From Sprint Call Center Exec To Baker In Five Years

Meet John Eller. Five years ago, he was a Sprint executive earning $150,000 for managing 7,000 employees at 13 call centers. Today, he’s a grocery store baker making $10 an hour. The Times tells us he’s not the only former executive now working for minimum wage.

Interviews with more than two dozen laid-off professionals across the country, including architects, former sales managers and executives who have taken on lower-paying, stop-gap jobs to help make ends meet, found that they were working for places like U.P.S., a Verizon Wireless call center and a liquor store. For many of the workers, the psychological adjustment was just as difficult as the financial one, with their sense of identity and self-worth upended.

“It has been like peeling back the layers of a bad onion,” said Ame Arlt, 53, who recently accepted a position as a customer-service representative at an online insurance-leads referral service in Franklin, Tenn., after 20 years of working in executive jobs. “With every layer you peel back, you discover something else about yourself. You have to make an adjustment.”

Some people had exhausted their jobless benefits, or were ineligible; others said it was impossible for them to live on their unemployment checks alone, or said it was a matter of pride, or sanity, that drove them to find a job, any job.

In just one illustration of the demand for low-wage work, a spokesman for U.P.S. said the company saw the number of applicants this last holiday season for jobs sorting and delivering packages almost triple to 1.4 million from the 500,000 it normally receives.

It’s nothing new, but it shows just how far anyone can fall. Something to keep in mind next time you’re talking to a customer service representative.

“It has been the hardest thing in my life,” said Arlt. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”

Forced From Executive Pay to Hourly Wage [The New York Times]
(Photo: Egan Snow)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Skankingmike says:

    well that person has their priorities messed up. Nothing can be worse than the death of your mother, unless you didn’t like your mother…….. Which case why would you use that as a comparison?

    Which is why you shouldn’t judge people who work in retail by the fact that they work in retail sometimes shit happens.

    I know a guy that works for my company that used to make 6 figures and was working for world bank, back before 911. After 911, he had a break down and now works in retail.

    • yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

      @Skankingmike: that was exactly my reaction after reading that line. worse than the death of your mother? really?

      • yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

        @captain_underpants: also, has minimum wage really gone up to $10/hour? i was under the impression it was around 7 bucks.

      • stopNgoBeau says:

        @captain_underpants: Well, to be fair, the death of one’s mother could be expected (the death of everyone is inevitable, furthermore if she was diagnosed with some terminal illness) while your falling from the top of your career is far beyond someone’s thoughts, especially when things are going well at the time.

        People who are the in the best position fail to see the approaching doom.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Skankingmike: Honestly, it’s hard to say without first meeting his mother.

    • Raiders757 says:


      One shouldn’t judge people by the job they hold, period! To think less of someone because of what they do for a living, mearly makes one even less of a person than those whom they are judging.

      Having a better paying, or more prestigeious job, doesn’t make one a better person.

      In other words, I totally agreewith what your saying.

      • TWinter says:

        @Raiders757: Jesus people, stop and think a minute before you pile on against the woman.

        It really depends on how her mother died. If her mother had a long protracted illness or decline then she may have been expecting the death of her mother. It is often easier to deal with emotionally painful events when we see them coming at us.

        She isn’t necessarily saying her mother’s death was not extremely painful. It could just be that she was much better prepared for her mother’s death.

      • worksanddays says:

        @Raiders757: I totally agree! When I read that line in the article I was thinking “What, so if someone *wasn’t* a former architect, it’s ok to be bitchy to them?”

        It’s important to remember that these minimum wage jobs are ESSENTIAL to our economy — someone has to do them, unless we want to live in a country without restaurants or customer service or.. the list goes on.

        There is no reason, ever, to be rude to people. As a longtime baker, I find it ridiculous that it’s ok to be rude to me, but not if I had a previous career as an executive.

        • oneandone says:

          @worksanddays: It’s important to remember that these minimum wage jobs are ESSENTIAL to our economy — someone has to do them, unless we want to live in a country without restaurants or customer service or.. the list goes on.

          Absolutely. And that’s not even getting to farmworkers, janitors, resturaunt dishwashers, meat packers & other food processors… essential and invisible jobs that might get a little more attention now.

        • ScottRose says:


          It’s important to remember that these minimum wage jobs are ESSENTIAL to our economy

          The real sad part about this article is what happened to the people that were doing those jobs last year.

