Ringing The (Taco) Bell

This year, Taco Bell is going to be experimenting with a new approach to recruiting qualified restaurant managers:  in certain labor markets, it has announced it is willing to pay an annual salary of $100,000 to managers of company-owned Taco Bell stores.

taco-bell-kiosks-digital-strategy-qsrThe Taco Bell initiative is a response to a very difficult labor market for employers.  With the current unemployment rate at historic lows — the product of a strong job market and lots of aging Baby Boomers moving into retirement, among other circumstances — there just aren’t many good candidates out there.  So Taco Bell is going to test, in certain markets in the Midwest and Northeast, whether paying a $100,000 salary brings in a better crop of candidates.  That represents a significant increase over the current starting salary for Taco Bell store managers, which ranges from $50,000 to $80,000.

The Taco Bell manager initiative isn’t the only evidence of a tight job market and wage pressure.  The article linked above notes that other companies operating in the fast-food restaurant market — typically the classic source of low-paying, entry-level jobs — are reporting wage pressure affecting their margins.  Just this week the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the fourth quarter of 2019, “median weekly earnings of the nation’s 118.3 million full-time wage and salary workers were $936, an increase of 4.0 percent from a year earlier ($900).”  The BLS statistics show wage growth in 2019 above the rate of inflation (which was about 2 percent) in all age categories except workers between 55 and 64, with workers in the 25 to 34 age range showing especially strong wage increases.  And the BLS wage statistics indicate the labor market is particularly good for women, with median weekly earnings for women in 2019 up by 6.2 percent.

Imagine — making a six-figure income as the manager of a Taco Bell!  Your parents never would have thought it was possible.

47 Years Of Working

Earlier this week I got a document called “Your Social Security Statement” from the federal government.  That’s the document that tells you how much you and your employers have paid in Social Security taxes, tells you what your monthly Social Security payment will be at various retirement ages, and also gives some pointers about how, and when, to start getting the benefits.

The statement also tells you, year by year, your taxable earnings for Social Security and Medicare purposes.  As I looked at it, I realized, with a certain chill, that I’ve been working for 47 years now.

ph-430009996The statement notes that my first job was in 1973, during the Nixon Administration, when the 16-year-old me got hired as a “bag boy” at the now-defunct Big Bear Supermarket at the Kingsdale Shopping Center in Upper Arlington.  I had to wear a collared shirt and tie and a long white apron, and I bagged groceries at the checkout lines, helped old ladies put their groceries in their cars, and retrieved shopping carts from the parking lot after the store closed down.

According to the statement, I made slightly more than $500 that year, which sure felt like a lot of money to a kid living at home.  The next year, after I got trained on how to run the cash register myself so I could sub in for the ladies who were the permanent cashiers when they needed a break, I upped my earnings to just over $1,000, and I felt flush with cash.

It’s all there on one page — my earnings from working on the Ohio State Lantern, from my summer intern stint for the Wall Street Journal, from writing obituaries for the Toledo Blade, from serving as a press secretary for a Congressman on Capitol Hill, as a research assistant in law school, as a summer associate at law firms, as a judicial clerk in Washington, D.C., and finally from the law firm where I’ve worked for nearly 34 years.

It’s kind of weird to look at my employment history on that one page, and remember those old jobs that I haven’t thought about in a while.  47 years is a long time, I suppose, but it really doesn’t feel that long, and the memories of those jobs — and the feeling I had when I got that first two-week paycheck that probably netted me about $64 — are still fresh and lurking.  Thanks to the Social Security Administration for the reminder!

In Passionate Pursuit Of Privy Productivity

Do modern workers spend too much time in the bathroom, causing the businesses that employ them to suffer decreased productivity?  A company in the United Kingdom is making that claim and has developed a new toilet to combat the alleged problem — which it says is getting an enthusiastic reception from American companies that may leave the commode creators feeling flushed with success.

defaultThe company, StandardToilet, asserts that workers spend 25 percent more time in the office bathroom than is strictly necessary, causing employers to experience missed employee time on the job and a hit to the bottom line as a result.  It’s not entirely clear what study, if any, substantiates the 25 percent figure, and it sure seems like determining precisely how much time people really need to take care of business in the bathroom would be extremely difficult.  In any case, the theory articulated by the trade group the British Toilet Association is that employees are spending more time on the seat because they aren’t just performing essential bodily functions, but also are checking social media, sending texts, visiting news websites, and otherwise multi-tasking on their personal affairs in there.  Apparently it’s just another way that the smartphone has affected life as we know it.

