Mitch Albom complains about bad service. Do we get what we pay for?
Mitch Albom devoted his recent Sunday column to complaining about the very bad service he has received lately.
To make his point, Mitch employed his well-worn device of injecting bits of “everyday” conversation into his columns that, frankly, felt imagined even before his 2005 Final Four flapdoodle. After his journalistic transgression, it reads like the forced dialogue of a bad CBS sitcom. Sure, maybe these things happened, but it’s hard to take them on face value.
Whether or not the counter person at Starbucks actually forgot to add cream to Mitch’s coffee is almost beside the point. It would be nice if you could believe the specific incidents he’s complaining about actually happened, but even if they didn’t, his larger argument—kids these days provide terrible service—could still be valid.
Why does Mitch think the kids these days are providing bad service?
Freep: I blame TV. I blame video games. I blame the mindless blare that our kids have been weaned on, noise, explosions, blasting music, 100 images a minute. No wonder we can't stay focused long enough to remember soup or salad.
In Mitch’s day, he explains, young people working the low-wage service jobs knew how to treat a customer. They had pride; they respected their elders; kids were raised right back then, etc. What he neglects to mention is, in back when he claims he was working as “a fast-food cook, a janitor, a security guard and an ice cream scooper,” those jobs paid better.
Even the pay scales for low-wage service jobs that pay more than minimum wage are still within the national pay floor’s orbit. Who doesn’t remember, when looking for one of those first teenage jobs, someone saying like: “Job pays a buck more than minimum wage.”
When Mitch Albom was 17, in 1976, the federal minimum wage was $2.30/hour. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, $2.30 in 1976 had the same buying power as $9.29 has in 2012.
Today, the federal minimum wage isn’t $9.29/hour. It’s $7.25/hour. In Michigan, it’s 15 cents/hour higher. Adjusted for inflation, the 2012 fast-food cooks, janitors, security guards, ice cream scoopers very likely make about 20% less than their mid-1970s counterparts. If you accept the service these days gripes as legitimate, then it seems like today's counter-jockeys and burger-flippers are providing about 80% service compared to the mythological "back in the day." Sounds like market equilibrium to me.
Maybe, Mitch, you get what you pay for. -- JTW