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Minimum wage: minimum job

11am, 25th February 2007 - Rant

A classic minimum wage earner: BarthLately I've had to deal with a lot of people in dead-end jobs who earn minimum wage. Mostly in call centres but also driving buses, guarding entrances to buildings, sweeping streets and behind counters at local newsagents, cafes, retail stores and pubs. The resounding impression I get from them is that because they are earning a minimum wage, they are going to do a minimum job.

I've seen bus drivers who when asked if their bus stops at Hampstead station replied "No", even though they stop at the bus stop that is about twenty metres away from the official "Hampstead station" bus stop and is actually physically closer to Hampstead station. The passenger got off the bus and started walking away before I told her where the bus really went. I've also seen bus drivers reply "Yes" when asked if their bus goes to Finchley Road, even though they had already passed Finchley Road on their route and were currently travelling away from it.

I've seen cooks in the kitchen skip over the next meal on the list because they didn't understand what the wait staff meant on the meal docket and I've seen them leave a whole table's worth of food under the heat-lamps, drying out the meat and wilting the salad because one of the meals only had two mushrooms instead of three and none of the cooks had time to go out to the store-room and get some more.

I've seen all sorts of short-cuts by bar staff that would make you think twice before eating or drinking in their establishment. Even something as simple as not checking the glasses coming out of the dishwasher for orange pith and lipstick marks before putting them away or back in the dishwasher to using the same cloth to wipe out the ashtrays, wipe down the tables, wipe down the bar and polish the silver... in that order. Most of this would be solved with proper training, but these staff don't get training because they never stay long enough for the hygiene course to come around again and the reason they don't stay long enough is because they are earning minimum wage in a dead-end job; as soon as anything even slightly better comes along they move on.

The one that really gets my goat, however, are the people in call centres who don't even take the time to use their inside knowledge of their field to figure out what your problem really is and give you the information needed to fix it. As an example, I have recently made several phone calls to TalkTalk customer service (that's what they call it.) to try and figure out when my broadband service would go live. The first two I got through to reassured me that it would be February the 9th, just like it said on the website and in the letter they had sent me and amended that to "Real Soon Now" when I pointed out that today was the 10th of February. The third guy I got through to, not being satisfied that the others were doing their job properly, noticed that although the phone order had been created on the 5th of January, the broadband order had not been created at all! The other two I had talked to hadn't even bothered to look at my account. The funny thing is that now, because I expect the customer service to be so bad, I have to keep ringing back again and again until I get through to someone who does their job properly in spite of not being paid very much. I have to waste much more of my time, much more of the call centre's time and much more of everybody's patience in order to get what I want when they could reduce all of this wastage simply by spending a little more at the outset to ensure that I get what I want first time. In the end, that's what makes a company money - giving the customer what they want.

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