Ugh, this rubs me the wrong way. In reflection I think I come from a very different pole of this retail sphere, where the examples above are mostly related to a) larger stores/companies and b) larger, one time purchases. Whereas I spent years managing a fine wine shop where a) we were small and independently owned and b) we were looking to cultivate repeat customers on (relatively) smaller purchases. But that does make me want to point out this difference, that maybe there's room for asking and discounting in some areas of commerce, but not all. I completely resented the people who asked for freebies or discounts or what have you. The majority of them ask in a way that is entitled, arrogant, and really hammers down exactly where I stand in their hierarchy - at the bottom, at their service. When the owners take home as much money as the customers (or less), and they're often in the shop themselves, there is something not just rude, but downright personal about asking for special treatment for no reason other than because you're a "good guy" or just because you have the gall to ask. But you know who does get perks and such? Actual good guys. You become a regular, you treat me like a human, you're kind and considerate to the people who work at the store and other customers alike, guess what? You get free bottles, you get a "just because" discount, you get a free wine key, you get to sample the stupidly expensive bottle we have open in the kitchen, you get let in after hours to grab a few extra bottles for your party and you get to take them on the honor system because I truly know and believe you're a good guy who's good for it. Again, I realize it's a different world from the Best Buys and Nordstroms out there, but some people need reminding of that, and perhaps should consider the benefits of shopping small.
I wish there was a little more coworker solidarity on this front. I've always struggled with being the only one in a small business or on a small team who takes sick days or outright refuse to do unnecessary extra work, even though I know my coworkers complain about not being "able" to do those things. We all drive around (outside sales) and when it's going to drop a foot of snow starting at 2pm, I have the attitude that I'm not a hero, and I'm not saving lives, so I take myself off the road before the snow starts, and do what I can from home. My coworkers, on the other hand, keep working and end up stuck on the highway for three hours trying to get home. They all call me, bored and angry in their cars, but there's direct and indirect pressure to work work work and very few are willing to stand up to that and say enough is enough. Therefore I end up looking like the only one who isn't "working," and my manager gets angry that I'm not "putting in as much" as the others, despite the fact that my numbers are fantastic. He can't just look at the numbers and be happy that I'm up up up, he needs to believe I'm putting in the hours.
Did you know that I'm going through this right this very moment?! I see myself in almost every story above, most recently telling someone that my top need for a new job is to work for "good people." I'm interviewing a little and trying my best to not let the crazy come out, but my current manager has warped my thinking and I know I'm in the danger zone, mentally and emotionally. As a 100% sales commissioned salesperson, and my direct manager having power over my accounts, it's gone beyond bullying and is affecting my paycheck - he's sabotaging some accounts, unfairly taking me out of others, and to top it off when he's at his worse and I'm having a low point, I have panic attacks that sideline me and only make the money situation bleaker. What's the worst, though? Not having HR at my company, knowing that the majority of upper management will not my sympathetic, and essentially having no support at work other than my colleagues. It's also not easy looking for a job when you're this desperate, thankfully I've got a lot of smart friends, both in my industry and outside of it, who help keep me objective, encouraged, and healthy.
Post grad-school, fall of 2008, when it became painfully obvious that job searching was a joke, I began my three years of retail management. I had always worked retail and service jobs through high school and college, but always part-time, no more than 20 hours a week unless school was out and demand was high. Now I was working 45+ hours a week, and managing that puzzle of a schedule. I, too, view my leaving as an escape, and the thought of returning to it is akin to failure. I hated how people reacted when I told them what I did, real or perceived judgment feels the same. You start to surround yourself with similar people because 1) the hours and 2) because they "got it," but it doesn't allow you to network for potential "real" jobs and you feel like you're falling down a retail rabbit hole. Not all of it was bad. I took pride in helping people solve their own problems, large and small. I met some really great people between employees, customers, venders, etc. Once I settled into the job I enjoyed having a mental break compared to grad school. But it doesn't pay enough, there's never the budget for enough staff, corporate stores will suck out your soul, and customers will break you.
I had to have a sort of breakup with my bodega when I moved to a new neighborhood. He always had my wine, cold cans of diet coke, and other specialities for me, and noticed every time I backed off for a few days. I thought about disappearing, but felt that I owed him a goodbye after three mostly pleasant years. He still gets excited and gives me hugs when we run into each other, thankfully that's a once a year occurrence, if that.
