Minimum Wage

Maximum Whine.

The federal minimum wage, in case you’re out of touch with that stat – and I hope you are, unless you have working aged teens – is $7.25.

Oregon’s is $11.25.

Four entire dollars higher than the federal.

For the moment.

That’s over 50% more than the federal rate.

It was, until July 1, 2017, a measly $9.75.  But thanks to the competitive nature – er, liberal tendencies – of Oregon voters, we passed a law that says “We want to pay a ‘living wage’ for our lower earning workers”…




Which I am entirely for.

So, on July 1st until 2022, the Oregon minimum wage will bump up until it hits $14.75.  The smallest bump will be $.50 and the largest – like this past July – will be $1.50.

For some context, retail merit increases tend to be about $.25 for Star Performers.  That’s a whopping $10/week for Full Timers.  So in July, Oregon’s lowest wage earners got a $60/week bump.

Yes, even our gas station attendants.

This affected only six of my employees – most only by pennies – last year.  I feel fortunate to work for a company that – with about 7000 employees in North America – set a standard for itself to pay more than just a minimum wage.

And the associate level jobs are easy!  Even my associates will say that.  

Now, this only affected a half dozen of my staff last July.  This year, when it jumps to $12, it will affect about two dozen of my staff.  That’s half my team!

Later this month, I will start writing annual performance reviews that will go into effect in early April.  The process takes time.  At which point, my best employees will get that $10/week bump for showing up and killing the job description every shift.

Not being tardy frequently.

Not picking and choosing what parts of their job they will deign to perform.

Not refusing to change priorities to meet the needs of the business.

Not forgetting to wear their name tags.

Ok, nevermind…even the associates that do all that petty crap I just listed will likely get a raise.  But the five or six that do actually crush their job expectations will probably get a $.30-.40 raise.

And then, two months later, half of my staff will get a $.50-.75 an hour raise because Oregon voters – myself included – think it’s the right thing to do.

Still…way to steal my limited thunder with that arbitrary timing, Oregon!

But here’s the deal, the people that pull all the crap I listed above – and then some, because everyone likes to be unique – have been bitching up a storm to each other for the last six months.

“We only make minimum wage.  We don’t get paid enough to do all this!”

“All this” basically amounting to:

Be nice to customers.

Build sales by adding on to transactions when possible.

Be in dress code.

Be on time.

Fill your coolers and keep your store tidy.

Rotate perishable stock.

And – as is the case with every retailer I’ve worked for – other duties as assigned by manager.

I’m not kidding, these are the easiest retail jobs I’ve ever hired into.

And it’s like a switch flipped last July and this cancerous attitude of “I don’t get paid enough” started rotting it’s way through my crew.  

The first time I (over) heard it was right after the bump and I almost got whiplash turning to see who was making such a crazy statement.

“We’re only being paid minimum wage…”

I thought to myself, “Bitch, last week you were getting paid $1.50 over minimum wage and you didn’t do your job then.  What’s it gonna take?”  But I kept quiet.

Six months in, I’ve lost about one employee a month seeking greener pastures and if I’ve heard anything directly or indirectly from them, it’s that the grass ain’t greener.  Even the ones that left for minimum wage plus the almighty tip.

Basically, these people are what I call “Happy Being Unhappy”.  I can’t fix what’s broken with their work relationship.  In my opinion, the hardest part about my Sales Associate positions is staving off boredom.

Now, who’d like some irony?

Seriously, I’ve plenty to spare.

Just speak up.


Ok.  I’ll just leave it right here.

We have one store that we collectively refer to as a monster.  There’s probably around 7000 outbound customers around that store every day.  Plus, it’s 3000 square feet.  With no walls, which means that every day, associates have to open a mesh gate around the store and manually place the perimeter fixtures to open it.  The reverse is true of closing the store.

As if potentially helping about a quarter of the entire airport’s outbound traffic and doing 40% of our total volume wasn’t daunting enough.

And we’re budgeted for one Sales Associate per open hour, just like all of our other stores.

The legitimate complaint I hear from my associates here is HELP?!?

But the only way to get more help is to make more sales, right?

Well, we’ve got a great resource for this whole make more sales need.  It’s called Treat Our Troops.  

It’s awesome.

I love it.

There’s a VIP lounge run by the USO for our traveling active and retired service members, so without having to be an airline VIP our service men and women have a place to hang out.

The snacks and drinks are provided by our customers – who prove every week how generous they can be.  The only catch is, they really only know about it if our associates tell them.

And so many won’t.

For whatever reason, they resist this slam dunk opportunity to increase sales and do something really cool while earning the extra hours for coverage that they want.

Whenever I think about it, this is the visual that comes to mind.

Like I said, some of these people must just be happy to be unhappy.  

Well, any of them that managed to solicit fewer of these donations than me last year – during my hour or two a week that I’m on a register – are going to be beside themselves in March when I start administering reviews.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’ve a handful of folks that do participate.  I call them my Top 5 and I appreciate the hell out of them. Like it or not, they just do it because it’s expected of them.  My number one actually had more dollars in donated items last year than she personally earned.

When the opportunity to reward my team with out of cycle raises to get back in line with the rest of the company’s higher than minimum wage pay comes along, it won’t be universal, I will have to pick who has demonstrated that they deserve it.  The first factor I’m going to consider is the Troops Program performance.

As for the others…the people on my team who only make minimum wage and don’t get paid to do this?

Well, I’ve started calling it a Living Wage.  And if they don’t get paid enough to execute on each of the very easy expectations of their job?  Then I’m telling them they can join their counterparts on the other side of the fence, where the grass is not greener.

If for no other reason than they don’t get to work with me anymore.

Minimum Wage

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