So @tylercowen, You Want to Understand the Great Stagnation? Here It Is

Certainly the government's current permission-based approach to business regulation combined with an overt hostility of government (or at least those parties that influence it) to radically new business models (see: Uber) is a big part of the great stagnation story.

But insanity like this is also a big part:

Vague but expensive-if-not-correct rules on employee seating just got vaguer and harder to figure out

Weighing in on two California laws that require employers to provide suitable seating to workers when “the nature of the work” permits it, the California Supreme Court said the phrase refers to an employee's tasks performed at a given location for which the right to a suitable seat is asserted.

In response to questions certified by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the state high court said April 4 that the phrase “nature of the work” doesn't require a holistic evaluation of the full range of an employee's tasks completed during a shift.

An employer's business judgment and the layout of the workplace are relevant in determining whether sitting is permitted, but courts should apply an objective analysis based on the totality of the circumstances, the California Supreme Court said.

It held that “if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.”

As a business owner in California, I am going to have to do a ton of research to figure out just how we can comply with all this, and even then I will likely be wrong because whether one is in compliance or not is never actually clear until it is tested in court.  I had to do the same thing with California meal break law (multiple times), California heat stress law, new California harassment rules, California sick leave rules, the California minimum wage, Obamacare rules, Obamacare reporting, the new upcoming DOL rules on salaried employees, etc.

Five or ten years ago, I spent most of my free time thinking about improving and growing the business.  Now, all my mental bandwidth is consumed by regulatory compliance.  I have not added a new business operation for years, but instead have spent most of my time exiting businesses in California.  Perhaps more important is what I am doing with my managers.  My managers are not Harvard MBAs, they are front-line blue collar folks who have been promoted to manager because they have proven themselves adept at our service process.  There are only a finite number of things I can teach them and new initiatives I can give them in a year.  And instead of using this limited bandwidth to teach some of the vital productivity enhancement tools we should be adopting, I spend all my training time on compliance management issues.

  • gr8econ

    But economists can't measure regulations so clearly the cause of the great stagnation must be something else.

  • Onlooker from Troy

    The stagnation is no doubt directly proportional to the number of lawyers and accountants, which just reflects the level and breadth of govt intervention and meddling. It's really not complex, is it? Toss on top of that the central bank's inflationary monetary policy and we have a perfect storm. Good thing the economy's underlying strength (i.e. surviving level of innovation and productivity) is great enough to fend this off; for now.

  • SamWah

    Kalyfornya must WANT to reduce its tax intake by driving out businesses.

  • mx

    The funny thing is that the seating rules have been the law in California for decades, but they've been largely ignored, especially in retail. I think that unleashing a new wave of litigation on every business where employees have ever stood is counterproductive, and the legislature should ensure that doesn't happen, but I don't think the basic idea--let employees sit while they work if their job can be done while sitting--is remotely unreasonable. There's no reason a bank teller or cashier should have to stand all day if they could just as easily do the job sitting down.

  • Pete Chiarizio

    Sounds like you ought to branch out into the profitable regulatory compliance business.

  • J_W_W

    But how will they know you're doing the right things unless they constantly watch you...?

  • ErikTheRed

    But muh econometrics! Anything that I can't analyze in Excel or R is witchcraft!

  • Jaedo Drax

    Haven't you heard, sitting is the new smoking, therefore we must immediately demand that the legislators are never allowed to sit, and put it into the California Constitution that whenever the legislature is sitting all legislators must remain standing for the duration of the sitting, or else be fined. Furthermore, in the spirit of co-operation, all of their staffs must remain standing as well, as it would be impolite to have them sitting during such an august ceremony.

  • Not Sure

    "I am going to have to do a ton of research to figure out just how we can comply with all this..."

    Spoiler alert- you're not supposed to be able to. Just pay the fines and shut up- that's what they really want from you.

  • Noumenon72

    You do understand the basic thrust of the rule, though? That employers make employees stand despite the daily pain it causes in our legs and feet because it makes us more productive? That even though all employees would prefer to sit, none can negotiate for this privilege because if a lone employer allows sitting, they will attract only lazier employees? This lets employers be humane and provide chairs without falling behind their competitors.

