W. Eric Martin
• Ares Games is holding a WWII trivia contest about planes, pilots and related matters in honor of the release of Wings of Glory: WW2 Starter Set, which has a U.S. street date of today, March 7, 2012. (Update, Mar. 13: This was a mistake. The Starter Set has a street date of March 19, while the various Wings of Glory: WW2 Airplane Packs were released on March 7.) Contest questions start on March 7 and continue each day through March 15; contest and prize details on the Ares Games website.
• U.S. publisher Tasty Minstrel Games is looking to hire a few individuals to work as project manager, marketing manager, art director and iOS code writer.
• From The New York Times, via Reuters: "Hasbro Cuts 170 Jobs, Mostly in U.S. and Canada" – "Hasbro Inc is cutting about 170 jobs as the second-largest U.S. toy company tries to recover from sluggish sales during the holiday season... The maker of Nerf foam toys and Monopoly board games suffered from weak post-Thanksgiving demand, especially for its games and puzzles, in the United States and Canada." (HT: Brian Leet)
• For another angle on ye olde online vs. brick-and-mortar store discussion, I thought I'd throw out a couple of links to articles about what it's like to work inside a fulfillment center for online retailers. To be clear, the authors and workers are not talking about work done on behalf of Thoughthammer, Spiele-Offensive, Funagain, Le Valet d'Coeur or any other dedicated games etailer – but Spencer Soper's "Inside Amazon's Warehouse" for the newspaper The Morning Call does relate to one online seller of games that does business around the world. An excerpt from this September 2011 article:
During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.
And a longer excerpt that personalizes the work experience:
One former temporary warehouse employee said he worked seven months before he was terminated for not working fast enough. In his 50s, he worked 10 hours a day, four days a week as a picker, plucking items from bins and delivering them to packers who put them in boxes for shipment. He would walk 13 to 15 miles daily, he estimated, and was among the oldest pickers.
"At the beginning, I thought I was doing really well," he said. "I never missed a day, was never sick, never came in late. I was the model employee. But after a while, I could only achieve a certain rate and I couldn't go any faster. It was just brutal."
He said he was expected to pick 1,200 items in a 10-hour shift, or one item every 30 seconds.
The warehouse is organized like a library. Bins labeled "A" were on the floor. Dim lighting in the warehouse in which he worked made it difficult for him to find items stored in the low bins, especially novels with script titles or CDs with small writing, he said. Often, he got on his hands and knees to find things in the low bin, and would crawl to other bins rather than continuously stoop and stand, he said.
"The worst part was getting on my hands and knees 250 to 300 times a day," he said.
The March/April 2012 issue Mother Jones has a long article from reporter Mac McClelland – "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave" – that details her time at a fulfillment center. Two fun excerpts:
There is no room for inefficiencies. The gal conducting our training reminds us again that we cannot miss any days our first week. There are NO exceptions to this policy. She says to take Brian, for example, who's here with us in training today. Brian already went through this training, but then during his first week his lady had a baby, so he missed a day and he had to be fired. Having to start the application process over could cost a brand-new dad like Brian a couple of weeks' worth of work and pay. Okay? Everybody turn around and look at Brian. Welcome back, Brian. Don't end up like Brian.
And also forget about [taking time off for] Election Day, which is today. "What if I want to vote?" I ask a supervisor. "I think you should!" he says. "But if I leave I'll get fired," I say. To which he makes a sad face before saying, "Yeah."