I had a similar allowance structure, with some key differences. After my childhood having a chore system where I got paid a quarter to unload the dishes, or a $1 for cleaning the kitty litter, by late middle school my parents actually made me make a budget of sorts. I had to estimate what I needed for a year, how much I would spend on clothing, toiletries, entertainment, etc. The only thing not included would be food, as food was a family expense, and anything "educationally related," like school trips and clarinet things. (reeds are expensive) This budget went through several drafts - do you really need this much money for shoes? why is your hair cut so expensive? you're not taking into consideration this for your entertainment budget - and when the parents were happy with the budget, we essentially broke that down to a biweekly allowance and it, more or less, became my allowance. It wasn't enough to cover everything to the penny what I written down in the budget projection, but it was more than plenty. And no joke, I was on my own. When we went shopping, it was my money. When I wanted to dye my hair some stupid color, I paid for it. I'm definitely more of a spender than a saver, and that was established way before I started my allowance, and I think they hoped this arrangement would make me understand savings better. I would say that it helped me understand how to get everything I wanted and needed and not be broke, i.e. to be creative with my spending, but savings was then and still is a challenge to me. I think the key factor that screwed me up, though, is that the cost of living - rent, utilities, etc - came into play far too late in the game. I went to a school with housing on campus for all four years, and then went straight into grad school where my parents still paid my housing (cause they are amazing). So well into my 20s, even as I phased out of the allowance and phased in part-time jobs, I still never understood that a good chunk of my money would very soon be going toward rent. My mother was gracious enough to outline a goal of when to start paying my rent after grad school, so I didn't fall off the cliff, but even still I was so used to the idea that $500 of a paycheck is $450 I can spend as I please. It's weird to think of it now, how my family was doing everything possible to set me up for an independent life apart from them, but paying for your home whether rent or mortgage was the one thing very much absent from my financial teaching and upbringing. For the record, my younger sister was put on a similar allowance, and she saved every stupid penny. Naturally, I hate her.
@Marissa more like the Pepsi Co., with every flavor under the sun meant to hit each specific year of one's life. you'll start with boone's farm, then legally move on to carlo rossi, then graduate to barefoot, then upgrade to gallo family, and eventually mature into the "international" wines of ecco domani, but then the snow comes and you discover you love apothic, it's just so smooth and bold. they will hold their grip on you til death, when you've finally come full (legal) circle to carlo rossi because you just want your damn chablis (with ice) at a value price, dammit.
@polka dots vs stripes Museums are non-profits (for the most part), and I think you're forgetting that in thinking they don't "need" your money, or larger museums need your money less. A museum isn't a subsidized public space (unless perhaps we're talking Smithsonian, which is about 50% govt funded and probably closed today anyway), and it's not a self-sustaining house of curiosities. It takes a lot of people to run a museum - and even more volunteers - and very very few people are making any money there. I wouldn't advocate a stance that if you can't afford to go, oh well, but it's not like going to your local park - which is justifiably a very small percentage "yours" if you're paying your taxes. If there's a pay what you can option, then pay what you can. And don't pretend your hometown crappy museum is just like a small organic farmer, the little guy fighting to stay alive with the big giant MET taking away all the fancy art people. False dichotomy.
You know, I'm beyond tired of people using "busy" as an excuse to be rude. We're all busy, we all get too many emails, but most of us also find plenty of time to read and comment on blogs, to have a coffee, to socialize with friends. I refuse to believe that because I used four too many sentences in my email that your life is so out of control that you can't find the fifteen seconds to continue reading. The people I work with who get back to me are no less busy than the ones who don't, and often are the ones who actually are the most busy. Instead, they are the ones who value respect, etiquette, and decency. Those clients who don't get back to me on a regular basis or at all, they are the ones whose reputations proceed them - they are known for being rude, full of themselves, and only looking out for themselves. And since we haven't all descended into caves without human interaction, I still see all of these people in real life. You can always tell when busy is an excuse and when it is a reality. Not responding to emails actually only hurts the recipient. It reminds me of the old adage regarding people who are consistently late - it shows to the person waiting that you think you're worth the other party waiting on you, that their time isn't as valuable as yours. It's arrogant, really.
I have many friends in the restaurant industry, and this doesn't seem to be new news, or rather it's interesting that the automatic tip (and big corporate restaurants weighing in) is what has triggered it making the News. I haven't had a chance to talk to them about this since it came out, but what I know is that 1) a substantial portion of their tips are now coming in their check because the abundance of credit cards means there's not enough cash at the end of the night and 2) this has already altered how they report and tax their tips. I think they are still able to get that money untaxed, and file their 1099s or whatever it is at the end of the year, but technically there is now an electronic record of what they were tipped and the days of underreporting are, if not gone, definitely diminished. Not only that, but I know a specific restaurant (100 seats, which is moderate for city but definitely a fraction of, say, an olive garden, and privately owned) who has had some serious tax talks with their staff because of increased auditing (or fear thereof) and while some cash tips definitely get pocketed, it's made everyone there quite legit in their taxes. It should probably also be noted that this is a pooled house. Point is, I'd love to hear from some servers and bartenders out there if you've already seen things change regarding tips and taxes.