    You know what regulations turn out like better than I do, but to me, the vagueness in that regulation reads like 'You should let your employees sit. We're not going to regulate exactly what height of chairs you have to buy or what to put them, just generally don't be an asshole and let them sit down."

    The lawsuits and compliance are a cost, but the benefit, again, is relief from daily pain. The health problems that sitting may cause, while real, are avoidable by my own actions (exercising and occasionally standing at work), while the health problems that standing causes in the legs and feet are only avoidable by quitting.

    I am more sensitive to this than most, I guess: my coworkers would even continue standing during break times on twelve-hour shifts, but I suffered from it. Despite being light in weight and purchasing ever-more-expensive shoes.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "As a business owner in California, I am going to have to do a ton of research to figure out just how we can comply with all this"

    Have you bothered to read the decision. Both the employees and the Employer took unreasonable positions.

    The Employer wanted a rule that is technically no clearer than what the court came up with. Specifically that all of the employee's duties/tasks be considered with no weighting for how much time the employees spend on each task.

    The employees wanted a rule that was bright line but would have been very costly for employers. Specifically that each task be considered in isolation and a chair required or not based on that task alone. Ignoring how much time the employee spends at that task.

    Given the law / regulation it had to deal with and the positions of the parities, I think they came up with the best possible solution.

    It is not the job of the courts to fix bad policy choices by the other branches of government.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    " We're not going to regulate exactly what height of chairs you have to buy or what to put them"

    Assuming the state doesn't regulate this, and I think that's a very bad assumption, it will still get litigated as a workplace safety issue.

  • herdgadfly

    All that reading to figure out that government has no business interfering in private business. As for the employees, if they don't like the chairs, they simply need to change jobs!

    I took a chairborne job that required me to sit all day and the chair given to me was causing my weak back to spasm. I went to the boss and told him it was the chair or me. I got a brand-spanking-new Herman Miller Aeron chair and for $900 outside of the budget, the problem was solved.

  • Incunabulum

    Why didn't you just bring your own chair?

  • mx

    Because employers, including the ones involved in this suit, prohibit their employees from sitting down on the job. Do you really think bank tellers and retail cashiers have all been standing their entire shifts just because they never considered bringing in their own chair?

  • Not Sure

    I guess checking the company's policy on sitting/standing before taking a job with them is out of the question, then?

  • stevewfromford

    The particulars of the seating case are unimportant. What is important is that this mindless disdain that the left holds for business combined with limitless nanny-stateism has unleashed countless bureaucrats eager to justify their own existence, throw work to their consultant fellow travelers {and potential future employers} by heaping useless and largely counterproductive rules upon the backs of the productive. While they claim to all support small business they actually give not a hoot about whether we live or die. Slow motion suicide of a formerly productive country.

  • Noumenon72

    I did quite a few things that other workers would have been ashamed to do or gotten yelled at for -- I hopped up on counters to fill in paperwork, I hauled giant rolls of kraft paper to my line to sit on like a stool. I made sure I was always working when I was sitting and I hid my seats under my desk whenever possible. I was always a manager's bad mood away from getting commanded never to do it again, just like any other shortcut. But because no one else wanted to look that weird and weak by copying me, the damage was limited and I got away with it. I never became one of the many coworkers who took ibuprofen daily and I'm in pretty good health.

    Also management did provide very squishy mats to stand on after a few years, which I thanked them for repeatedly and dragged to every work station. A great technology that I appreciated way more than a raise. I truly believe that chairs for the employees would have been a competitive disadvantage and management really did want to do whatever they could to keep us healthy other than that. Lazy people really do sit stuck to their chairs instead of important monitoring tasks and helping others.

    I believe this law should apply only to employees who are stuck in static standing positions for hours (especially cashiers), not everyone everywhere. I just wanted to make clear why I think the market won't be able to efficiently provide seating to employees even if the employees value it a lot and it's cheap to provide.

  • Noumenon72

    It is. Reasons:
    1. Individual incentive -- asking this at the interview would single you out as a lazy employee, so you would be dumb to ask.
    2. Employees don't have the bargaining power economists would like us to believe. Many don't even learn the wage that is paid before agreeing to a job.
    3. Individual management incentives -- sitting employees are visible, so you can't find any jobs where people get to sit because that makes it look like the managers are coddling the employees. It's an group norm and they're afraid to cross it.