          The Sprint exec is now a baker, but what happened to the guy that was baking before? He’s now SOL for a job.

          Oh, and the Sprint call center manager losing his $150K salary may have been poetic justice and not a tragedy.

          “Your career is important to us. You are #1844 in the queue to not earn minimum wage. Please hold for the next available job opening.”

    • Charlotte Rae's Web says:

      @Skankingmike: I agree. My first thought was her life hadn’t been all that hard then if this was the worst thing that happened to her.

    • qxrt says:

      @Skankingmike: Not necessarily agreeing with her sentiment, but a death is a one-time event that might not even affect her day-to-day life all that much beyond the initial feeling of emptiness. Contrast that to losing a high-paying, respected job and spending every day waking up early and spending your entire days, weeks, months, and possibly years working at a low-paying, humble job.

      • Skankingmike says:

        @qxrt: You can change your life, you can’t bring somebody that birthed you and raised you back.

        @Charlotte Rae’s Web: Exactly, apparently life’s been peaches and cream up until now.

        @stopNgoBeau: Even if death is expected it’s never easy. Nor is it comparable to living and working a honest job that you can eventually move on from.

        Seriously was I suppose to feel bad for somebody who lost their job and now has a lower paying one?

        Maybe now some of these Senior management people will understand how the other half lives.

    • deadspork says:

      @Skankingmike: Oh my God, you have to do what we do every day for a living? You poor, poor bastard!


      • deadspork says:

        @deadspork: Obviously not directed at skankingmike.

        • b.k. says:

          “It has been like peeling back the layers of a bad onion,” said Ame Arlt. “With every layer you peel back, you discover something else about yourself.”

          Uhm… she realizes she’s talking about *herself*, right? Is she saying she’s rotten to the core?

    • samurailynn says:

      @Skankingmike: I was actually thinking that I can’t believe it could be worse than going through a divorce, unless you didn’t really love your spouse. I mean, we all expect our parents to die someday, right? I don’t expect to ever get divorced, and I can’t imagine the emotional, social, and financial impact it would have. But I guess there are some people who remarry 2-3 times throughout their life, so I guess some people do expect to get divorced.

      • Skankingmike says:

        @samurailynn: lets all agree it was a stupid comment to compare losing your job and some how getting a new one right away in this economy to death, divorce, Katrina whatever.

    • SuperSally says:

      @Skankingmike: I disagree. We went through 18 months of my husband trying to find work–any work–before he got steady employment again, and in the year after that I got cancer. If I had to pick between the two again, I’d go with the cancer every freaking time.

      Why? Because it was something I could deal with. It affected my daughter, sure, but it didn’t mean she would go hungry. It was something you could see the end of, knowing what’s at stake, and knowing what you have to do to get to the end of it; job loss on the level they’re talking about it just the opposite. You wake up everyday not knowing how long the battle will last, and how much you stand to lose, and not knowing what you can do about it.

      I’m sure recovery from the death of her mother was much the same as my cancer–you have goals you can meet to make your life more normal again, but with job loss, someone came in and stole the freaking goal post.

  2. defectiveburger says:

    @captain_underpants: depends, many states have their own min. wage established which are higher than the federal min wage. CA’s min wage is $8, even though federal is $6.55

    • yo, naomi leon (nee captain_underpants) says:

      @defectiveburger: ah, i see. that makes sense, considering how the cost of living varies by region.

      • floraposte says:

        @captain_underpants: However, no state has a minimum wage of $10. Highest is Washington at $8.55. The New York Times simply referred to the change as “hourly wage”; the Consumerist glitched a bit when they reported the story.

        However, he’s not a baker today, according to the NYT; he’s got a salary of $34k. Which isn’t going to go all that far, though, since he’s got eight kids.

  3. wardawg says:

    On no, I have to answer the phone to survive? This is worse than when my mother died!

    Drama queen much?

    • uptonogood says:

      @wardawg: it’s not the actual events itself which make it bad. it’s the mental transition from a job you held in high esteem to something far far below her previous station in life. this is where empathy comes into play. her life isn’t bad but it’s not where she envisioned it. she’s finally hit the reality that a lot of people live in but a lot of people have existed in that reality for a while. she’s just always floated above it. give her a bit. she’ll either adjust or kill herself.

      • wardawg says:

        @uptonogood: You make a good, although unrelated point: with all the executives preparing to hurl themselves from their penthouse office, there’s bound to be a lot of decent jobs opening up fairly soon.

