We all know what retail assistants look like three hours before their shift ends. The meta-smile, can’t be bothered-ness seeping through in conversation. Weary legs and a hangover, four hours sleep without breakfast, trashed the house and unmade bed, student loan and a job in retail that hardly covers lunch costs. Yeah, living the dream.
Today’s chat hones in on retail workers and the poor treatment they receive in particular within the workforce. The facades and forced smiles impede on our personalities and expectations of what individuality looks like. Underpaid and undervalued in a social sphere that claims to be developed. In light of the recent protesting across New Zealand, this chat glances over the current state of affairs with retail workers and how they vary from other industries.
My first job was pushing trolleys at my local supermarket. For around a year people would undervalue the little brown kid pushing cages across overcrowded parking lots. I’d push trains of trundlers over the stone mall floors and count the minutes until my break through the stock market international clock.
I was earning minimum wage at $14 an hour at the time. My first pay was a healthy $84, at the time it seemed as though I was earning enough to provide for a small family. Gradually you learn that money is relative to how much overhead you’ve got to pay for. When I was a fifteen -year-old trolley pusher there was no comparison to a young couple with a baby trying to pay rent, afford food, buy enough warm blankets to keep their home warm and look after their baby.
Relative overheads for me has been a big part of growing up. Realising that I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for those families working tirelessly to provide for their families because these businesses are too cheap to fork out another dollar an hour so that their workers could afford enough blankets to keep them warm over winter.
When you visit McDonald’s and you come across a 30 something-year-old assistant operating the counter dealing with a drunk self-obligated teenager throwing a hissy fit because they dropped their nuggets on their wobble back to their chair. You’ve got to spare a moment for the worker. There’s no way they don’t have rent to pay, friends who treat them like dirt because it’s public knowledge that McDonald’s assistants earn less than the living wage of $20 an hour.
Maintaining a state of calm through the rockiest confrontations earning not much more than a trolley boy selling shit food, working with overpriced shoes, making coffee for red-eyed students at 1 am in the morning. Labouring within the retail and hospitality industries include dealing with customers who are generally on the defensive because they are there to spend money and so easily disregard the emotional personality of the workers who deliver the service.
People who work with people should always be classed as a medium paying job at the bare minimum. Not the minimum amount legally obligated to. In a reflection of the latest protests from fast food workers in New Zealand pushing for more funding. Our system doesn’t accommodate for stewardesses on aeroplanes dealing with unrelenting customers who spilt their coffee down their shirt due to turbulence, or even trolley boys who are complained about when they’re in the way of cars when they’re pushing 15 trundlers across the parking lot.
If we spent more time stating that people who work with people are valuable resources because they sell us our food, size us our shoes, provide us with water on our flights, give us trollies to collect stuff at the supermarket. It would remove the dirt from their eyes and remind them of their significance as individuals. While our system needs to make a big change to accommodate for these workforces, being nice doesn’t cost anything.
Thanks for checking in…