grievances cited on the former workers' resignation notice (pictured) posted on the shuttered store were claims of foul language by an abusive manager and the implication that said manager told an employee that "cancer is not an excuse."

Journeys made note of the incident on one page of its website, saying only this: "We take situations like this seriously and are currently investigating this issue. Beyond this, we have no comment."

This is a tough spot for Journeys and the mall hosting it on several levels. Forget for a moment that it only enhances Reddit's position as a soapbox for disgruntled retail and restaurant employees. This incident is just another example of retailers and the dying U.S. malls they call home alienating themselves from the young workers and shoppers they once relied on for survival. ShopperTrak, whose entire purpose is to gauge retail foot traffic, says the number of folks who passed through indoor malls last year dropped 1% from the year before and has been falling steadily.

As The Wall Street Journal noted last summer, analysis firm Green Street Advisors thinks 10% of the roughly 1,000 large malls in the U.S. will fail within the next 10 years. A report from Co-Star found that there are more than 200 malls with more than 250,000 square feet that have vacancy rates of 35% or higher, a "clear marker for shopping center distress."

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 1.015 million teens aged 16 to 19 found jobs in May and June, down 2.1% from last year. Though the number of unemployed teens of that age shrank from 1.86 million in June 2012 to 1.4 million this June, the number holding down a summer job also shrank from 5.2 million to 4.5 million during that span. That's kept lot of teens out of the workforce entirely, reducing the participation rate from 41% of all workers aged 16 through 19 last June to just 35% this year.

Fewer teens working the registers and racks means fewer hanging around the malls and spending money.

For managers who think berating the few workers who managed to get mall jobs will increase productivity and spending, here's a quick bit of reality: About 80% of millennials plan on changing jobs when the opportunity arises. Considering that a full 53% of millennials are completely detached from their work and putting in only as much effort as necessary, lambasting the other 47% into a very public resignation isn't going to get them to redouble their efforts, never mind do a few hundred bad kickflips in the parking lot with help from brand new, Journeys-bought DC skate shoes.

More on moneyNOW

Sep 4, 2013 4:09PM
Hooray.  We need more Americans to fight nasty, tone-deaf, business owners without a heart.  And while we are at it, we should make hiring illegal aliens a felony so that local business owners who hire them have to go to jail for a minimum of two years.
Sep 4, 2013 2:54PM
Good for them! I wish more employees would do something like this and call out some of the lousy, hateful managers. Sometimes it seems like they live to take out many of their frustrations on people who can't fight back because they need the crummy, no insurance, keep you under 30 hours a week paychecks to survive. I wish them all the luck and good fortune!
Sep 4, 2013 5:44PM

Show me a company that needs a union and I'll show you a crappy management team.

Just one bad manager can destroy a company and it has been seen time and again. You can also include the CEOs of major corporations that have taken many a good companies down while getting huge bonuses doing so.
Sep 4, 2013 4:55PM

Cancer is not an excuse!!! Are you kidding?

Good for them for sticking together and sticking up for the employee who has cancer.

Abusive bosses and managers will be the downfall of a lot businesses.

The fast food restaurant strike should open up a few eyes!

These large corporations with minimum wage employees who think they own you... they are going to push people to far. You can only take so much before living with your parents or  in your car sounds good to you!

Sep 4, 2013 5:49PM
I can't remember when I last bought something from the mall.  At least a year, maybe two.  The health care insurance industry has been taking all my disposable income since I retired.  In the past 3 years, I've spent almost $40,000 on just my insurance premiums alone.  This year I'm paying to the tune of $1054/month for my health care insurance.   I wonder how much of that never sees the economy but instead the inside of some uber rich executive's savings account?
Sep 4, 2013 5:50PM
one bad manager will do it !...................look at what has happened to our economy and Country the last 3 years.
Sep 4, 2013 5:21PM
Awesome.  If only they had used the correct word "role vs. roll".  Otherwise, you go Norm Rae.  
Sep 4, 2013 6:18PM
"Mass resignation"?  It was 3 people.  But good for them.
Sep 4, 2013 5:53PM
Great work y'all!!! Although, in reading the posting, I noticed a grievous spelling error! Roll in lieu of Role! Education!!!! Education must be of the utmost importance of our lawmakers or the USA will falter in world competitiveness!! This will become dire if drastic action not taken soon!!
Sep 4, 2013 5:45PM

Problem is now that if any of these people apply at other retailers and put Journeys on their application they’ll likely be considered a trouble maker and not be considered for the position.


Sep 4, 2013 5:27PM
I no linger support malls, i boycott them prices too high, and they dont pay their employees well at all.
Sep 4, 2013 6:43PM

Cancer is no excuse?  The details behind that statement, are already beginning to sound bad.  What, we had Ebenezer Scrooge working as their manager?  Well that manager might not be visited by the 3 ghosts of Christmas, but fitting karma would be that one day he comes down with a major illness, and is given the "your illness is no excuse" line, with no more humanity, no more compassion, no more regard for one's fellow human being, being shown then he was expressing with that, there statement.


As the saying goes, what goes around, comes around, and if someone was wrongfully fired for getting cancer, there could be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Sep 4, 2013 5:39PM
It's "role" not "roll". Geez people. If you are going to publicly protest, please learn how to spell.
Sep 5, 2013 8:15AM
Retail does tend to mistreat employees and, on the other hand, most young workers aren't much good.
our local mall drove away the teens years ago when the elderly shoppers complained and the place was having trouble with the punks harassing folks and defacing property. All the local malls have rules about teens and even police stations in them at this point. Plazas are where everything is now just like when my parents were kids (in the 50s-60s) and in another 30 years it'll be back to malls again. Frankly our mall died as a place for teens when the arcade vanished in the 90s.
Sep 4, 2013 5:38PM
They'll all file for welfare. Yippee.
Sep 5, 2013 9:23AM
OHHHHH....  It's signed Niki...  For a second there, the KI kinda looked like a G.  I was like dang, guess they do treat em bad.
Sep 5, 2013 1:56AM
In this day and age, it's surprising that more people don't bring a gun to work.
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