    • Gokuhouse says:

      @wardawg: No kidding, she must be a horrible person to say losing your job and working with the rest of us is worse than family dying.

    • Anonymous says:

      @wardawg: You’ve obviously never worked in a call center, it’s like watching your soul burn alive every day, over, and over, and over, and over, and over again until you finally snap a decide to join the military, or start a grow-house

  4. ct_price says:

    You would be surprised at how many people who work in restaurants have college degrees. I think sometimes being out of the game and not quite knowing how to jump in/back in keeps people locked in place.

    • Charlotte Rae's Web says:

      @ct_price: I have a number of friends in restaurants/bars who are very stuck b/c they’ve gotten so used to having the quick cash of tips. Not that the overall money is more really but the day to day availability makes it more attractive when you are younger and you can get stuck.

    • frodolives35 says:

      @ct_price:If 40 is the new 30 college is the new votech. Give it 5 more years and it will be the new highschool. A college degree has been so watered down due to the competition for the bucks and the lowered standards it is pitifull. Any one who does not plan on getting a masters or doctorate degree better be something when they finish that bach. IE: Nurse. EE. Teacher, etc. The days of doing something with a bach of sci or liberal arts degree are long gone.

      • godlyfrog says:

        @frodolives35: In some places, it already is. Where I work, it’s hard to get a salaried position without a college degree. It’s purely a CYA measure, though, because what you have a degree in doesn’t much matter.

      • INsano says:

        @frodolives35: “pitifull”. Indeed.

        • frodolives35 says:

          @INsano: Thanks I needed that from the spellcheck nazi I bet you learned how to spell in college. Oh well at least I have a job to go to that doesn’t care about spelling. LOL

          • worksanddays says:

            @frodolives35: Being proud of being bad at spelling doesn’t make any sense. Nor does it make sense to taunt people about the fact that you have a job, it only makes you look insecure and hateful.

  5. TEW says:

    That is a problem with a degree in underwater basket weaving. I am planning to work two jobs when I finish college. I plan to take the money from the 2nd job for a down payment for a house and pay the house off early. If the government did not bail these companies out the share holders might vote these idiots out of their positions.

    • Jonbo298 says:

      @TEW: That’s a good option even if not ideal in the short term. The more you can payoff on a house/mortgage sooner, the better. It’s mind boggling from my perspective doing Home Mortgage CS, just how much interest is saved by adding $10 a month, $100 a month, or more and sustaining that.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      @TEW: There are no “guaranteed” degrees. Surely you know this?

  6. Joeb5 says:

    But will he labeled a bragger for life and have a hard time getting any other jobs? People some times that feel a about low wage jobs and you get stuck in them.

  7. cecilsaxon says:

    This guy is obviously not trying or is simply unqualified for the position he once held. I know of call center companies (in his immediate area) that are hiring all the time. The catch? You have to be good at what you do.

    This sounds like a monumental fail yes- but not the economy.

    Of course Sprint call centers have always been stellar examples of efficiency and customer service- so he is good. NOT. If he ran 7k employees in cust service centers for Sprint he must suck.

    • funkright says:

      @cecilsaxon: that’s a pathetic comment, give the guy and these people some slack.. life sometimes deals you stuff that you weren’t necessarily prepared for and you take it from there. I commend these people for going back to work, any work..

    • parkavery says:

      @cecilsaxon: Just because some places are “always hiring” doesn’t mean he’s not trying. If a vacancy opens up, there may be hundreds of applicants. Then, another vacancy opens up, and there are hundreds more applicants. If he’s not the best at any one of those hiring rounds, he loses.

      They may always have vacancies but you’ll never know how many resumes they’re keeping on file, or how many applications they’re receiving for those vacancies.

  8. unobservant says:

    I think everyone should work for minimum wage for at least five years before they go on to higher-paying positions. No more of this holier-than-thou class separation and sense of entitlement because daddy paid for their education/corporate placement.

    I think back at the years when I worked the service desk at a supermarket below a federal court and high-falutin’ office tower and the possibility that this reversal of fortune might hit Canada puts a horrible smirk on my face.

    • baquwards says:

      @unobservant: I couldn’t agree more. I work retail by choice, no kidding, only because it is far less stress than my last job. I work in a wealthy area of town and people treat me like I am some slack jaw idiot. I can only imagine how pathetic their lives must be, thinking that it is OK to treat others this way.

