Nickel and diming

The Times had an article this weekend about the apparently common practice of time shaving — altering the time cards of low-wage employees so that they lose hours and the company saves a few bucks.

Experts on compensation say that the illegal doctoring of hourly employees’ time records is far more prevalent than most Americans believe. The practice, commonly called shaving time, is easily done and hard to detect — a simple matter of computer keystrokes — and has spurred a growing number of lawsuits and settlements against a wide range of businesses.

Workers have sued Family Dollar and Pep Boys, the auto parts and repair chain, accusing managers of deleting hours. A jury found that Taco Bell managers in Oregon had routinely erased workers’ time. More than a dozen former Wal-Mart employees said in interviews and depositions that managers had altered time records to shortchange employees. The Department of Labor recently reached two back-pay settlements with Kinko’s photocopy centers, totaling $56,600, after finding that managers in Ithaca, N.Y., and Hyannis, Mass., had erased time for 13 employees.

I find this incredibly infuriating. When you’re earning on this level, ten or twenty bucks can make a huge difference. Trust me, I speak from way too many years of personal experience on this one.

This practice — and reports that Wal Mart has recently been caught overcharging customers — inspire South Knox Bubba to write:

Companies like Walmart and Microsoft and Citicorp et. al. are the natural result of competition and free markets. I’d like to think, though, that someday we might value something other than just monetary profits in business and commerce. You know, things like honesty and integrity, respect for workers and suppliers and customers and the community at large — in other words, holding them accountable for being responsible citizens like individuals are supposed to be.

It seems to me that we could measure these kinds of “profits” and “losses” somehow, like the prosperity of their employees, and their impact on communities where they do business and the industries in which they operate. We need to figure out how to get this on the balance sheet somewhere.

This reminded me of a link Wil sent me awhile back, which I meant to post but never did, in which a businessman discusses the responsibility he feels toward his employees:

As you may or may not know, I own my own business (Quizno’s franchise). I’ve been in business for over six years. How did I get this franchise? My second father, retired 1st Sergeant Tyson Vale, invested in me 100%. Part of the deal involved me going to all sorts of franchise management and small business classes and he owning a 51% stake in the business the first year. This fairly rich man treated me with dignity and fairness. After I proved I could handle things. He pulled his ownership back to 40% after 2 years. After 4 years, Tyson pulled is ownership back to 25%. After over 6 years of profits, Tyson wanted to give me full ownership since he has made his investment back plus a healthy, juicy return. Out of respect for this man, I argued and argued with him to hold on to 10%. He wouldn’t hear it. So we agreed to 5%. As he told me:

I took a chance, invested, and made my money. You don’t need me and I don’t want to be part of YOUR BUSINESS now.

Now Tyson Vale exhibited alot of qualities that the many fairly rich to very rich don’t exhibit. It wasn’t all about the money to him. He loved helping someone else create and maintain a business. He then pulled back when his work was done. That’s some serious character.

I remember speaking to a gentleman named Zachary Tabor at a franchisee convention over 5 years ago. He owned 10 Sonic Drive-In franchises in the in several Midwest states. He told me that the key to being profitable and keeping employees was to pay more than the average “fast-food” restaurant. I remember his words like they were spoken yesterday.

See young man, you may not make the obscene amounts of scratch but you will do very well. Your employees will respect you more and be loyal. If you make $300,000 as a owner, what’s wrong with you getting $200,000 and the other $100,000 added to your payroll budget? The 100 grand will make ’em be there for you no matter what. Been doing business like that for 20 years. Heck people line up for my Sonics when there’s a job opening.

Those words stuck with me and it why I have very little turnover and unbelievable loyalty. But that is not the norm. Not by a long shot.