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Blockbuster style: The mother of all memos
Legend has it that when H. Wayne Huizenga was first offered the opportunity to buy a small video- rental chain called Blockbuster, he balked. Huizenga had always envisioned the video industry as dingy storefronts that peddled pornography, an unseemly business with which he preferred not to associate. This squeamishness might seem odd coming from a man who made his fortune hauling garbage A and whose company, Waste Management Inc., has been fined millions of dollars for environmental and price-fixing violations.
Nonetheless, Huizenga did snap up Blockbuster in 1987 and immediately set about cleaning up the image of video outlets. He banished many adult-oriented movies from the shelves, ordered mandatory drug tests for all job applicants, and drafted strict rules regarding the appearance of store personnel. The monster success of Blockbuster now ranks Wayne as a one-name celebrity in South Florida, where he owns three pro sports franchises and a growing cache of entertainment concerns.
In 1992 the Fort Lauderdale mogul bought control of 509 music stores, including 18 in South Florida. Last month, nearly two years after this purchase, Huizenga ordered all music-store staffers to adopt the corporate dress code on June 1. Two weeks ago two local Sound Warehouse employees publicly voiced their objections to the new policy, which would require both of them to cut their hair. They were promptly fired; they claim their store manager told them that speaking with reporters violated company policy and was grounds for termination.
New Times has obtained a copy of a May 12 internal memo sent by Mark Smith, head of human resources for Blockbuster's music division, to all Blockbuster Music district managers, discussing the new dress code in detail. Contacted at his Dallas office, Smith confirmed that he authored the memo, but referred all questions about it to corporate spokesman Wally Knief, who declined to comment.
Herewith, in the spirit of free speech, honest discourse, and, of course, rock and roll, the contents of that memo (slightly edited to reduce redundancy):
The following is an excerpt from a letter concerning our new Dress and Grooming Policy. The philosophy stated will help you as you roll this new procedure to your district.
"Blockbuster Entertainment Corporation (BBEC) is a broad based entertainment company. We have operations in video and music retail, family entertainment venues, new technology ventures, and production organizations. In order to leverage and maximize our brand image, we must ensure a consistent professional image across all of our operations. We want the consumer, who is the reason that our jobs exist, to have a positive and similar experience in all BBEC concepts."
This image focus is not only on our employees. We also select the best locations, design and build high quality facilities, maintain our physical plant, and provide marketing, product and point of sale tools to maximize the customer experience. We have learned that this global objective of a consistent, high standard philosophy is the main reason for our phenomenal growth and profitability in the video industry. We are comfortable that a similar approach in music will lead to better business results.
When BBEC purchased your business you became the employee of a new company. Every organization has different policies and procedures that it has designed to operate its business. I would encourage you to think about all the positives that this acquisition has brought to you. Whether it is richer benefits and compensation, a better product mix, enhanced career opportunities, or point-of-sale improvements to name a few. You are now an employee of the number two music chain in the country. And, undoubtedly the fastest growing retail organization in America.
As you consider our sound and proven dress code standards, please balance and rethink your negative reaction against all the positives BBEC has to offer you.
BLOCKBUSTER MUSIC POLICY AND PROCEDURE
DRESS AND GROOMING STANDARDS
Our customers expect store personnel to be easily identifiable. For this reason, we have established the following Dress Code and Grooming Standards for all Blockbuster Music stores. These guidelines support our professional company image as well as BBEC's family entertainment philosophy and will ensure consistency across the chain. Always presenting a professional appearance is one of the factors that will help distinguish us from the competition.
In general, presenting a professional appearance means you should be clean and neat. We expect our employees to have hair in place, teeth brushed, nails clean, and wearing shined shoes and unwrinkled clothes in good condition.
Store Management is responsible for monitoring and enforcing these standards. Any employee arriving at work improperly attired (for example, wearing stained or torn clothing) shall be instructed to leave and change clothes on their own time. These standards are to be implemented and enforced in all Music stores. Anyone who violates these standards is subject to disciplinary actions, up to and possibly including termination.
Make-up: Make-up may be worn as long as it is moderately applied.
Hair: Hair must be clean and well groomed. Extreme styles and colors are not permitted. For example, no mohawks or spiked "punk" hair styles, or unnatural hair colors such as pink or purple. Hair on males must be no longer than two inches below the top of the collar. We expect employees with mustaches, beards, and sideburns to keep them neatly trimmed. Either be clean shaven or have a full beard. Goatees, and hair under the lip are not acceptable. Half grown beards are not acceptable (if you are starting a beard, plan it so that you are beyond the stubble stage before you report back to work).