      • INsano says:

        @baquwards: Kudos to both of you, I concur. Funny how quickly people try to distance themselves from jobs they probably had before. The employment/class based condescension that has such a hold on this country is insane. Restaurants are perhaps the worst example. I’ve never worked in one, but have always been appalled at the attitude of those who come to a restaurant and think that because they’re paying for a meal, the person bringing their food is their feudal serf. Callous, disdainful, pompous, misinformed.

        • bohemian says:

          @INsano: I have worked with plenty of upper management people. Some get their entire self worth out of their imagined job status and think that imagined status should apply to everything in every aspect of life. These are the kind of people who really can’t handle taking a fall because they have built everything around that job image, having to become one of the serfs really would be worse than death for some of these people.

          People who have decided their job title makes them some sort of US aristocracy usually have little of interest to themselves and their lives beyond their job. I would rather talk to someone broke and interesting.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      @unobservant: Great idea! I remember in my late 20s during the dot com boom, many of my coworkers were fresh out of college. Sometimes I would end up at a work function in a service establishment, and I wanted to smack the little douche faces from half of their heads due to how they treated, “the help.” I was a little older, and had worked my way through school in food service.

      • varro says:

        @richcreamerybutter: Yes….and “douchefaces” is a perfect description for private-school snots who come out of college never having worked (or having just worked fetching coffee for executives as an unpaid intern).

        College jobs: dishwasher in Italian restaurant, convenience store clerk, worker in brewery (best job for the summer you turn 21!), clerk in alumni office of school, referee of football and basketball games.

    • varro says:

      @unobservant: If you’re Canadian, you have one *huge* expense paid for – health care.

      The COBRA people talk about is medical insurance from one’s old job, only you have to pay for it out of your own pocket. It’s about $600-900 for a married couple with no kids in their 30s or 40s.

    • runswithscissors says:

      @unobservant: This attitude of treating people in service jobs as lower in worth thrives on the perception that “career success = life success, period”. We see a lot of media and art that makes a point of defying this perception, from the old Dickens classics like “A Christmas Carol” to modern movies like “Click”. Yet while so many smile and nod understandingly when Adam Sandler’s character realizes that becoming CEO at the expense of his family life is a waste, so many in society still act as if money=success.

      My career has directly and measurably suffered from the fact that I put time with my family first, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

  9. Yurei says:

    Daaaamn, I wish minimum wage was $10 here. In the last 2 years NH has gotten a HUGE jump- up to $7.50 or something. It was $5 something 2 years ago. I would love to have something paying $10. But yes, it does suck for them to go down so low. My mom’s in the same situation ever since the .com bubble burst, though I don’t think she pulled in 6 figs, finding anything that pays double digits an hour is impossible.

  10. soundreasoning says:

    I don’t feel any more sorry for these people at all. Don’t commodify your life and you don’t have this problem of tying your identity to your job and your salary. You don’t need to keep this story in mind when you are talking to customer service rep, because whether or not they were executives six months ago is irrelevant. They are people and should be treated with the respect people deserve until they do or say something undeserving. I balk at focusing on these “mighty have fallen” stories. They demonstrate that we as a society think that executives are deserving of their jobs and salaries somehow more than the minimum wage worker who also lost her job. Screw them; welcome to having it actually tough. For everyone one of you deciding which private school to send your kids to, there are five people deciding how to feed their kids three meal on Wednesday. There is so much more to say but I don’t want to bore everyone with too long a comment.

    • floraposte says:

      @soundreasoning: It’s not just “how the mighty have fallen,” though. It’s people who spend a lot of time investing themselves into a particular career and, often, living with less to benefit from it in the future, who now find themselves worse off because of it. Eller has eight kids. He’s not struggling just because he thinks of himself as a guy with a Porsche.

      • soundreasoning says:

        @floraposte: I realize the dual nature of the disappointment, but part of that disappointment comes from thinking yourself as special because you are an executive. That’s why I said people should not commodify their JOBS and salary. Thinking of your job as your identity is a commidifying your work. If you are person who like customer service for example, you should be happy serving customers as a baker. But he isn’t, he commdofied his success as represented by his “important” position.

        And having eight kids is just his porsche. No one made him have eight kids its what he chose to send his money on, except its arguably less responsible because if you have a porsche and something happens it gets sold or repossessed, but if you have eight kids those kids get screwed. I’m tired of this excuse crap. Bad things happen everyday, they can happen to you and its totally fair for them to happen to you. Never act like everything is going to continue to get,better or stay the same, because they can also get worse. Life sucks, get a helmet, and a contingency plan.