  • Not Sure

    "Many don't even learn the wage that is paid before agreeing to a job."

    Really? You don't say. Where is this happening?

  • Noumenon72

    Apparently so far below your economic stratum that you can't believe it. Temp agencies, Wal-Mart (source Barbara Ehrenreich), and personal experience.

  • Not Sure

    Ok then. That's pretty amazing. So tell me this- if these workers don't know how much the jobs they accepted paid, how do they know whether or not they're getting the pay they (you claim) never agreed to?

  • Noumenon72

    Are you focusing so much on this claim because it's my weakest and you want reasons to disagree with my post? I agree that it's more outlandish and less substantiated than the other two, you don't have to find it persuasive.

    If you're actually curious, your question doesn't really make any sense -- it's like asking "if the lotto grabs the balls at random, how do they check that they got the same ball they grabbed?" You just learn the number on your first check and assess whether you want to quit or not, based on take-home pay, working conditions, impending bills, labor market. The reason you would take this kind of a crapshoot is either the number of applications you filled out that got no response, or a feeling that employers generally pay fair wages and you're getting what everyone else would get, or just being too shy to make them tell you.

    Lots of people have poor bargaining skills and bargaining with corporate employers is also generally ineffective, so you have little to gain by assertiveness except for making yourself look combative.

  • Not Sure

    That's a pretty good rant, so let's take just one point at a time...

    "Lots of people have poor bargaining skills and bargaining with corporate employers is also generally ineffective, so you have little to gain by assertiveness except for making yourself look combative."

    What's that got to do with people who accept jobs without knowing what the pay is? It's not like there's anything to negotiate if you don't know how much you're going to be earning, is there? And... are you really comparing people looking for jobs to pulling random lottery balls out of a jar?

  • Noumenon72

    Asking "what is the pay?" and "can it be more?" are things that you should be asking assertively and negotiating over, given that you're an economic agent selling your labor. Just because you behave like a clueless human instead doesn't mean there was never anything to negotiate. I listed those as reasons people decide they don't really need to know what the pay will be.

    Taking a job without knowing the pay is like picking a lottery ball randomly instead of looking at the numbers, because you give up the chance to learn about your pick. They are similar in that there is no reason to ask "how do they audit that they got what they wanted?", because they have no information about what the number they got was, so they can't tell if the final number matches it. The lottery aspect is a red herring. The point is it's a blind choice, so there is no "pay we agreed to" to check your pay stub against.

    I hope that's clearer.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "I believe this law should apply only to employees who are stuck in static standing positions for hours (especially cashiers)"

    Chairs wouldn't work for cashiers. Part of the cashier's job is to make sure customers haven't left merchandise in their carts. To allow cashiers to work seated would require either lowering the checkout counter to a level inconvenient for most customers or seating the cashier high enough that handling the merchandise becomes an issue.

    We are already seeing self scan checkout counters at some stores. The most likely long term impact of requiring seating for cashiers would be the elimination of cashiers in favor of full self service checkout.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    I've worked for temp agencies and I have family that does or has worked for temp agencies. Hourly pay rates are stated up front, often in the want adds.

  • Noumenon72

    Based on my memory of a book I read where a guy tried to work his way up from homelessness in the South via what amounted to day labor. My experience with temping is the same as yours.

  • slocum

    Lower level employees aren't as good at bargaining, but they're quite good at sharing information among themselves about pay and job conditions offered by other potential employers and are very willing to change jobs. They don't need to have equal sophistication and market power with their company, they simply need to have multiple companies competing to attract and retain reliable workers. And that is definitely the case in the kinds of industries (e.g. retail, restaurants) where low wage workers are concentrated.

  • Nehemiah

    How about employees who don't like their "seating" go find a different job with better "seating". Let market forces settle this type of issue. The employer with the best "seating" benefits will attract the better talent.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    I agree with you as to what the best policy choice is. However, as I said, it's not the job of the courts to correct bad policy choices by the legislative and executive branches.

