What's more, 90% of operators under 35 and 87% of operators between 35 and 44 said their first job was entry-level.
Sure they weren't going to change the world or anything like that, but there are plenty of people who want to be comfortable, spend time raising their children, and interacting with friends and family. For them, that's enough.
And those people won't ever have reasonable chance to be promoted because the same problem exists one layer up where their team leader only has a 1/10 chance to get promoted over their own colleagues
If 9/10 of every fry cooks ended up owning a restaurant, you'd be correct in your claim about upward mobility.
But what you're claiming is that 9/10 owners started out as fry cooks.
Those are wildly different claims.
It could be the case that only 0.002 of frycooks end up owning a restaurant and there is only an infinitesimal amount of mobility, and your claim could still be totally true.
And you’re arguing a silly point. Do 80% of accountants become CFOs? Upwards mobility doesn’t mean that everyone rises up — it means that those who are highly skilled do though.
What's being argued isn't that point: rather, it's the question of how many workers move to better positions in that industry.
Even if 100% of the people running restaurants/retail come from within the industry, that fact has nothing to say about how many within the industry make that move to owning operating.
This leads to the mast majority of jobs becoming temp, “gigs”, part-time, commission-based, no benefits, no reward for loyalty, no reward for seniority, and with the only hope for mobility is becoming a manager over the other poor souls you would crush in an instant for an extra $4/hr (less in practice!)
If we had a strong set of myths about taking pride in ones work, mutual respect, venerability, and craftsmanship, I think we would not put up with it. I personally cannot even walk into a Macdonald’s because the environment behind the counter is so obviously demeaning; it disgusts me that we would eat in front of people who are constantly under survaeilance, slaves to beeping mechanical masters, and that they get $8.25/hr, less than the price of a single person’s order.
Was also exposed to the workings of possibly one of the largest business machines on the planet. It's automation incarnate and kind of a beautiful thing.
I was paid twice the average wage. It taught me making money is easy.
2 years later I was earning 10x the average wage doing affiliate marketing in a country where few even heard of it. Money was no issue. Spent it all, there's always more, right? 2008 was a very rude awakening and to be honest I've never recovered from that.
Wish I could've worked at some factory first.
What year did you work there as a teen, if I may ask?
It was a transitory job.
Now, it a career for many people.
There's plenty of jobs and ways to move up in the world, if people are unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to take those opportunities that's on them and them alone.
Service is a career. Not meaning to sound judgemental, quite the opposite is true. Do mean to say that there aren’t many paths out and there is probably a lot to the business that even an educated person requires experience to learn and adapt to. Management usn’t for everyone either, like with coding it may not be the right career track for most but people do it for the pay bump or as a stepping stone toward corporate and IMO the whole team suffers.
How did you end up there, after two decades in tech.
Sounds like my job as a developer.
Semi-relatedly, I don't think a lot of people yet realize how many McDonalds went "dark" and nearly fully automated in the last two years. There are entire McDonald's now that are Delivery Only, the Delivery is outsourced to one of the providers like DoorDash and presumably the number of staff working inside the McDonalds is down to two or three people, tops.
I avoid any establishment that is filled up with cheap labor. (I guess it's not PC to say that, but I just look around, and it doesn't take MFCC in psychology, to reconigize miserable low wage employees. Safeway is the exception. I can't afford to shop anywhere else.)
My brother loved working at MD's as a teen. It bought his first car, and CB radio. Plus--he knew it was a transitory job, and not a career. (My brother got lucky in life. He kissed my father's arse when he was dying, and ended up with a million dollar home. Money from 3-4 generations going to my brother. If all likelihood, he would probally be dead, or homeless, without it. I told my brothers story because it's very common America, but won't last.)
America used to fill these positions with teens, and semi-retired folks.
Now---corporations know they can pull in adults who really need the job.
Yes, that seems to have changed since Covid, but I don't think it will last.
No one wants to be homeless, and watch how companies will advertise their lousy jobs in the next few months.
That whole, "Get your side hustle on while we offer a chit part time job, and one day you will be a American Success."
The Republicans started the mantra before Delta, with the whole, "Work brings self worth. A hard days work build character. You don't want to be a slacker."
And it's always from the same politician, or poloticians, whom are nursing a hangover, burping up that steak dinner, with the famous father's last name, has a company that was investigated by federal government for wage/employment violations, who state is near the bottom in every conceivable metric.
So go out there and get your side hussle on. Don't get sick. Wear our app on your wrist, and remember we are always watching.
