Hundreds of cosmetics employees, of one high-end retailer, arrived at work today and discovered they couldn’t afford Christmas for their families this year. Their hours had been cut by 25 percent. They were not given a reason.
According to one source, management reported that all cosmetic retailers nationwide were slashing hours. Maybe. But maybe this retailer wants to ensure employees don’t jump ship to a competitor during the busyiest time of year.
Exactly. So why cut hours? Doesn’t it make more sense to have all hands on deck? Why reduce at a time when it inevitably means customers will receive poor service?
But those aren’t the questions corporations ask. There’s no room for human beings here. Not customers. Not employees. Instead, it’s about corporate greed. Or as this corporation might like to think of it, cutting overhead. Employees are your highest overhead. Cut your overhead, increase your assets. It’s as old as slavery and as new as overseas outsourcing.
There are very few benefits to working in retail, particularly in retail cosmetics. The customers are demanding, entitled, impatient and even abusive. Fellow co-workers are petty, back-biting, bitter and mean. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s brings some reprieve. While customers can be more difficult this time of year, longer hours means larger sales, leading to beefy commission checks. Instead, this year, employees of this luxe retailer must piece together their paid time off just to keep their health insurance.
While customers binge on bespoke lipstick collections encased in leather, employees scrape out the balances on their credit cards to pay rent. “How do people survive working here?” One asked. “My credit card has a bigger balance than my bank account and I don’t buy anything.” She’s still relatively new to retail. As one who has worked for major retailers on and off for thirteen years now, I’ve never known anything else. “People don’t survive,” I said. “They get other jobs.”
Corporations make money when employees make less. Because this retailer can’t move its stores to Mexico, they do the next best thing. Cut hours. Each year they’ve been cutting more. Employees hired at full time now work part-time when they don’t make their goals for the week. “When you make your goals, you’ll get your hours back.” Management says. Employees were notified, in a recent email, that health benefits are earned not given.
So when you go to get your makeup at a department store, have a little patience. Imagine how the girls behind the counter feel. A little empathy will go a long way this Christmas. Oh, and if they do your makeup for your holiday parties, tip them. Even if they say no. Tip them. Shove it under the mirror next to your seat. Stuff it in their hands when no one’s looking. They’re not supposed to accept it, but my guess is, they will now. It may mean they can pay for lunch that day.