  • MB

    > To allow cashiers to work seated would require either lowering the checkout counter to a level inconvenient for most customers or seating the cashier high enough that handling the merchandise becomes an issue.

    I'm fairly certain that I can find a chair that will keep their eyes at the same height they currently are (aka stools). And that doesn't even get into the possibility of advanced high-tech solutions, such as light-benders (aka mirrors) and remote-eyes (aka cameras).

    Given that human beings come in a variation of eye-heights currently, I'm also fairly certain that there's a lot more leeway here than you seem to imagine.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "I'm fairly certain that I can find a chair that will keep their eyes at the same height they currently are (aka stools)."

    Many people (myself included) find stools that are higher than normal chairs (feet don't reach the floor) to be more uncomfortable than standing. They can also be a safety hazard, some one is far more likely to fall off of a high stool than a normal chair and when they do fall off, they are falling farther.

    "And that doesn't even get into the possibility of advanced high-tech solutions, such as light-benders (aka mirrors) and remote-eyes (aka cameras)."

    And now you are demanding something from the employer that is far more expensive than just a chair.

  • MB

    > As for the employees, if they don't like the chairs, they simply need to change jobs!

    That's always stuck me as a curious defense. After all, couldn't you just rewrite that to "As for the employers, if they don't like the chairs, they simply need to change the location/business/employee/law/etc.!", which seems to get us exactly nowhere.

    Obviously, if some circumstance or other changes, then the situation changes...what reasons do you have that the burden of change should be on the employee and that the current avenue undertaken by the employees (eg., litigating using the existing legislative and judicial system) are illegitimate?

  • MB

    > Many people (myself included) find stools that are higher than normal chairs (feet don't reach the floor) to be more uncomfortable than standing.

    Then don't use them. AFAIK, the law requires the employer make seating available - not that the employee use them.

    > They can also be a safety hazard, some one is far more likely to fall off of a high stool than a normal chair and when they do fall off, they are falling farther.

    And yet bars provide them to drunk patrons with relative impunity. Though we don't actually need to debate this, since your claim that "chairs for cashiers won't work" is obviously wrong. I could've simply pointed out that Aldi's (as well as a fair number of European stores) already use stools proving that it's entirely workable, but that wouldn't have been as much fun.

    > And now you are demanding something from the employer that is far more expensive than just a chair.

    I'd debate that a mirror is far more expensive than any but the crappiest of stools. As for cameras - not that they're incredibly expensive either - I'd be surprised if more than 5% of retail establishments don't already have CCTV. They're also a much better mechanism for deterring and detecting theft (which is probably the main reason most stores already have them).

    If you're dead set against sitting cashiers, you'll be able to come up with any number of rationalizations why it won't work or is less optimal than standing. Which is why this ended up at the CA Supreme Court to begin with - instead of accepting the possibility of an unknown change in productivity by providing seating, enough employers erred on the side of the status quo that somebody or other decided a law should be written about it. The time to complain about it should've probably been at the time of the law passing - the CA Supreme Court is just clarifying the law in the only reasonable way possible.

    As for the original assertion, "I am going to have to do a ton of research to figure out just how we can comply with all this" - it's fairly obvious, relatively inexpensive, and easy to do - just give everyone a damn seat. It's only when you want to argue that someone should *not* have a seat, that you have to jump through hoops. Which, AFAICT, is actually the point - shifting the status quo from "everyone stands unless management thinks it's OK for them to sit (if they want)" to "everyone sits (if they want) unless management thinks it's required for them to stand".

    The followup, "whether one is in compliance or not is never actually clear until it is tested in court" is really just a complaint about common law and is basically the system working as designed. If we didn't have to test things in court, we wouldn't need courts.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "I could've simply pointed out that Aldi's"

    Aldi's is one of the crappies grocery stores in existence. I would point to them as proof that something is workable.

    "I'd debate that a mirror is far more expensive than any but the crappiest of stools."

    it's not mirror vs stool for cost, but nothing vs mirror + stool.

    "As for cameras - not that they're incredibly expensive either - I'd be
    surprised if more than 5% of retail establishments don't already have
    CCTV. "

    Again, you are talking about status quo vs chair + camera + monitor.

