Are you ready for me to tell you everything that’s wrong and how to fix it? No? Good, because I can’t do that. How about just one thing? Got time to hear about one thing in our society that needs to change like right now? No? Well, I’m going anyway.
So, it’s been a few weeks and I’m sorry I haven’t updated everyone on what’s been going on, but the truth is there hasn’t been much happening – well, not in the writing department anyway, unfortunately. You see, my OTHER job – that of pizza delivery guy; the modern knight errant – has been taking up more time. When I started this job about a year and a half ago, I made it clear to the boss that I only wanted about 25 hours a week. Just enough work to pay my modest bills and still leave plenty of time for writing. And that paid off as I was able to write Greedy Villain and two short stories and get a start on AoGS5. Recently, however, I’ve had to take on a few additional hours as well as cover other drivers’ shifts on occasion.
And why is that? Well, a couple of reasons. As I mentioned in recent posts, I have recently drained the self-publishing marketing war chest and need to rebuild it. But beyond that, there has also been an undeniable shift in the store’s business. Sales are up. This time last year, I remember we entered a very dark time that stretched from after the football season to the first day of summer where delivery was so slow I was worried about meeting expenses. However, this February and March (so far) have showed no signs of slow down. On top of that, the store is having trouble holding on to good people. Bad people are easy enough to hold onto, but good people have been leaving for greener pastures at a steady rate.
And they aren’t getting replaced, except by more bad people.
This is a sign of a booming economy. It’s perhaps the most reliable one. I forget where I heard this theory before (probably some NPR program) but they say if you notice how difficult it is to get good service anymore at your local eatery, then that usually means the economy is doing well. The over-educated and under-employed people who were working minimum wage service jobs have been able to snag better paying jobs at companies that have decided they feel safe enough to hire on help.
Conversely, if the service improves, it’s a reliable sign the economy is tanking or about to tank.
So, on the one hand, I’m happy that the economy is doing well. My meager investment portfolio is growing nicely and business is good so tips are both qualitatively and quantitatively better. However, the lack of good workers combined with the increase in business creates a dreadful pinch on a service sector establishment like the pizza joint. How to keep good people without being forced to pay them what an office job might pay them?
Now, the obvious answer is to offer bonus plans, performance incentives and allow tipping for in-store personnel and not just delivery drivers (although that’s more specific to pizza chains). And although I fully support all of those notions and can’t understand why they aren’t adopted everywhere, I think I have an even better solution.
Mandatory service sector enlistment.
That’s right. Other countries have mandatory military service, but as the most powerful capitalist nation on the planet, this country would be far better served by having its youth forced to staff the Chuck E Cheeses and the Pizza Huts and the Best Buys for a period of at least two years from age 18 to 20. No matter how much money or smarts you have, you still have to serve your time shoulder to shoulder with your fellow countrymen in the trenches of the free market system.
You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I know. You’re thinking “But, Dan. Most people already serve some time faking smiles and punching cash registers when they’re young. What’s the difference?”
Well, just imagine the next Donald Trump slaving away in front of a fry-o-later. Or the next Rex Tillerson asking if you want fries with that. Do you think their perspectives on what happens where the rubber meets the road in a free market economy might be just slightly better informed? I do. In a country that has the most disproportionate distribution of wealth its ever had and is seeing the gap between the rich and everyone else only grow wider, it seems almost a matter of life and death to the egalitarian dream of our society that we force the elite to spend a little time in the mud before they get to assume their mantles of power.
And it would certainly stabilize the quality of service at most establishments if not showing up for work was equivalent to desertion and punishable by imprisonment (or execution!) Okay, maybe that’s going a little too far.
Maybe the frustration is largely my own. It’s disheartening to work as fast and as diligently as possible to do a simple job correctly during a busy period only to have customers still complain about the service. I swear most of the complaints we get are from people who have never had to flip a burger in their lives.
You see, there truly is a warping of the perception of reality that comes when people go from having no money to having some money. And even more so when going from having some money to having a lot. It seems at each “tier” of success, an individual is changed (quite without any intention of change, I’m sure) in such a way that he/she looks back on the previous tier and sees it as “below them” and people dwelling within it as somehow deserving less. Or perhaps less deserving, would be a better way of putting that.
I’ll give you an example. A little while ago I was listening to an interview with the head of a designer jean label. When asked what motivated him, he had the gall to say “It isn’t about the money. We just want to create a high-quality product and blah blah blah.” Over the course of the interview, however, he reveals that he moved his factory out of the US and over to Mexico because labor was too expensive here with minimum wages and health care. If he produced his jeans here, he’d have to mark up 30-40% to cover costs.
On a $300 pair of jeans.
So, I guess it is about the money after all? The mentality that someone who can afford to spend $300 on a single pair of jeans could not afford a $400 or $500 pair of jeans is beyond my ability to comprehend. I doubt I spend $300 on replacing my entire wardrobe over the course of two years, much less on a single pair of pants.
But what’s especially crucial here is the “screw you, Jack, I got mine” mindset that creeps in as one moves up the income scale. Why is it all right to abandon the health and well-being of skilled and semi skilled labor in your own country to instead employ Mexicans who, by the way, also have a guaranteed minimum wage and universal health care? Why are they somehow more valuable to you than your own countrymen?
Can you really still insist that it isn’t about the money?
This isn’t an attack on globalism, although it certainly has its problems. Also, I’m sure there are nuances of business that I don’t understand, but it remains clear to me, especially in times of economic boom, that the zeitgeist we have been calling the American Dream is only about making yourself into some kind of mogul. If you’re not out to conquer the world, then you’re somehow deserving of less. People wonder what happened to the Mom and Pop stores. They disappeared because the limited business model, the desire to stay local and share modest dreams with your neighbors and employees, will always get crushed by the people who don’t mind stepping on other people to accomplish their own “bigger” dreams.
But I’m not an economist. I have no idea if society would be better off if we made everyone live at the bottom rung for a brief time through some mandatory minimum wage service requirement. And I’m no protectionist advocate, either. If your dream gets stepped on, I believe you should pick yourself up, get some new dreams and adapt and move on. But should we give a little more respect to the little guy than we’ve been giving? I think the last general election makes that clear.
And don’t sell me this “it isn’t about the money.” It’s always about the money. You ever hear anyone use that phrase, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they end their statement with “believe me.” Anyone who says “believe me” is usually someone not to be believed.
Did any of that make sense? I have a head cold right now so it’s hard to tell. Besides that, I’m an idea man, okay? I can’t be bothered with details.
“Believe me.” – A liar (probably)
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