While at my local gas station conducting impromptu economic research interviews, I met “Julie,” a young lady who works at an area Pizza Hut. Julie overheard our conversation about the pleasure of lower gas prices and interjected herself into the conversation.
“It doesn’t matter how low gas prices fall, it’s not going to make up for what I’m losing to Obamacare. I hate it.”
She explained that her job as a cashier/waitress at Pizza Hut places her into the Department of Labor “Tipped Employee” category. Many of her customers, enjoying the buffet, likely wouldn’t know that their gratuities are expected to fill the gap between the $2.13 server wage and the $7.25 federal minimum.
After working almost exactly 40 hours a week for all of 2013, Julie is now limited to a maximum of 28.9 hours (often less) per week. Beginning next month, most large employers will be required to provide medical coverage to employees working more than 30 hours a week.
Pizza Hut is a division of $13 billion (2013 revenues) Yum! Brands.
Because of the number of additional employees needed to cover the hours people like Julie can no longer work, some weeks Julie only gets two shifts. She now makes between $75 and $150 a week.
Her situation is compounded by Pizza Hut’s practice of issuing payroll debit cards instead of paychecks, causing Julie to often incur fees to make purchases or cash withdrawals.
Julie looked barely older than my high school daughter which, as it turned out she is. She has a child and lives in a two-bedroom mobile home with two other quasi-adults, none of them old enough to legally buy alcohol.
She didn’t explain the circumstances responsible for her being away from her mother in Florida, other than to mention it.
That I considered her surprisingly well-groomed and articulate says more, I am ashamed to admit, about me than her.
I asked about her child. That’s when the day changed for me.
Julie explained that she went to make a layaway payment on the gifts she had on hold at Walmart, when she was informed that some stranger had paid her outstanding balance of 70-something dollars.
She began to cry. I also saw a tear in the eye of one of the delivery men standing near us.
An unwed teenage mother, away from home, trying to nurture her young child in deplorable conditions, receiving gifts from strangers. She was living the Christmas story.
A week ago in Mechanicsville, Pa, customer walked into a Walmart store and paid the outstanding balances of more than 100 layaway accounts. His tab: $50,000.
Walmart layaways had to be picked up by December 15, but stores like Toys R Us, Burlington, Kmart, Sears and others still have outstanding layaway accounts, waiting for someone to pay for them.