    True but not particularly relevant. The issue with cashiers being able to see into the carts is not about detecting deliberate theft, but detecting when a customer inadvertently leaves merchandise in the cart while checking out. I've done this myself a time or two. It's most efficient to catch that before the customer leaves the checkout line.

    General CCTV security cameras won't work for this. You would need dedicated cameras focused on each checkout line along with monitors that the cashiers can see and know that they are looking at the screen for the right lane.

    "As for the original assertion, "I am going to have to do a ton of
    research to figure out just how we can comply with all this" - it's
    fairly obvious, relatively inexpensive, and easy to do - just give
    everyone a damn seat."

    Clearly you know nothing about the authors business. He doesn't run retail operations, he runs campgrounds Most of his employees don't even have a fixed work location, they are walking around a large park area doing different jobs in different locations. His employees likely travel several miles during the course of a shift.

  • Whitehall

    When I worked at GE in San Jose, I brought in my own chair to my office desk. When the Facilities guy came by, he asked if that chair had been approved by GE.
    I replied that I had no intention of consulting General Electric Company on whether or not my ass was happy.
    He got the point and smiled, never to hassle me again.

  • MB

    > Aldi's is one of the crappiest grocery stores in existence. I wouldn't point to them as proof that something is workable.

    Your English language must be different than mine - in my version, pointing out a company that has their cashier's sitting without "either lowering the checkout counter to a level inconvenient for most customers or seating the cashier high enough that handling the merchandise becomes an issue" certainly does prove that it's "workable" without either of those measures. I suppose if Whole Foods or whatever is the only retail outlet you'll accept, then you'll need to adjust your argument ("workable while providing customer service equal or better than what you expect?").

    BTW - the market seems to disagree with you, since Aldi's has been doing quite well in the US. I'm not a huge fan myself, though considering their low prices and overhead, it may be worth considering their takes on productivity.

    > it's not mirror vs stool for cost, but nothing vs mirror + stool.
    > Again, you are talking about status quo vs chair + camera + monitor.

    There you go moving the goal posts again - more evidence for my assertion that "if you're dead set against sitting cashiers, you'll be able to come up with any number of rationalizations".

    But, let's go ahead with this line and ballpark some costs:
    1. Stool - this can be anywhere from $35 for a basic wooden stool, to maybe $200 for a decent drafting chair to $1000 for an Aeron version. Let's go with $500, and figure we'll need to replace them every 5 years = $100/year.
    2. Mirror - I'd think a basic convex type would be workable - the real trick would be the placement; they don't need to be the highest optical quality - plastic may actually work best since it'd be more durable. Still figure you'll need to replace them every few years - due to scratching, breakage, etc. - let's call it $150 every 3 years = $50/year. There'd be an up front cost of maybe 16 hours (easiest with two people, though they don't need to be particularly skilled) to figure out the best mounting option and placement for them - let's call that $20/hr = $320. We'd possibly need to repeat that work whenever we redesign the checkout line, but that happens rarely and has a lot of other considerations so the additional work should be negligible for those projects.
    3. Camera - Not really needed, since we have the mirrors. Also a little hard to figure, since specific options could depend on what point-of-sale and CCTV infrastructure is already in place. But, for ballparking - I'd say a single standalone camera plus small LCD monitor could be done for $500, plus installation costs. Wiring costs are going to vary a lot as well, but I'd think there should be some accessible conduit for the POS system we can piggyback on. For a single checkout line, another $500 seems about right - I'd expect some discount for a large store like Wal-Mart where you're running multiple lines, but we'll stick with the $500. Again, we may need to redo it whenever we redesign the checkout line - but I'll consider that a cost of that future project.

    So, that's $1320 up-front and $150/year cost per checkout line.

    > Clearly you know nothing about the authors business.

    You'd be wrong on both counts.

    > He doesn't run retail operations, he runs campgrounds. Most of his employees don't even have a fixed work location, they are walking around a large park area doing different jobs in different locations. His employees likely travel several miles during the course of a shift.

