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Some Jobs Are NOT Worth Having

By Kevin M

Going ... going ... not quite gone by ghb624.

Over the past week I’ve been writing about the often negative consequences of various jobs and income situations. Today’s post is on the same topic, but it centers on my own personal experience with a job I probably would have been better off if I’d never taken it.

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…

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 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 $1000 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, 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. If I came 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!

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 $1000. 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 papers and paying hundreds of dollars for gas and repairs. 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?

And 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. Against the backdrop of declining circulation, I’m guessing the newspaper companies have taken to offering ad space at rates that are something unusually close to nothing.

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 papers in two shifts, so that the car could actually move after it was loaded.

Three and a half months, that’s how long I lasted. The “solution” I chose turned out to be a bigger problem than my financial issues. My mind and body, my family and of course my car all took a hit during my time on the job. And our money problems didn’t improve as hoped.

This 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 with spending our money, we also need to be careful how we earn it. A situation that can cost us money, or soak up our time for very little gain are best avoided.

Have you ever held a job that wasn’t worth having? What did you lose that made it not worth your time?

( Photo courtesy of ghb624 )


21 Responses to Some Jobs Are NOT Worth Having

  1. Wow that’s an EARLY start!! I admire you for taking the job to do whatever it takes to make some money and get ahead.

    What about just focusing on your blog to make $1,000/month?

    rgds, Sam

  2. The newspaper job was several years ago, when the blog wasn’t even on my mental horizon! In a way, that job was one of the factors influencing my starting the blog, so maybe some good did come out of it…

  3. A colleague of mine had up to five daily paper routes over the years and says he earned as much from that as from his regular job (teaching).

  4. I’ve actually seen people do that, but it’s usually a full time venture where they have a van, an assistant, several newspapers they deliver for, and work it essentially full time.

    It’s a way to earn a living, but it’s not the most lucrative way to do it. I was looking for a part time supplement, and it didn’t work as well in that capacity. The turn over rate was enormous, with most people staying only a few months. After that, either they or their cars burned out!

    Oh, and one more thing…this never happened to me, but there was a high rate of auto accidents. Driving in the early morning when you’re tired, and it’s dark out, it’s easier to crash into a tree, curb or wall than you might think. Your mind is foggy, and it’s on delivery as much as driving, and that can lead to problems.

  5. I can understand why you hated that job. Not only must it have been tiring and tedious, but you didn’t get any social interaction either.

    I used to do paper delivery as a kid where you had to actually collect from each home. That was kinda fun, until a giant sheepdog came and bit me in the stomach. I also worked in a chocolate factory under the table (think back to Lucy and Ethel, except many of my coworkers were on work-release programs).

    I think my least favorite was working for UPS while in college at the holidays. They would just drop me on a corner with a cart and 4 streets worth of packages. I had to wear that horrible brown outfit, pulling all these packages in the freezing cold of Michigan. Plus, it seemed all heavy packages needed to be dropped off on the back porch for some reason.

    But in the end, I paid for college, so good comes from many things. I can say I have never bought another pair of brown pants though.

  6. Everyday Tips – I never thought about the lack of social interaction on the newspaper job, but now that you bring it up, it was in fact a very lonely job! Being alone in the dark can wear on you, but I must admit I discovered some good radio programs (mostly faith based since I’m a Christian) and often looked forward to.

    One thing that I tried to do that didn’t work out, was that I tried to involve my kids in it on the weekends. It showed them what work was all about, and I paid them part of the earnings, so they made some money too. They’d sit on the back seat of the car, container of chocolate milk in one hand and toss newspapers in driveways with the other.

    But the company caught wind of it, and stopped it without naming names. I quit shortly after.

  7. Kevin, you poor guy. I can’t believe you kept that up for even ONE month, let alone three.

    I’m old enough to remember kids riding around my neighborhood delivering papers out of a bag hanging off the front of their bicycle handle bars. I wonder if they had to get up that early too? I bet not. I bet their routes were a lot smaller too.

    One thing I do know is that they were responsible for collecting the money. I believe they were also responsible for covering deadbeat subscription holders debts (maybe an old paper boy can tell me if that was the case).

    I briefly considered doing that, but in the end I decided to bag groceries instead.

    All the best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  8. Len, one thing I didn’t include in the post was that I did the very same job back in the 1980s when I came out of college. Different times, differnt job. It was easy money and not a lot of time – about 2 hours on weekdays, three on Sundays.

    But it’s all changed, and now it’s a real job.

    BTW, you’re right about the kids needing to collect and sometimes getting burned if a customer didn’t pay, but they don’t have kids doing the routes anymore.

    Like a lot of things now, this ain’t the good old days!

  9. I’ve had many odd jobs in my life, but one that totally wasn’t worth it was doing store inventories. It was steady work around Christmas, but after that the hours were cut way back. You could be required to start work any time from 5:15 am to 6 pm any day of the week. It was physically grueling, with a lot of pressure to work faster but not make any mistakes. Many supervisors would not allow you to take a break no matter how many hours you worked, and even begrudged a trip to the bathroom. Work was doled out based off supervisor whims, and many bad bosses could not be fired due to family relationships.

    I eventually dropped this for another job that wasn’t good, but at least gave me 40 hours a week and let me sit down the whole time.

