Saturday, October 18, 2014

Giving You the Business

In a perverse and ironic sort of way, I am grateful for the business world. 

Just when I think I've seen and heard it all, and that my sense of wonder is hopelessly atrophied, a study issued by the National Retail Federation appears which provokes peals of healthful and much-needed laughter.

Excuse the outdated cultural references, but I find it funnier than George Carlin, Monty Python, Firesign Theater and George Bush number-two combined.

In response to government data which the Federation feels unfairly skews retail pay downwards, their report attempts to present the retail sector as the creator of good-paying jobs which offer Americans an alternative to wage-slave sustenance and which bolster our flagging middle class.

See what I mean?

The Federation's second punchline is the assertion that the average retail employee makes thirty-thousand dollars a year. The Federation claims these employees earn an average of $2,582 per month, or $30,984 per year.

But you should know there are more strings attached to their definition of 'retail employee' than on all the helium balloons festooning graduation, retirement, anniversary and birthday parties the world over.

The Federation's numbers are based on something called a “stable” employee, which is an employee employed for three months of a calender quarter. If this fuzzy indistinct-ness leaves you with more questions than answers, feel free to join the club.

The next time you're in an expansive mood and wish to share your mirth, relay this information to a sales clerk, stock person or cashier employed by J.C. Penney’s or Home Depot. 

I am positive they will find it equally-mirthful.

Because I am long-term unemployed, I have recent experience in retail. I have that experience because retail is one of the few sectors desperate-enough to risk employing people like me. They are desperate for a reason. And it isn't because they're doling out 30K salaries. 

Despite fulfilling the Federation's dodgy definition of stable, I didn't earn half of what the Federation says I should have. And there are reasons for that, too.

First off, aside from managerial personnel, no one in retail works full-time. It is practically against the law. Secondly, with certain rare exceptions (The Container Store and CostCo come to mind), wages are low.

I made $8.40 an hour as a cashier at a local Home Depot. I made even less as a supermarket checker in a Milwaukee suburb. Adjusted for inflation, that didn't even equal the $2.00 an hour I earned washing cars at a Pontiac dealer while in high-school.

Unless you're a clerk at Harry Winston's, the only way you're going to clear 30K a year in retail is by working three jobs.

The Federation goes on to add that if you're lucky enough to fall within the 25 to 54 age group, retail is an even more splendiferous fount of riches. Those folk enjoy an average monthly bounty of $3,198, which adds up to a very pleasant $38,376 per year.

There's an old adage in academia that says PhD stands for piled higher and deeper. Evidently, the National Retail Federation's report hasn't reached them yet.

In cash-starved post-recession America, how is it that oceans of retail positions go unfilled in the face of such economic largesse? Like my earliest attempts at arithmetic, it just doesn't add up.

The truth is, the Federation's "report" is flimsy and transparent PR which is the product of an entitled entity feeling a little put out because we don't show it enough love. 

My heart bleeds.

Permanently marked-down employees aren't a big, gift-wrapped expression of love? 

How about the ability of a private business to shift a worker's housing, medical and food expenses onto the public as they steadfastly refuse to hire full-timers or pay their workers a living wage in order to keep their billionaire shareholders happy?

It adds up to big, gigantic wealth creation. Big, gigantic government-subsidized profits for businessmen renowned for their dislike of socialism and *cough* big government.

And still it's not enough. Like the supposedly entitled employees they hold such contempt for, business wants more. And when it has that it wants more. It is never enough. 

It is not enough that we have government-subsidized employees working for private businesses. We must love those businesses, too.

And lastly, we must never, ever tell the truth. Apparently, parasites have feelings, too.

Like I said, pretty funny.