PC 49 What are you worth?

No! No! No! I don’t mean to be nosey, and couldn’t care less whether you have a ‘Savings Account’ at the Co-Operative or millions sitting offshore somewhere. I just want to explore how you value yourself. Most of us need to earn money to buy the essentials for survival, if nothing else: – food, shelter, clothing etc. But as we in the developed world have got used to the basics, the majority of us start wanting to have enough money to, oh! I don’t know, go on holiday, buy a nicer/better/bigger car/house, the latest wide screen/flat screen/surround sound TV/tablet/stereo system, ‘designer’ clothes. Then we get on the treadmill, wanting more of this and more of that, not ‘needing but ‘wanting’.

So we develop a sense of worth, false or not!! Maybe you heard of Linda Evangelista, the model, who wouldn’t get out of bed for an assignment worth less than US$10,000? I suspect the majority of my readers would settle for far less. But what? It was a question that I often asked clients who were searching for some employment; “But what are you worth?” Would you, for instance, get out of bed for £10 an hour, £30 an hour, £150 an hour? (or in salary terms £30k, £50k, £70k or more.) Immediately you would see the intellectual tussle going on behind the eyes – mustn’t appear greedy, but the more the merrier …… but not obscene!! A recent programme about people living alternative lifestyles highlighted the use of barter, payment in kind and not with money. But you still need to value your expertise/work, even if you are simply exchanging your efforts for their hens’ efforts!

In the British Army you knew what everyone was paid as there were published pay scales, and that’s true across all public servants. And in some ways that’s very healthy; there’s no jealousy, no competition around pay per say. I remember when I first joined I was paid £65 a month! But that was in the days you could buy a nice house for £8000! When I left, I had to negotiate with my prospective employer what they thought I was worth, or maybe simply what the job was worth. After I joined I remember looking at other members of the team thinking “I wonder what they get paid?” I hope I am not alone in thinking like this!!

We were in Seattle in June, and there was much talk about Washington State’s minimum wage, and how the city of Seattle was going to raise the minimum wage for non-salaried people within the city to $15, from just under $10 – a 50% increase. (cf with the UK minimum wage for those over 25, of £7.20 an hour from next year) Wonderful idea, you might think. The reality is that those earning more than $15 an hour will get no pay rise ….. and then we get into the whole aspect of “What am I worth?” People are saying:  but I’ve got more experience/better qualifications, so deserve more; I come in early and go home late, so I deserve more; I’ve got a harder job so I deserve more …. more than those on the new minimum wage. You’ve read, I suspect, of the company where the boss decided everyone should be paid the same, including himself, and set that level at US$70,000. Great for those who got an increase, but not for those who got a decrease!

The hospitality industry is one of those where wages are comparatively low and I have grown up expecting to give a little bit extra to the waiter/waitress for good service. It helps, we understand, to supplement their paltry wage. Yesterday evening we went to a small Japanese restaurant in Brighton. It’s not at all pretentious and the food is well cooked. Whilst perusing the menu, I noticed at the bottom the words: “No Service Charge Added to Your Bill. Tipping at your discretion.”  God! It’s confusing! I’ve read recently that the term ‘service charge’ is not to be confused with a tip to your waiter. Sorry? I read it again; the, er, ‘charge for service’ is not a gratuity? So what is it? An overhead for the business? So why not include it in the costs of your meals?

Some years ago I remember having lunch in the English seafood restaurant Wheelers, in London. I opted to pay by credit card, only to find on the bill 12.5% had already added for ‘service’ and then the little blue paper slip had space for ….. a tip! I reflected that this was a somewhat sharp practice!

Why are we expected to award good service only in the hospitality industry? If you had taken your car to the garage for a service, were treated efficiently and well, but when you went to collect it they showed you the bill ….. and invited you to add 10-12% as a tip? I don’t think so! You wouldn’t tip the person taking your money for a tank full of petrol, unless it wasn’t self-service, when you might. So it’s all about the personal interaction with your waiter when you eat out, is it?

We were on the Alaskan ferry MV Colorado in June. The ferry is a State-run enterprise ….. so the staff, in the restaurant for instance, are Government employees. There was a large sign saying: ‘Please do not tip the staff’.  “No government employees are ever allowed to receive tips anywhere in the country. This applies to gifts as well; these are considered bribes, and therefore not acceptable. The government generally pays pretty well and has great benefits, so their employees shouldn’t need to rely on tips anyway.” – a Seattle resident writes.

It takes a while to get your head around this, we are so used to ‘tip’; normally we tip because it’s the ‘done thing to do’, but occasionally we tip because the person waiting on our table is really good at the job. Sometimes we decline to tip because it’s been so bad! The crew on the MV Colombia might have been on a good wage, but what’s so wrong in giving a little something for attentive service? How could I ‘bribe’ the waiter? Or are we ‘tipping’ in the private sector because we know the wages are so low? A recent survey, and you know how accurate ‘they’ are (!) found that the French tipped the least (7%) of all nationalities with the Americans the most generous (13%).

I’ve run out of space, so can’t get on my pet hobby horse, the one with ‘bonus’ written on its backside. Why should you receive a ‘bonus’ for doing your job properly?

This PC is rather muddled, like the thoughts mulling around inside my head. Still, it is what it is, mere scribbles.

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com

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