We all know the old adage…It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Whether it’s picking up trash on the side of the road, changing diapers and bedding in an old folks’ home, janitorial work, hard, back-breaking manual labor (all of which I’ve done,) the dirty jobs…Fuck, where do I begin this tirade?
Well, how about the basics. What makes them dirty jobs? Sometimes it’s the fact that you literally have to get dirty doing them and some times it’s more analogical (where the work just sucks or is incredibly hard to do.) Regardless, these jobs are often sited as being of little to no experience required. For this, they are most typically receiving of the smallest pay grades. Am I the only one troubled by this?
Let me start off by saying that as much as my current job does piss me off at times, it’s the consequences of many factors that push me over the edge and send me online bitching up a storm. It’s not the job. It’s the asshole customers, brain-dead colleagues, bullshit work environment, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I am as grateful for my job as any one man can be. It pays my bills, keeps my hands busy, and gives me focus for a short time many days of the week.
With that said, by the end of my shortest shift, my legs are throbbing, my knees are just shit, my arms, hands, and shoulders burn, if it’s been raining, I’m soaked and cold, if it’s 100 degrees out, I’m hot and sweaty, and all for the absolute lowest pay the company I work for offers. Sure, cashiers have to deal with the occasional unruly customer, mind a till, be diligent in their handling of the money, and stand up for long hours. Customer service gets even more unruly customers, often have to deal with problems on the sales floor, and occasionally even have to get involved with empldouchebagoyee disputes and issues. Then you’ve got managers, stockers, human resources/payroll, et cetera. All of these jobs come with a certain level of expertise, training, and experience required and, of course, are deserving of certain recognition and pay rates.
But here’s my beef. Sure, my job might seem the easiest to learn, but that’s because most of the people who make this claim have never done it or have never done it well. But we’ll get into that in a moment. First, who gives a fuck how easy a task is to learn? Sure, I didn’t need college courses to push carts, I didn’t need any real intensive training (thankfully, since nearly none was provided,) hell, I didn’t even need any past experience in similar positions to get this job. Would you like to know how I, a man with no retail experience to speak of (I worked for a Maxway for a few months when I was 18 or so years old)? My background check came back with no felonies. Yay me, I’m not a murderer or rapist. Okay, so, what’s you’re fucking point? Got my foot in the door, so I should just be thankful, eh? Well, as I’ve established, I am, but that doesn’t make the fact that I’m doing the hardest job this company has to offer (physically at the very least) in less than the time expected with a higher quality of standard than my predecessor or even the standards expected of me any less important to this equation.
Sure, there are those out there who will always work these jobs. Those out there who have no inclination, will, and thus, ability to move forward out of such positions. Some folks just genuinely thrive in these labor-intensive positions. It keeps them fit, worked-out, in shape, or whatever it is they’re after. It’s an easy, repetitious job that once you get down, it stays down, so to speak. Some folks want that. Awesome, should they make less because they’re cool with it? Fuck no!
The argument is ‘anyone can do it so it doesn’t pay that much.’ Okay, now, NO, not ANYONE can fucking do my job. If that were the case then my employer wouldn’t have gone two months without someone filling my position. Two months with carts missing from inside, scattered all over the lot several days a week because there was no one to pick up the slack left from having only one employee willing to stay until closing time. Any of the third shifters could have come out and cleaned it up, if anyone could do it. Someone on second could have finished off the lot last thing before punching out, if anyone could do it. NOT just ANYONE can do this fucking job. It takes strength, endurance, and, here’s the kicker, a fine bit of simplistic intelligence and logic. Sure, you can just run from one side of the lot to the other and back, but that’s in no way efficient. But, again, I’ll get to this momentarily.
The little tiny girl behind the customer service desk (not trying to be sexist here, we have some little tiny guys too and they’d be in no position to do what I do,) she’s not going to be able to do my job. Give me a week shadowing her and access to the same training programs she had her first few weeks and guess what, yeah, I can do her job. No, not anyone can do her job, I’m not saying that in the least, only that a job is a fucking job and should be paid for in regards not only to how much training is required but how much effort is required as well. I’ve worked a desk for more of my life than I’ve muscled about. I built my first computer when I was 9 years old from scraps at a local tech salvage warehouse. Wrote my first program before that. I can work a MAC, Windows, or Linux box. I know the entire Office Suite inside and out as well as how to completely work around it for free with open source projects like OOO and Libre. When my car breaks down, I fix it or scrap it. When an appliance goes, I fix it or replace it myself. There’s very little in life I cannot figure out or muddle through, but this whole idea that manual labor should be cheap because it’s a lower form of labor is just mind-numbingly drab.
