When I was in high school, one of my summer jobs was working at Hush Puppies shoes. Yeah, I know you're jealous, right? The store displayed one shoe of every style and when a customer wanted to try on a pair, we got a complete set in the right size from the back. For some reason, nearly every customer felt compelled to collect an armful of shoes as they walked about the store. Frequently, the person would then get distracted by the smell of Mrs. Fields cookies wafting across the mall and dump the pile of shoes on a table before they left.
Was it it my job to keep the store tidy and attractive? You betcha. Did I appreciate having to sort through an abandoned pile of shoes? Not so much.
The worst part was when someone would carry around one lone shoe and then set it down somewhere it didn't belong. Sometimes I'd have to scour the entire store just to find that one shoe. On occasion, the staff would have to join in the hunt to track down the missing high heel (yes, surprising, Hush Puppies carried some really cute heels and boots!). How hard would it have been for that customer to just put the shoe back where she found it? Or, if she didn't remember, just to give it to one of us?
No, my three months at Hush Puppies didn't scar me for life. And, no, I have not been holding on to this story all this time. I just thought it was a good illustration of how customers can mindlessly cause unnecessary work for employees. You know what I'm talking about. Rummaging through a pile of t-shirts and then leaving them all unfolded. Letting items fall to the floor and then leaving them there. Discarding your trash on display cases. Carrying around a perishable item and then shoving it in the magazine rack when you decide you no longer want it.
The federal minimum wage in the United States is just $7.25 an hour. No one's buying a McMansion on that kind of money. Many minimum wage jobs involve lots of standing, too. Standing at counters, machines, or just having to be on your feet. If you haven't ever stood for 8 hours; trust me, you feel it.
So, the next time you're at the mall, or the food court, or any other business that is staffed by minimum wage employees, take a moment to think about the work that's required to keep that store running. Think about the people. Is it their job to keep things nice for customers? You bet. Should they have to be your maid and clean up after the messes you leave behind? I really don't think so. Do you?