During a previous life, I was interviewing some soon to be college graduates for a possible position as an Assistant Manager Trainee in one of the 1200 F.W. Woolworth Stores around the fruited plains. Someone at the local University’s placement office must have instructed those poor skulls full of mush on the finer points on negotiating a salary, (I just stopped laughing at those dumb kids about a week ago.) Each and every one of the kids asked at the end of the interview about salary, and each used the same wording to tell me that they felt that their education and training made them worth $50,000 per year. (those were 1990 dollars.)
My answer, said as diplomatically as I could muster went something like this. Why stop there. I’m sure your mother would tell me that you’re worth $1 Million per year. The problem is that you have to be worth that to somebody. It may interest you to know young person, that I myself have a degree from a major American University, as does every one of our management team here. So, with all due respect to your college education, which I have had also by the way, I can tell you that you have learned nothing about how to actually produce the results necessary for you to be paid that sum. What your worth is to us, as someone entering in the very lowest echelons of our management team, someone who will spend the next three years learning what is necessary to produce the kind of results that would make you worth that salary that you seek, is $360 per week, in 1990 dollars.
Such is today’s youth, and unfortunately many of our adults, entitled brats with no idea of relative worth in a free market economy. “I have my college degree, give me my company car, keys to the executive wash room, and a salary fit for the vaunted 1%.” Everyone wants to start life out at the top, passing go without rolling the dice and most certainly without the sweat, sacrifice, or hard work that comes before most people ever taste the fruits of that kind of success. Paying dues in life is for suckers. It’s for the old fogies who have forgotten what it’s like to struggle, oppressed by the desire to live the good life with all of the amenities while having to actually cook their dinners and perhaps resorting to Hamburger Helper for their weekly meat intake. (I mean no disparagement of Betty Crocker and her line of Hamburger enhancement dishes. In fact, my opinion as someone who spent a fair amount of time enjoying that particular line, I feel comfortable in saying that there’s some tasty stuff in those boxes with the little white glove.) It’s unfortunate both for those entitled little brats, and society as a whole, that these little separate pieces of our future were able to reach adult hood completely unprepared for the Shit storm that is adult life. Eventually, hunger will impart its own lesson. Until then, we’ll just have to tolerate their whining while they foul up down town areas across our landscape.
It’s worse than that though. These kids not only feel as though they are entitled to a living wage for their capacity to resolve conflicts, understand poetry, and explore their gender confusion, they also feel as though any who would consider starting life anywhere but the top as someone to look down upon. How did we get to a place in our society where doing honest work for entry level wages was considered beneath dignity, and living off of the public dole, the life of Obama’s Julia for example, was suddenly the most honorable thing any non member of the 1% could achieve. The political left has done admirable work removing the stigma from receiving Food Stamps or AFDC or even Medicaid. The problem is that at the same time, those same lovable Social Workers, who’s national bill board campaign has started informing us that they create, “strong,” societies, (as if we would all be living in places like Detroit without their help in showing us a better way,) have managed to place a stigma on hard work.
Many times over the years, I have heard work at McDonald’s referred to in less than flattering terms. I have been asked by kids point blank, “what am I supposed to do, go flip burgers?” My answer never wavered, it was always one word, yes. No, you won’t earn a living wage right off of the bat, and probably not for at least a few years, but you will learn how to be an employee who is worth that status. Flipping burgers for a restaurant will not be worth that level of pay unless they can sell sufficient numbers of them, and at a high enough price to make that profitable for the guy who risked his capital to open that restaurant. Since selling anything requires an individual at the other end who would rather have the sandwich than the $3 in his pocket, the entire equation remains a matter of free will.
What entry level positions do however, is lead to something else. Half of all owners of McDonald’s franchises started out as part time burger flipping employees, who were willing to start life out on the bottom of the prestige pyramid. 98% of McDonald’s executive leadership started in the same place. What they were paid, in addition to their non living wage you see was invaluable job experience. Wal-Mart can boast similar statistics amongst its leadership team. They promote heavily from within their own ranks. More importantly, those folks who start life out at the entry level, and pay attention, are capable of learning how to run their very own restaurants, and they learn this from people who are successful already.
Also in that former life as a Woolworth Manager, I had a young cashier who I hired at the age of 18, that had not graduated from high school, but attained her GED instead. I paid her our preset wage for inexperienced cashiers, which for my store was 25 cents beyond the minimum wage. Her mother came into the store to inform me that she had no intentions of allowing her daughter to waste her talents and ability on such a menial job and for such a menial wage. She wanted to know how is it that I would dare to exploit her daughter in such a manner as that. (No, I did not laugh in her face, although she clearly deserved such treatment.) I did answer in a pretty curt manner. I informed her that her daughter was a high school drop out whom was supplied with gainful, legal employment, and that exploitation would denote a different kind of work entirely. If there were some talent that her daughter had that I was not aware of, please, if it would benefit my store in some way, let me know and a negotiation for those talents could begin immediately. Otherwise, a high school drop out beginning clerk was worth to me the sum of 25 cents beyond minimum wage for the tasks of unpacking merchandise, pricing those items,stocking shelves with said items, cleaning up the place, and operating a cash register as needed. If she progressed at that satisfactorily for 90 days, a raise would be forthcoming. If she worked hard and distinguished herself, perhaps one day she could have been promoted further, as several of my staff had been.
A grill cook at McDonald’s you see is not just a burger flipper working for a company that does not care. They are charged with producing a sandwich that carries the quality that McDonald’s promises with all of the food served, and their success at delivering this is extremely important to the owner’s of the restaurant who’s livelihood depends on the continual satisfaction of the people who eat there. McDonald’s reached their level of success because a sufficient number of people feel that they would rather have the McDonald’s sandwich than the $3 in their pocket. When people stop feeling that way, McDonald’s will become a thing of the past very quickly, and the people who cook those sandwiches are an important part of that.
McDonald’s should be celebrated as a great American success story, what happens when a business is created from nothing and allowed to flourish in a free market. How many people are millionaires today thanks to McDonald’s? All of this happened due to transactions that were entirely voluntary at every level. No social workers or central planning bureaucrats participated at any phase of this great American success story, in fact if anything, those groups have consistently opposed this company at many levels, including taking cheap plastic toys away from pre-elementary aged kids.