Nickled and dimed in America...

Well, my job went away. It was "too physical" for me. When I started, they had me on the computer developing training manuals for the different departments. I loved doing it, and I did it well.

This was a minimum wage job, but I didn't mind.

Then I went in and my supervisor told me to defrost the freezers. That involves moving several hundred pounds of food out of one freezer to another, defrosting freezer #1, replacing the food, then defrosting freezer #2. Some of the freezers are chest, some upright (10 in all).

Of course, my back started hurting with freezer #1. But I slogged through it, day after day after day. Got 'er done.

Then supervisor tells me to clean the employee fridge, a smaller upright with top freezer. That only took me 2 and a half hours. By this point, my back hurts so bad that every day I go straight home from work and fall into bed, staying there until time to get up and go to work.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but at this point I am no longer cheerful at work. In fact, I'm dreading what mind-numbing task they'll put me to next. Whatever happened to the lovely computer work I was hired for?

The director quit. My boss quit. The janitorial staff quit, en masse. Volunteers drifted away.

I completed a task, and sat down. My new supervisor came in and said "what are you doing?" I said, I have to sit for a couple minutes, my back hurts too bad right now. Says she: THERE'S NO TIME TO SIT DOWN ON THIS JOB.

Ooops.

I asked her to sit down and talk. We worked it out, and she stated she really wanted me to keep working there, yadda yadda yadda. It ended with hugs and tears on both sides, and an agreement that I would be at work the next morning.

The next morning, while I'm getting ready to go to work, I get a call. Terminated; they were afraid I'd "hurt" myself at work and they'd be on the hook for workmen's comp. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

For this, for 40 mind-numbing hours a week, I made $300. No holiday pay, no time off, no benefits whatsoever. When we were closed for July 4th, I didn't get paid, or for Juneteenth.

What gets me, really, is the mind-numbing drudgery of these minimum wage jobs.

And cashiers and other "public-facing" employees put up with a constant stream of abuse from customers (although all my customers were stellar, when I was a cashier, maybe because I defused any awkward situation with a smile and sympathy and empathy?).

Yes, I can easily replace $300 a week with mystery shopping -- but it's not enough to save any money toward a vehicle, which I will need within a couple years if I keep putting 3,000 miles a month on my car!

It took me a couple weeks to recover emotionally, let me tell ya. But my back no longer hurts every minute of every day, I don't have to pay a housekeeper twice the hourly wage I was earning just to do the basic housekeeping that I couldn't do for myself because my back hurt so bad (I couldn't lift a laundry basket, carry my own groceries into the house, etc.), and I got out of the funk.

Years ago I read the book, Nickled and Dimed in America (I think maybe Nickled and Dimed to Death in America?), and it made an impression on me. The author basically said even working 2 minimum wage jobs, a total of 60 hours a week, a person couldn't earn enough to provide shelter, food, transportation, and health insurance for a family. A husband and wife both working 2 minimum wage jobs would never be able to buy a house!

I believe that's even more true today than it was then, maybe 15 years ago.

What do you think?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2022 04:34PM by ceasesmith.

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Sorry to hear you go through all that. I haven't read the book, but I do have a good understanding how our wages don't align really with cost of living in many areas, especially where I'm at out here in the Denver area.

Fortunately, there's a lot of good work out there that'll fit your needs that's 100% remote if needed, especially if you're constrained with physical tasks. Hope things are getting better on your end, especially finding work that will appreciate the work you give back to them!

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!
@ceasesmith

Yes, many/most companies/employers will take advantage of employees. Good companies treat their employees better and have better employees in the process (thinking of Costco and In N Out burger on a retail level).

There was an article about a McDonald franchise owner in Ohio that closed for 3 months due to renovations and still paid his employees their full pay for those 3 months. That was awesome he did that. Plus many of those people have worked there for a long, long time.

[www.foxbusiness.com]


This place you worked at obviously did not value you and felt they could easily replace you. If that many people are leaving...that should make them realize they are doing something wrong. Turnover is costly for a business. You don't want to take the time to hire and train someone to have them leave 6 months down the road. The McD owner above realized that having his long time loyal employees was smarter than finding new people 3 months later.

My daughter is 16 now. She has her first job. She likes it (works at an animal hospital) and they like her. But I still stress getting a degree and a skillset(s) that makes you valuable. Too many people think they are more valuable than they really are. If they can pay you minimum wage, then the skillset you brought to the table was not something that was highly regarded.
I'm glad you are rid of that painful job. How unfortunate that the computer work didn't last!
Two thoughts. 1) You are probably eligible for unemployment benefits. If you are, the company's unemployment premiums will increase. 2) I suggest a brief conversation with an attorney specializing in employment law. I believe that your eyesight (documented by restrictions on your driver's license) makes you a member of an ADA-protected class. I think that you also have an argument under ADA that they changed the nature of your job and did not make reasonable accommodations for your age-induced frailty.

