The trials and tribulations of working minimum wage jobs

Header image for the article The trials and tribulations of working minimum wage jobs Credit: MANTOSH
Currently, minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35 per hour, and is set to rise in Jan. of 2022 to $15.

Remember when you were preparing for an interview for your first job? You thought about your skills and how they’d be beneficial to the employer. You basically worked on persuading your future employer into thinking that you’re the ideal candidate for that specific position. When they asked why you wanted to work at a fast-food restaurant or in retail, you had to tell them something convincing, like you enjoyed multi-tasking and working with people.

But it wasn’t until you were actually employed that you realized how much you absolutely hated multi-tasking and people.

I’ve worked in various industries that paid a living wage. Along with that, like most people, I also have stories about being mistreated by management and customers, battling safety hazards at work, and much more. But throughout every shift and workplace, I gained a lot too. I learned and enhanced my skills in time management, communication, organization, problem solving, and more.

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On multiple occasions, I remind myself how truly grateful I am to be employed here in a country like Canada. In many parts of the world, there are limited resources, rules, and regulations to protect employees. Although the country does struggle with subsidizing injured workers, equal pay, and other labour-related issues, it still exceeds other nations with respect to working conditions.

How we see minimum wage

At times, I become attentive as to how locals view minimum wage jobs, both as employees and as customers.

A specific event that stood out to me was when a customer at my retail job was trying on clothes and tossing them on the floor. When her boyfriend went to pick them up after her she glanced over at me and said, “babe, why are you picking those up? That’s their job.”

It was hurtful. Although I’m only a part-time worker, I imagined how upsetting it would’ve been if she had said that in front of an employee who was dependent on this job for their living expenses. And that’s just a minor example of some of the things retail workers hear.

Furthermore, the corporation that I’m employed with has implemented a reward system. It is free of charge and is intended to help customers receive discounts on their purchases. When beginning to mention the program, most customers cut off my coworkers and me by yelling, “No! I just want to pay and get out of here!” The only time they’re willing to listen to us is when we mention anything about discounts and coupons. Following our spiel, they become enraged when there aren’t any coupons available when they feel entitled to a discount.

From all this, I mentally gathered how some locals feel about their time and money. Their thoughts and feelings reflect on their spending, patience and how they treat employees. Each customer sets their own expectations for the workers. Some individuals demand immediate assistance, while others favour approaching workers for help when needed.

As workers, we receive training on utilizing the cash register, fitting room protocols, Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS), health and safety, and basic customer service. The rest, we improvise and learn from one another, while doing our best to assist customers with purchases, cleaning, finding products, returns, and more.

Currently, minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35 per hour, and is set to rise in Jan. of 2022 to $15.

Although it is an increase in pay, there may be economical consequences and effects in consumer consumption. In essence, any effects on prices will influence how minimum wage workers are treated.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.