If you’ve been following my blog I’ve written about how I grew up in government housing and my mistakes with my finances when I finished college. During college my mother had moved to Texas for a year due to the high cost of living in Hawaii. I joined her in the summer and got a job as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. I would go into work at 10am, work until 2pm and stay at the restaurant for “rest” between 2 to 4pm. I would then work again from 4 to 10pm five days a week, for that I would earn $2.10 an hour plus tips. With the tips and the 14 hour work days it averaged out to $8 an hour. It was hard grueling work, the kitchen was manned by all illegal Mexicans except one guy who was legal. I knew this because when the health inspector came around it was only him and the owner cooking, the rest of the crew was absent.
With my determination and strong work ethic I had a plan for the long hours and grueling work. So I did what any determined American would do, I quit. Before I quit I had gotten a job at Walmart as a cashier paying $7.25 an hour. We lived a quarter of a mile from the Walmart and had only one car so I walked to work. (When I have children and tell them this story the walk to Walmart will become a Lincolnesque 2 mile walk.) Some of my coworkers who saw me walking would sometimes pick me up, a few of them felt sorry for me that I had to walk to work.
$7.25 an hour at that time was a dollar over minimum wage. Just showing up on time and not stealing anything put me in the top 15% of cashiers. The biggest theft at retail isn’t from customers, it’s from the employees who let friends and family steal. I would often bring lunch from home which baffled my coworkers as they would all eat there. It didn’t make sense to me that they would spend $10 a meal which was nearly two hours of work. If you worked 8 hours with lunch, snacking, and the driving associated with the job you would net only 5.5 hours of pay once you paid that all out.
Working at a nearly minimum wage job meant devoting your entire life to it. My schedule was made weekly, so I didn’t know what shifts or time I would be working . I would often work 39 hours on various days so they wouldn’t have to pay me benefits, although when they were short I would sometimes get 60 hours. Since I was in college couldn’t care less about health insurance, but for others they had to get several part time jobs to survive. Here’s some of the sad truth: Someone in their 40s who makes minimum wage there is a reason why they make that. Often not the smartest person and even simple tasks like scanning was a struggle.
There were two girls I would try to flirt with. One was receptive, but since our schedules didn’t match up we couldn’t hang out. Plus I was always physically tired so I wouldn’t even know what to do ( I don’t know how some guys can do the unhook the bra with one hand, that takes talent) The other told me to ask her out only after I finished college and got a “real” job because I was actually worse off than anyone there because I had negative net worth with my student loans. She was right, if I dropped out of college with my at the time $18,000 in student loans I would be worse off than the average Walmart employee. I couldn’t find love in Walmart.
Some of my young coworkers were going to college, while most had no plan. They were actually more concerned about getting a new car, rims or saving to go on a nice vacation. That summer I had never worked so hard in my entire life. I was extremely grateful for that experience, because that reminded me that the world is full of shitty jobs and busting ass as a poor student wasn’t one of them.
I’m blessed that I now make more in a day than I made in an entire week at Walmart. When I need to work 50-60 hours a week at my job I remember that it’s more rewarding than working those hours at Walmart. My experiences there is a major reason why I’ve stayed with my company for 15 years, I’ve come out farther ahead job hopping for higher pay. With tenure and demonstrating my value I’ve been fortunate never to have been laid off, something that could’ve happen if I job hopped. If it wasn’t for my Walmart job experience I most likely would slack off and take my job for granted, or worse constantly complain about my job. My colleagues think they have stress, stress is trying to live on $7.25 an hour.
What job shaped your work experience or define you? How exactly does someone find love in Walmart?