Fifteen dollars an hour to say, "Would you like fries with that?" or "Welcome to Wal-Mart?"
My very first position out of college in a terrible job market was as a Wal-Mart portrait studio photographer. Around the holidays, we'd have long lines; trying to get kids to smile after they've been waiting in Wal-Mart for two hours is no picnic. On my off days, I didn't dare pick up the phone because my district manager regularly called people and demanded that they fill in for employees who were sick in other locations. There was no chance of advancement because that same district manager was sleeping with one of his employees and she was being groomed for a promotion. It was a crummy job and to top it all off, my hours were curtailed so much for reasons I never understood that I was in essence laid off.
Of course, even that job was better than working at Burger King, where I did two stints. The first was as a teenager, where I had a feminist boss who deliberately assigned the men the lousy chores the women didn't want to do in between yelling at us. If there was mopping to be done or taking out the trash, she made sure a man was doing it. Combine that with the fact that I was an immature 16 year old who didn't like the job and it's no surprise that I quit the moment I had enough money in my pocket to get by for awhile.
In retrospect, even that was better than being an assistant manager there, which I did for the better part of a year after my job at Wal-Mart. The manager would do things like assign you a breakfast shift, mid-day shift and night shift over three consecutive days. My feet hurt incessantly from standing around in dress shoes for 12 hours a day. There were managers stealing money and you always had to stay on top of your game to make sure you didn't get blamed for it. Although we were paid a salary, when you factored in all the overtime hours we worked for free, we made less per hour than most of the employees.
Both jobs were low paying, difficult and generally unpleasant. There was never a time when I said, "Oh boy, I get to make Whoppers today," or "I can't wait to wake up a two month old baby and try to get decent pictures of him before he starts screaming his head off!" However, those were both starter jobs for people with minimal experience. The whole idea is supposed to be that you gain some basic skills and either move on or start working your way up. You're not supposed to try to support a family flipping burgers or stocking the shelves at Wal-Mart. You're also not supposed to make $15 an hour at a job where you work side by side with unreliable high school kids.
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