My job: let’s do the math…

Readers of this blog know that I never talk about myself on here. I try to always keep the discussion at the conceptual level. In this case, it can’t really be helped, since I want to talk about something that happened to me personally.

So here’s what happened: in our daily meetings, our store manager made the following calculation in front of us.

1. The store made 330 000$ in profit last period.

2. There were 24 days in the period.
330 000 / 24

3. There are about 75 people total working in the store every day.
(330 000 / 24) / 75

4. There are 24 hours in a day.
((330 000 / 24) / 75) / 24

5. Therefore, each hour an employee works brings in more than 7 dollars in profit. Ergo, if someone tries to steals something that’s 20 dollars’ worth and you don’t catch it, you wasted the equivalent of three hours of your time.
((330 000 / 24) / 75) / 24 = 7.64

I hope I don’t have to explain why this calculation is absolute bollocks. For one thing, the base figure (profit) already excludes theft, so all the stolen items are already outside of that 7.64$ figure. They wouldn’t come out of it to begin with. Secondly, the way he calculated it, he mistakenly distributed the profit of a day amongst 75 people working 24 hours each.

If we assume that each person works 8 hours each (which is not actually true: the average is probably closer to 6), we get the result of 22.92$/person-hour.

When you subtract taxes, social security, mandatory union dues, and so on, I get paid approximately 7.94$ an hour (my “official,” i.e. imaginary, wage is 8.65$ an hour). After they pay me this, they end up profiting on my work, and every other employee’s work, at the tune of 22.92$ an hour. That’s 74% of the product of my work that I will never, ever receive.

Some of that profit comes from the exploitation of consumers’ lack of awareness of store trickery and outright fraud that stimulate consumption. Either way, it’s all the result of someone’s exploitation (the worker, the consumer, the workers who work for the producers, and so on).

Now I do grant you that without a corporation to back it up, the store would have to buy its own products, do its own accounting, and so on. Yes, that would cut in the profit margin. But there’s no reason why such a support mechanism (a market equivalent of a corporate headquarters) couldn’t still exist in a socialist system. And even if it couldn’t, it would still be a pretty good tradeoff.

But, a capitalist might reply, you wouldn’t want to shoulder the risks of being dependent on making enough money to pay everyone week after week. You wouldn’t want to have to go a week without pay if the store is not going well. That’s true, but there’s no reason why risk cannot be shared (with a pooling of resources, with administrators getting paid fairly for their work), just like the support mechanism could be shared.

The lesson of this story is, capitalism is fucking costing me the equivalent of 22.92$ an hour, and is using those resources to make the Earth a crappier place.

If you have such data for your own workplace, do the calculation yourself, you might be as surprised as I was. How much of your product is wasted?

12 thoughts on “My job: let’s do the math…

  1. SE May 21, 2009 at 21:28

    And I thought Cork was exaggerating when he wrote that you’d gone nuts.

    Seriously though, have you written a post or gone into more detail on the evolution of your thinking? I’d be interested in hearing more on exactly what made you change so radically from your previously held views.

  2. Francois Tremblay May 22, 2009 at 00:39

    Oh, get a grip on yourself. I haven’t “gone nuts.” That’s a reaction of hysteria.

    Here’s an entry I wrote about profit a year ago:

    If you’re interested in the subject of socialist economics, I heavily recommend Benjamin Tucker’s “Instead of a Book.” You can read all the individual sections online.

  3. SE May 22, 2009 at 13:36

    Well, I didn’t say you’d gone nuts, Cork did. Thanks for the info, though.

  4. Richard Williams May 23, 2009 at 12:23

    I love this piece. I think I’ll link people to it whenever they ask why I’m a socialist.

  5. Royce Christian May 23, 2009 at 23:32

    “…capitalism is fucking costing me the equivalent of 22.92$ an hour, and is using those resources to make the Earth a crappier place.”

    My quote of the day.

    Why keep everything on the conceptual level, when discussing it in the personal illustrates the actual effect of what’s going on and leads to excellent pieces like this one?

  6. tism June 5, 2009 at 01:36

    That’s a good start.

    Don’t forget the profit that goes to the companies which produce & distribute the goods as well.

    And more importantly, the hidden profits from having subsidized services from the state.

  7. Francois Tremblay June 5, 2009 at 01:37

    Wouldn’t the profit that goes to the producers and distributors go to the employees of those companies?

  8. tism June 5, 2009 at 02:07

    “Wouldn’t the profit that goes to the producers and distributors go to the employees of those companies?”

    Probably. In any case, the misdirected profits on both ends distort the values of the transaction taking place.

    It could even be that, if the stores were not absorbing profits, the prices could be lowered, so that the customer profits more instead.

    Another example of distortion is sales tax. Without a sales tax, would the money otherwise paid as tax likely go to the store or remain in the customer’s pocket, or somewhere inbetween?

    But such things cannot be exactly calculated when the market values are being distorted by state capitalists. We can only guess.

  9. tism June 5, 2009 at 02:15

    FYI: The linked page “The 2 Year Story” under “Possibly related posts” looks like a big pile of spam.

  10. Francois Tremblay June 5, 2009 at 02:20

    Nothing I can do about that, unfortunately.

  11. David Z July 7, 2009 at 13:40

    One of our Midwest grocery chains, Kroger, in fiscal year 2008 reported net income applicable to common shares at the alarmingly exlploitative rate of 1.6%

    They employ 326,000 FTEs. Doing some math, that’s only about $10/day worth of “exploitation,” and it’s most certainly less than that, since there are many, many PTEs that work there, too.

  12. Francois Tremblay July 7, 2009 at 16:43

    Then Kroger stores must not be doing very well, or perhaps they are not as smart in exploiting their employees. Or maybe you can’t do math. Whichever.

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