Raining Indoors

I worked at the clearance center of a department store chain for eight years or so. When I started there, they were I think, just beginning to make the transition to a clearance center. The building we were in was fairly old, and for whatever reason, the company did not seem willing to repair the roof. This meant that when it rained, the roof would leak.

In the first couple years, this was not very much of a problem. It was the upper floor that was mostly affected by the leaking, and it was only a few places. All you had to do was grab a bucket and place it under the leak, and then remove whatever merchandise had gotten soaked.

Eventually however, things got worse. More leaks were appearing, and entire sections of the floor had to be kept free of merchandise. I suppose nothing was really done about it because this was in Arizona. Phoenix is in the middle of a desert after all, so I suppose the reasoning was that the leaking roof was not a significant issue, so nothing was done about the roof.

Fast forward a couple years, and the leaks get worse. More and more rainstorms created more and more leaks, and eventually the upper level was completely abandoned because the water had completely destroyed the upper floor. During this time, the ground floor of the store was also getting leaks.

Since the powers that be were extremely unwilling to fix the problem (the leaky roof) two methods were devised to alleviate the problem. The first seemed to involve having the dock manager and several members (usually male) of the dock crew go up on the roof and bail. (Actually, I think there was actually some kind of pump up there, but it amounts to the same thing. The second solution was to set out pools to catch the water.)

Now, when I say pools, I don’t mean that the managers bought a bunch of plastic wading pools and laid them out over the floor. (This would have been slightly more expensive in the short term but more cost effective in the long term had they gone with this.) Instead, they took a lot of old wooden shelves, and cobbled them together in rough frames that could be moved around wherever they were needed. Then they took huge plastic sheets and laid them over the frames, creating a “pool.” When it rained, the water would fill up the pools, and then everyone who worked on the dock and in housekeeping took a bunch of wet vacuums, drained the pools, then emptied the vacuums in the dock on the ground floor.

There were many, many problems with this system. The first problem was the shelves being used as frames. The shelves were made of wood and metal, and the plastic would tear on the metal parts when the plastic was moved. The second problem was that dragging the vacuums to the elevator and then down to the dock was an immense hassle that took a very long time. The pools would leak, and we eventually had to remove all of the water damaged carpeting. And though the Store Manager claimed that mold doesn’t grow on cement, whole sections of the floor turned green, then black with mold.

Other projects the housekeeping and dock crew were involved in when it rained was going around and picking up ceiling tiles that had gotten soaked and had fallen on the floor. We also had to gather up all the water damaged merchandise and dispose of it. This was generally a lot of work, and probably cost the department store a lot of money, but they still wouldn’t fix the roof, or find a new building. I eventually left the job, and a few months after I left, the department store chain closed that location, and the entire building was torn down a few months after that (which kind of made me glad I had left while the getting was good).

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