        • floraposte says:

          @soundreasoning: What “excuse”? For that matter, what commodification? He’s saying it’s tough to have less money. I don’t think that’s classist or ridiculous; it is. The kids aren’t screwed because there’s eight of them (and by your logic, they’re not screwed at all unless they too commodified their family’s status), they’re screwed because they’re part of a family that’s suffered a radical financial crunch. There’s no number of kids that you can safely assume you’re able to support in the event of loss of income, and there’s no contingency plan that’s going to save you against everything that life can throw at you. And it’s also not reasonable to live off dry rice cooked over a candle for your whole life just in case you have to rebuild after a tsunami.

          Some of the people who’ve lost higher positions or wealth are complaining in ways I find unappetizing, it’s true. But not all of them are, and even those that are complaining still have justification even if they don’t have likeability. And I don’t see any reason to consider this guy unsympathetic just because he used to make more money than mey.

          • soundreasoning says:

            @floraposte: One by one:
            1. The “excuse” is because he has kids his life is harder and different than the porsche guy, like choosing to have eight kids isn’t a selfish perhaps not well thought out venture in itself. Having that many kids is expensive and the belief you can adequately support that many is predicated on a belief that things won’t ever get to bad. Surprise sometimes they do. I don;t care if he;s dealing with it, he should deal with it. He has to deal with. There’s no gold star for doing what you need to do. Its hard; welcome to everyone’s life; again I don’t care you are not special.
            2. Commodification is raising things to the level of self. A job is a thing. A salary is a thing. A title is a thing. If he loves customer service (his old job) and that his his passion then I see being baker as no problem for his identity. If its hard otherwise there is something else there. If he didn’t love his old then clearly it was already commodified.
            3. About the kids being screwed, thanks for repeating what I said, and they are not screwed if they commodified, they are kids they have fewer choices about what they do with their lives, they aren’t screwed because now they won’t have an ipod, they are screwed because now they may not have enough food while their dad makes 10 dollars an hour. That’s dad’s fault for having eight of them. He screwed them. So you see the reason they are screwed is because of their parents choices not because the children commodified anything and that screwing is true regardless of whether they did commodify anything.
            4. There is no exact number of kids you can support on any income, however there is a definite correlation between how hard it gets to support a certain number and your income. Eight kids is a lot, and it may not be an entirely wise or thoughtful decision to have that many kids. I’m not saying it definitely is, but it is certainly something that if a friend who came to you and said they were going to have eight kids on x dollars a year you would. Its hard for him, yes. Do I care anymore than anyone else who is struggling; no. You see that’s what you are missing here, I think its sad for him, but i don;t think it matters anymore than anyone who has it hard and this story should not be written. It is not “stories of people who struggle,” it “stories of people who formerly did not have to struggle having to struggle now.” Boo hoo the American dream shattered. Oh wow did you just find out that was a lie? I’m sorry.

            The allusion to a tsunami is great, and act of god versus a financial crisis that anyone paying attention could see a mile away. And anyway to take it a run with it, they are similar both occur is their realms of being tsunami as weather phenomena and economic slumps as economic phenomena, and yes you plan for them to some degree so they don’t totally upend your world. Believe it or not there is a medium between buying a jet and a helicopter and eating rice out of a spoon, maybe I’m suggesting living somewhere in there…

            This is guy isn’t unsympathetic, he’s just not special.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      @soundreasoning: I feel bad for the more deserving baker the former exec is displacing.

  11. Peter Nincompoop says:

    “Meet John Eller. Five years ago, he was a Sprint executive earning $150,000 for managing 7,000 employees at 13 call centers. Today, he’s a grocery store baker making $10 an hour.”

    This says a lot about the skills and experience he brings to the table from his years at Sprint. $150K at Sprint = $10/hr on the open market. Sounds right to me.

    • theslik1 says:


      About time somebody nailed this. Most of these executives/managers never had what normal people consider marketable skills to begin with. They only got where they are/were through pathological self-promotion, denigrating their peers and subordinates, and/or being well-connected. It’s way past overdue, but the chickens are finally coming home to roost.


      You’re partially right: vo-tech is the new college. A significant percentage of new workers in my industry will be tech school grads vice college “educated” which is becoming quite the sick joke. Those with the right stuff (which means actual skills) will be earning $80K+ salaries in short order.

