Thursday, November 1, 2012

...And that's why I don't work retail

From the New York Times, the uncomfortable reality of attempting to work retail In Our Times -- that you'll be working shorter and shorter shifts:
At its store here, just east of San Diego, Shannon Hardin oversees seven self-checkout stations, usually by herself. Typically working shifts of five or six hours, she hops between stations — bagging groceries, approving alcohol purchases, explaining the checkout system to shoppers and urging customers to join the retailer’s loyalty program, all while watching for shoplifters. “I like it. I’m a people person,” said Ms. Hardin, 50, who used to work as an office assistant at a construction company until times went bad. 
But after nearly five years at Fresh & Easy, she remains a part-time worker despite her desire to work full-time. In fact, all 22 employees at her store are part-time except for the five managers. She earns $10.90 an hour, and with workweeks averaging 28 hours, her yearly pay equals $16,500. “I can’t live on this,” said Ms. Hardin, who is single. “It’s almost impossible.” 
While there have always been part-time workers, especially at restaurants and retailers, employers today rely on them far more than before as they seek to cut costs and align staffing to customer traffic. This trend has frustrated millions of Americans who want to work full-time, reducing their pay and benefits. “Over the past two decades, many major retailers went from a quotient of 70 to 80 percent full-time to at least 70 percent part-time across the industry,” said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm.
If you read further, large retailers like Jamba Juice have software that surges employees around lunchtime, and then cuts them shortly thereafter.

When I was coming up on the end of my postdoc, I thought to myself, "The worst case scenario is that I will work at the Walmart at the bottom of the hill." (the one next to the Fry's, for San Diego readers) But I am well-aware that retail is, in its own way, a terrible Wheel of Pain.

If that much is not clear, Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant puts a little English on the ball at the end of the article:
Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours.”
When you're comparing your workers to sharecroppers, you know that things aren't going so well for workers. Thank goodness that chemistry doesn't make people work part-time. Right? Right?

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