FuncoLand was my first and only job before starting on my career in Information Technology. The funny thing is, up until I interviewed for my job at Princeton University in the Summer of 2008, the only other interview experience I had was my interview for FuncoLand. (Rider never bothered to interview me for any of the IT positions I held.) I have told people this fact over the years and they often cannot believe it. So how did I get the job at FuncoLand after all?
In 7th grade I started taking piano lessons. I had already been playing Alto-Sax since the 4th grade so the whole reading music thing wasn’t a big deal for me, but I did want to learn to play the piano. Eventually by my sophomore year in high school, I got burnt out on piano and couldn’t stand my teacher anymore. She recognized this and suggested I go to a guy named Harold who specialized in piano lesson burnouts. Harold is one of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is now the band director at Mon. Donovan High School in Toms River, and that school is so lucky to have him. Anyway, Harold’s studio was part of Toms River Music which was then located in the T.J. Maxx Plaza on Hooper Ave. (Now across from the Target) One day in the Fall of 1998 my parents picked me up from my lesson and we were driving home and I noticed a giant poster board taped to the inside of one of the store windows, I yelled to my Dad, “STOP THE CAR!!!”
Written on this giant piece of white poster board in black marker was information that would change my life forever. The sign said that FuncoLand was coming to this space SOON and that they were currently hiring positions. There was a number to call at the bottom of the poster, I wrote it down from the passenger seat of the car and we drove home. The Summer before, my parents had been on my case about getting a job. I was 16 and really wasn’t into the idea, not to mention I couldn’t drive myself to work and that bothered me too. If my memory serves me correctly, the day I saw the poster was in late September of 1998, so I was merely a month and a half away from driving. I figured if I got the job, by the time the store opened I would be driving or would be a few days away from driving. Not to mention it was a job selling VIDEO GAMES, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The next day I called the number from the poster. It turned out the number was for Brick FuncoLand. The Brick FuncoLand had been there for years, and I had visited it a few times myself. In fact, I still own a near mint complete used copy of Startropics for NES that I purchased from there. The Brick store would be a large part of the FuncoLand universe for us in store #307, we were basically sister stores. When I called about the job, the manager of the Brick store, Lee, answered the phone. I told him I was interested in the jobs in the Toms River store. He said “Great! Can you come to the Brick store for an interview at 1pm on Saturday?” I said, “SEE YOU THEN!”
I arrived at Brick FuncoLand and met with Lee. He was very friendly and I liked him. He took me in the back room and he began to interview me. He asked me some standard interview questions and asked me to discuss my availability if I got the job. I thought for sure that I had the job at this point.
Lee then said to me that I needed to take a test and the results of this test would dictate whether or not I was hired. He picked up the telephone in the back and dialed a bunch of numbers. He handed the receiver to me and told me to come up front when I was done. Over the next 30 minutes I was given a test that was to determine if I was a dirty liar or a thief. The test consisted of numerous questions that were basically the same but asked in ways to see if I was inconsistent in my responses. I knew what was going on as I took it, and was focused on being honest yet not falling into the traps of this test. After it was all said and done and I was finished, my brain hurt. I went out front and told Lee I was finished. Lee told me he would call me at home later that day and let me know if I was hired.
An hour later I got the call that I had been hired, and I was to report to work the following Saturday. I would be meeting my boss, Jamahl. I was surprised to hear that the store was already planning on opening, there was poster board in an empty store front just a few days ago!
I reported for work that Saturday. Apparently I was the final piece of the puzzle, the rest of the crew had already been hired. I met Jamahl the Store’s manager, Lani the Assistant Manager, Jaime a Game Adviser, and Sergio another Game Adviser. Everyone seemed friendly and excited to be apart of this new crew and store. Jamahl was really great with me and showed me the ropes of the store. I could tell he would be a great leader and a successful manager for us.
After a few weeks, Jamahl had mentioned he needed a video card for his computer. I mentioned my friend Shane had some used ones he probably would be willing to sell him. I called up Shane and put him on the phone with Jamahl. After a few minutes Jamahl had invited Shane in for an interview. Could one of my friends be working with me??? This would be amazing! Shane came in a few days later and was hired on the spot. I was really thrilled Shane and I would be living a dream, working at a video game store, together!
Around this same time, Jamahl mentioned we needed a 3rd key too. Jaime mentioned she had a friend that would be perfect. His name was Steve, but everyone called him “Wooza”…
The stage was set and the store was opened. My FuncoLand story was just beginning. Sadly though, some of the original crew’s stories were about to end.
On Shane’s first night on the job, he was working with Jaime and Wooza. Lani had been the manager for the morning and was leaving for the day. Wooza, Jaime, and Shane were the closing shift. After Lani left, Wooza noticed that one of the terminals was asking for a credit slip to be inserted for validation. This was weird, the transaction wasn’t complete. After closer inspection Wooza and Jaime figured out what was going on. Lani had rang herself up for a game using her employee discount. She paid some of the balance with cash but also said she had a store credit for $3.16. The register was still waiting for that credit. The credit didn’t exist. Lani had basically stolen $3.16.
Jamahl was notified of this and this was not tolerated. The next morning Lani was fired as her actions were not appropriate for someone in her position as Assistant Manager. We then coined a new phrase, “Lani 3:16 says I just stole from your ass”…
Wooza was promoted to Assistant Manager and thus began his rise to power.
Sergio would then quit a month later. His reason, he told Jamahl that I had kept telling him that I could beat him up and I was constantly harassing him about it. Jamahl accepted his resignation immediately and didn’t make him give his 2 weeks. Wooza later told me Sergio’s reasons for leaving. We had a big laugh over this because at the time, I was 6’4” and 140lbs. Sergio was a successful varsity wrestler for Brick High School…
This would be our team for the rest of 1998 and most of 1999. We grew close. Family members were met, significant others introduced, and even our close friends got to know the crew. We were a family ourselves and to this day Jamahl, Wooza, Jaime, and Shane hold a special place in my heart. It is sappy I know, but its the truth.
Working at Toms River FuncoLand was one of the most important times in my life and had it not been for our original crew, I don’t think it would have had the impact it did on my life.
There is still a lot more of this story to tell and I hope you will continue on this journey with me and grow to love these people just as I did.