Not a bridge for others. It's fine that it's a bridge for some and not one for others. If stores decide retail is a career job, then they will pay career ladder wages, otherwise market forces make retail as a bridge a self fulfilling prophecy.
The issue is if the government dictates a certain minimum wage for retail workers, then they've just outlawed any jobs that provide less value than that wage. You don't gain jobs by outlawing jobs, and those desiring the bridge to something more will be hurt the worst.
And what if that prophecy is not fulfilled?
What if, because you work 50 hours a week but make poverty-level wages, you can't bridge your way out?
What if, because you're considered "part-time" at three different jobs, you don't have any form of healthcare or savings (because hey, we decided for you that this isn't a "career job")?
What if you spend four years of your life being treated as disposable trash, and for some reason that has an impact on your self-esteem and work ethic?
You are looking at this from a purely individual standpoint. It is irresponsible to acknowledge that there are not systemic factors at play here. Markets are doing what markets do, and that is maximize profit, not optimize for human life.
Edit: if people tell you (as they are telling everyone!) that they're miserable in retail jobs, that they can't pay their rent, that they can't support a family, and your response is, "don't worry -- that's the system working as intended! it's supposed to be a bad job! just bridge your way out!" that is a bad response.
If you've gained no skills vs a fresh person with no experience that you can use to gain a better paying job, then you're doing the best you don't benefit financially from your job being outlawed.
>What if, because you work 50 hours a week but make poverty-level wages, you can't bridge your way out?
If you work 50 hours a week in a capacity where you are offered the most available to you and you are incapable of starting a business that offers any more value, then you're doing the best you can. Many people strive to earn the most they can, and if that is dead end retail that's ok.
In my youth in the wake of the 2009 recession I used to wake up drunk out of a ditch and show up at the day labor agency with a completely unverifiable employment background (read between the lines there) making $17/hr alongside felons and drug addicts moving drywall for the oil worker camps, but I guess there are a lot less enterprising people than me out there -- but I don't think their job should be outlawed. I know there are some people out there that can't even be bothered to wake up drunk out of a ditch and walk to the day labor agency and move some drywall.
>What if you spend four years of your life being treated as disposable trash, and for some reason that has an impact on your self-esteem and work ethic?
What if you choose to find meaning in life somewhere other than work, like your family or friends. What if you find one of the other 10,000 employers also offering shit wages and work for them instead. I used to work at a taco shop for $7/hr, and even though the job sucked the boss at least was pleasant and offered me a shot of tequila at the end of the night. What if you take pride in yourself for not your job or earnings but by engaging with the community, or playing with your children, or worshipping your chosen deity or playing basketball on the corner. What if you sign up to be apprentice roofer, a job always hiring even in the worst of economic times and offering full time plus benefits.
> Markets are doing what markets do, and that is maximize profit, not optimize for human life.
And yet there has been unprecedented life expectancy, total wealth of society, educational offering and attainment, and medical breakthroughs in the past 200 years thanks to markets that optimize for profit.
Unfortunately that time is over, and life expectancy has been going down in the US for years now
It’s a completely toxic mindset, but one that has taken hold culturally and only time will illuminate how detrimental it is. Belief that ones circumstances are entirely outside of their control (even if mostly true) is a surefire way to kill the determination and motivation of even the most driven individual.
I do know many people who believe that prejudice/luck/system has a very strong influence on one's lot in life. To deny that reality is just as toxic a mindset.
It's not actually. One produces individuals who constantly complain about any perceived injustice. And another produces people who strive to improve themselves in the face of adversity.
> And another produces people who will sacrifice their health for a job that does not care about them and still end up poor while feeling guilty because it supposedly is their own fault.
Does striving to improve yourself only include mindlessly working a job detrimental to your health? Is there any scenario where an individual is responsible for their own lot in life?
There is an abundance of evidence that those born into a poor family do not gain the same opportunities as those born into a wealthy family.
Blaming the poor for their condition has a long tradition. Blaming shop-workers for their lack of “personal responsibility” seems to be the current thinking of many selfish people: “it is their choice to be poor”.
Note that I find your writing to be disturbingly black and white thinking - absolutely a signal of a toxic mindset to me. “Nobody wants” and “everyone is” just show your own prejudices and are completely non-factual.
If you don't go through high school and into college in a specific degree, chances are, you're hosed. There are of course outliers, but most people with just a high school degree, or even a college degree in something that isn't in high demand are hosed for life. That wasn't always the case.
