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'50 Shades of Grey' equals $5,000 green for every Random House employee

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The dance floor was rocking and an elegant spread of crab cakes, shrimp, a chocolate fountain and an open bar kept spirits merry at Friday night's holiday party for employees at the Random House Distribution Center in Westminster.

But the buffet at Martin's of Westminster couldn't top the company's CEO, Markus Dohle, who came from Random House's Manhattan office to toast his Carroll County employees — and make an announcement:

"Each and every one of you will receive a very special Random House thank you payment ... in the amount of $5,000," Dohle said, smiling from ear to ear.

Any other words were drowned out in screams, applause and whistles from the packed ballroom.

Random House — the fourth largest employer in Carroll County, with a workforce of 800 at its Westminster center, according to the county's Department of Economic Development — announced that the bonus would be given to every employee, from editors to secretaries, supervisors to accountants.

"The beauty of it is that it's an equal payment for everybody, no matter what you do or what you make," Dohle said afterward. "It was a privilege to announce it."

While many things contributed to Random House's successful year, Dohle admitted that publishing E. L. James' novel, "50 Shades of Grey," and its sequels, "50 Shades Darker" and "50 Shades Freed" played a big part.

"It is the biggest phenomenon in book publishing," Dohle said of the series. "Especially the velocity of the sales."

The Westminster distribution center was key in the company's ability to capitalize on the series interest, he said.

"It was very demanding for the folks here. If you run out of stock, you lose a lot of money," he said.

Random House opened its doors in Westminster in 1969. The warehouse, according to the company's website, picks, packs and ships an average of a million books a day while also offering office support for customer relations, inventory and many more departments.

"It is a good company," said Debra Tabilio, of Westminster, who has been with Random House for 15 years. "The benefits and the way they treat their people; they treat you with respect and from the heart."

For Deborah Sims, of New Windsor, the bonus "came at a great time."

"I'm a widower, and this will pay my bills," said Sims, who has worked for the company for 42 years. "They're the best employee in the county. I started right out of high school. It is a great place to work."

News of the $5,000 bonus had been announced previously at the company's headquarters and at its Indiana office. The payment is to all staff in all divisions in the U.S., and will be prorated to those who have been with the company less than a year, according to a spokesman.

Dohle thought it was important to deliver the new himself in Westminster.

"I think it is such a moment of bonding, collective happiness and joy," Dohle said. "A moment that strengthens our collective spirit and culture."

He also enjoyed the party, he said.

"For the last four years, I've missed the best party in the business," Dohle told the crowd before he made his announcement. "I am so excited that for the first time I have the opportunity to attend this infamous party."

"I've never missed a party," said Lisa Zepp, a 15-year employee from Taneytown. "They're always great. (The bonus) makes it really super."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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