Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An evening phone call

7:40 p.m. I answered. It was the evening shift leader from my plant with a quandary.

This was the shift that worked on Christmas day. Typically the company will provide a meal for that shift and have it catered and brought in. The idea is to provide a bit of special treatment for the folks who have to work on such a uniquely family holiday. But some shifts prefer to spend the money on raw food and cook it themselves. Sometimes they prefer to do this on a later date after Christmas. And that's fine.

Well, this shift had chosen to order some special cuts of meat from Sam's Club, and sent one of their members by on her way to the plant tonight to pick it up. She had with her a company-provided credit card for payment.

All was okay until she presented the card and it was rejected. She had neither a personal credit card (with enough credit on it), cash, or funds in her checking account to pay for the meat, so she left it at the store with a promise to pick it up the next day. The shift leader assured me that they had managed to eat something, so at least they weren't all hungry.

His concern was that a call to the card-issuer revealed that the card was blocked from purchases at Wal-Mart (and by extension from Sam's Club). We speculated about that, but quickly moved on to the real question: How were they going to get their meat so they could Bar-B-Que it tomorrow night?

It seems that nobody on the shift had an extra $100 in cash, check or credit to be able to stop by tomorrow and pay for the meat. (Afterwards, the company would immediately reimburse them.)

We talked about the problems we have buying small items from vendors with whom we do not maintain an active account. But before much time elapsed, I realized that I lived only a few miles from the Sam's Club in question, that they were still open tonight, and that I had sufficient cash and/or credit to buy the meat, put it on ice overnight, and bring it to the plant tomorrow.

So as I type this, two large ice chests full of meat and ice are in the back of my car in the garage. That way I won't forget to take the meat tomorrow morning. I'll ice it down afresh when I get to the plant (we have ice machines!) and it will be ready for grilling tomorrow evening.

And I'll get reimbursed within a week at worst. No problem.

Tomorrow I'll also try to figure out why our company credit card seems to be blocked at Wal-Mart. THAT should be fun.

But I wonder about the issue of no one having a spare hundred dollars at hand. What would they do in an emergency? Does everone really live that close to the edge, barely making it from paycheck to paycheck? Am I so out of touch with reality that my view of having a slight cushion is totally passe?

These people aren't making minimum wage. All make over $20 per hour, and most make over $25. That's over $54,000 per year, PLUS overtime. We have a LOT of overtime. And many are two-income families, meaning the spouse also brings in a paycheck.

Rainy days happen. Doesn't anyone save for them any more?


Viki said...

I hope you enjoyed it.

Viki said...

First, you're an angel. The people you've done this for might not appreciate it, but you are.

Second, I wonder if it's a trust issue? They worry that there will be a problem getting them their money? Especially since the company credit card was refused? But as for your cushion question, I think there are many people in this country, and certainly in this world, for whom a cushion DOES exist, but it exists to soften the blow for themselves or for their immediate family members, not a bunch of co-employees who didn't want to partake of the company-provided dinner. They might be thinking, "Hey, screw this. I know I'll get my Christmas dinner payout eventually, but I'm not going to put out for all of them," or something even a little less harsh. They don't really know when they'll get paid back.

I guess what I'm saying is, sometimes the cushion is a little less padded for some.

Karyn Lyndon said...

My mother always said "save a little credit for a rainy day" which is more true now than ever. Nobody pays with cash anymore and even people with savings have it tied up in real estate, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, 401k's...

But I think most people are teetering on the edge all the time...with credit cards maxed out and just a couple of paychecks away from being homeless.

So to answer your question...yes, you are a bit out of touch. Not many folks have your financial values and discipline. It could even be viewed as "old fashioned"--that is until somebody cries out "Where's the beef?"

Peter said...

It has a lot to do with changed values John, you might recall my November post "I want it all and I want it now"
Our attitudes to many things have changed a lot in the last 20 years or so.

Badabing said...

That is disturbing, Duke, and I have seen similar things. I don't really know why...a change in values, discipline, lifestyle and overall mindset...similar to what peter said. I often call it the "me,me, now, now" syndrome. As I write this I'm thinking of several instances where (younger)people I know make six figure salaries and are always broke. And...they are single and live with their parents. Go figure.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Viki, You're sweet for saying so, but I'm no angel. Part of the HR Manager's responsibility is "employee relations," and when something that is supposed to be a treat turns into a major hassle, I need to do whatever I can to make the pissed-off employees feel happy again. "Just doin' my job, Ma'am."

And I think you're right about the attitude of some. They're thinking, "Hey, why should I put out any of my own money, even just for a few days? The company said they'd provide the food. Let 'em provide it!" Fortunately for me and the plant that attitude is still in the minority.

I hope.

Karyn, Classy ending sentence there. Who can forget that commercial which has now become iconic in our culture? ANd you brought the comment right back to the subject of unavailable meat. Gee, you must be a writer!

Peter and BB, I understand the "me, me, I want it NOW" culture. But whatever happend to positive and negative reinforcement? Living close to the edge is guaranteed to force a person over that edge occasionally, with bad consequences. I would like to think that people still had the capacity to learn from mistakes. Another "old fashioned, out-of-touch" manifestation on my part?


Candace said...

Look at it from the employees' perspective: "your" credit card was no good, and now you're telling them to use their own money, and you'll pay them back later, honest.

Anonymous said...

Interesting situation. Do you know any of the employees well enough to ask them the question? The responses might make a good post.

Christina said...

Just a couple weeks ago, I had to ship something out UPS for my company, and the UPS outlet I went to couldn't charge it to our corporate account. So I paid the charges for packaging and shipping ($53 and change) out of my own pocket and was reimbursed a few days later. No big deal to me. BUT - I have been so strapped that I couldnt have afforded that, much less $100 for food. And you know I don't make a six figure income or anywhere near. sometimes after circumstances like losing a job and a major move for another job, it takes a bit to catch back up. Sometimes people don't max out their cards or buy things they cant afford, they are just struggling to get on their feet and feed their families and dont have an extra $100 that they won't miss for a few days. Been there, done that more than once.