Unfortunately, I don’t have a better post lined up for today.  Mother’s Day Weekend is always a busy one, so you’ll have to forgive me for today’s fairly dry post.

Anyway, Mrs Thrill’s desire this past weekend was to do absolutely nothing.  The kids and I handled all the chores and meals (including breakfast in bed) for her.  For yesterday’s lunch though, she asked me to grab her something from Wendy’s plus lunch and a couple of chocolate Frosty’s for the Thrill-lings.

I personally don’t eat a lot of fast food when I can avoid it.  Mostly because of the quality of the food and how it makes me feel after I eat it.  There’s more to it though.

When I arrived at the drive-thru, there was only one car ahead of me, but it took almost a full five minutes just for the driver to get her order in.  When it was my turn to pull up, it took a couple of minutes before the young lady spoke to me through the box.  It was a bad sign.

Sure enough, she had trouble getting my order accurately recorded and then told me that I couldn’t get chocolate Frosty’s since the machine wasn’t set up.  “Will vanilla be okay?” she asked.  I said it would be fine.

Once she got the order right, it was almost another five minutes waiting for the car ahead of me to get her order at the window.  I also had another prolonged wait.  When the same young lady who took the order made it to the window, she informed me that the vanilla Frosty’s weren’t available either since they couldn’t get the machine going.  I had to get lemonade for the kids.  Okay, whatever.

From there, she also had gotten part of the order wrong, of course.  It seriously took almost ten minutes to get my stuff and move on.  I stayed polite all the way through.  I’m always respectful of low-paid workers, particularly when they’re handling my food.

All that aside, my mozzarella chicken salad was alright.  The lettuce was browning a bit, but not excessively so.

The whole experience was awful and it made me think about how crappy service has become in our service-based economy.  Has anyone else picked up on how much worse service is at many fast food and retail establishments in general in recent years compared to ten, twenty years ago?  I still find a few places where it’s exceptional (my local Dunkin Donuts is fantastic), but those are very much exceptions to the rule.

Putting all economic considerations aside, I’m wondering if that whole $15/hr minimum wage thing would be worthwhile IF it means that service will improve.  I’m sure some of you on one side of the argument will throw some statistics at me showing how it would tank the economy while those on the other side will explain that the minimum wage hasn’t kept up with the pace of inflation and it’s a moral imperative to raise it and et cetera.

I just wonder if the problem is that the quality of the minimum wage workforce really is that employers are ending up with the best workers that they’re willing to pay for.  Who can say though.  Maybe I’m wrong to blame the employees, but it seems like with how efficient the fast food industry model is along with the technology they have to work with, they should be operating better than they were a generation ago, not worse.

Anybody have any feedback on this?  Am I just a victim of my own perceptions?  Has anyone else tried the mozzarella chicken salad?  Was the lettuce fresh?

30 comments

  1. I stayed polite all the way through. I’m always respectful of low-paid workers, particularly when they’re handling my food.

    Anyone that has seen the Road Trip french toast scene agrees with you. For those that haven’t seen it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4ZXRlcoEW8c

    I don’t have statistics at the ready but my assumption is that where there is better pay/benefits, employees will be more willing to fight to keep those jobs. When every job pays $7.25/hr the same folks are competing for all of them. You will get the bottom of the barrel.

    I am working on whether or not I will keep patronizing places that replace workers with kiosks. As you outlined above, fast food is best used as a guilty pleasure. I go to McD’s about once a month as a treat. Unfortunately as an introvert, I like the self-checkouts that seem to replace four workers with one worker and four kiosks. Sociologically, this is a disaster, but I am not typically dedicated to boycotts.

    My question to the Randians – who will be left to buy the billionaires shit when no one has even a McJob anymore?

  2. When every job pays $7.25/hr the same folks are competing for all of them. You will get the bottom of the barrel.

    See, that is in fact one of my concerns about raising the minimum wage. The labor pool won’t change. You’ll still be getting the bottom of the barrel.

    As for buying the billionaire’s shit, it looks like we’ll be arguing over universal basic income again!

  3. As for buying the billionaire’s shit, it looks like we’ll be arguing over universal basic income again!

    Well, the topics are related but it wasn’t my intention to restart that. I have never gotten a satisfactory answer to the question. I understand economics but endless MBA thinking is going to put everyone out of work until someone decides to value the work that line people do for them.

    I agree with you though on minimum wage increases not having much effect on service quality. That will only come about with companies paying more than minimum wage voluntarily. I reread my comment and that wasn’t clear, sorry about that.

  4. There were two Burger Kings by my house. Both about the same distance. Both in the same relative “quality” of neighborhood. At one, I got smiles and quick service. At the other, I got cashiers who were on their cell phones and didn’t even respond to *my* pleasantness. The crappy one eventually went out of business. (Seriously, when does a BURGER KING go out of business?!?!)

    I think it all depends on how hands-on the owners are. It’s the only thing I can think of to explain the difference above. If I own the place and want to sit back and let the whole thing be passive income, I better expect that the people there are not a good proxy for myself and I have to expect that the quality of my workforce is probably going to be low. If I’m hands on, I get to make sure that the managers are top notch and that those managers are hiring top notch employees.