And your comment points out the real villain in our economy. Institutions that happily accept 20 year loans from students in exchange for a degree that will never earn them a dime. How evil to sell a degree program as a pathway to a successful career, knowing the opportunities to actually make use of that degree are statistically zero.
What you said is true, but for every manager, there are 20 people under him that don't make a good living and that's just the nature of the pyramid structure. All of those 20 people can't be managers or foreman, so 19 out of 20 are stuck every cycle, until the manager quits or moves or whatever.
It's like the lottery, anyone can win the lottery and be rich, but it doesn't mean everyone will.
It wasn't always like this, but business practices moved to squeeze every dollar out of every resource in the name of efficiency regardless of the human cost in most cases. That's certainly a cause.
I agree completely that the current economy only serves a smaller and smaller subset of the population. Each decade that passes seems to squeeze the middle class tighter and tighter. It’s emblematic of a totally derailed system.
That said, I don’t think we should be downvoting into oblivion everyone who calls for some notion of personal responsibility and growth. You need to believe that life isn’t stacked against you to have any chance of succeeding in this word. We shouldn’t be ostracizing someone because they propose that another’s position is due to their own lack of work ethic. The truth may be somewhere in the middle between character and circumstance.
Agree. People downvoted mine to oblivion as well. All it does is devalue the voting system, stifle rational discussion, and push groupthink. It's the internet and HN isn't immune to that sort of thing, so it is what it is.
It's not like I get to turn in karma for an eraser or anything, so to hell with the down voters.
Wait, so people shouldn't believe something that is mostly true? Genuinely asking. I agree that we we shouldn't absolve people of all personal responsibility, but rhetorically the quoted statement appears to suggest people shouldn't believe things that are true.
So yes, there are times when you should choose ideals that support a healthy mind, like believing for example that life is not entirely random, that your circumstances ARE malleable, and that despite whatever histories suggest your disadvantage you can’t let it control your destiny.
As a collective culture we have swung way too far toward this idea of explaining away everyone’s situation based on factors outside of their control. I’ve heard it used to justify some truly disgusting behavior. The truth is that someone’s lot in life is some blend of chance and self determination.
Have you ever tried to help somebody “choose” optimism? Have you ever struggled yourself to choose to have some trait you desire in yourself?
Have you ever had an intimate friend struggle with low self-esteem, and did you manage to help them? If you succeeded, do you think that the majority of us have that ability to help others?
I watch my friend teaching/helping the unwell, and I understand just how difficult it is to change what appear to be the most simple and obvious patterns of damaging behaviour. We all have our own flaws that we struggle with.
I agree with certain aspects of what you say, such as that it's inappropriate to justify disgusting behavior (which I assume you mean assaulting/harming others) and attribute it purely to circumstance as a way of avoiding consequences. I however vehemently disagree with the notion that a healthy mind is a mind that ignores basic facts of reality, such as how much influence randomness and luck have on our quality of life.
There are going to be circumstances in which people's lives objectively suck in a way that isn't their fault and they can still be optimistic about it in a way that acknowledges basic facts of one's living circumstances. There are going to be circumstances in which people's lives are objectively awesome in a way that they didn't do very much work to achieve and acknowledging that has nothing to do with whether or not they're an optimist.
Today both places are very much 'good luck, youre on your own' and staffed by people who seem like they very much don't want to be there.
Did they use to pay better, comparatively?
2) Another piece of it, speaking to your example, is that women in the workplace were much more often "second-earners" 50 years ago. This is much less true today.
> First of all, one consequence of federal minimum wage hikes can be job or hours loss for low‐ wage workers, as we’ve seen, which can create poverty. Second, a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term (think of working students, or second‐ earners in relatively affluent households working part‐ time).
EDIT: Before you reply with what I know you will, the reason the first and second argument above are lumped together are because the are both essentially myths (for example, see the original article), and the Cato Institute cites no actual data that either are, generally speaking, true.
If the minimum wage has no effect on unemployment, then why stop at $15? Make minimum wage set at 20 pounds of gold per hour. Lets maximize our wealth.
EDIT: No one said it had no impact of employment (just as no one said there were no "student workers").
There is nuance to the cost/benefit of given minimum wages...
2) Even if we assume that a $15 minimum wage would eliminate a notable number of jobs, elimination of jobs is not equivalent to unemployment. We, as a society, are okay with, going by your own argument, eliminating all the $5/hour jobs (with state minimum wages being $7.25+) because it does not lead to significantly less overall employment. Do you have evidence this would not also be true with a $15 minimum wage?
