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Weekend Thought

I just want to say thank you to the waiter from the diner I ate at last Monday. He was one of the few people that I get to interact with in so called “service sector” jobs who genuinely seemed to take pride in his work. I am sure he was not paid great. But he was enthusiastic about telling us about his favorites from the menu, and he seemed genuinely interested in us and why we chose that place to eat. And I am sure all of us have done work for low wages.

And is it really so awful for me to expect that people ought to take pride in the work they do? Even in my most hated job ever, the actual work I was doing had meaning to me and that was motivation enough to not drag the rest of the world down with me. I’m not perfect of course, and I have still worn dissatisfaction on my sleeve, but that is not precisely the same thing I am talking about.

One Response to “Weekend Thought”

  1. If the waiter seemed interested, he was doing his job well. He may have been genuinely interested (up to a point), as after all, people and their food is the work he chose. Hopefully, you tipped him well. Whether he is “paid great” depends on those tips; and if he impressed you, he probably is paid well. He does not earn the $100,000 a year that you do, but even $30,000/year ($100 per day) is still a living wage for one person. (The ARRA, TARP, etc., money is still washing through the channels of commerce, raising prices for those not in line for the largess.)

    You call his work “service sector.” That is your sector, as well, professor, as you do not actually produce anything. At least that is how economists view it. Myself, I disagree. Both you and the waiter reduce market inefficiencies – which is what an assembly line worker does, as well, of course – which is to say that you produce market efficiencies. We all do. It is an error of academic economics to separate goods and services. In theory, one person can make what another can. Thus, all paid work is service; all purchases are the sale of cash for services.

    (You might quibble about your pay. I understand university wages. I point to the package. Completing a master’s last year, I had two professors who had had hips replaced courtesy of the university healthcare benefits.)

    I have worked in automotive production, trucking, and, most recently, private security. My general experience is that people at the bottom of the pay scale actually do like their jobs. It is the people at the top who find their work unsatisfying and drop out to find themselves.

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