  10. Does anyone remember selling “The Grit” door-to-door?
    It was a weekly newspaper. If you didn’t sell most of the papers they’d make you pay them back for unsold issues. You often just pocketed a buck or two for a Saturday afternoon’s work.
    But, with a cold can of Pepsi selling for a quarter and a pack of baseball cards at a dime, I had very little overhead at the time.

  11. Jennifer, that store inventory thing was one I’d considered a few times in my younger days. But all the ones I looked at had you coming in at 11 pm and working thru the night. I was looking for part time and working over night wouldn’t have fit with a day job, so I never tried it. Based on what you’re saying, I’m glad I didn’t.

    Matt, I don’t remember The Grit, but I do remember various “jobs” that made you put money out of your own pocket in order to make a go of it. Those situations can work if you have the personality–like a sales personality. But for most people they never seem to live up to the promise. It smacks of Amway or Avon, and I don’t know anyone who makes more than a little money at those, if they make any at all.

  12. I used to deliver papers when I was in high school! We weren’t involved in assembling them though, just delivery.

    $1000 is part time money? LOL – wish I could say the same.

  13. eemusings – Yeah, $1000. But don’t be too impressed! That income came a a real price to my health, family, main occupation and my car, and none of that is worth $1000/month!

  14. I’ve recently taken on a part time job at a coffee shop (in addition to my full time job). In addition to earning ~$800-1000/mth I get unlimited coffee and food (sandwiches, chili, soup, bagels etc) while I’m working so I can usually get at least one free meal out of each shift. Because most of their staff is highschool kids and apparently they need to be bribed to show up for all their shifts and actually wear the full uniform… we all get an additional dollar an hour per shift for wearing the complete uniform, and an additional dollar an hour for the entire week if we show up for all scheduled shifts. So on top of the base pay I get free food and an extra $2/hour just for showing up wearing my uniform.

    I haven’t been at this long so we’ll see how it works out over the long haul. I think it’s good for the kids to see that I’m willing to commit to an extra job on top of my 9-5 in order to boost our savings. Every cent I earn from my extra job goes directly to retirment savings or extra mortgage payments.

  15. JMK – WOW I think you’ve found a good one. I can see the shop incentivizing the kids with food and extra money. They don’t seem to be altogether motivated by the idea of a job alone. It must be worth it to the shop to do this, after all it is a service business, and staff is needed to perform the service.

    Would you mind mentioning the name of the company, that is if it’s a well known chain?

  16. I delivered papers when I was kid. I didn’t have to collect money but I did have to assemble the papers and that took as long as delivery. Still for two hours a day it was good money. It sounds like things have changed dramatically. I really don’t see how you could make money unless you approached as a full-time job, like you mentioned.

  17. You probably can’t make money doing it part time, maybe because of the heavy use of your car. You’ll make $1000plus but you’ll give a lot of it back in car repairs. If you can make $24,000 over a two year period, but then have to buy a new car at the end, you’ll have given it all back.

  18. Hey Kevin,

    I was thinking about doing a route. I am just trying to figure out if it is worth it. I would be delivering the paper(and picking up old papers) just every Wednesday to certain businesses.The papers would need to be deliver.I was told that I would be doing about 43 stops and be paid about $2.25 per stop so comes out to 96.75. I was just wondering if doing it once a week would hurt my vehicle.

  19. Hi Katie–That sure sounds a lot more doable than the seven days a week I was doing. If you can do the whole route in 3-4 hours and you don’t put more than 10-20 miles on your car doing it, it may be worth it. Figure 50 cents per mile for the use of your car and see how it works out when you deduct that from what they’re paying you.

    So if you drive 20 miles, at .50 per mile, that’s $10 for the cost of your car, deducted from $96.75, leaves you with $86.75 per week. If you can do it in, say four hours, your hourly pay is $21.67. That’s an excellent rate for a very part time job.

    Good luck with it should you decide to take it. That job sounds much more civilized than what I was doing.

  20. Hi Kevin, im glad I found your blog. I recently just got hired as a newspaper delivery driver. Well “technically”, my paperwork hasent been processed yet. Anyhow, Im a part time student, am also working 3 other part time jobs. I got this job in hopes of making extra cash for the holidays/to help me pay my schools tuition. I havent officially done the route on my own yet, for the past 2 days ive been going with one of the guys who i guess you can say is training me. For the past 2 days going on 3, ive been driving about 15 miles from my house to the warehouse where there Ive been prepping/bagging the newspapers. I get there around 2 am and leave by 4am. From there I then drive another 15 miles or so to where the route starts. By the time im finished its usually around 7 am. This is a 7 days a week gig, and as far as the pay goes the ad says average of $400 every 2 weeks. Its only been a few days and I am already feeling the effects of being overworked/not having enough sleep. Im questioning if this is even worth it? what do you think? Any advice/insite would be greatly appreciated! thanks

  21. Hi Crissy–you have my advice in the article! As much as I needed the money it really wasn’t worth it. The toll on my health, mental state and car were too great. From what you’re describing you’ll be working 35 hours a week for $200–that’s less than $6 an hour and less than the minimum wage.

    BTW, it sounds EXACTLY like the newspaper delivery job I had.

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