Service workers are often treated as temporary employees—which turns into an excuse to ignore their needs and make their jobs impossible.
I loved the this week's podcast! The discourse around "low-skilled" workers and the self fulfilling prophecy about being replaceable/turnover really hit home with me. I worked in retail for years and on far too many occasions I was berated by customers and told I was wasting my life and I should be in school so I could get a "real job". The reality was that I was in school and interning (for free) and working this retail job and making $12/hr, no benefits. Between the attitudes I would get from customers and the absolute disrespect from our corporate office I was completely beaten down and desperately wanted out.
Funnily enough, I got out of retail when a friend left her reception job in NYC and gifted it to me (so lucky, so grateful). And I remember going to a doctor for a well checkup soon after and they asked what I do, I said reception, and they began berating me about when I planned on getting a real job so I could start a family. Here I thought I finally had a real job and had escaped my lowly position in life and now this person was telling me I was still looked down upon and wasn't good enough. I never went back to that doctor and this whole belief system is absolutely awful.
Wow. Absolutely on the nose here. Across the pond in australia, it's much the same, and with a particular focus on churning through migrant workers. Most places in australia will pay under the table 15-20 an hour, and the lowest I knew of was 4$ an hour. This, in Adelaide. That doesn't include the wage or time theft which is practiced in every echelon of the service industry, including to government. It's scary considering the casual australian wage isn't far gone from the american one for the considered level of work (~27$ to 14$), and that difference is less stark when you consider the exchange rate (27 to ~20) and even less considering how much further a dollar goes in america.
Part of this is entrenched by our laws on student and refugee visas working- student visas are capped at 20hrs/week "on the books" and legally refugees on a bridging visa aren't allowed to work full stop. So they're required by the law to spend 4 years in economic limbo. Or, they take a job paying cash.
You know, the whole 'hey there's this big event, you have to show up 30 minutes-1hr before your shift to sign on, get your clothes, and then walk to your station, but you're only paid from time X to time X.' And there's also that from upper management there was a heavy-focus on sending people home if it wasn't busy.
Moaning aside, I have an unburied hatchet with our food service culture and the cycle of bullshit that impoverishes the workers. From maccas to landlords, business owners can't compete with location costs or food costs, and customers just aren't willing to pay what it -actually- costs to produce a coffee and keep the business sustainable.
In the richest suburb in sydney a lawyer on 200k/year complained that her 16oz coffee was 8$- the basic x.large alt milk latte. Beside the fact that the costs were (rent+staff etc) + milk(2$)cup+lid(40c),espresso(80c) and tax (80c), then how does a business make profit on 4$ to pay out and distribute staff and other costs? Even if it was a 1000/day venue, thats' barely 4k.
Meanwhile, customers are happy to pay 5-10 for a beer/wine poured with no extra specialty knowledge or time impetus- often less, and 20-30 for a cocktail that starts to approach the time outlay needed.
But now because of australia's stuffed housing market (and similarly to the US, no political will to fix it, but additionally being at the whims of america's own financial sector), inflation is so ridiculous that people just can't afford to live. People can't afford to go out and buy coffee or food because that 20$, that 30$ is a third of my weekly food budget. And it's paying for less, because of shrinkflation from businesses, and general price gouging using ukraine or covid as a crutch.
combine this with the other ways the consumer here is price gouged (google the price of electricity in australia, or gas), I am unsurprised if hospitality collapses in this country again.
Congratulations on six years of Boss Barista! Would love to see a recap of your favorite issues and hear more about why you started it and how it's evolved!
A real job... when I was driving a cab in Philly in my (misspent) youth, after a couple years of that I was often being asked this question (but never by my then-girlfriend/now-wife :)) - yet cabbie is actually a ‘real’ career in some places (London!) where barista is likely not seen this way anywhere -
could be an evolutionary thing, *if baristas organise/unionise* and a ‘real’ career with decent pay and benefits becomes possible?
Cabbie was once a more respected and ‘real’ occupation in the States, maybe back in the 40s-50s, and even at time I drove in 1970s we were unionised (Teamsters), but now Uber is extinguishing that life (and where taxi medallions once sold for 150k or more in cities like NY and owning one and thus running your own taxi business became path for immigrant ‘success’, they now are worth very little bc of Uber) -
plainly, what’s a ‘real’ job can change, but I fear barista has big cultural hill to climb wrt public respect (and pay/benefits!)