On Monday morning I had to venture into the city to deliver some paper work, when I was asked to visit Myer to pick up a book which had been on order for quite some time. Armed with the receipt and a card which told me where I could pick up the book, I met with a person in the shop who was disinterested in helping me, who was playing with their phone and had to ask someone with more authority to find the book which was being held.
I thought about this as I made my way back to the office on the bus. Was I annoyed that I'd been given poor customer service? Not really. In fact I sort of felt a little sorry for this person, who's more than likely doing a job which they're overqualified for and of they're not, which they're undereducated for.
The top wage rate for a "Retail Sales Assistant" or what used to be known as in the olden days as a Floorwalker, at Myer is $23.53/hr. If you were to work a 35 hour week (which you more than likely wouldn't be given), then you'd be paid $823.55 per week or $42,971 a year and quite frankly that's not fun.
You'd be on your feet all the live long day, dealing with the general public who can be snarky, irritable, irascible or just plain annoying and then you're telling me that you're expected to be all sweetness and light all the time? Someone who is perpetually happy in the face of all that is either deranged or else just happens to be blessed with a personality which has given them excellent coping mechanisms.
If you're in Myer or David Jones and you do happen to be buying something worth $500, the chances are that the person working at the counter who has just sold it to you, probably can not afford it themselves. An even more sombre thing top think about is that the $500 thing was probably made by someone who can afford it even less.
In Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", Bob Cratchit was paid "fifteen bob a week". Allowing for 4% inflation you arrive at a final figure of $90,802. The poor Retail Sales Assistant at Myer is on less than half of that. Before you start criticising Scrooge for being a curmudgeon, think about the causes of why a Retail Sales Assistant at Myer is on less than half of what what Bob Cratchit was. Who demands lower prices? How are those lower prices achieved? The blame dear shopper, rests on your shoulders. The cause, is you.
The disinterested person at Myer probably might be a heck of a lot more interested if they knew that their efforts were valued by the company and more highly paid. If someone has to pay the rent or electric bills as well as those university debts which mounted up and this is what life has thrown at them, I think that they have the right to be surly.
I don't think that we as a society have a right to demand sweetness when we tell people to suck eggs, give them lemons and pour salt into their wounds*. I think that it's hideously unfair to look down on someone because they happen to be less well paid. Often the less well paid jobs are the nastiest and that's kind of a double blow.
I think that the disinterested person at Myer has a right to be surly. I'm all for it.
*That recipe produces Hollandaise.