    The rule is if it's reasonable to do the work while sitting, seats should be provided. Obviously - things such as cleaning bathrooms, checking campsites, chopping firewood, setting up tents, etc. are not reasonably done while sitting. Things such as checking in guests, counting cash and receipts, making telephone calls, etc. are all reasonably done while sitting and there should be a seat available for those tasks. The type and placement of said seat would depend on the exact nature of the employee and job site; a minimally viable option could be a folding chair that the employee can carry around wherever they think it would be helpful if there is absolutely no fixed location. This isn't rocket science....

    Just an aside on the walking, since it's about the only interesting wrinkle you've brought up. Depending on circumstances, I could envision an argument on that issue if the walking is just to get from point A to point B to do a task. Though it's obviously impossible to sit while walking, a golf cart or bicycle could possibly be reasonable depending on terrain, distance, power availability, activities done during walking, etc. I would suggest checking with the employees actually doing the walking and the tasks for their input on the feasibility of such a suggestion. If golf carts or similar accommodations are provided for ADA compliance, that'd bolster the case that it is reasonable to travel while sitting. If I was the author, I probably would consider a few hours of thinking through this scenario as prudent risk management.

    > The CA supreme court explicitly rejected "just give everyone a damn seat."

    No they didn't, and I struggle to comprehend how you could even entertain such a notion. The entire rule is about carving out a class of employees entitled to seating, and the CA Supreme Court was ruling on how do you define that class of employees (as well as some class-action stuff that's not relevant here). Giving everyone a seat obviously satisfies whatever rule the CA Supreme Court came up with.

    Generously, I'll assume you meant to argue that there's a difference between giving every *person* a seat vs. giving every *task* a seat. Ok - fine, I'll reword my catch-all solution to "make sure there's a damn seat available where your employees are working". After reading the opinion and related cases, I'd also advise "and don't come up with an arbitrarily enforced no-seat policy, because that's just stupid; probably against the law; and violates my first rule". After that, you'll likely be fine for the time being - though if you want assurances that you'll never be sued, and never be found on the wrong end of a judgment afterwards, you'll need to move to a different country (or possibly, planet). As far as I know, this is how society works - it seems a little better to me than just settling our differences with street fights, but YMMV.

    PS - I understand and sympathize with the author's complaints about the *totality* of compliance rules; they can certainly be annoying, a burden, and expensive to implement and monitor. Various studies have come up with astronomically high costs for regulatory burden, and CA often leads the pack (which, no doubt, comes as no surprise to them). I do feel that some of those regulatory burdens are worthwhile costs, but I'm sure that I disagree with others - it's difficult to agree or disagree in absolute lockstep with all of society. I also disagree with any implication that regulatory laws are illegitimate per se.

    I debate the assertions that (a) this particular CA law is all that difficult to interpret or comply with (made by the author), and (b) that this particular CA law is unworkable for cashiers (made by you). I would also debate the assertions (implied by others in this thread) that the free-market would solve this particular case (evidenced by CA status quo, and similar states with no law and no seats). I currently offer no opinions on the reasonableness of the law, it's goals, or it's implementation - having been on multiple sides of the relationships, I'm actually a little conflicted on it, though I hold no ideological objections.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "Your English language must be different than mine - in my version,
    "pointing out a company that has their cashier's sitting without "either
    lowering the checkout counter to a level inconvenient for most customers
    or seating the cashier high enough that handling the merchandise
    becomes an issue" certainly does prove that it's "workable" without
    either of those measures."

    Aldi's has a reputation in my area as having people on food stamps as their primary target market. What they carry in terms of merchandise is so cheap, they probably don't care about the losses from unpaid-for merchandise going out the door. That does not prove it's workable for any other chain.

    "So, that's $1320 up-front and $150/year cost per checkout line."

    And that's still too much. Most retail operations and grocery stores in particular run on paper thing profit margins.

    Average profit margin for retail grocery stores is on the order of 0.5%

    Even seemingly small additional expenses can mean the difference between a small profit and going bankrupt.

  • Not Sure

    Appears to be some disconnect between the people who believe that a business owner should be able to determine what the conditions of employment are for the job for which they are hiring and the people who believe that a prospective employee should be able to determine what the conditions of employment are for the job for which they are applying.

