Minimum wage is currently at $7.25. And let it stay there! In fact, if we could make it less, that would be even better. Don’t these people know we’re in a recession? How can these international chains survive if they had to pay their employees more than the legal minimum? Besides, the only people who should have these jobs are teenagers and people on the search for a better job.
When I go to a fast food restaurant, I want a bored, seemingly unaware 15-year-old punching in my order, all the while surreptitiously checking Instagram from the phone that her manager said to keep in her locker but — really — what does that old fart know anyway? Or I want the anxious 20-something who gets my order wrong because his mind is already on the job interview he has that day. This is what I want as part of a fulfilling dining experience.
I want to go to a McDonalds and find the line out the door, because, once again, the place is understaffed. I want teenagers to call out last minute for stupid reasons and I want adults to call out last minute because they have another job interview scheduled and they knew their boss would be mad if they tried to request last-minute time off again. I want inefficiency as the crew who actually showed up (for today, at least) scrambles around.
I want the girl at Pizza Hut to be too busy gossiping with her co-worker — who just happens to also be in her 10th grade English class — to notice that I’ve been standing here waiting. I want the cashier who can’t be bothered because this job is just so below her and, man, is she ready for a better job with better pay! I want the 17-year-old who sneaks food behind the counter because who cares if he gets fired? I want the supermarket stocker to give me a blank look when I ask where the green onions are because she’s never heard of “scallions” in her entire teenaged life.
I want to go to Dunkin’ Donuts and witness an absurdly high turnover rate. I want it so that, every week, they have to hire and train new people as the former employees finally took advantage of all those available high-paying jobs and left. And those who hadn’t taken advantage of a thriving job market graduated high school and went off to college (or just quit because, y’know, whatever). I want to watch the girl who makes the coffee scratch her head and call out back for every single step. I want the guy at the cash registers to stick his tongue out to the side while he tries to punch in what I’m ordering. I want this to happen over, and over, and over again, because no one will stay long enough to get the routine down pat.
Or – better yet – I want somebody, teenaged or not, to work like they know every single step they make is only making them $7.25 an hour. I want to watch an entire horde of annoyed, angry, slow-moving people who roll their eyes at the tiniest infraction because, in the words of John Caparulo, for minimum wage, you’re lucky they’re wearing pants.
The brutal truth of the nature is that, if only the teenagers and people with one foot out the door had these jobs, all these chains would eventually collapse. Like every job, these places are kept afloat by people who do their job correctly and are willing to put in the extra work to keep things going. People who offset the type of working teenager that I very much was (who couldn’t be bothered to sort out clothing from the changing room and would just put pieces wherever). People who are obviously qualified for a higher-paying job, but just can’t seem to get it because — hey — who wants to hire someone from Burger King? And maybe some of those workers are just really mature teenagers who will go onto college and somehow have the system work in their favor as they use that college degree to get a great job. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
Nobody really wants a job like that, but sometimes that’s the only job they get. For some, working hard and hoping they make manager someday is the only viable road for them.
Go ahead, argue economics. Argue from the left, the right, the middle. Have fun juggling numbers and figures and showing why raising the minimum wage or voluntarily paying these “low skill” workers more would hurt America. But don’t for a second think it’s okay to use the excuse that these jobs are only for teenagers and temporary workers. You wouldn’t like that type of environment, even if you’re only there for a Big Mac.