Two Years Ago Today…

It was two years ago (at about the same time I’m writing this post) that the POPstick St. Valentine’s Day Massacre went down.  Every employee in this small but well respected interactive firm was brought into the middle of our office space by Fenway Park and told that most of the company would be laid off.  While in and of itself, that’s quite a story, it isn’t the story

The news was delivered by Danny Kastner, straight off of his crushing defeat as a reality show contestant on season 3 of The Apprentice.  And, the layoff was in the form of a reality game that could have only come from the fertile imagination of a network TV gameshow loser.  Dan stood before us with a large stack of manila envelopes, and we were told that everyone in the company was going to get a packet.  Some would receive a “letter of retention”, others a “letter of separation”.  (As on TV presidential debates, applause were to be held until the end.) 

As Dan went to call the first name, he looked and said, “There are no names on these envelopes!”  A voice from the back of the room shouted, “Pass them out anyway!  It doesn’t matter.”  Apparently, David Wagner, our COO and lawyer by trade, had written the names in such small mouse type on the large envelopes that Dan couldn’t find them.  Most of us were laid off, and the vast majority without any severance whatever.  I was fortunate to get less than a month and a half’s salary as severance (after 5 years with the company).

While I found Wagner to be entirely despicable as a human being and the type of start up executive clearly out to maximize his profits at the expense of the company’s worker bees, I couldn’t help but admire the way he came out of this horrible situation a winner.  He had a contract with serverence packages reminiscent of the ones being criticized in the news today where even with utter failure to achieve his responsibilities as a corporate executive, he would earn major bonuses.  Moreover,  he managed to move to an executive position in another company despite the fact that he, the VPs and Danny K ran a profitable business with clients like Microsoft and LYCRA into the ground.

If there is a silver lining to this story, it is that most of us came out better than we started.  I, for one, learned a lot in my five years working with Dan.  And the layoff allowed me to finish my CD and start a new band.  Nevertheless, I’ll never be able to look at Valentine’s Day in the same way again!

6 Responses to “Two Years Ago Today…”

  1. Amy Says:

    Hello David, I remember the aniversary of this day 2 years ago too. It was like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time. I remember because I had just started at POPstick in October 2004 as an intern and then was contracted out by POPStick/SongSync in January, 2005. I had turned down a job with Northeastern University to work for POPstick and Danny Kastner.

    I was amazed when the layoffs came and amazed at how painful it was for everyone. It really felt like a real life reality show, right there in POPstick.

    I remember working at POPstick and all of the sacrifices we all made to try and get the company back on its feet. I remember feeling that a lot of people were mad at me because I was still employeed. I knew some people were mad because I was so new to the company, and a lot of good people were let go. The feelings and the tensions were very high during this time. I ended up getting very ill due to how I was/wasn’t handling the stress. But I will never regret working there. I learned so much and gainded a lot of confidence. I also am learning to put my life together in a way that I want it. I had high hopes of traveling with the company and moving into some of POPstick’s other offices, such as NYC and LA. So, when it didn’t work out with POPstick, I made it happen myself. I now live in LA and have not regretted a minute of working at POPstick. I watched Danny Kastner and saw how he made things happen. I watched how everyone wanted to work for him, despite some of the craziness that went on. I believe that amazing things happened in that office, and I believe everyone came out a better person for working there.

    David, I remember you. I remember conversations with you in the office, in the mall. I remember you pulling out your guitar and playing to relieve stress on occation. I hope you are happy, healthy and moving on to the great things you set out to do. Congrats on your CD. I hope I get to hear it sometime.

  2. Lillian Says:

    Hi! Nice site!

  3. Sharon Says:

    Hi! Nice site!

  4. Coble Says:

    Hi! Nice site!

  5. chrism Says:

    i was only at popstick for 3 days … but they were wild ones and i formed friendships that have lasted years! the people working there had a nice energy

  6. Dave Alpert: I Know Where You’re Going with That » Blog Archive » POPstick Valentine’s Day Massacre: 4 Year Anniversary Says:

    […] Yesterday, I was speaking with a friend and old colleague who asked me about how I felt about the anniversary of the day POPstick died–or at least the day most of the employees in Boston’s Fenway office were laid off in one felled swoop.  Funny how Valentine’s Day will never have the same meaning again.  I wrote this post recounting the fantastic story of the layoff a few years back. […]

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