I called 30 stores, all regions (this is by the way statistically adaquate to 95% confidence level). 1 Put me on hold, 1 was unwilling to discuss their results or even talk to me for that matter. 28 were willing to talk. The individuals talked to ranged from anybody answering the phone, to assistent manager, to manager. The conversations ranged from 5 to 10 minutes. We discussed corporate news, status of their business, benefits, hourly wages, business model, structure of running the business, ups and downs, seasonality, third party rummors, company shoppers, quality control, operational turnover, etc. We did not discuss specific numbers, because their is a fine line on what one can appropriately ask.
The bottom line, things are not as bad as the press has reported (operationally speaking), but you can verify this for yourself by making a few calls. At the store level, nobody used the words "plummeting, hemmoraging, dismal, etc."
Anecdotal evidence, suggested that stores that were having some challenges were those that were failing to conform to the companies quality directives, had poor hiring practices, and fulfilling their committments to the company.