  5. Voluntarily really is the key word there. I’ve never run a small business or franchise so maybe I’m just idealistic and naive, but I would honestly make it a point to pay top wages.

    I’m big on getting good service at places I patronize and don’t mind paying more for it. I like to think I’d retain that mentality if I were on the other side of the transaction.

  6. Although, I should allow for the fact that raising wages above a certain level would potentially attract some quality workers back into the work force. For example, a stay at home mother who figures that working – daycare would be a net zero might come back to the work force if work – daycare is a net positive. So, it’s not 100% true that raising wages won’t raise the quality of the worker pool. But, in general, it probably won’t.

  7. I am going to take a minute to rant about minimum wage.

    I have always been supportive of minimum wage increases. Small, occasional increases. However, the jump to $15 has given me a lot of pause and conversations with pro-$15 zealots have effectively sealed my position.

    One specific example comes to mind. I shared a story with a pro-$15 Facebook friend about my first job. I was a bagger at a grocery store. I hadn’t really grasped the role of a worker within a company. It was a means to spending money for me. I don’t dog myself for feeling that way — it’s probably how most people start off. But it reflected in my work ethic.

    I could bust ass. I still look back and take pride in the fact that I wasn’t a complete moron with stacking milk on top of eggs and, in fact, used my Tetris skillz to do a pretty admirable job. However, I could also loaf. I was a high school kid working in my home town. My high school friends would come in and I’d disappear and walk the aisles with them.

    I did not deserve (inflation adjusted for 1990) $8.17. Not even close. In fact, I was getting paid about half of that and barely deserved that.

    So, when talking to this Facebook friend about this story of mine, I asked him:

    How would you contend with somebody like my younger self if there’s a $15 minimum wage?

    1) A graduated, age-based system where you don’t hit $15 until a certain age?
    2) A graduated, experience based system where you don’t hit $15 until you’ve gotten to a certain number of working years?
    3) Something else?
    4) Everybody gets $15.

    He chose #4. And that’s why there’s pushback. Not everybody is *ready* for a “living wage” when they are 15. Meaning, not everybody brings something to the table worth that amount. I sure didn’t when I was 15. It took me years to cut my teeth, learn how to contribute and add value to my employers, and, consequently, make myself valuable to people willing to pay much more than minimum wage.

    I will almost always be in favor of a reasonable increase. But nobody should ever strive to subsist forever on minimum wage. It’s the lowest rung on the ladder and isn’t meant to provide a living wage.

  8. Putting all economic considerations aside, I’m wondering if that whole $15/hr minimum wage thing would be worthwhile IF it means that service will improve.

    Chik-Fil-A

    Poor service at a fast food joint is not about the pay.

  9. If those are the options, I think I like #1 the best and I put the age at 21. The key benefit from this is that it would incentivize employers to focus on hiring young people and getting them some work experience.

  10. I will almost always be in favor of a reasonable increase. But nobody should ever strive to subsist forever on minimum wage. It’s the lowest rung on the ladder and isn’t meant to provide a living wage.

    Bingo. If you are trying to support a family on minimum wage for an extended period of time, the problem is not minimum wage.

  11. #3 was the catch all so, really, give me your best idea. This guy was either was too lazy to think constructively or so blindly faithful to #4, either of which were enough reason for me to sneak away from the conversation to eat a few lead paint chips.

  12. I’ll one-up you — I’m not even sure you should be able to support *yourself* on minimum wage.

    This is where my feelers towards conservativism take the biggest hold — why the fuck should lazy 15 year old me be able to afford a car, an apartment, internet, an iPhone 7, and my craft beer habit?

    You want better things? Provide better things.

  13. In n’ Out pays their employees well above minimum wage, trains them and treats them well. And guess what else? They’re Christian conservatives! They print biblical passages on all of their packaging discreetly to spread their faith and are quite famous for it.

    The thought of this should blow any Christian conservatives mind, that there’s a wildly successful company out there that treats their employees fairly and with repect (like Jesus would have done), offers the public quality ingredients that are fresh because they’re honest (like Jesus was), and isnt so filled with soulless greed and blind alliegence to politically anti-Christian values that the let greed take a back seat to paying their workers and treating gen with respect and STILL manage to turn a handsome profit for themselves.

    Hell, in n out is so popular and anticipated they’ve been asked to go national and they declined because they didn’t want the expansion to curb their quality and commitment to employees.

    Pay people decent and resoect them and you’ll probably have a quality employee for life if you want.

  14. Well, I shouldn’t say they’re Christian “conservatives.” They’re christians in the true sense of the word, not the callous and dishonest Republican Party meaning of the word.