But yeah, I said I’d get to it in a moment, that bit about doing my job well. At a glance, it’s simple. You stick carts on to the cart attached to my little machine, push a button on the remote, and the machine pushes the carts while you steer. Sounds real fucking simple. It’s not. Once you’ve done this job consistently for more than a few weeks, you catch on to a few things. For one, not every cart is equal. When you push two carts together, one into the other, with just a bit of force, they fit nice and snug. There’s a bit of tension holding one into the next. On occasion, that tension isn’t there. In these cases, you know you have an issue if you’ve paid any fucking attention. Now, the guy that trained me way back when, he still hasn’t figured this one out, so that says a little bit about just how easy or not this job is. Those loose carts, you put them on FIRST. If you don’t, you don’t steer. Steering 50 carts at 3-7 miles per hour is a bitch if you have one of these fucked up little buggies near the front. I don’t know the physics behind it, but they cause your line to lock and give you a very, VERY slight turning radius. Now, you stop your train, pull that little bitch out, back the pusher off the line and stick that fucker at the beginning, you’re in business.
It’s not always so simple to sort out your troubled carts, however. Some times you’ll find one that fits nice and snug just like it should but still causes issue. At a glance, I can narrow which cart’s being the little bitch down to 3 spots if I’ve got more than 15 carts in line. You can tell by the bending (or lack there of) in the line as you try to force it to turn. So, what do I do? I break the chain where those three carts are, separate all three, throw one on the end still attached to the machine and try to sway the train. If there’s play, it stays. If it sticks, that’s my little bitch-cart and it goes to the beginning. I repeat with each cart to be sure there’s only one problem child. This whole process takes me a matter of seconds and results in getting far more carts in as I can continue to stack more and more on to have a larger train to run in with each pass. Those that don’t know these subtle little nuances spend much more time fighting with the carts. They’ll pull the whole train of at each turn, grab the handlebar of the back most cart to steer the line one way or another, run up ahead and adjust the front, then move the machine back into place and get going again. Repeating this process another time or two really slows you the fuck down. What sucks is explaining this to someone can be a daunting task, especially when they’ve been there longer than you have and think they really know their shit. “Just kick it over, it’ll move.” Fuck you, work smarter, not harder.
Now, here’s an experiment for you. Throw a soda can into a cart and have a friend put another 6-8 carts, some in front, some behind, and get that can out in a few seconds. It can be quite deceptive knowing which cart it’s in and where to break the line. So deceptive, in fact, that most of my colleagues don’t even bother getting the trash out of the carts even though that process is right there in their fucking job description. Oh, you thought we just pushed them? Now, we clean them out too. Check out my fucking Twitter and Instagram some time, you’ll see.
All right, skip all that shit, now a customer needs help loading a sofa into their van. Guess who gets to do that. Yep, me. Oh, and I can’t forget to change all 18 garbage bags outside plus each of the ones in the main entrances. Nor can I ignore the customer asking me for assistance finding a VHS head cleaner (no, I’m not fucking joking) because my colleague in the electronics department…isn’t in…the electronics department… oh, and before I can make it to the door, another carry out.
And if Betsy, my beautiful little cart-pushing machine, if she’s in the shop, things get even more fun. Well, if she’s in the shop or if there’s too much snow and ice on the ground. Push 20 carts over packed snow and ice across a football field sized parking lot and tell me this job is an entry level position.
This is less of a rant and more of a message to you big department and grocery stores out there. The reason this position is a revolving door for you is because you treat your employees like shit and belittle them from the very beginning. The exact words the gentleman who interviewed me used were “Now, this is the easiest job, well, I mean, not physically, but you know what I mean, so, it’s the lowest paying, of course.” Not verbatim. Word for word. It’s burned into memory and that was ages ago.
I’ve managed teams, been a project lead on more than one occasion, have supervised small crews and large, and have done individual projects in the tech industry that required an insane amount of industry-specific knowledge and even more so, attention to detail with more than a smidge of self-discipline and time-management. Those jobs, well, many of them, at least, were easier than the one I have now. Again, getting those jobs done, respectively, to the level of quality that satisfied both myself and my client/employer.
Now, am I saying that every cart pusher should make more than every cashier or customer service team member? Fuck no. I’m saying that once an employee has been with you for long enough for you to discern their worth, pay them as such. Of course your managers and administration staff will make far more out of the gate as those are jobs with requirements and experience needed, but everyone else? The cashiers, stock boys and girls, us cart pushers, courtesy employees, et cetera, start us all the same and pay us on performance. If you’ve got a cart pusher that’s been there for over a year and he/she isn’t making shit more than when they started, either you fucked up and didn’t see their worth or they fucked up and didn’t show their worth. Pay them or let them fucking go. Like politics, the economy, and every other facet of daily life, the retail/service industry hierarchy and architecture is fucked. Fix it. It’s apparent. Damn near any store I go in these fucking days, it’s evident. Shit’s a mess. There’s no pride in work, no reason to feel it or show it. This all comes down to company policy and how it’s exacted. But fuck, I’m just a cart pusher, so don’t take my word, ask your fucking employees. Not the ones you’re paying well, the ones your robbing and ripping off. Ask those motherfuckers just what they think of your system (you know, anonymously, because they sure as fuck aren’t going to tell you to your face how much of a douche-bag you are.)
Fuck it, tirade over, this old dirty bastard is tired and going to bed. Put’m where they go, damn it!