Unreasonable Expectation

I find that quite often people have illogical expectations for the world around them.  One example is Walmart.  Why is Walmart the super corp that it is now?  In large part because people like buying things that are cheap.  They like low prices.  Walmart's "falling prices" campaign works.  People want cheap, cheap products.  But then they act surprised when they find out that Walmart doesn't pay its employees much.  Why is this a surprise?  The pressure to push prices as low as possible means minimizing expenses anywhere they are to be seen.  This includes employees' pay and benefits.  Pay them as little as possible and give them the minimal amount of benefits (which, often, is zero benefits).

I'm not defending Walmart.  In fact, I'm no longer shopping at Walmart until they do treat their employees better, because low prices aren't as important to me as people being paid fairly.  But I do find it ridiculous to want low-low prices like Walmart has and simultaneously expect the employees to be able to raise a family of five on their income.

But, this one just takes the cake.  I got an email today asking me to sign this petition to side with McDonald's employees who are also now on strike (at least in some areas).  I'm linking the petition here because I anticipate that some of my readers will want to sign it.  I want to denounce it.  I dont' think that the fast food industry should be thought of as a career.  The petition demands "living wage" for employees.  I'll grant that minimum wage is not a living wage.  You can't support a family on it.  You can support yourself, if you're frugal enough.  But not a family.  But I don't think that anyone should be trying to support a family with a fast food job.

In my opinion, fast food jobs should be filled mostly by teenagers and young adults.  Perhaps also by people between jobs, working there temporarily for some spare cash while they're hunting for a real job.  I like the dollar menu at McDonald's and Taco Bell.  I like being able to buy a breakfast meal for under $5.  I think that it should be that way.  And I think that paying employees $7 (ish) per hour is sufficient.  I think that we need some jobs which are available to young people, to give them some job experience and help introduce them into the working class.  They get some cash for their high school dances or whatever they spend it on, so they're happy, and I get my happy meal, so I'm happy.

I do not think that fast food restaurants need to pay their employees more.  I think minimum wage is just fine.  I think the problem is with people expecting to earn a living off of that kind of job.  By the time you're out on your own, providing for yourself (and possibly a spouse and children), you should be working at a more respectable location.  You should be in a career, not in a temporary/part-time position flipping burgers.  I think it's completely unreasonable to expect every industry to pay all of its employees a "living wage".

But, I'm mostly concerned about the consequences of these demands for higher pay.  All that will result is that food prices will go up.  Instead of the dollar menu, you'll have the $5 menu.  Instead of a $5 Big Mac, you'll have a $10 Big Mac.  No, that's not the end of the world, but it will make things more difficult for the lower-income families who like to eat at fast food restaurants (regularly, or from time to time).  Then you'll have people complaining that $15/hr isn't enough because now they can't afford their lunches at Taco Bell anymore, so they'll strike and the cycle will go on and on.  It doesn't make any sense at all.

I think a far better solution to the problem is to educate yourself.  Develop skills necessary to enter a real career.  Do something that you enjoy.  If you can't find something that you enjoy, at least find something that you're good at.  Then get a well-paying job with an actual future.  Fast food is a dead-end job.  Yes, you might actually become store manager some day and make more money, but is that really what you want to be doing for 20 or 30 years?  Have some aspiration.  Envision yourself doing something more with your life than providing cheap burgers.

I worked at a call center when I was in high school.  I made something like $6 or $6.50/hour.  (I believe minimum wage was somewhere around $5 or $6 at the time).  I hated it.  I dreaded going in to work every day.  The only think I enjoyed was that my sister and a good family friend worked there too and we often took our lunches and breaks together, and I made friends with many of my co-workers and enjoyed spending time with them.  But I certainly didn't want to stay there.  I didn't expect to feed a family on the wage I was earning there.  I went to college, I got a degree.  In fact, I've got two degrees and I'm working on my third.  When I graduate, I expect to make way more than a minimum-wage job would pay.  And now, people in high school can still work at that same call center I was at making minimum wage (or just above it).  It was a good starter job for me and it can be a good starter job for others.  I think having a varied pay scale helps motivate people to make more of their life than just the bare minimum.