Sunday, January 19, 2014

We Clean Our Own Office - Or - Utterly Shameful!

We clean our own office---uh, actually, the staff cleans our office. Seven years ago, when we moved in---when we left the parent company and struck out on our own---my partners and I assumed we'd hire a cleaning service to tidy up the place at the end of each day, like the old company did. Well, after receiving a few quotes---to clean our moderate-sized facility housing nine individuals---we scratched our heads in puzzlement (seriously we each sat there scratching our heads). While I can't remember the exact numbers, suffice it to say that hiring a maid-service made no sense to us. As it stands the place always seems to sparkle, and I don't even know when Gladys and the gang gets to it (the bathroom, btw, is out in the common area and not our responsibility).

Yeah, I know, my bad. You'd think an investment consultant, business owner who writes on the economy would have thoroughly explored the question of productivity---of having handsomely-paid staff perform menial labor. As you'll see in a second---not that this answers the productivity question---we have unusual staff.

Now, let's say there's a teenager living in the apartment complex down the street who could use a few extra bucks for himself, or to help his parent(s) make ends meet. How refreshing would it be for the young fella to garner the courage to walk over to our complex and knock on a few doors? He might wander into our office and inquire as to whether we'd consider hiring him to clean up the place a few days a week. I'd have to ask Gladys to know for sure, but I'm guessing that---to do a job worthy of remuneration---it'd take one person at least 3 hours each time. Beginning this July 1st, the minimum wage in California will be $9 per hour. It's currently $8, but knowing that it's about to become $9 (then $10 on January 1, 2016), I'm calculating $9. So, assuming 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, we'd be spending (forgetting payroll taxes to keep it simple) about $350 a month (roughly $400 come 1/1/16). Actually, that doesn't sound half bad. However, knowing Gladys (my admin assistant/office manager for the past 20+ years) she'd tell me "NO WAY!" (she's remarkably responsible with her employer's money, and she's not to be crossed). She and the rest of the staff seem to have a system that works (and there's no cleaning a bathroom), and nobody's complaining.

Now, what if we and the unemployed teenager were unshackled by the minimum wage law? What if he came a knocking and opened negotiations with, say, a $9 an hour offer? Being that I'd have no choice but to have Gladys handle it, $9 would be a definite no, as would $8, and as would, I strongly suspect, $7. But when we get to $6 or $5, and Gladys starts thinking what else she and the others might be doing with whatever time they spend cleaning, the young man just might have a shot at making a few bucks and, more importantly, knowing what it's like to have a job, to learn responsibility, to take pride in his work, in his tenacity, in his self-sufficiency, to learn how to deal with a tough, hard-nosed boss (that would be Gladys), etc. I'm seriously getting goosebumps as I type!

But, damn!, reality just set in. It's not going to happen. Not because there's no willing teenager next door---not because there's no price low enough to get Gladys's attention---but because one of the most discriminatory laws on the books entirely destroys the opportunity. It's utterly shameful!

I know what you're thinking, fast food. That's what I did after school (Der Wienerschnitzel) my junior year for something like $2.75 an hour. And there is a Taco Bell just around the corner. A Taco Bell with a franchisee who, I assure you, is trying to figure out how to handle the coming increase in his labor costs.

My little example here is the kind of situation studies---the ones, that is, promoted by proponents of raising the minimum wage---altogether miss. They're not looking at firms like ours whose employees earn way above minimum wage. Firms that might indeed, for the right price, bring in a part-time unskilled worker. They're not considering (or not disclosing, or they're explaining away) the fact that while the nearby Taco Bell franchisee may (let's hope) find other ways (other than laying off workers) to compensate for the hit to labor costs---the odds of that needy, unskilled, unemployed teenager getting hired on will diminish have diminished (California's already done it) greatly.  Again, it's utterly shameful!!


  1. Marty, I hope with the monthly savings - you treat your office TEAM cleaners to a nice lunch out for their extra efforts?
    Nice way to get your point across and attract my attention to read on!!

    Happy Sunday!

  2. Back in the 2009-2011 era when I was trying to sell my vacant condo in downtown Denver after moving out to the Lake Tahoe area, I got a relatively inexpensive cleaning service to come in twice a month and knock the dust off of the furniture we'd left in-place to stage the place for sale. Then they unionized and, with their new prices and no inexpensive alternative that I could find, it was actually cheaper for me to grab a cheap airline ticket with some advance planning and fly back and do it myself once a month, compliments of a fairly decent transit system that didn't cost an arm and a leg to shuttle the 30 miles out to DEN airport. And as an aside, I also got to eat a meal or two at my all-time favorite Mexican restaurant down the street from the condo.

  3. Your Comments: Well said....You sure you don't want to run for Mayor or Governor :-)
    How are we going to turn all of this nonsense around? Laura