business news in context, analysis with attitude

We’ve had a couple of stories this week about the twin issues of “working off the clock” and “what defines management.” The stories focused on a pair of lawsuits – one against Wal-Mart for allegedly forcing employees to miss breaks and work off the clock, and the other against Starbucks as store managers seek compensation, saying that they are just glorified baristas who have been classified as managers so that the company doesn’t have to pay them overtime.

I have to be honest – I never really thought of these two stories as being about the same thing, but the emails sort of suggested that there is a connection.

One MNB user suggested that part of the problem was that employee commitment has waned as the company has grown, and wrote:

As a once hourly associate of Wal-Mart and now in management, I can relate to how working off the clock existed in the past. I used to work off the clock a lot, but not due to anyone forcing me, mostly because you felt so dedicated to get your job done you did not want to disappoint anyone. I had toured my department several times with Sam Walton and that leadership passed down through many mangers.

Another MNB user wrote:

Shame on you for exposing the "dirty little secret" that most/all retail box stores try to keep below the radar. Apply for a managerial position at a national chain retailer and you'll find that the minimum expectation is 50 hours a week. Of course no overtime after 40 hours because you will be salaried. Then expect to actually work 55-60 hours a week to cover for the lack of hourly wage employees necessary to run the operation.

Most managers are too busy running a cash register to actually manage anything. The only thing you'll get in lieu of salaried overtime is a less than meaningful title in charge of a department or system. As for customer service, forget it.


Regarding people reporting varying degrees of difficulty with online shopping, one MNB user wrote:

Have any of these e-commerce purchasing surveys removed airline ticket purchases. I purchase very little on the web except airline tickets because of return policies and mailing hassles. Also, unlike you, I do not appreciate getting e-mails about products they think I might like. I must admit that I am older, 64, and I did have great difficulty with 45 minutes to order a book to send to a different address. I found their online help connection by accident but in fairness once the tech called me I felt pretty silly for having not seen how to do the ordering. In addition, I like to get out of the house and go to Borders and peruse books.

On the subject of Tesco’s expansion plans, and my guesses about where it might go in the future, MNB user Alexander Ntekim wrote:

I would love for Fresh & Easy to come to Texas!!! The problem is like you said though - it would take some real guts to take on HEB and Whole Foods (in their home state of all places)... not to mention Wal-Mart, Super Target, Kroger, Safeway-owned Randalls, Albertsons, Fiesta Mart, Costco, Sam's Club, and Save-a-Lot (this is Houston and Dallas alone). Don't get me started on the endless list of independents Fresh & Easy would have to hold off.

Think I'm over exaggerating? Just ask Winn-Dixie.

MNB user Michael F. Parker wrote:

In the history of food retail in the US, no company in specialty has been something for everybody. Correct me if I’m wrong!

If the British invasion succeeds, then Tesco will be the most brilliant specialty food retailer in history. I really doubt this, given the arrogance of the British leadership and the large exit rate of American players.

Responding to a story about environmental influences that add to the childhood obesity epidemic, one MNB user wrote:

Am I the only one here who is sick & tired of hearing "there is no easy answer.” Yes, there is. It's not a "fun" answer, but it truly is easy. Get off your duff & DO SOMETHING. You're only fat because you sit at the TV, PS2, Xbox, etc. If you had cows to milk, hogs to slop, or cement to pour, you'd be a lot.... but I digress.

Anyway, if your kid can't live without an ipod/mp3/cell phone/etc. , then at least make it a hand-cranked model. Tie their PS2 to a Schwinn Airdyne & we could power the WORLD!

It's simple economics... put more out than you take in. Easy!

But sometimes, reality intercedes, as another MNB user wrote:

I would LOVE to have the time after dinner for a bike ride or a game of soccer! Unfortunately with both of us working full time – most nights we aren’t home until 6 pm. Then the mad rush is on to cook dinner, do homework, take baths and have some family time before our kids 8 pm bedtime. But still – being a responsible parent isn’t rocket science. It takes some work – but healthy, FUN lunches can be done. We send grilled cheese sandwiches (yes – cold); cucumber sandwiches; hot dogs or Mac & Cheese (sent in a thermos to keep warm); 100% juice boxes; fat free pudding; applesauce; yogurt; grapes, raw baby carrots and apple slices with our children to school almost everyday. We’ve had to become very creative since they attend a “Nut free” school. They are allowed to “buy” lunch every now and then (usually a pizza day). Do they get to have junk food? Of course they do. We have chips, ice cream, kids cereal, etc. in the house. We just strive for balance and moderation.

For the record, we do eat dinner together every night, television is only allowed on the weekends and we try to have them involved is some kind of physical activity (soccer, dance, swimming, etc). We are not wealthy, nor are we the “earthy, crunchy” type. We will be the first to tell you we aren’t perfect parents. We are just trying to do the best we can to raise healthy, happy kids. Sure it takes a lot of work, but that is all part of parenting. Who said it was supposed to be easy?

Can I hear an “Amen”?
KC's View: