3 min read

Warm Take: vacation all I ever wanted?

Is this a lifehack?
Silhouettes of 5 people waving, backdrop is an airport window at the gate, a huge blue plane in background
Airport, Jorge Díaz, CC BY-SA 2.0

This smiling couple graced my NY Times sidebar for a few days this week.

Screenshot of NYT sidebar, two smiling 60-something women, and headline Silver-Haired and Shameless About Perks: Retirees Take Part-Time Work in the Travel Industry.

“Spend 15 hours a week loading baggage at the airport or passing out towels at the pool, and you can see Europe for a fraction of the usual cost.”

Is this a lifehack?

The Times article describes an intersection of the beleaguered travel and hospitality industry, and some older workers — able-bodied, experienced, financially secure — who take part-time jobs for the promise of discounted travel, and not the wages.

How do these part-time workers fit into the conventional business wisdom my cohorts and I were taught, particularly about an inevitable balance between supply and demand? One old chestnut about labor markets: when employers can’t hire people at a desired rate, wages rise until an ample supply of workers comes forward.

Commenters to the Times article wondered about this, too. Glenda Reilly asked, “Are these seniors stepping in and making it so an industry that notoriously pays low wages doesn’t feel the pinch to raise their salaries?

There was a resonant furor about a Chick-fil-A in Hendersonville, North Carolina, whose owner recently advertised for “volunteers,” people who were willing to work for meal vouchers. The Hendersonville Times-News reporter Rebecca Walter notes that the same restaurant had had previously advertised jobs at $19 per hour, though not “…all employees were eligible for the $19 rate though. Workers who were 14 or 15 started at $12 per hour, and part-time employees at $14.

The restaurant owner was shouted down by the Internet and withdrew this, um, opportunity. It will doubtless come back in other workplaces, in various forms.

Maybe it will be called “Worker Flexibility and Choice” and enshrined into federal law.

From an On Management reader

Merit is a mentorship community that's 60% women, 70% people of color, and 4K+ members strong. They're looking for product, design and engineering mentors in the US and Canada to mentor the future of tech.

Merit removes the annoying parts of mentorship (i.e scheduling, setting limits, collecting feedback) and lets you enjoy the fun parts: giving back, and diversifying your network and the industry at large. You can apply to be a mentor here.

Merit's Kirk Fernandes and his co-founder Randy Brown talked with me about Merit and more in On Management #48: Competence.

  • All of this brought me back to Jessica Bruder, whose Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (Bookshop) (library) was the culmination of years talking with older Americans who live in their vehicles, and work precarious, physically demanding jobs. These jobs are not part-time, and are not heavy on the perks.

    I'm pretty sure I started following Jessica in 2014, when I read The End of Retirement in Harpers. I have mixed feelings about Nomadland the movie.
  • And, I also thought about re-screening Lost In America, a dark comedy with protagonists who decide to retire early, and live in an RV. I haven’t seen this movie in in years, partly because I fear it hasn’t aged well.
  • If you don't think people should be paid in chicken sandwiches, check out Bill to enshrine gig work into federal labor law ‘would effectively get rid of the minimum wage and overtime compensation’ by Levi Sumagaysay at MarketWatch.

Thank you so much for reading my Warm Take, which I'm wrapping up while my coffee is cold, and my nephew wants to "cook something." There may be typos, and I will fix them later, on the Internet*.

I've gotten a few more summer reading recommendations, which I'll share next time – please do send me your recommendations!

And, please let me know if you've got something going on that other readers might be interested in, along the lines of Kirk's blurb, above. It would have to be super-offputtingly-weird for me to not want to share it here.

May you, your loved ones, and your coworkers, be safe, healthy, and free.

Anne Libby

*indeed, since the email dropped I have vanquished several typos.



Screenshot of one of my tweets, linked to the image, looking to talk with HR folks about coaching

If you have first-hand experience of braving the market to hire a coach, I'd be interested in talking with you. Interested? Please send me a note.

The Gogos, being driven in a convertible on a sunny day, jamming to the tunes
Vacation all I ever wanted? Or maybe fair wages would be fine.