  • Noumenon72

    At my Aldi's they pack the new groceries in the last person's cart. That way if there is something you do not put on the belt, it will not be on the cart you walk out with, it will be on the cart being swung into place for the next person. I never realized the purpose of this before, but it solves this problem!

  • Noumenon72

    Ideally, that's all handled pretty well by the supply and demand curves -- people matching to job conditions that suit, employers paying more to make up for job conditions they can't improve. I was arguing (in my points 1 and 3 that got overshadowed by point 2) that this is a case where market incentives, rather than the participants, determines what the conditions are. And they suck. Like child labor, where no one really wants to see them suffering but as long as it's legal you're going out of business if you don't use them. Politics is for fixing things like that.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    No it doesn't solve anything. Unpaid for merchandise would still leave the store, just with a different person. As I said, the issue here isn't theft in the normal sense.

  • Noumenon72

    Unless you're familiar with Aldi's system where you are, I would have phrased this as a question: "Wouldn't unpaid merchandise still leave the store?" At my store, the cashier is inches from the cart with no barrier in between them, placing groceries into the cart. Nothing could go unnoticed. Of course, you can't easily remodel normal grocery stores' bagging areas to allow this (and the no-bags policy is super unfriendly to customers).

  • Dan

    You're so eager to disprove the global warming theory that you grab any straw you can. It's quite obvious to me that's what you're doing. As a non-scientist, your opinions are interesting, but I give scientists' opinions far more credence. And the vast majority of them think we have a real problem. But keep grasping at straws. It's interesting to watch. It's like someone once said (and I'm quoting it in a very general way): "It's very hard to convince someone of something if their livelihood depends on that something not being true."

  • MB

    > Aldi's has a reputation in my area as having people on food stamps as their primary target market. What they carry in terms of merchandise is so cheap, they probably don't care about the losses from unpaid-for merchandise going out the door. That does not prove it's workable for any other chain.

    Wow - what a tortured existence your brain must live through, jumping through all of these hoops. Just for anyone still following along (Bueller? Bueller?), let's recap the arguments:

    - You: Chairs aren't workable for cashiers
    - Me: Yes, they are - your objections are easily and cheaply solved. Besides, Aldi's has both cashiers and chairs.
    - You: Aldi's customers are poor. And their food is so crappy they want you to steal it. Therefore, chairs won't work.
    - Me: Ummmmm......ok?

    > Average profit margin for retail grocery stores is on the order of 0.5%

    2-3% really; though I'd give you 1-2% if you were talking about a small independent store or something. But it's a meaningless number either way, since you'd need total revenue to make any sense of it (hint: 0.5% margin for Wal-Mart is a lot of money; 0.5% for my garage sale is not).

    > Even seemingly small additional expenses can mean the difference between a small profit and going bankrupt.

    If a stool is going to bankrupt your store, I'd humbly suggest you should fire your employee and strongly consider alternative means of support. I'd even go far as to suggest you have an ethical duty to let your employee know just how badly you've mismanaged this business, in case their career plans didn't include getting pennies out of the fountain for the register. Perhaps, if you play your cards right, your employee will hire you to rub their aching feet - sans chair, of course.

    And, just to be clear - 95% of those costs were for your high-tech solutions to the made-up-problem of carts becoming invisible when cashiers are sitting. The law just required a stool.

  • MB

    FWIW, I think that's more of an efficiency matter. Aldi's cashiers don't spend time bagging, and don't want to wait for your cart to be empty - it's much more efficient for them to handle each item only once.

    I actually wish more stores would do the same - even at a store with baggers, I often have to race to empty my cart before the first bag is waiting. They generally just set the bags aside until the cart is ready - but it can get fairly inefficient if they've managed to get 3 or 4 bags ahead of me which bugs the engineer in me (and makes me feel a little bad for the bagger, who is now twiddling their thumbs).

    Plus, there's the whole awkward load from the front (easier to reach into the cart), but push from the back (so the bagger has access, and I'm at the register) dance.

    Maybe I should just shop more often, so I don't have so many items.....

  • Igor

    To really foul things up requires the Legislature. Especially when the Legislature consists of idiots, poltroons, and scum.
    My apologies to non-legislative idiots, and pond scum.