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Minimum Effort for Minimum Wage

1 Oct

It’s a situation I think every fast food manager is familiar with.

The classic setup:

You’re inspecting the work of a crew member, usually a cleaning task but sometimes work that is central to the job (such as the wrap of a sandwich).  It’s not good enough.  The table base is still dirty, the wall still has spots, or the sandwich looks like a really cute baby slapped it several times while giggling.

You know how babies do that when they discover something cool, especially if it’s a squishy something cool.  But I digress.

You inform the employee that the task is not done properly and tell them they have to redo it.  They say the task is “good enough,” and that since you only pay them minimum wage, you only get their minimum effort.

That sickens me on two levels, and I let my employees know it sickens me on two levels, One Minute Reprimand style.

On the first level comes the ridiculously high current minimum wage.  In Ohio, state minimum wage is higher than federal minimum wage, so we must pay our folks $7.70 per hour.  And, on January 1, 2013, it will rise to $7.85 per hour.

I didn’t make anywhere near that for my entire stint in hourly management!

As unpopular opinion as this is, I think that fast food crew are overpaid because of the minimum wage.  The job responsibilities of a crew member are not commensurate with the federal minimum wage, let alone the higher Ohio one.

Of course, I always get, “Was gas as high as it is now?  Did the food here cost almost $7 for some sandwiches?  Were any other prices this high?”  Of course, the answer to all of that is NO.  And the crew member folds her arms in superiority.  She won against her know-it-all manager.

Then I explain the second way that response sickens me: the deontolgical response.  This is almost a fancy, philosophical way of saying “guilt trip.”  The hypothetical crew person can’t win against this.  It is best illustrated with an example:

If you go to McDonald’s and order something off the Dollar Menu, receive it, and find out that the sandwich wasn’t made the way you ordered it or the meat was raw, you’d take it back, right?

Or if you went to Wal-Mart and bought something on clearance, then found out it was defective or broken, you’d return that, right?

Of course.

Because if you pay for something, even if you pay bottom dollar, you expect that it will fit the needs for which you bought it.  And if it doesn’t, then you complain and expect that the store will fix it.

Well, what if the McDonald’s employee told you that since you bought a Dollar Menu item, you only get the minimum possible effort McDonald’s can muster?  Sometimes that equates to “baked under a heat lamp all day” or “served raw.”

What if the Wal-Mart employee said that since this was a clearance item, that you had no right to complain since you didn’t pay full price?  Only general sale items or full price items can be returned.

I’m sure you’d be fired up and pissed.  You’d be asking for high-up managers or writing letters to the respective parent corporations.

Well, how do you think your manager feels at the utterance of “Minimum effort for minimum wage”?

The point: it doesn’t matter what the restaurant is paying a worker.  They have an expectation of how the worker is going to perform, and every right to coach the worker to complete tasks properly.  Or terminate the worker if the worker won’t comply.

“Deontological ethics” are practices you have a duty to perform.  I believe that if a worker agrees to a wage, minimum or otherwise, then they have a duty to put for the best effort every time they are clocked in and collecting money.  If the money isn’t right, don’t take the job.

“Minimum effort for minimum wage” is the attitude of a loser.  Yes, I couched in strong terms because I feel that strongly about it.  If workers can’t be coached properly and they cling to this mantra and the piss-poor attitude that always accompanies it, they need to be replaced immediately.