  15. Well, for #3, I suppose you could allow employers to waive the $15/hr requirement if they provide alternate benefits. Maybe some combination of benefits from a list like this would help:

    Paid maternity/paternity leave
    Wellness programs
    Paid day care
    Tuition reimbursement/assistance
    Paid/compensated transportation (this is a major issue for low-income workers and reliable attendance is a headache for employers with low-paid employees)
    Employee ownership
    One month paid vacation
    More sick and personal days

    If an employer does the math and finds that those are more effective at attracting quality employees than a higher wage and it improves the quality of life for those workers, then it seems for the best.

    I’ll tell you now that I could make significantly more money if I worked somewhere else, but I stay where I am because I like the people I work with, I work from home full-time, I have a flexible schedule, and my employer provides an enormous amount of paid training.

    The more intangible benefits ensure my loyalty and performance far better than a higher income would.

  16. See and when I know that an employer is like that, I’m far likely patronize them. On the other hand, I won’t shop at Wal-Mart or patronize other businesses if I know that they’re shitty to their employees. The reason for that has more to do with the fact that I notice employees tend to take out their frustrations on customers by rendering shitty service than any sort of philanthropic reasons on my part.

  17. Now that I am no longer a pauper I think the same way. At the festival this weekend (and every year that we go) I went out of my way to buy a few baubles from the hardworking vendors as mementos. They are expensive but I appreciate the effort to make and lug around these items and that many of them live on it. Years ago I simply couldn’t have afforded that attitude.

    Same with local shops. I try to patronize some of the local shops if they have something I need and they are friendly.

    Zurvan is correct that Chic Fil A is almost invariably friendly and the food is good quality. Our local Walmart and Target good but I realize they are a mixed bag around the country. There are no thong-wearing transvestites buying 12-packs of beer here. Sad.

    I lived on minimum wage back in the 80’s and it was totally doable. I did not, however have any kids with daycare needs. Daycare will blow the entire budget. Keep minimum wage where it is and provide subsidies for daycare and I would be fine with it.

  18. That’s the kind of out of the box thinking that I’m talking about. This isn’t an easy brute force issue. If it was, it could have already been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

  19. if you are over 25 year of age and you are still working in fast food, service and making minimum wage, the problem is not the wage, its you.
    Ask a person in such work, how many jobs they have had, and why they left them…unvariably you will get a lot of lip, bitching, excuses and whining and moaning about the man, the system how things are unfair, ect ect..

  20. Howso, Grendel? Sometimes my economic theory isn’t sound but I would expect the opposite. If there are subsidies provided to daycare, more people would be able to afford daycare. With more kids available, more daycares could exist. With more daycares in the marketplace, there would be more competition. With more competition, there would be pressure to have lower prices, higher accountability, and overall higher quality.

    Where am I tripping up?

  21. Where am I tripping up?

    Notice any correlation? If the government starts dumping money into something, costs tend to rise. Where’s the incentive to decrease costs or fees if the Government is paying for it with “free” money?

  22. I’m not being snarky here — where’s the chart showing the increase in the amount of money that the government is dumping into college? The first one shows an increase in tuition. The 2nd shows an increase in the loans used to pay that tuition. You’re correlating that to some sort of government subsidy but I’m not familiar with it, offhand. You’ll need to explain it to me.

  23. The 2nd shows an increase in the loans used to pay that tuition.

    The overwhelming majority of which is federal money guaranteed by the Government…made available to students by the Government…more money = increase tuition costs.

    If your disagreement is that those are loans intended to be paid back, ok.

    The point being if the Government starts dumping money (loans or otherwise) into something, what is the incentive to decrease costs? In fact, it gives educational institutions an incentive to make education as expensive as possible because the Fed is either providing the money, or ensuring the person will pay back every cent. The same happens in the Department of Defense appropriations process. The same happens in Healthcare.

    There is no supporting evidence that what you propose above will play out as you intend if the federal government starts dumping money into daycare, and in fact many reasons to believe the exact opposite can be expected. When the Government dumps money into something, the natural course of capitalism is utterly broken.

  24. In theory, supply of a service could increase when you increase demand (such as by providing a government subsidy), but the reality is that the supply is a limited commodity.

    You can provide each student full tuition, but there are still going to be a finite number of qualified professors, computer labs, dorm space, etc and there are only so many quality institutions that students want to attend.

    The increased demand causes a shortage where one wouldn’t have existed in a pure free market.

    The same thing could potentially occur with daycare. There would still be a finite number of high quality daycare providers and each would only be able to take in a finite number of kids.

    If you go from 50 kids in a community who attend daycare where there’s one excellent provider and two that aren’t so great, imagine what will happen when you have 500 kids whose parents now can afford it and all want their kids to go to the best one. There can be only so many excellent daycares and the best ones will name their price to keep up with demand. The shittier ones will be able to raise their prices too, because what choice will parents have?

    Combine that effect with the fact that government subsidies are usually coupled with increased regulations and it suddenly could become much more difficult for new daycare providers to enter the market.

    Yes, I can very easily see daycare subsidies leading directly to staggeringly higher prices. I’m not 100% sure it would happen, but whenever you have an industry that doesn’t have foreign competition or automation to contend with it does seem to be inevitable.

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