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Wet Seal to Employees: Surprise—You're Out of a Job

A Wet Seal store in New York.
A Wet Seal store in New York.Photographer: Richard Levine/Demotix via Corbis

On Jan. 2, employees at the Wet Seal store in Gulfport, Miss., received a large package in the mail. “It was wrapped in green bubble wrap, and it said ‘Store Project’ on it,” says Sonya, 38, the store’s assistant manager, who’s been with the company for a year and a half. When employees opened the package, they found instructions to pack their iPods, registers, music player, and credit card scanners into the box by the following Wednesday, Jan. 7.

“I thought, how do we function as a business if we’ve packed up our credit card scanners?” says Sonya. The Gulfport Wet Seal hadn’t been getting as many new inventory shipments recently, but Sonya says the company had told her that was because it was planning to renovate the location. She called her store’s manager, who didn’t know what was going on. She sent Wet Seal’s corporate offices an e-mail but received no response. Finally she got a call from a store in nearby Hattiesburg. “That’s when we were told we’re closing down.”