All the madness that money can buy

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Attention Kmart shoppers: will the last one to leave please turn off the lights? Presuming, of course, that your power supplier isn’t Enron. In which case, you would have already found yourself in the dark.

The real mystery. The mystery isn’t why the nation’s once most powerful retailer is struggling to stay competitive. The mystery is why it has taken 3 multi-million dollar leaders at the helm to figure out why.

It seems that in the past decade Kmart has spent millions of dollars on revolving CEOs in an attempt to resuscitate the retail giant as it headed into a terminal Code-Blue (light).

Despite being paid millions to solve the problem, each, to a man, has remained completely at a loss both figuratively and literally.

Meanwhile, had they ever taken their million dollar checkbooks down to Wal-Mart or Target, they would have easily cracked the case.

Simple solutions. Any Average Joe or Jane would have told them exactly why Kmart was left in the dust. High prices, low selection and a general lack of “snazziness” that even pin-up ads of Martha Stewart lounging around on 200 thread-count sheets couldn’t overcome.

Yet, let us not forget that the very folks who could so easily put their fingers on the pulse of Kmart’s demise would likely be lucky to even get a job in the company cafeteria, let alone the multi-million dollar wages of the leaders of the pack. Common sense, it appears, doesn’t pay all that well. Anyone can.

Everything is bigger. Meanwhile back in Texas where even their bankruptcies are bigger than anywhere else, Enron had to throw nearly 50 million collective dollars at their top executives just to get them to stop running the company into the ground and go away.

Now I ask you, are we honestly to believe that they couldn’t have found someone to completely destroy the seventh largest U.S. corporation for a far more reasonable quarter million or so?

That some wiseacre with little more than a high school diploma wouldn’t have been qualified to give bankrupting the company the old college try (no pun intended) for a decent living wage and a spiffy medical/dental package?

What about me? Why, I myself would have been more than willing to take a year off and run that company into the ground for a bargain basement salary of $75,000 or so. Such a pity that the rest of us never get a shot at this sort of thing?

Forget “Weakest Link,” “Survivor” and “Fear Factor.” Let’s pitch the latest blockbuster television game show to the networks. We’ll call it “Corporate Challenge.”

Here a team comprised of actual employees: production workers, secretaries, waitresses, schoolteachers, cleaning personnel and the like will be charged with running a corporation for a year.

New reality show. Each contestant will take a (back)stab at being chief executive officer. Viewers will tune in each week to witness the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the power brokering and the general sliminess of it all.

Players who behave ethically and with the needs of the employees and investors first and foremost in mind will, of course, be voted off immediately. There being no room for that sort of nonsense at the top.

Granted, having no actual chief executive experience, contestants run the risk of mismanaging the company, bankrupting thousands of investors and putting a lot of hard working people out of work.

Undaunted, our contestants will soldier on trying valiantly to run a company without wasting a lick of common sense on the endeavor.

The jackpot? Obviously the winner gets to take home millions of dollars. The losers get . . . a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni you say? Perish the thought! No, they get millions of dollars too!

How it works. Don’t you know how this game is played silly? A lot of people who didn’t even realize they were pawns in such a risky game will be left holding the bag while our intrepid players walk away scot-free and richer than ever.

This is reality television, after all. And these days it doesn’t get more real than that.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes the economy would improve already. She welcomes comments, commiseration, and feedback c/o kseabolt@epohi.com

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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