      • econobiker says:


        “They only got where they are/were through pathological self-promotion, denigrating their peers and subordinates, and/or being well-connected.”

        Or laying off workers / downgrading salaries even while they enjoyed perks. Example: The president of a manufacturing company I worked for downgraded its plant floor lead people- reduced pay- at the same time he had a $$$ automatic coffee maker installed in the office breakroom- which included installing a custom stainless steel shelf and special water line. Yeah the employees loved that one when the maintenance man told them…

  12. ohayou_kun says:

    What a whiner, a job some people seeme to forget is a means to an end. The end being bills, sounds like the type of person that lives to work instead of working to live.

    • INsano says:

      @ohayou_kun: Agreed. Some people can tie themselves to a job, because it really is part of who they are, what they’re trying to do-a doctor who wants to improve the quality of life for those who suffer the most working on battling sub-Saharan malaria, a civil rights lawyer who believes in freedom of expression.


      Most jobs are nothing like that and people misapply the “you can be an astronaut if you want to be” to some job that really has no chance of ever satisfying their inner passions.

      A lot of people would be happier if they understood that most jobs are just a means, not an end.

  13. sventurata says:

    @cecilsaxon: Most people who run call centres don’t even answer their own phones, let alone the angry buzzing of a hundred upset clients each day…

  14. unobservant says:

    … and after working with the very people he used to think below him he learned that, under those stockboy caps and cashier smocks, there beat a collective heart more generous and giving than any he had encountered in the stark glass towers he from which he once ruled.

    He learned to get along with his fellow paeon, became a more frugal person and, when the recession cleared and his fortunes were restored, he hired those hard-working, intelligent individuals to work alongside him and they all lived happily ever after.

    • nevets68 says:


      And how I wish that was true.

      I’ve been out of work for a year already.
      I’ve exhausted U.E. and pretty much applied everywhere, from the local T-Mobile store to the supermarket down the road.

      It’s utterly depressing to say the least (ie..not getting a call back or even a interview).

      • funkright says:

        @nevets68: it hasn’t been a year for me, just a bit over 4 months, but I ended up taking a branch manager’s job for a rental agency.. comp is about 60-70% of what I earned before (all in, including a company car)..

        I am still having challenges dealing with it, as I SO used to tie my ego and opinion of myself to my job (that is almost gone now), I start tomorrow and will show up with a great big smile on my face and appreciation in my heart for the opportunity that it provides to me.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @nevets68: @funkright:

        I was out of work for over a year before I found my current job. With things the way they are, he’s lucky he found anything at all. Even the crap jobs are getting thousands of applicants. I did a lot of temping when I was off, which sucks but at least it’s easy to ditch when you do find something.

        My friend just got laid off, too. I feel for all of you. I know what it’s like. Good luck, nevets68. And funkright, that’s a good attitude. :)

  15. wagnerism says:

    Why are all of these people “grasshoppers” while the “ants” store food for winter? Look up and read the fable if you’re not familiar.

    My friends of 15+ years and I started out at entry level and worked our way up. Two groups emerged… ants and grasshoppers.

    The grasshoppers showed up with a new TV/car/mobilephone/etc after every raise. The ants kept their cars after they were paid off… stuff like that. It has hit the fan three times (early ’90s, dotcom bubble, current crisis) in my working history and, thankfully, this ant has not yet been hit hard.

    Everything is on a cycle. I weathered the early ’90s recession as an green 18yo $10/hr high-school vocationally-trained CAD drafter. I did my job very well and constantly did more outside my job. I even installed and wired fluorescent lighting in the office and took my boss’s car to Costco for new tires on his 7-series BMW. His car had more errant driving damage than my car was worth. That was my start, so I didn’t “settle” for that job.

    It saddens/surprises me to think that my $10/hr entry-level rate from that recession rivals the pay of people scrambling for any job to pay the bills in 2009.

    I’m thankful that my current job situation is the best I have ever had. Rather than bask in the sunshine, I’m trying to finish up an AS degree before the end of 2010.

    • ajlei says:

      @wagnerism: I didn’t bother to look up the fable but something tells me it’d be similar to Disney’s “A Bug’s Life”.

      Also, if nothing else your story gives my minimum-wage, college-student ass a little hope for the future.

    • orlo says:

      @wagnerism: The only thing being an ant gets you is a decent burial.

