Reading the excellent commentary about wages on Dec. 15 (“Why are wages so slow to grow in a tight labor market?), plus a recent experience, makes me feel the need to tell a story.
Years ago we owned and operated a small restaurant with reasonable, family prices, in a ski resort town. We had a full, good staff and we paid upscale wages. Ski season was upon us, and there were five fewer dishwashers in town than jobs. Someone offered $2 more an hour. Then five other restaurants were short staff. In the end, dishwashers earned more like $10 an hour than the “standard” $5. (It was a long time ago.) That’s how supply and demand works.
Recently I told a store manager that more cashiers were needed. The manager said it was impossible for them to hire more cashiers, they were short-staffed and could do nothing to fix the temporary problem. She actually sounded as if I would feel sorry for the store, which pays better than they used to, low-end wages.
Wrong! The way to hire in a tight market is to raise hourly pay. The employees at the bottom of the skills chart need to earn a living wage, no matter how much that is or whether you will make “enough” profit. The other option is unhappy customers who will shop elsewhere. And yes, paying higher wages may result in higher prices for what you sell.
Linda Johnson, Millcreek