In the past I’ve written about the often negative consequences of various jobs and income situations. Today’s post is on a related topic, but it centers on my own personal experience with a job I probably would have been better off if I’d never taken. And it taught me – going forward – that some jobs are not worth having.
When ever someone has financial problems, there’s a strong tendency for others to suggest “why not get a part time job?” As well intended as that advice may be, I’m here to report that such advice isn’t always the way to go. Some jobs can actually cost more than they bring in…
My Bad Job Experience
A few years ago, in the middle of a time of significant financial distress, I took what I thought was a part time job with a local newspaper doing morning delivery. If you haven’t noticed, the days of the newspaper being delivered by neighborhood kids is long gone and being performed entirely by adults in cars.
On the surface, it looked like a perfect situation: an income of over $1,000 a month for early morning work. I’d be done by 6:30 or 7 in the morning, so it wouldn’t interfere with my regular work. Or so I thought!
But some jobs can’t be fully understood until you’re actually in them.
Early morning meant 2:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Toward the weekend it was even earlier; 2 a.m. on Friday, and 1:30 a.m. on Saturday. Sunday’s were 1:30 a.m. too, but only if I could come in for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to assemble the Sunday ad supplements beforehand, otherwise there was no point even going to bed Saturday night – I’d need to be at the shop by midnight to make the morning delivery on time!
Some of the Simplest Jobs Are MUCH More Complicated then They Seem
If you’ve never been involved in newspaper delivery, you probably have no concept of the magnitude of getting the overstuffed Sunday edition of your familiar major metropolitan newspaper delivered to your doorstep each week.
As it turned out, I was spending an average of 35 hours a week working at my “part time job”, for which I was bringing home $1,000. Translation: I was working a full time job for part time money.
Actually, it worked out that I was receiving the rough equivalent of minimum wage. But that wasn’t what made the job counter productive. I was working seven day a week and that will grind on anybody. My sleep patterns were completely disrupted, and I was sleeping when I should have been working at other things, drowsy all the time, and depleted at family times and social events.
I was using my own car to deliver the newspapers and paying hundreds of dollars for gas and repairs (a typical outcome on most delivery type jobs). Circling dozens of cul-de-sacs every day of the week with a car load of newspapers wears down brakes and tires in a matter of weeks, but who would have thought?
I Didn’t Sign On For This…
In yet another rude awakening, it turned out that the local newspaper wasn’t all that we delivered. In an example of how big picture events can and do affect us in our own little corners of life, newspaper companies, who have been in decline for at least the past 20 years, have taken on interesting ways of offsetting delivery costs of their own newspapers. We also delivered the papers for competing newspaper companies, along with free sample products, catalogues, and a perpetually heavier load of ad supplements.
Needless to say, Saturday and weekday editions are looking increasingly like the Sunday packages of old, stuffed with slick ad inserts, and no small number of them. And the Sunday editions – well, you’ve seen them, so you know what I’m talking about. Imagine having 400 or so of them occupying every square inch of your car?
Against the backdrop of declining circulation, I’m guessing that the newspaper companies have taken to offering ad space at rates that are something unusually close to free. After all, how much would a merchant pay for ads in a publication that hardly anyone reads any more?
Sunday Will Never Be The Same…
All of this had to be loaded into the car – our family car – and ferried to more than 400 addresses, every day. And yes – it sounds cliché – but twice on Sundays! I had to deliver the Sunday newspapers in two shifts – so that the car could actually move after it was loaded. If each Sunday edition weighted roughly three pounds (that’s a guess), 400 papers would weigh in at 1,200 pounds. That’s far more than an average car can comfortably haul.
Three and a half months – that’s how long I lasted. The solution I chose to help with our financial troubles only made matters worse. My mind and body, my family, and of course my car, all took a hit during my time on the newspaper delivery job.
And our money problems didn’t improve as hoped.
The car needed new tires, new brakes, and sundry other repairs only a couple of months into the job. I was told by coworkers that that was typical. And I lost money on my mortgage job, since I was always too tired to make the serious effort that it required.
This newspaper delivery job probably cost me as much in the end as I made on it, and took me away from other pursuits. It was one of those jobs that certifiably wasn’t worth taking.
Not all jobs – not all income opportunities – live up to the promise. Far from improving our circumstances, some have a real potential to cause more problems than they solve. Just as is the case with spending our money, we also need to be careful how we earn it. An income situation that can actually cost money – or soak up our time and energy – for very little gain is best avoided.
Have you ever held a job that wasn’t worth having? What did you lose that made it not worth your time?