No it really is this simple. Jobs that have negative economic value (wages do not cover value) are not maintainable in a free market for anything more than a short period of time. I'm sure some exist but jobs with negative economic value are not in any way plentiful compared to ones with positive or break even value. If I have a job that gives me $14/hr in value it does not make sense for me to offer it under a $15/hr minimum wage.
The ones actually acting in "bad faith" are those who fail to disclose to the ofter marginalized people working low wage jobs that their policy goals are to eliminate the only jobs available to these marginalized people, forcing them to operate on the black market or let their skills and work history decay in unemployment. The farther you slide the minimum wage bar right from zero, the more people you eliminate from the labor market: the nuance being if it is low enough it only destroys the earning power of the most marginalized that some of us are happy to forget about.
> We, as a society, are okay with, going by your own argument, eliminating all the $5/hour jobs (with state minimum wages being $7.25+) because it does not lead to significantly less overall employment
Well it does lead to significantly less employment for anyone who cannot provide minimum wage in value. But what happens is a mixture of elimination of those jobs and the pushing of those jobs to the black market, where those persons (including many illegal immigrants) just have to work in the shadows without any unemployment insurance or labor protections and have to live in constant fear the IRS will find out and also get them for unreported income. So they're definitely a lot worse off.
>elimination of jobs is not equivalent to unemployment
It is if there is no alternative job because you can't offer enough in value to make the minimum wage cutoff.
>Do you have evidence this would not also be true with a $15 minimum wage?
Do I have evidence that employers will have to eliminate jobs if the position doesn't create enough value to cover the wage? One example is when QFC had to close a couple Seattle stores due to mandated 'hazard pay' . Simple logic tells you the jobs generating under $15/hr in value will either become black market or be gone, if it's illegal.
If you're in retail and can't find anyone to pay $15/hr, and think you are worth that, why not try it on the open market? You can come to my border city, where mexicans engage in retail without any boss whatsoever selling retail snacks and elotes. If you can really produce over $15/hr in value then go ahead and do it for yourself. I'm sure many of these street retail street vendors make more than that, and at least in my city the police don't care at all if you have a license or not.
I feel like I must point this out, but no one is arguing that "jobs that have negative economic value" would somehow exist.
> Do I have evidence that employers will have to eliminate jobs if the position doesn't create enough value to cover the wage?
This is actually not at all what my second point was asking... The ask was, if we assume for a minute that a $15 minimum wage simply eliminates jobs (as opposed to bringing extracted employee value more in line with employee compensation and reducing employer profits), whether eliminating the jobs that cannot pay $15/hour would actually increase unemployment in such a meaningful way as to offset the potential benefits it would offer... The context being that we, as a society, have already decided that the benefits of eliminating (see assumption above) $5/hour jobs was worth whatever effect it had on unemployment.
With this is mind, it's obvious that QFC closing two stores is completely meaningless because it provides nothing close to an objective view on A) the effect on overall unemployment, nor B) the positive or negative effects it had on the employees whose jobs (according to QFC) were eliminated. That's not even to mention the fact that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation, or the fact that a single anecdote is not at all representative of the job market.
I'll just also add that it's very hard not to take what you're saying as simply constructing a straw man (as opposed to misreading or misunderstanding), given how completely unrelated anything you wrote was to my other comment.
We have eliminated some, but others we've simply relegated them to the black market so that those engaging them either do it entirely without unemployment insurance and other labor protections, or they do it as an independent business or contractor. Now a good deal of those jobs are instead taken by illegal immigrants (and I'm not judging these immigrants at all here, just noting what the effects are). What we really "decided" was it was worth making those jobs black market or self employment jobs -- and that is an opinion held by the tyranny of the majority against those who suffer under this regulation.
>With this is mind, it's obvious, that QFC closing two stores is completely meaningless
Somehow I doubt it was meaningless to the individuals who had the choice of move to a store not offering the hazard pay or lose their job. But meaningless from your priveleged perspective of not being immediately affected by the loss.
>I'll just also add that it's very hard not to take what you're saying as simply constructing a straw man (as opposed to misreading or misunderstanding), given how completely unrelated anything you wrote was to my other comment.
Rich from a person leading off with the straw man attacking Cato with the false argument that they had somehow claimed there weren't poor people making minimum wage.
Do you have any evidence that this occurs at any meaningful scale? This theory, while occasionally toted by conservative/libertarian think tanks, seems to rely on only 1 example (a New York city car wash that was already cutting jobs through automation), which was covered/written by a libertarian think tank.
