By Graham Slaughter
TORONTO — A Canadian retailer that specializes in engraved gifts suddenly fired all of its store associates and most head office employees on Thursday, giving them less than 24 hours’ notice and leaving customers with newly-engraved items in the lurch.
“I engraved an engagement ring last night. There’s a memorial plate for someone’s funeral,” said Syndey Bloom, 20, a manager at an Ottawa location who was terminated Thursday night.
“Some people were able to come by, some didn’t. Whatever was left there, I’m not too sure what’s going to happen to it.”
According to its website, Things Engraved has 73 locations at malls across Canada. It’s unclear how many employees were fired.
In letters sent to store associates and head office employees obtained by CTVNews.ca, CEO Shawn Brock wrote that they were being terminated immediately “as a result of financial difficulties over the last few years.”
He added that the company will work to “potentially re-organize and/or invigorate the business with new capital.” Brock thanked employees for their hard work and said he wished them well, adding that they would be paid severance.
The company’s next steps – including what will happen to leftover items — remain unclear. Things Engraved has not replied to CTVNews.ca’s request for comment, and calls to head office went straight to voicemail.
CTVNews.ca called more than 20 Things Engraved stores in B.C., Alberta and Ontario. None of those calls were answered.
An employee who worked at the company’s head office in Kitchener, Ont. said there had been discussions for a few weeks about the possibility of closing 20 stores, but nothing about shutting down completely.
“That’s the only thing we had heard so far. That was literally all we were told. And then all of a sudden we were all gone,” said the employee, who withheld their name due to concerns about receiving their severance pay.
The employee said almost all head office employees were terminated on Thursday, but that a select few will stay on as the company takes its next steps.
“It really makes me feel like they don’t care about us. If they knew this was coming, they could’ve given us time to plan our next move. It was just, OK, you’re terminated.”
Bloom, who spent Friday handing out resumes, echoed that frustration.
“How much did they really care about us?” she said.
“Generally you think retail companies don’t care about their employees, but this made it hit home for us all that we give our all for this work, we give 110 per cent, and get nothing at the end.”
Nicholas Moreau worked at an Ottawa location for six months and said he and his co-workers were caught off guard.
“Thankfully Things Engraved was not my main source of income; however, there are many people company-wide of which that is not the case,” he said.
As for customers, Bloom raised concerns about items that had yet to be picked up from stores.
“People were able to come in and place orders to engrave things up until last night,” she said.
When she visited the store on Friday to help pack things up, many of those items – including an engagement ring and a memorial plate for a funeral – were still there.
“It’s just sitting in the store, waiting for whoever from head office to pick it up and try to contact that customer,” she said.
“If they’re not answering their phone, there’s not much more I can do.”
Katie Cameron, a student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, worked at Things Engraved as a seasonal employee. She said it’s not clear to her if she’ll be entitled to severance pay.
“I hope so, because I was given no notice and I don’t make a lot,” Cameron said.
Things Engraved opened in 1982 in a handful of malls and offered personalized engraving. Over the next three decades, the company expanded to more than 70 locations from coast to coast.
Originally posted by CTV News on 01/10/2020.