retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of the full-time legislation making its way through the Congress, one MNB user wrote:

A debate can and will be had about the number needed to be eligible for “full-time” designation, but it’s clear that the intention was to prevent employers – in all sorts of industries -- from dropping their full-time people down from 40 to 30 hours just so that they weren’t eligible for benefits.  Altering that number will create opportunities for employers to do just that – cut payroll hours and health benefits while increasing the number of employees that can be defined as part-time.

The other side of your statement – that only people working 40-50 or more hours will be “successful” really confuses me.  What does that mean? They’ll be rewarded and promoted because of the number of hours they punched in for? Perhaps in some companies, but the number of hours one works should hardly an indicator of any loyalty or success they may earn or receive in return.

In this economy, often with little choice, many Americans make ends meet with multiple part-time jobs. Their success should be measured largely by the quality of their work performance. 

Today’s economy includes over 8 million part-time workers in a variety of industries, with the retail food industry among many that are dependent on those workers.

You state that 40-50 hours “is what it takes to be successful,” right after your quote of Ms. Sarasin insisting that full-time should be a much higher number than 30 hours. She wants a broader definition of part-time staff so as to have fewer full-timers in her industry, while you’re saying that only people working 40-50 hours can gain success.

The vast majority of customer-facing staff in the food industry is part-time. I’m wondering what message a well-intentioned part-timer who wants to work her way up the ladder in the food industry would take away from all of this.

On the same subject, from another reader:

I am not sure you gave much thought to this response regarding insurance coverage for workers. Not all but certainly most employers will do their best to avoid providing health insurance to workers. I am now retired but Full-time in our country has always meant 40 hours, never more than that.Has that changed in the last few years? During my working life, management was expected to work however many hours it took to get the job done and was or should have been paid with that in mind. I was in management for the last 30 or so working years and for most of those years worked 50-60 hours a week, until the last two years. I was successful (in my mind anyway). However, most of our employees worked 40 hours for a salary and were given extra pay for any work over 40 hours or compensatory time off.  These people were ALSO successful and did great jobs. Some people work 30 hours a week and are successful, others 20 because that is there wish. In mu opinion, Success does not come in hours worked nor is it measured by anyone other than the individual. We all have differing views of success. 

The medical insurance problems we have in this country are another issue and I separate those issues from my comments on your view of success above.

The reason the ACA made 30 hours full time was to get more people into the insurance pool which would help lower premium costs. I am sure that many companies made sure that 29 hours was max for employees so insurance coverage could avoided. The minute the law goes to 40 you will see employers reducing some of their  workers hours to 35- 39, not management. Most management positions have medical coverage as that is a “perk” to keep good people. Look at what our retail grocery industry did slowly over the years with cashiers, stockers and other workers, reducing fill time positions to part time and you know why. benefit payment reduction. I am one of those who think we do need to go to a single payer system where everyone is covered. Not sure but I think medical bills remains the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the United States and that should not be. No one should lose everything because they or someone in their family got sick. Of course, this is a political and ethical issue different from what success is. It is sad that many successful people are ruined because of medical issues. To be fair, my views are tinted as  I watched my step-father’s life be destroyed because of illness to three children in one year. He never recovered financially but he sure was a successful human being.

And another:

Of course FMI wants to raise the full time hours to 40.  They want grocery stores  to have the freedom to hire lots of part time people and not offer a job with a dependable number of hours to most of their employees.  I occasionally hire cashiers who worked at a well known chain and I learned from them that the schedule they get depends upon how available they have been beyond their scheduled hours.  So if the Front End manager has a sick out, she calls other part time cashiers not on the schedule to get the empty spot filled.  Totally fine.  However, if the part timer says no to the call, his hours are cut back in the next schedule cycle.  The store seems to treat these employees like full timers but does not want to pay them like full timers.  Punishing employees for not being willing to come in on a day off seems unfair. Of course, if they are never available to fill in, that is a problem. But that problem is often caused by the need for a second part time job....

ACA does not imagine that 30 hours is a full time job; it just is set up to get health insurance for more people.  At my store we offer health insurance to any staff member who works 20 hours or more a week.

As I said above, I think my comments the other day were too glib and not nearly well-thought-through enough.

My comments about 40-50 hours reflected my feeling that I don't know anyone who is really successful who works less than 50 hours a week ... but, upon reflection, that's actually irrelevant to the discussion. We're talking about people who often want as many hours as they can get, but are being limited, often because employers prefer to have part-time workers who, they think, cost them less in the long run.

That's an interesting perspective, because I think the opposite argument actually can hold some water. Sure, there may be lower short-term expenses attached to a part-time worker. But is there faster turnover among part-timers? And resultant higher training costs? And does this mean that the front-line people in stores who are responsible for being the face of the retailer end up being people who are less committed to the mission, more focused on finding another, better-paying job? Is it possible that when you look at the big picture, these part-timers end up costing their employers more than insurance coverage would have?

I suspect that there are number crunchers on both sides of this discussion who would come up with statistics to support their positions. My feeling is that if I ran a store, I'd want to assemble a team, not just a bunch of part-timers with competing priorities. And I think one of the ways you do that is with benefits, and for a lot of people, that includes health care.

I understand why all these trade associations and businesses are making this argument. But I also think that there is a good argument that it could be a short-sighted approach.

I wrote the other day about Starbucks' new Flat White drink, which led MNB user Jason Bullock to write:

I was in Starbucks this morning and inquired to the manager about the item and exactly what it was.  She explained it similar to your post, but she did stress that it is made with whole milk.  I am a non-fat, no foam latte drinker so I inquired if you could sub skim milk in.  She stated "Unfortunately, no".  This caught me by surprise as one thing that has always drawn me to my favorite coffee place was the ability to customize your drink to pretty much anything you want that was behind the counter.  The reasoning was to keep the intended flavor profile intact.

It will be interesting to see how long this stays on the menu with a lack of customization options or if the mindset will change and you can get a 'skinny flat white'.

MNB reader John J. Toner V had one, and wrote:

It’s amazing.

Point taken.

We had a story the other day about how they are building an underground beer pipelines in Bruges, Belgium, prompting one MNB reader to advise me:

Many years ago my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon in Bruges. Put this on your list of places to go w/ Mrs. Content Guy before you die. She will appreciate the fine lace and chocolate. You can stand around waiting for a pipe burst.

Actually, my wife hates lace. Loves chocolate, though. And, bless her heart, beer.

MNB reader Ted File had some thoughts about the list of retail rules for the new year:

Here are the 3 elements that I would like to add to yours.

Personality:   How do retailers/manufacturers retain the personality of their company day in and day out. "The boss is coming tomorrow" so department heads, stockers, clerks, bag persons etc.......get going and make our store no. 1.   Personality is what it is.....maybe the owners..i.e. a Dee Smith, Joe Albertson, etc.

Consistency:   What we are today is what we need to be tomorrow.  Having walked through many retailer's stores I've found that their operations i.e.: meat looks great on Friday but what happens the rest of the week?   Clerks working stock and keeping the shelves in stock 24/7.

Maintenance:   Floors, equipment working 24/7; checkers always with a smile and "thank you."

And from MNB reader Kathleen Whelan, regarding the judge's decision to overturn California's ban on foie gras:

Foie Gras illustrates everything (well, not everything) that's wrong with our society.  Take some animals who know when they have eaten enough to sustain them, and force them - painfully - to eat too much.  Then kill them and sell the foie gras at outrageous prices to rich folks who have money to burn while other folks can barely afford to eat at all.


Ugh is right.
KC's View: