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Jove fixed it certain that whatever day

Makes man a slave takes half his worth away.

— Homer, The Odyssey



The ancients knew something about managing slaves. They knew it wasn’t all that. Lots of overhead in owning slaves. Whipping them gets to be tiresome. They aren’t very motivated.

The stores and businesses I favor pay a living wage and decent benefits to their employees. This is important to me not because I’m a social justice warrior (I’d make a poor one of those). It’s simply because I am very willing to pay a few extra coins to not be pissed-off and depressed. Money is a tool. I use what little money I have as a tool to avoid anger and depression.

I’ll pay extra to avoid WalMart. Lately I’ve noticed many of their aisles are kept like this:



They didn’t even have the bike tube I was after. I couldn’t find it in this pile of shit. All of the aisles throughout the store looked like piles of shit–though most weren’t quite this bad. Lots of zombies wandering around in blue aprons with some “flair” on them, however. Most looked indifferent and confused.

Maybe armageddon is underway and no one told me. Or maybe it happened already and no one cared. Gated communities are still fine, so the people who matter to marketers are safe.

I don’t expect workers hired into minimum-wage jobs these days to be very motivated. Most at WalMart are given forms to sign up for state and federal welfare benefits the minute they are hired. They’re being told they’re slaves from the get-go: Wards of the state. Not much further to fall after that. Small chance they’ll rise above it, too. Hard to have hopes in life when your shifts keeps changing through the week and you’re only a part-timer. WalMart deliberately keeps their people part-timers to avoid certain employment laws that apply only to full-timers.

On the plus side, if you’re earning a pittance and the government is basically floating you anyway, you find an endless horizon open before you. There’s a great number of opportunities to be a slave for some other “retail concept” managed by MBA’s who worship financial analysis. Get canned at WalMart for doing nothing, walk across the street to Circle K or Mac Donald’s and do nothing for them over there. Wash, rinse, repeat. There will always be people willing to let you work for something close to nothing–and they usually get what they pay for. They do this because it looks good on the financials. Gotta keep the Street happy. Need to get that bonus and buy that boat.

Circle K service and facilities pale in comparison to those of QuikTrip. QuikTrip actually pays a living wage and treats their people rather well. I’ll give QuikTrip the extra quarter for the soda that’s causing my dizziness, irritability, soreness, and spastic colon. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Management Types: Pay shit wages and congratulate yourself on your great financial results while you invest millions in systems and management overhead dedicated to stopping shrinkage and petty theft. Or pay decent wages and give your employees jobs they feel are worth defending, encouraged by being treated as something other than slaves. Happier employees and customers that way, and ultimately better results.

Henry Ford was really kind of a bigoted a-hole. He had a lot of problems. He wasn’t a very nice man. But he wasn’t stupid. Nor was he a lefty communist. He was a gifted businessman who knew something about the velocity of money. He’s still worth emulating in that regard, even in the new hyper-techno-super-ultra-e-online-sharing economy of today.

So you can do it the right way, or you can do it the trickle-down, B-school, “free-market”  (teeheehee) way and use slaves — shifting the burden of your employees off to federal and local governments. Pay as little as possible while convincing the dimwitted among us that it’s the only way you can offer your low, low prices — while they themselves see their real wages shrink. They’re becoming slaves themselves, see?

So, make your choice. I’ve made mine.

Time to get another Diet Coke and some pork rinds at QuickTrip.