Labour crunch becoming mundane

**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog

Reginald Tiangha, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11, 2006 9:25 – As I stood waiting in line this weekend to pay for my holiday purchases, my mind went back to this summer when I was waiting for service at a downtown fast food counter. The long line ups and short staffed tills were similar in both situations. What was the big difference between then and now? This time, there was resignation all around.

While waiting in line to be serviced at that fast food counter, I happened to listen in on a conversation between the cashier and an irate customer who had already been served. The conversation went something like this:

Irate Customer: “Hey! I’ve been waiting here for 10 minutes! Where’s my foo…”

Cashier (glances at a clock and rudely cuts in): “No, sir. You’ve been waiting here for 8 minutes and 41 seconds.”

Irate Customer: “But…”

Cashier: “Look. You’re just going to have to wait here like everyone else. Do you think that sucks? Well, I got news for you.”

Irate Customer: “And what’s that?”

Cashier: “Welcome to life in Alberta.” (Looks at me) “Next?”

As I placed my order for a chicken sandwich, I couldn’t help thinking if the cashier was right. There were two cashiers on duty that day, two people working in the kitchen, and a line up of about 10 people behind me. The counter could easily accommodate four, but with the labour crunch being what it was, it was probably difficult to find people to fill those places. In my quasi-supervisory role at my place of work, I know first hand how difficult it can be to attract skilled labour to fill shortages. We constantly have to find ways to make the most of limited resources. Luckily for me, I don’t work in the fast food industry.

Fast forward 6 months, I’m still short staffed and the line ups around town haven’t shortened much either. The one main difference I’ve noticed this time around is that people aren’t complaining as much. Yes, the cashiers look harassed most of the time and yes, everyone in line cringes whenever said cashier has to call in a price check or a manager in for an abort. But to everyone’s credit, I haven’t seen anyone (cashier or customer) snap at the other person like I saw the fast food cashier do back in July. Most people seem to take it in stride, although it’s obvious to me that no one seems to like it.
But with things being the way they are, what else can you do? Grin and bear it, I suppose.

Welcome to life in Alberta.