The Forum community is so diverse that there are probably others that can chime in knowledgeably.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
I live in an "at will" state. Can be terminated without notice for any (or no) reason. And I signed a piece of paper during "on-boarding" that precludes filing for unemployment. And I didn't last long enough to qualify, anyway.

And it isn't age related frailty; I'm 100% disabled, and they knew that going in. I did consider pulling out the big guns (ADA compliant -- it's very reasonable that a disabled worker may need to sit down on the job!) -- but who wants to work somewhere that has made it very plain that they just don't want you there?

smiling smiley
Sorry to hear. But yes, what an employee needs are marketable skills. Some skill sets are much more valuable (STEM majors) than others (History and Literature majors). It's supply and demand in a free-market system as it should be. The other point I'd make to the next generation is to NEVER stop learning. It could be formal, but it doesn't need to be formal as there are many alternative modes of learning such as YouTube. Don't overpay for education. Finally, physical and mental health is most important.
I'm sorry this all happened. Like you say, this is just the reality we live in, where workers are disposable commodities. Maybe if employees had an organzation amongst themselves where they could all threaten to quit at once in an organzed way to negotiate for better conditions? Nah. That' has never accomplshed anything.

I understand your reasons for not pushing back, but for others, even in at-will states they have to make accomodations for disabilites and can't just terminate you. And in many if not all states, signing something saying you can't file for unemployment is not legally binding and can be ignored. (Of course you still have to work long enough to qualify.) Good luck with your endeavors.
I don't believe that you can sign away a right that is mandated under state law (but see below). However, working a minimum amount of time is often a part of state law, so that probably applies.

I still think that you have a claim under ADA, but winning might be losing unless the win was a lump sum payment. Actually having to show up and work in a hostile but legal environment would not be fun (see even further below).

Having said that you can't sign away a right under state law, when the large company that I worked for decided to downsize (making sure that it was not discriminating against any protected classes including age), I was entitled to "retire" with 52 weeks of severance pay, but no unemployment pay. Or I could have received unemployment, but no severance pay. One option was worth much more than the value of the other one. I will save you the suspense. I took the higher paying option of severance pay. Since I had received something of value (duh!) that exceeded the unemployment pay, they were of course in the clear. A few colleagues tried collecting unemployment in addition to severance. Those claims were rejected.

I had two colleagues who were in protected classes. They did not have the option to "retire" with 52 weeks of severance pay. Instead, they had to report to work each day. But, they had no work to do. They had to be in their office for 8-1/2 hours a day (including a 30-minute lunch break) and had access to their computer. But they had no work to do. They could talk to their colleagues, but the colleagues did have work to do. After a 30+ year professional career, no one was even allowed to let them volunteer their expertise on projects for which they were experts. One resigned after 3 months. No severance pay. The other actually lasted 51 weeks until there was another downsizing, and he was allowed to leave with severance pay.
@ceasesmith wrote:

And I signed a piece of paper during "on-boarding" that precludes filing for unemployment. And I didn't last long enough to qualify, anyway.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
From experience, you can still file unemployment in a right to work state and even if you sign paperwork. Unemployment is fairly employee friendly and most companies end up losing unless you really have a "For cause" situation.
@ceasesmith: You are quality.

I understand completely about the back, the pain, the pushing too hard, the not being able to stop when that is more important than the incessant demands, and the need for change. Blessings upon blessings for ceasesmith. !

Creativity is always a leap of faith. You're faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage. - Julia Cameron

_____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
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@ceasesmith wrote:

And it isn't age related frailty; I'm 100% disabled, and they knew that going in. I did consider pulling out the big guns (ADA compliant -- it's very reasonable that a disabled worker may need to sit down on the job!) -- but who wants to work somewhere that has made it very plain that they just don't want you there?smiling smiley

I'm sure you could have had an ADA case, but you're right. Who wants to work for a place like that? My son was terminated, wrongfully, I believe, from a job due to his disability. But when I said I was sure we could file a case against the company, he said to just forget it. He now has a job where he's valued, unlike the last one--where his boss was a bee-utch because she, I think, didn't believe he had a disability and was totally unwilling to make accommodations for him. If you can't see a disability, I guess it doesn't exist, right?

