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 economic prosperity.
   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?

  Applicant: Yes.

  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 restaurant help.
   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 week.
   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 instead.
   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 becoming irreplaceable.
   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.
 

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