StandardToilet’s brainchild is a toilet with a seat that has a 13 percent downward slope, causing employees to need to use their legs to firmly brace themselves against the risk of sliding off and thereby making it uncomfortable to use the toilet seat as a perch for extended bathroom breaks to stay in touch with whatever’s trending on Twitter.  The tilt is supposed to cause leg strain after five minutes, incentivizing employees to wrap up their use promptly.  And it’s not just about businesses, either: StandardToilet hopes to market the new toilets to roadside rest stops and public restrooms where users might be tempted to linger and clog up the efficient use of the facilities.  Incidentally, the company also claims that the new design “helps in reduction of risk in swollen hemorrhoids,” which certainly is a worthy goal — you might call it goal number two — as well.

Are employers concerned about extended bathroom breaks to the point where they will install new toilets to replace old ones that are working perfectly well?  The next time you’re using the facilities outside of your home, you might want to check the slope before you sit down and start liking Facebook posts.

The Shell Bowl

I mentioned a few days ago that I like to bring shells back from our beach vacations and put them in a bowl in my office. Above is the shell bowl, in all its current glory, after the additions from our recent visit to Captiva Island.

I recognize that many of the shells are basic and wouldn’t sell for much, if anything, at a shell store — but no matter! Their value to me isn’t a monetary value, but a memory value. Looking at the shell bowl makes me smile at the thought of great vacations remembered, and you just can’t put a price tag on that.

Doughnuttery

I’m getting ready for a morning presentation and asked that an assortment of doughnuts be provided. Doughnuts both help to assure decent attendance — who doesn’t want a doughnut in the morning? — but also an engaged and alert audience that is dealing with the initial doughnut sugar rush.

It’s important to get to the conference room early, to open the doughnut boxes and let that unique doughnut fragrance fill the room. Once a doughnut is sensed, it’s impossible to resist.

There’s a good assortment here, including my favorite — a cake doughnut with dark chocolate icing. Also a few new doughnut options, like one with crumbled Oreos and another with pretzel sticks.

Bad Waiting

Yesterday Kish and I went out for lunch.  When we were getting ready to place our order, the waitress pulled out an order pad — and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Why?  Because lately I’ve been bedeviled by wait staff who don’t write down what I’ve requested, and my orders have inevitably been screwed up as a result.

It’s kind of maddening, really.  The waiters stand there, listen as I tell them, for example, that I want only a slice of onion on my cheeseburger and specifically say that I don’t want lettuce or tomato or pickles.  They nod reassuringly and then march off to the kitchen, and I groan inwardly, knowing that there is a better than a 50-50 chance that, when the order comes back, I’ll be scraping tomato and lettuce and pickle debris from my cheeseburger bun.  But what’s a patron supposed to do?  Hand the waiter a pen and piece of paper and plead with them to please, please, write down the order so there’s hope it will be correctly prepared and delivered . . . and thereby look like a jerk?  Or wait until the order comes back and pleasantly point out that it’s wrong, so that the waiter has to trot back to the kitchen and bring out a new, correct order — and thereby further delay the meal?  Or just accept that the order is wrong, eat it anyway so you’re not waiting even longer, and grumble at the injustice of it all?

Why, exactly, has it the no-write-down approach swept through the waiting world like a cold winter wind?  Do waiters think that not writing down the order reflects their professionalism, or that we’ll be impressed at their memory capabilities and give them a bigger tip?  Don’t they realize that, when most patrons see that the waiter or waitress isn’t writing down the order, their hopes for a pleasant meal take a tumble?

The waiting world works for tips, so here’s one:  write it down, already!