Anyway, to your original point: Minimum wage in this country is a joke. I've said for years that the lawmakers in this country who don't want to raise it should themselves have to go work a minimum-wage job for 6 weeks and forego their regular salaries and benefits. They would soon change their tunes, I think.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/04/2022 03:01PM by BirdyC.
@ceasesmith

I helped a neighbor find a good-paying WFH job, and discovered a list of employers who both pay decent wages AND include benefits. These employers are all hiring people to sit at home and answer Customer Service calls.

- Farmers Insurance
- CVS Pharmacy
- Cloud4Good
- Amazon
- Southwest Air (and many other airlines)
- Liveops

EDIT TO ADD: To double check and use as an example, I just went to Google search “CVS Careers Remote” and found a WFH Customer Service position that pays $8-14/hour, has a $1000 signing bonus, and a $2,000 bonus after six months.

Link to CVS job: [www.google.com]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/03/2022 07:03PM by ColoKate63.
Living in a smaller town or city also contributes to the "choices" you have. When I read your original post I was struck by your statement that you were no longer cheerful at work. From all your posts I have read you have always been nothing but cheerful even when you are grumbling at something or other that happened to you. A cheerful person without cheer is a double whammy and I feel for you.
But since you seem to have become much more adept at cell phones and computers there must be some decent work for you online somewhere. Whether or not this is available on a part time basis I do not know. Recently I have spoken to many 800 number people who live all over the country it seems, many in smaller towns who sometimes have told me they were earning far above the national minimum wage. I have noticed that more and more companies have their customer service phone calls answered by someone in the US or Canada these days. And many of these people seem to have a lot of knowledge and understanding of the products or services offered so I think these companies are looking for people who have the capacity to learn which you certainly do.
@sandyf wrote:

I have noticed that more and more companies have their customer service phone calls answered by someone in the US or Canada these days. And many of these people seem to have a lot of knowledge and understanding of the products or services offered so I think these companies are looking for people who have the capacity to learn which you certainly do.

100% agree with SandyF. I believe a lot of the companies that offshored phone services to India or the Philippines have brought the jobs back to the USA after a lot of complaints.

My neighbor does a 4 am-noon shift answering calls for an airline. One of my former students (with a significant learning disability) answers the phone calls to Uggs, the Australian boot company.

Any mystery shopper would be a quick hire, especially if you have done phone shops.
It's hard to believe any business could get employees at federal minimum wage, when even gas stations and fast food restaurants are all paying well above minimum.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/04/2022 10:48AM by mjt9598.
I think it really depends upon the area of the country. NJ minimum wage is now $13/hour (heading for $15/hour in 2024 and I regularly see advertisements in locally owned stores at $18 or more plus a signing bonus.

There are apparently 16 states with no State minimum wage, so the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 applies if the company is subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act. There are even some States where the State minimum wage is lower. For instance, Wyoming at $5.15/hour. None of the 16 states are close enough to me that I would hear about wages or unfilled jobs in them. Around here, you are right that businesses have difficulty filling jobs at the $13 minimum wage (basically, they can't fill them).
@mjt9598 wrote:

It's hard to believe any business could get employees at minimum wage, when even gas stations and fast food restaurants are all paying well above minimum.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
Here in Pa., minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25/hour. Our governor has wanted to increase it, but the party that controls the legislature won't pass it. I guess they're under the mistaken assumption that people can simply budget their way out of poverty on $7.25/hour. You know--just cut out the cigarettes, liquor, and cell phones, and, hey!--you're set for living and saving. (Such a stereotype....)

While I don't think anybody's actually paying that now (although they were a few years ago), there are still places trying to hire at between $8 and $9/hour. Lots of luck finding employees who are competent and conscientious and who will stick around. Once they're trained and can qualify for a better job, they're out the door.

Even convenience stores here are starting people out at $12 and more. My son's making more than $16/hour at one, which is more than he made working in a bank! And he likes it; the company he's with is much better than most retail and service stores.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
@BirdyC wrote:

Here in Pa., minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25/hour. Our governor has wanted to increase it, but the party that controls the legislature won't pass it. I guess they're under the mistaken assumption that people can simply budget their way out of poverty on $7.25/hour. You know--just cut out the cigarettes, liquor, and cell phones, and, hey!--you're set for living and saving. (Such a stereotype....)

A real stereotype would have been if you had included tattoos, hair styling and nails. My understanding is the first two on my list can costs hundreds of dollars depending on how lavish they are.

But I agree with your post.

I was at the casino the other day playing black jack. We were talking about how we didn't understand the number of people who come in to gamble with the rent money. You can usually spot them as they are frantic when they loose. The young, 20ish, dealer says, "Nobody can live on $25,000 a year!".
My daughter, a nurse, and her hubby, a goldsmith, earn over $l00,000 a year.

