WHAT IF YOU OFFERED
A JOB AND NOBODY CAME?
I know this isn't happening in every part of the country, but
the Bay Area is booming. And I'm getting a little sick and tired of all this
No one needs me anymore. Whatever happened to the good old
days, when you'd call a plumber or an electrician or a handyman and they'd
actually answer their phone and ask how they could help?
Now you're lucky to get a call back within a week. And if they
do return the call, it's only to let you know that they're very busy and
your chances of getting them to perform any services for you are practically
nil. Some are actually incredulous that you thought they might be available.
If you do finally latch on to one, you'd better be prepared to
shower them with gratitude for allowing you to pay them exorbitant sums to
do the work. That's the way it is these days, and it probably isn't going to
change anytime soon.
I guess that's a good thing. I'm happy for all the tradespeople
who are flourishing right now, but I'm motivated to write this because the
booming Bay Area economy also has created a shortage of entry level
employees, and that's something I've never seen in my 30 years of owning my
own retail businesses.
Gone are the days when you could look through a stack of
resumes and pick and choose a few that warrant interviews, and then select
one that would fit your needs. Told they got the job, they would be ecstatic
for the opportunity.
Things have changed. Now, if you can coerce someone into
actually coming in for an interview, it goes something like this:
Interviewer: Do you have a pulse?
Interviewer: YOU'RE HIRED!
I'm not exaggerating all that much. That's how hard it is to find
someone to work in entry positions, especially in San Francisco, where my
company hires, or tries to hire, retail sales clerks, warehouse workers, and
I find it interesting because I've never thought about it. What
happens when the workers aren't available? You can't have a store or run a
restaurant without employees. Obviously, you can pay more, luring employees
away from other businesses, but at some point it doesn't make economic
sense. It's kind of scary.
We advertise in all the right places: Craigslist, snagajob.com,
indeed.com, high schools, signs in windows, flyers around town. We offer our
employees referral fees to get them to coerce their friends, siblings,
children, parents or even grandparents to apply. But each year during this
economic boom it gets harder and harder to find people.
Even when we do find a suitable applicant and beg them to
accept the job, they often don't last long. Last week we hired three in San
Francisco. Two didn't show up for orientation, and the third belatedly
announced he was only available to work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., three days a
Another hire worked for three days and didn't show up for his
scheduled weekend shift. When contacted and asked for an excuse, he said he
had to go to jail for the weekend because he "did something dumb."
We thought about promoting him for his honesty, but decided to fire him
But trust me, it wasn't that easy a call. That's how desperate
employers can become. Final warnings become semi-final warnings. An
applicant with no sales skills becomes a gem if he or she can show up every
day. A long term employee, and we have many, becomes family. We cherish them
more than ever for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they're
Again, I don't want to suggest this is happening anywhere
except in parts of the Bay Area, especially San Francisco (and Marin, where
we had one applicant in a two week span for a store in Sausalito). But it's
also getting harder to find entry level employees in other cities in
California where we have retail stores.
I hate to admit it, but maybe this is the start of the robotic
age for entry level positions. It's going to happen someday, and maybe that
day will be sooner rather than later. It beats closing a business because
you can't find anyone to work. Maybe having a pulse isn't all it's cracked
up to be.