> Somehow I doubt it was meaningless to the individuals who had the choice of move to a store not offering the hazard pay or lose their job. But meaningless from your privileged perspective of not being immediately affected by the loss.
No, the article you linked is meaningless specifically because it tells you absolutely nothing about those individuals (and also because it's purely anecdotal). When discussing wage increases (or hazard pay in this case), we typically care about the outcomes for workers. Not to mention the fact, as I said, that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation.
> Rich from a person leading off with the straw man attacking Cato with the false argument that they had somehow claimed there weren't poor people making minimum wage.
I literally linked the exact quote. They made two arguments, the second of which was that (verbatim) "a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term." The entire point of the original article was that this is not true...
In particular, note you said that the Cato makes the argument that those making minimum wage are not "actually poor." In fact they make no such claim that there are not poor working a minimum wage job. Yours was a straw man.
>No, the article you linked is meaningless specifically because it tells you absolutely nothing about those individuals (and also because it's purely anecdotal). When discussing wage increases (or hazard pay in this case), we typically care about the outcomes for workers. Not to mention the fact, as I said, that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation.
Only if you're oblivious to the fact it tells you exactly what happened to the individuals, which is that they were forced to either lose their job or compete for hours with the established staff at other locations. Were you looking for a theoretical paper? I found a long one with all sorts of mathematical scribble about probalistic black markets and unemployment but I thought it would bore you and the lack of concrete examples wouldn't be terribly interesting nor convincing.
>Do you have any evidence that this occurs at any meaningful scale? This theory, while occasionally toted by conservative/libertarian think tanks, seems to rely on only 1 example (a New York city car wash that was already cutting jobs through automation), which was covered/written by a libertarian think tank.
One example of those who end up engaging in independent contractor / self employment for less than minimum wage is gig workers, who often earn less than minimum wage and yet voluntarily choose to do so anyway . Presumably if jobs numerous enough for the number of people working these gig jobs existed that offered them employment protections, many would choose that over independent contractor status where they are on their own if anything goes wrong.
> In particular, note you said that the Cato makes the argument that those making minimum wage are not "actually poor." In fact they make no such claim that there are not poor working a minimum wage job. Yours was a straw man.
I said "people making current minimum wage, or close to minimum wage, are not actually poor, or won't be in the long-term," they said "a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term." I guess, for some reason, you assume the difference is "people" vs. "a lot of people," and that I therefore mean "all people." Your assumption does not make it a straw man.
> Only if you're oblivious to the fact it tells you exactly what happened to the individuals, which is that they were forced to either lose their job or compete for hours with the established staff at other locations.
This is an assumption. The ones that transfer to other locations now receive hazard pay, and, those unemployed workers potentially make hazard pay at new jobs, both of those are potential net positives... The article does, in fact, not discuss actual worker outcomes. Once again, even in the oversimplified world where jobs are simply eliminated, job loss is not equivalent to unemployment.
> Were you looking for a [...] paper?
Preferably, yes. "Concrete examples" are also called "anecdotes," and are not at all convincing of large-scale, job market-wide, patterns or effects.
> One example of those who end up engaging in independent contractor / self employment for less than minimum wage is gig workers, who often earn less than minimum wage and yet voluntarily choose to do so anyway . Presumably if jobs numerous enough for the number of people working these gig jobs existed that offered them employment protections, many would choose that over independent contractor status where they are on their own if anything goes wrong.
That is another assumption. You "presume" that gig workers would choose non-gig work if given the option... With no actual evidence of that being the case at a meaningful level. People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).
Again, you claim was that it was said that those who make minimum wage are not actually poor. I am quoting you verbatim. Apparently you suffer from amnesia or disconnection from reality. Cato did not say this.
> People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).
Ignoring all your disengenous obliviousness to your straw man and refusal or indifference at any source that shows concrete effect of wage regulations, I'm glad at least you've come around to admit that many people working low wage jobs are doing it in addition to other jobs and for extremely varied reasons, one of which may be to use the job as a bridge. Which is exactly what Cato was saying. You've at least admitted now that Cato was correct.
>Preferably, yes. "Concrete examples" are also called "anecdotes," and are not at all convincing of large-scale, job market-wide, patterns or effects.
So where is your citation that minimum wage is good for people who cannot offer value reaching minimum wage? I've seen nothing at all from you showing these people who can't offer enough value to gain a minimum wage job benefit at all from raising the wage.