Their rent, for a rather modest home, is $l800 month. Health insurance $1500 a month. Day care, too, at $14 an hour for 3 hours a day (daughter works 12 hour shifts, hubby 8 hours, so there's a gap). Add in car insurance and groceries, and I'm not kidding, although they live much "higher on the hog" than I do, they live paycheck to paycheck.

I think current "poverty" guidelines for single senior is around $1900 a month.

My social security is $1200 a month. I work for many reasons, many financial, but also for my mental health. I feel better when I believe I'm a contributing member of society, LOL!!!

I spend $30 a month on wine. I eat out only when being paid for it (mystery shopping). My food budget is $13 a week, which mostly goes to cleaning supplies and household stuff (not counting wine, LOL). I eat a lot of beans and rice; they have gotten very expensive. If I don't have the cash to buy wine, I do without until I do have the cash. I consider that an actual hardship, rotflmfao. I have had friends tell me I can't afford a glass of wine, if I got rid of my cat I wouldn't have to buy cat food, and I certainly (as a poor person) don't need cable TV! And the same person who told me all that made $58,000 last year mystery shopping/merchandising (I know, 'cause I did her taxes for her), and didn't save one single dime of it. I've explained til I'm blue in the face how important an IRA is, that she should have savings, etc., etc., etc.. or in 10 years she'll be in the same boat I am.

I think many young people are worse off than I am. I have no young children, and I am not trapped into the minimum wage job; many are trapped, just trying to provide basic necessities for their families. Like I said initially, 2 parents each working 2 minimum wage jobs can't pay rent and provide food on that.

I think today's young people have it much, much tougher than I did at the same age. Remember, radio and TV were free; a land-line cost $5 a month (and poor people didn't have phones at all); if you wanted to tell somebody something, you wrote them a letter (2 cent stamp) because a long distance phone call was prohibitively expensive. I walked to work, and I walked to night school (bus fare was a nickel); I did take the bus home after my night classes, because it was after dark and way dangerous. My classes at college cost $35 a credit hour. I would work and save up the cost of the class, then take it. My apartment rent was $50 a month, including utilities (except for phone).

Sorry to bore you all to tears! I just feel for today's youngsters.
I did some video shops for 62+ Senior Affordable Housing in my area.

The qualification income level for affordable housing is $49,850 for one occupant. $79,850 for two occupants.
The rent for a one-bedroom unit was $1250, and the two-bedroom unit was $1550.

That is incredibly reasonable for my area. I do about 10-12 apartment shops a month, and for non-income adjusted you're starting around $1800 for a one-bedroom unit.
Cease,
Don't get rid of the cat. It's a backup food source.
*boos and hisses from audience*
Dried beans and rice is about all they've been giving in the food lines where I am. Apparently even Second Harvest has run out of real food.

sestrahelena
When I am unhappy with her, I threaten having the neighbors over for BBQ cat!

Then she hides under the bed....

smiling smiley

@sestrahelena wrote:

Cease,
Don't get rid of the cat. It's a backup food source.
*boos and hisses from audience*
Dried beans and rice is about all they've been giving in the food lines where I am. Apparently even Second Harvest has run out of real food.
FYI there is no legal way for them to take UI from you. You may have to go to court to get it though. My one experience with that had a free lawyers from the AFL-CIO representing me because they do that for basically everyone, union or not in DC anyway. Not sure about you're area, but don't let the bastards outright steal from you.
I hear you...let me add some additional data if I may...

I never had cable TV. While I could afford it, it never seemed worthwhile, made people addicted to a couch, and had too many commercials pitching things I didn't need. I've used an antenna and picture quality is better than cable. With the "smart" TVs I'm also able to watch some streaming services for free.

Telephone use has changed as you described, yet I find it much lower in cost if you go to a "non-major" carrier such as Mint Mobile who charges $15/month for unlimited calls/text and 4 Gb of data.

College education is primarily more expensive today because of parents who PUSH all their children to get a degree. While the intention is good, that puts a lot of DEMAND on colleges which raises prices. The good news is that the enrollment figures are starting to trend downward slightly. There is a NEED for tradespeople and I wish some parents would promote these well paid careers (HVAC tech, electrician, plumber, auto tech, etc.) to their kids.

Housing today is much larger (which means more expensive) than in prior generations. "US homes now larger by 74%, personal living space went up 211% US-wide, homes built in the last 6 years are 74% larger than those built in the 1910s, an increase of a little over 1,000 square feet. The average new home in America, be it condo or house, now spreads over 2,430 square feet."