  16. JollyJumjuck says:

    I would feel worse for the person who has been in the low-paying job all their life than the one who was once an executive. At least with a six figure income, one (very likely) had a chance to take nice vacations, had a huge house at one time, expensive vehicle, etc. With a lifelong low paying job, one likely has *never* had the enjoyment of those nice things.

    • floraposte says:

      @JollyJumjuck: I don’t get why it’s a contest. Can’t we feel sorry for anybody having a tough time?

      • wagnerism says:


        It isn’t a contest for me either, but it is easier to have sympathy for those who struggled all along. It is human nature to sneer at someone making $150k and not feel that bad when they become average.

        The way I see it is that $1mil of social/unemployment benefits will help several times more of the always-struggling people than those whose standard of living cost $150k/yr at one time. Obnoxious example… One group feeds their kids while the other upgrades basic cable tv.

        A shit job and a car with manual crank windows (and no A/C) should be a rite of passage. I wonder if my McDonald’s uniform still fits.

  17. VeeKaChu says:

    After nearly a decade of working for and observing some very poor managers and the deleterious effects they could have on the people beneath them, I learned probably the most important “Life-Lesson” regarding gainful employment, and it’s this;

    Your job- it’s not who you are, it’s only what you do.

    People who come to define themselves by their role in the workplace cannot adequately deal with separation from it, whereas a well-balanced person will simply accept that if they need to take two jobs bagging groceries to make ends meet, then by golly they’ll do that.

    Sure, the ego always takes a hit, but that’s the crux of it; if you’re in control of that fucker, he can’t make you lay in bed all day crying about how unfair it is that you’re not pushing other folks around for your daily bread.

  18. BridgetPentheus says:

    I also work in retail by choice. I have a masters degree but I much prefer my retail job to working in the corporate world. I may make much less money but everyday I enjoy what I do. It’s not what I studied in college but I get satisfaction. And I manage to survive in NYC because I scrimped and saved to buy a place and be responsible for my own bills. I don’t feel sorry for people who made a bunch of money and then lose their jobs and can’t pay their bills. Reduce your lifestyle, you should have been saving all along. I have over a years worth of living expenses saved if I do lose my job and so should everyone else.

  19. goatmale says:

    I bet he’s humbled.

  20. blb says:


  21. quizmasterchris says:

    The next logical step here is that we would hope there’d be the take-home lesson that conditions for people doing these necessary jobs should be better, everything from wages to healthcare.

    • razremytuxbuddy says:

      @quizmasterchris: I put my time in on low paying jobs in my early years too, and the conditions certainly were their own incentive for me to better my qualifications. Improved job conditions for all would be nice, but the next logical question is, who is expected to pay for such entitlements?

  22. racordes says:

    Since when is $10 an hour minimum wage? He has a way to go to the bottom.

  23. umbriago says:

    But with eight children and a wife to support, Mr. Eller said he was still “below poverty level.”

    He could start his own baseball team.

  24. Squeezer99 says:

    $10/hour is minimum wage?

  25. savdavid says:

    There is justice in the world.

  26. Swearengen says:

    Don’t put out stories like these, because executives will use them to justify their ridiculous salaries. “Look, I need to make $30 million a year, because if I lose this job I might have to work in a bakery for $10 an hour”.

  27. econobiker says:

    “Ame Arlt, 53, who recently accepted a position as a customer-service representative at an online insurance-leads referral service in Franklin, Tenn.”

    Sorry “Ame” (another pretentious and wrong spelling of Amy) but Franklin TN is in Williamson County which is a “Gold Coast” of Tennessee and one of the most wealthy counties in the USA and the wealthiest suburb of Nashville. It is not like she is working the poorest dirt farm county in the state…

    • Randy Treibel says:

      @econobiker: I love that you callout that pretentious spelling crap. Parents try to be unique in _naming_ their kids but don’t do anything to develop their kids social/emotional/intellectual skills as unique.

  28. jake7294 says:

    “Today, he’s a grocery store baker making $10 an hour. The Times tells us he’s not the only former executive now working for minimum wage.”

    That’s not minimum wage, last time I checked.

  29. Randy Treibel says:

    People get what they deserve in this world is one thing i’ve noticed as i’ve gotten older. People that are the top of their game are rarely ever laid off or fired. It’s those that are average or doing the minimum. Trust me if you are good or the best they will do whatever it takes to ‘lay off the other guy’.