Friday, July 13, 2012

What Do You MEAN The Store’s Closed? It’s Only 6pm And I Need My New I-Pod!

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I’ve recently been abroad to the Old World and I must say that there are some things that America could learn from Europe about work.  It was enough to almost make me not get on that plane back to the States.  So, what was so great about it?  I suppose the major point is the fact that the hours seem to be better.  Now, granted, this is a statement about the places I explored while in Europe.  I know not every country in Europe is the same.  So take this info with a grain of salt.
Nearly every single store seems to close no later than 7pm.  Not only that but a lot of stores (that aren’t bakeries) don’t even open until 9am.  I know a lot of coworkers who wouldn’t mind getting out by 7pm on a Friday night.  I can’t tell you how many family gatherings that would’ve allowed me to catch the last few hours of, at the very least.  And when you think about it, what store – other than pharmacies or convenience stores – need to be open past 7pm, anyway?  If you can’t buy your 50” TV by 7pm then maybe it wasn’t meant to be.  If your washer broke down just take your clothes to a Laundromat.  If your cellphone died on you then enjoy the silence and pick up a book.

And forget about finding anything open on a Sunday.  Good GOD!  Forget the point if you’re religious or not but if God could rest on the 7th day, why can’t retail workers?
Do you know what people in Europe do on Sundays?  They spend the day relaxing and enjoying the world around them.  Novel concept, I know.  Parks were filled with people.  Caf├ęs were bustling with friends catching up with one another.  Streets were more jam-packed with bicyclists than motorists.  People. Just. Slowed. Down.  If they had a 40” TV, they don’t seem to need to rush right out when the 60” version comes out three months later.
It seems like everyone is in such a rush in the States to go from 1 store to the other and by the end of the day, how many of you actually feel like you’ve accomplished a lot for the time you spent running around?  I’ve said it before but whenever I hear customers say that they’re just shopping around and plan to go to 4-5 other stores on their Sunday, I just think, “Why?”  In the day and age of the Internet, just go home, sit out in the backyard, enjoy a cup of lemonade, and look up what you want to buy online.  Even if you don’t want to buy it online and insist on going into a store, at least you know what’s out there before you go out.  This way, instead of going to five million stores, you can just go to 1-2.  Plus, nowadays, it seems like every store is so desperate for your business that they’ll offer price-match guarantees on their items so even if you don’t think you got the best deal, you can still go in after you buy it and get the difference back if it goes down.
I never want to spend a whole day at stores.  If a store has what I want and I know it’s within what I want to spend, I get it.  I’m not going to spend my time and gasoline on trying to save $10.  Life’s too short for that bullshit.
Another bonus of working in Europe – and I know this has its drawbacks, too – is the amount of vacations one can get at many places of employment.  You hear it in jokes on late night comedy talk shows about how they get 6 months vacation out of the year and how even the slightest hint of taking away 1 day from their vacation times will insight massive riots throughout Europe.  But what I want to know is, when life IS so short and when most people work themselves to death and have to deal with mounds of bullshit in their everyday life, why NOT have 6 weeks – HELL, even 4 weeks – of vacation time?
People need to unwind and 2-3 weeks vacation time and a few personal days spattered throughout the year isn’t always enough.  Especially if you work in retail.  Imagine what you can see and do with 4-6 weeks of vacation time!  However, this goes hand-in-hand with pay.  People in retail jobs in the States need to be paid a living wage and not the bullshit most hourly workers get in order to do something useful with those vacation hours.  I hear a lot of stories from people who just take vacation hours to sit around the house.  But why??  Even if it’s just to go into the city or visit family in the next state, that’s still being able to get out and explore the world.  Or at least do something useful with your time at home (like start a blog! Ha).
There are a lot of things wrong with Europe – as there is with any place on the globe – but recognizing people need time to get away from work isn’t one of them.  And for those who say that despite the fact many jobs pay more than their U.S. counterparts they get taxed more, I say, “So what?”  They might get taxed more but, generally speaking, those taxes go toward universal health coverage in many countries (look out, it’s “socialism”!).  It goes towards better roads and other infrastructure projects (without being labeled wasted government jobs.  Yeah, I hate driving on smooth roads and having bridges not collapse).  It goes towards renewable energy sources (“Oh, look at those UGLY windmills!  I’d rather have those power plants that churn out the billowing smoke in my backyard.” – some random U.S. politician).
Okay, I shall leave it there for now.  I will probably pick back up on this topic when I have more time to delve deeper.  I just needed to get out of my writing slump.  Hey look, I’m up to 1750 page views!  Thanks to everyone reading this rambling mess.  Hope you’ve found it amusing.  Tell your friends and family!
More soon from the frontlines...