In summary, bigger and more features almost always costs more money. Only food and clothing costs have remained lower in cost (generally) today due to worldwide sourcing and distribution.

I don't believe today's generation has it "harder" at all. It's all about WANTS and NEEDS. You don't NEED a large home. You don't NEED an SUV with 12 airbags, front and back A/C, lane departure warning, an infotainment system to link with a smartphone, etc. You don't NEED an app and order food delivery to your house. Please point these folks to others who see the consumption madness. For example, go online to Mr. Money Mustache, JLCollins - the simple path to wealth, the White Coat Investor, ChooseFI, or any of the many FIRE advocates.

We need to promote personal financial education!

@ceasesmith wrote:

My daughter, a nurse, and her hubby, a goldsmith, earn over $l00,000 a year.

Their rent, for a rather modest home, is $l800 month. Health insurance $1500 a month. Day care, too, at $14 an hour for 3 hours a day (daughter works 12 hour shifts, hubby 8 hours, so there's a gap). Add in car insurance and groceries, and I'm not kidding, although they live much "higher on the hog" than I do, they live paycheck to paycheck.

I think current "poverty" guidelines for single senior is around $1900 a month.

My social security is $1200 a month. I work for many reasons, many financial, but also for my mental health. I feel better when I believe I'm a contributing member of society, LOL!!!

I spend $30 a month on wine. I eat out only when being paid for it (mystery shopping). My food budget is $13 a week, which mostly goes to cleaning supplies and household stuff (not counting wine, LOL). I eat a lot of beans and rice; they have gotten very expensive. If I don't have the cash to buy wine, I do without until I do have the cash. I consider that an actual hardship, rotflmfao. I have had friends tell me I can't afford a glass of wine, if I got rid of my cat I wouldn't have to buy cat food, and I certainly (as a poor person) don't need cable TV! And the same person who told me all that made $58,000 last year mystery shopping/merchandising (I know, 'cause I did her taxes for her), and didn't save one single dime of it. I've explained til I'm blue in the face how important an IRA is, that she should have savings, etc., etc., etc.. or in 10 years she'll be in the same boat I am.

I think many young people are worse off than I am. I have no young children, and I am not trapped into the minimum wage job; many are trapped, just trying to provide basic necessities for their families. Like I said initially, 2 parents each working 2 minimum wage jobs can't pay rent and provide food on that.

I think today's young people have it much, much tougher than I did at the same age. Remember, radio and TV were free; a land-line cost $5 a month (and poor people didn't have phones at all); if you wanted to tell somebody something, you wrote them a letter (2 cent stamp) because a long distance phone call was prohibitively expensive. I walked to work, and I walked to night school (bus fare was a nickel); I did take the bus home after my night classes, because it was after dark and way dangerous. My classes at college cost $35 a credit hour. I would work and save up the cost of the class, then take it. My apartment rent was $50 a month, including utilities (except for phone).

Sorry to bore you all to tears! I just feel for today's youngsters.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/05/2022 11:31AM by maverick1.
@maverick, your argument is the equivalent of “stop eating avocado toast.” In other words, it’s ridiculous and demeaning to the Gen Z and millennials.

Long, fact-filled argument to follow:

I noticed that you did NOT mention the following:

1. That the overall cost of healthcare has increased 4500% since 1980, which is roughly when I graduated high school. Young people are paying huge medical bills; if you are on (socialism alert!) Medicaid or Medicare you probably don’t pay a fraction of their burden.

2. That energy companies (who, BTW, pay no tax due to tax code loopholes that they lobby for) made 177% more profit in Q1-2 of 2022. The increase in gas prices was naked greed. Gas prices hit young people hardest, as their salaries are lowest.

3. That the trades you promote - electrician, plumber, carpenter - beat the absolute hell out of a body and after 30-40 years of ladders and kneeling you’re ending up with arthritis, broken bones, and worse. There’s a reason why my grandparents (from a long line of coal miners) desperately wanted their children to go to college and have white-collar desk jobs.

Also, re: trades - see #1 above, regarding the insane price of healthcare in the USA.

4. The growth of venture capitalists investing in huge apartment communities and property management groups has resulted in a near-monopoly on housing. “Starter” apartments used to be reasonable and affordable for young families. Now big conglomerates like LPG, Greystar, Pinnacle collude to set rental rates and price entry-level job holders out of the market.

@maverick, you mention cable TV. Well, it’s about $100 monthly for basic in my area. YOU go out and buy a house, get medical care, rent a starter apartment with that huge, whopping $100 in savings from your lack of cable.
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