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Wet Seal closing: Are employees better off?

National mall clothing retailer Wet Seal closed multiple outlets this week abruptly, leaving employees in a difficult position. Many took to social media to air their grievances. 

Wet Seal employees fight back against store

The coast-to-coast Wet Seal clothing store chain’s abrupt closure of multiple outlets may be the emotional equivalent to being dumped by your fiancée the day of the wedding via text message, but like the bride left at the alter, some colorful benefits can come from being jilted by someone who didn’t deserve you.

“If you were among those treated so shabbily by Wet Seal you have to realize all you were to them was part of a spreadsheet and all they are to you now is resume fodder,” said Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace, a coaching and consulting firm in Boulder, Colorado in a phone interview. “This is an opportunity. The energy has shifted. The bubble of misery of working for people like that has burst. It’s all going to be better from here.”

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At the moment, many of those left in the lurch by their employer are still engaged in the internet equivalent of keying the corporate car by posting signs in the store windows and on social media blasting the company’s practices.

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"Told us NOT to look for other jobs. Said we were re-modeling and getting in new product," states one poster at a Wet Seal location in Dayton Mall in Ohio. "Took away all of our benefits including sick time and vacation which we worked for, and were told we would receive. Btw, NO SEVERANCE PAY!"

Ms. Ryan, who coaches executives, human resource managers, and career-seekers said corporate America needs to take a lesson from this cautionary corporate tale.

“Boards really need to step-up their game,” She said. “They need to ask the hard questions about the mental health of the culture and the CEO. CEOs need to over-communicate. Over-communicate! People would much rather navigate the twists and turns of the truth, than be lied to wholesale and blind-sided as it appears from all reports has happened with Wet Seal.”

While this reaction by former employees was likely satisfying in the moment, Ms. Ryan says the best thing to do from here on out is to see the opportunities inherent in the moment and a new start in a new year.

Ryan, who has followed the Wet Seal’s machinations through the company’s forays in and out of courtrooms and into social media via the hashtags #forgetwetseal and #boycottwetseal this week says former employees should rejoice at being rid of the firm.

Wet Seal said last week that it had received a default notice on $27 million in debt. The company's creditor has given Wet Seal until Jan. 12 to pay what it owes.

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Wet Seal was once a favorite among fashion-conscious teenagers but has fallen out of favor as its target customers flock to fast-fashion rivals such as H&M and Forever 21. The company has lost more than $150 million in the last two years. In its third quarter, Wet Seal reported a loss of $36 million, compared with a loss of $12.5 million in the same quarter a year earlier, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Asked how job-seekers should refer to their experiences with Wet Seal when interviewing for their next career opportunity Ryan recommended they accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and not mess with what lies between.

“If an interviewer asks how things were at Wet seal the answer is ‘Great!’ You learned a lot about customer service, retail and tackling challenges,” Ryan said. “Look, this isn’t therapy. This is resume fodder. If they ask why you left you say, ‘The store closed abruptly, that’s why I’m here looking for new opportunities. That’s it. You’re not in therapy talking about a break-up with a boyfriend.”


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