>That is another assumption. You "presume" that gig workers would choose non-gig work if given the option... With no actual evidence of that being the case at a meaningful level. People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).
I said I "presume" that many would choose. Not all would choose. In fact, I don't even have to presume at least one would choose because I was a gig worker once that would have liked to make minimum wage but at the time had nothing to offer yet that got me a minimum wage offer. I absolutely would have liked employment protections but did not get them, although after several years I was awarded some money in a class action lawsuit along with many others who made the same claim as me that we wanted and believed we should have been afforded employee status. So I guess I didn't presume at all, as it was born out through claims in the court system. Would you like a picture of my check as part of the class action of the many who wanted to be classified as employees?
Your constant dismissal of evidence whenever it suits you is little more than the dictatorial activity of a narcissist, a lying one at that who makes false claims about the statement of Cato.
...Or maybe there are things that can be good to increase some, but not good to increase arbitrarily.
The related concern that is real is that businesses that are solvent at current minimum wage might not be if they had to pay their employees 15 dollars an hour. The question is if we think it is more valuable that people get paid a more liveable wage for their effort, or if we value the jobs/services that businesses that pay under 15 dollars provide more than that. Second question is if the destruction of employers who rely on low wages to exist would also open up room for less exploitive employers to take their space in the business sector. A third question countering that is if lowered profits to business has a stifling effect on money-funded innovation. And then there are questions beyond that, that ultimately sum up to “Economics is complicated, and just looking at first order supply and demand effects never tells the whole story.”
Still, for me these were all temporary bridges to something better, because I was fortunate enough to have other options open to me after university. That isn't true for everyone: plenty of people go through their whole working lives in low paid, low skill jobs, and there are all kinds of reasons why that happens.
So why do privileged people like me see retail as a temporary bridge to something better?
Most fundamentally, the pay is shit. I mean, really shit. My first job paid £2.16/hr in 1992. It's maybe a bit better now but minimum wage is still minimum wage. And they're not very interesting jobs. I mean you can get bored of any of them really quickly. And there isn't much you can do to make more money or make them more interesting, so there's also that.
Let's talk about the pay issue in more detail though, because it's pretty easy (and totally justifiable) to moan about, but I think it's also worth thinking about why pay is so low. Think about it though: ignoring the economics of supply and demand (there are plenty of people who can do low-skill work), even if (bricks and mortar) retail companies wanted to pay more, could they afford to do it?
I can't speak knowledgeably about the state of (bricks and mortar) retail in other parts of the world but, here in the UK, large swathes of it are beyond hosed. In the best of times retail firms make 10% margins: compared with product firms that might make 40% or more. These are not the best of times. Retail operates on razor thin margins and nowadays you're doing well just to stay afloat.
In the last couple of years alone we've seen sub-sectors like fashion and department stores get an absolute pasting. Here are some of the chains that have gone under, just off the top of my head: Debenhams, Beales, Arcadia Group (including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and various other brands), Karen Millen, along with countless independent stores taken down as collateral damage of the pandemic.
And why are the margins so thin, especially given the huge markups that are typical on clothing? Several factors: high rents, outrageous business rates... and then there's the small fact that the buying public don't want to spend, or don't have the money to spend, more on clothing. Hence the prevalence of low-cost fast fashion brands, including online brands such as Boohoo and ASOS (who are amongst the few brands doing particularly well at the moment).
I.e., pay is low basically because we don't want to pay more for goods, and retail has long since turned into something of a volume game in terms of both customers and goods shipped.
So for everyone who has the option of a different career, it's always going to be a temporary bridge to something better.
I haven't really talked about online retail, which may be something of a different can of worms. Could, e.g., Amazon be a more fulfilling place to work than it is at the moment? Could it be better than bricks and mortar retail? I'm talking here specifically about roles at similar skill levels to normal retail, not highly paid software engineers, etc. Amazon makes huge margins by the standards of retail so, arguably, they could make it a better for warehouse workers. I haven't done the sums to figure out what real terms difference it would make to an average warehouse worker if they, say, reinvested 50% of what is currently profit into pay and conditions improvements, or whether that would be enough to make Amazon warehouse worker a desirable career option (I suspect possibly not), but it would certainly make a positive impact on those who have few other options available to them.
 I know in the US you allegedly can make decent money from tips as a waiter but this is the UK and, most places, that's never really been true here, especially not if you're a gawky and slightly awkward post-teen.
 This bricks and mortar versus online distinction is important. Most of what I'm talking about here is bricks and mortar retail, since this is the main topic of the article, but I do touch on online at the end.