Friday, December 17, 2010

"Is This What We're Reduced To?" or A Conversation Overheard

I'm still not seeing this recovery we are supposed to be in. None of my customers are feeling it either. I haven't once had someone come through my line and say, "I'm buying extra for a party to celebrate my promotion. My company can't find enough people to hire for all the work that needs to be done." Nope, that's not going to happen.

I have a regular customer, probably in her late fifties to early sixties, who used to work at a store in the next shopping plaza. I think they went through some management changes and the entire crew lost their jobs for new hires at one point. This is something that some companies will do occasionally instead of letting new management work with the group already employed to see who their good employees are. The last time she was in she told me her unemployment ran out and she was desperate. She said she qualifies for some program that will give her $325.00 per month. Can you live on $325.00 per month?

A cook from a restaurant spoke with me yesterday. He said he was grateful for a job in food service because people are still eating. Several of his friends and family are about to lose their unemployment benefits.

Two women, most likely in their mid fifties, stopped in front of my counter to converse a few days ago. They told each other where they had applied, how many interviews they had been on, and how many resumes they had sent out. Each was involved with a very extensive job search. They were professional and they definitely were not slackers. One told a story of how after the interview she was offered a position helping to unload a truck when needed. She was told that she would only be called in when there was a need for extra help and she would only get two to five hours if they needed her at minimum wage. She said, "Is this what we're reduced to? Are we just occasional stock boys to them?"

Tonight I overheard a loud conversation by the exit door. One young man who I know has been on unemployment was almost pleading with another man. "I don't care, it's a job." he said, "I'll do anything. I'll work for five dollars an hour."


  1. My goodness, those stories just break my heart.

  2. Well I am 54 and have been unemployed for 15 months now. Good thing my husband still has his job and we are living on our meager savings to make ends meet. No unemployment for me because I wasn't at that last job long enough to collect any and before that I had quit my job to take care of my Mom who had cancer and dementia.

  3. Every single time I hear these stories I clutch my job that much closer. Sure, I'm underpaid. Sure I work for no OT. But it's a job and the check never bounces. We do what we have to when we're pressured.

  4. WP, I am conflicted about the recession in a way. We went through a deep (and I mean deep) recession back in the early 1980's where I live. That recession came on the heels of a huge boom in the oil and gas industry. Many young guys I was going to high school with quit school to go work in the oil patch. Building was crazy all over - and then the government set up a program to control oil prices and instantly we were in a recession with double digit unemployment that lasted for 10 years. You could apply to a job and have 250 applicants also vying for it. And not a great job either. I went and worked up north for awhile myself in a remote camp just to have work.

    Most people I know that lived through that period have come out more conservative with their finances. They know the bubble could burst at any time without notice. I constantly think that myself even though we're not experiencing a recession where I live. But I still fear that mortgage rates could go up without notice since they're more national or tied to US rates. I fear that inflation will occur and am prepared to drop my own spending down to essentials if that happens. I save more out of that fear.

    So I don't know that the recession we went through was entirely a bad thing?

  5. I am with Sandy@Yes I am Cheap. I get scared easily. I am grateful to have job. I am sooo grateful! Just last week my friend's husband lost his job. Right before Christmas!

  6. No safety net in this country...I will never stop being scared. Thank heavens I have frugal skills.

  7. Diane, Lyza, I wish I had made up these stories. I really wish I had.

    Anonymous, I hear of people in your situation every day. I know it won't make you feel better just to know you have company in an awful situation. Just hang in there and know we're thinking of you.

    Sandy, Aloysa, Frugal Scholar, yes I too am grateful to have a job. It's not exactly where I want to be and many days I am miserable but I'm still grateful.

    Jacq, you are right that there have been a few positive points to the recession. You have to look hard but they are there. A renewed sense of family and community in a disconnected world, empathy, and a resurgence of thriftiness in a spendthrift society. Any others?

  8. This is just more proof that the economy is in the toilet! So sad and so discouraging.

    I have been 33 many times but I thank God every time I drop a paper that A/I have the physical ability to carry newspapers and B/I have the opportunity to work, even at 2 AM.

    Keep writing, dear one. The desperation this crummy economy has brought on needs to stay at the top of peoples' awareness. Unless we are informed, things cannot change.

    I personally believe we are ONE with each other...whatever happens to one of us happens to ALL of us.

    May everyone feel love and warmth during this Christmas season and into the New Year.

    ~Mother Connie

  9. I read this column on msn and followed it to this blog.
    It was such a relief to read this column, as it is what I am experiencing also. Hearing on the news that "the recession is over"...I had begun to wonder if I was the only one whom it had bypassed. Thanks for your candor.