The shock of working a lowpaid job

No, it didn’t happen to me and I hope it never does.* Basically, a veteran journalist goes from covering the White House and appearing on MSNBC to living on foodstamps and having to work as a part-time salesman at a sporting goods store. Not to demean anybody’s job since a lot of people do these kinds of work, but it’s tough and doesn’t pay much. This is probably why it’s a good idea to save your money too, or at least refrain from spending too much. After all, if you have a good career spanning decades and you’re making more than US$10,000 a month**, then it’s your fault if you start living on foodstamps and staying at someone’s else’s home for free when you become unemployed.

It’s a good read, being compelling and revealing lots of interesting little details. I can see why working retail can be tough and frustrating (I don’t agree with nasty and brutish), having to put up with unpaid overtime, mandatory body checks and patdowns before leaving the store on brief breaks, and being berated for coming in a few minutes late (I’d never make it if that was me). The writer, a longtime journalist, is frank about his life, having been fired for criticizing Mitt Romney for only being comfortable around “white people,” and then having a media outlet expose a case involving alleged assault against his ex-wife right after, which led to him being unable to find another job.
It’s obvious that the writer is used to a much more higher way of life, and it’s a major shock to him to realize he’s actually working in a low-paying part-time retail job. To be honest, I’m of two minds about this article – I like the article and I feel sympathy for the people who have no choice but to work under those conditions for a long time, but I don’t really feel sympathetic to the guy himself.

* My very first fulltime job in Taiwan was quite low-paying, albeit not in retail, and I wouldn’t want to go back to that salary either. I’ve also worked for free (for family of course).

**The writer was paid $300 a week at his retail job, which is $1,200 a month. At the end he says as a communications director at an NGO, one week “paid twice as much per week as I’d earn in a month at the store,” which means he is making $2,400 a week. Then he says “That salary still didn’t come close to my Politico paycheck.” So in other words, he was making way more than US$10,000 a month before.


2 thoughts on “The shock of working a lowpaid job

  1. The author rubs me the wrong way with his I’m-too-good-for-this attitude but if you can dig past that he manages to accomplish his presumed goal of showing the reality of making ends meet on minimum wage… And I appreciate his honesty about how he ended up in the position, which is more interesting than authors who occasionally do low-paid work for a week or month just to see what it’s like and to get a good story.


    1. I had similar thoughts after reading it. The guy really was in a desperate situation, especially given his previous status as a (relatively speaking) top journalist.


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