Friday, January 09, 2009

Study Guide to Scrubbing and Selling

Scrubbing in Maine

  1. Ehrenreich writes, "The main thing I learn from the job-hunting process is that, despite all the help-wanted ads and job fairs, Portland is just another $6-$7-an-hour town. This should be as startling to economists as a burst of exotic radiation is to astronomers" (59-60).
  • What does she mean?
  • And why is it so?
  1. None of Ehrenreich's jobs in Nickel and Dimed lends her much dignity, but her position with The Maids turns out to be particularly demeaning in certain ways. She explains, "Maids, as an occupational group, are not visible, and when we are seen, we are often sorry for it"(99).
  • In what ways are she and her co-workers at The Maids not visible?
  • Why do you think she includes herself here, using "we" to designate those who work in this area?
  1. In one episode with The Maids, Ehrenreich takes up for one of her coworkers, pointing out that she need not feel such allegiance to Ted, the manager.

     "What's all this worrying about Ted? He'll find someone else. He'll take anyone who can manage to show up sober at 7:30 in the morning. Sober and standing upright."

    "No," Holly finally interjects. "That's not true. Not everybody can get this job. You have to pass the test."

    The test? The Accutrac test? "The Test," I practically yell, "is BULLSHIT! Anyone can pass that test!" (113)

    Ehrenreich sees this as a moment of solidarity with her coworker, Holly. However, the moment proves to sever what has been a good relationship between them.

  • Why might that be the case?
  • In what ways might Ehrenreich have been misguided in her effort to empower and support Holly?


  • The author gives us a pretty cynically humorous account of a visit to a tent revival in Portland, commenting that "Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth" (68-69).
    • What is Ehrenreich saying about the roots of Christianity and the way it's practiced today? Give examples from N&D to illustrate her point.


    Selling in Minnesota

  • Are you from a small town or even a neighborhood in a city into which Wal-Mart or a similar mega-chain has come?
    • What has been the effect on your community?
    • Do the plusses outweigh the minuses?


  • Ehrenreich heads to Minneapolis for her third job as a minimum wage worker, applying at Wal-Mart. She really dislikes the employment "survey" which, she asserts, requires applicants "to lie up to 50 times in the space of 15 minutes." The compulsory drug testing also "rankles" in that its results can trump her many other "engaging qualities"—qualities that would likely make her an excellent employee.
    • Have you ever had to participate in such surveys or testing for a job?
    • How did the process make you feel?
  • Ehrenreich's footnote (p. 128) reports that drug testing does not, in fact, insure productivity, its justification according to management.
    • Which kind of evidence do you find more persuasive: the author's personal anecdotes and feelings — or— footnoted statistics and facts? Why?
  • Thinking about language— what sorts of euphemisms do Wal-Mart and other such companies employ to describe who they are and what they do? For ex: customers = "guests" and workers = "associates (p. 154).
    • What is the effect of such a practice on employees and on customers?

    What does it suggest about the company?


scott said...

yakima is getting another walmart! one is enough if our community gets taken over by super stores I will be furious. (its just like that episode of south park.

publius said...

"I don't even like Time Cop!"
-Kyle in said episode of South Park.

Melody_Kezar said...

I don't get what's the big deal about walmart. Yes, I understand that most people are unhappy with the way employees are treated, however is it really any of the publics business? Peronally, I believe that if you don't like the way you're being treated, you probably shouldn't be working where you are. As for people thinking that walmart is going to take over the world, I honestly don't think it's going to happen. I don't mean to sound harsh and I'm not trying to offend anyone, I just think that some people take things a little overboard.

after.all.the.folderol said...

Melody, do you have any idea how Wal-Mart treats their factory workers in places like Central America? It is absolutely gut-wrenching. Their only goal is profit profit profit. Sam Walton (the owner/creator of Wal-Mart) is one of the richest men in the entire world, literally, and he is profiting off of the exploitation of foreign workers. And his multi-billion-dollar life, and the pennies-a-day lives of people in Central America, rely on the fact that Americans love bargains and convenience and don't care where they get it. I don't think that Wal-Mart is going to take over the world- I think the Wal-Mart mentality has already taken over the world, and it is a sad thing.

Abby said...

Sorry, that last one was me, before I figured out how to get it to call me by name.

Melody_Kezar said...

I realize that people think walmart employees are treated badly. I acknowledge that, however I've never worked there and don't know facts. I'm just saying that there are other jobs available. You might have to work there until another opens up, but there are other jobs. If you don't like the way you're being treated do something about it. If you're not willing to do anything about it then buck up and deal. Again, not trying to be offensive.