On the Clock
The bitingly funny, eye-opening story of a college-educated young professional who finds work in the automated and time-starved world of hourly laborAfter the local newspaper where she worked as a reporter closed, Emily Guendelsberger took a pre-Christmas job at an Amazon fulfillment center outside Louisville, Kentucky. There, the vending machines were stocked with painkillers, and the staff turnover was dizzying. In the new year, she travelled to North Carolina to work at a call center, a place where even bathroom breaks were timed to the second. And finally, Guendelsberger was hired at a San Francisco McDonald's, narrowly escaping revenge-seeking customers who pelted her with condiments.Across three jobs, and in three different parts of the country, Guendelsberger directly took part in the revolution changing the U.S. workplace. ON THE CLOCK takes us behind the scenes of the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce to understand the future of work in America - and its present. Until robots pack boxes, resolve billing issues, and make fast food, human beings supervised by AI will continue to get the job done. Guendelsberger shows us how workers went from being the most expensive element of production to the cheapest - and how low wage jobs have been remade to serve the ideals of efficiency, at the cost of humanity.ON THE CLOCK explores the lengths that half of Americans will go to in order to make a living, offering not only a better understanding of the modern workplace, but also surprising solutions to make work more humane for millions of Americans.

On the Clock Details

TitleOn the Clock
Author
ReleaseJul 16th, 2019
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316509008
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Economics, Sociology, Business, Social Issues

On the Clock Review

  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    As a former factory worker; salaried $7.25 min wage; 10 cent raises; as top producer in two departments as a merchandise processor with a $25 one time bonus for associate of the month I know all too well about the American Dream falling to the waste side.For many years I've been told work harder, success comes to those who work for it, nothing is handed to you.That ideal is what propelled me to keep working hard even after getting hit on the head with a 50lb metal trolley from second floor above As a former factory worker; salaried $7.25 min wage; 10 cent raises; as top producer in two departments as a merchandise processor with a $25 one time bonus for associate of the month I know all too well about the American Dream falling to the waste side.For many years I've been told work harder, success comes to those who work for it, nothing is handed to you.That ideal is what propelled me to keep working hard even after getting hit on the head with a 50lb metal trolley from second floor above and not being worth enough to the company to even call an ambulance.The companies today want the young, the inexperienced, the college educated who will work for peanuts and work like dogs not caring about benefits or other accolades.When I worked I produced the highest amount of merchandise per hour which was not an easy task. We worked in deplorable conditions without fresh air or hell air conditioning. We had to breath in the truck's diesel as they pulled up to load and unload at our distribution center. The land was acquired through a tax break and written off. The company eventually let all but 25 workers off and then when I made a fuss about it with the new 'DT' campaign for President they slowly tried to relocate and bring some workers back.The backbone of the operation the temporary, seasonal, temp agency hires, and immigrants.I kid you not when I tell you we had to ask to use the bathroom. Stand on our feet 8 hr days. Work 40 hrs and paid 38 or less. No benefits. No job security. No appreciation. Plenty of stress.This is what I related to when reading this book as it's the clear definition of insanity.In fact as I sit here today I'm in extreme poverty with three kids having just visited my child support attorney on a free initial consult to try to plead for increase for kids.We cannot raise families on minimum wage. We cannot work ourselves to death. We cannot be put to pasture like animals without care or concern for our safety and well being. We cannot continue this trend!It's dehumanizing. It's depressing. It's the pure definition of slave labor.Whether it's Amazon, Walmart, or a smaller mom and pop store you can be sure that peanuts is what you'll be served unless you have strong connections, great wealth, and or honesty in hiring rather than nepotism and corruption.Automation is on the horizon if not already begun and it's more than just changing the atmosphere of work today.As a stay home mom who gave up her MPA/CJ degree to raise my 3 kids now all teens; I can attest to the fact that parenting is not 'work' in court. You can volunteer and achieve the highest award for service such as I with the Points of Light given by GH Walker Bush and it means absolutely nothing as you too will be told - 'Get a JOB'What happened to being a parent is the hardest job there is on the planet?Remember when we appreciated the sacrifices parents made for their kids.Why is it all about making less than poverty wages a means to end this madness?I make more money below poverty in an effort to raise my family than if I worked full time and that's not a figment that's fact. When this happens our economy plunders and remember when reading those all important unemployment numbers you know that many have given up looking, many of those not counted are working poor, many are beyond 6 m unemployment to be counted, many work temp, seasonal, or grant funded positions set to expire at moments notice.Numbers are being manipulated so politicians can continue selling the KOOL AID that everything is fine. The economy is up, housing markets booming, jobs are plentiful, low unemployment just to get re-elected in office.I'm so tired of it all especially when you're told to dummy down resumes you worked so hard to obtain.This is why I enjoyed this book immensely because it talks about these hardships from a reality perceptive, in the trenches, doing the job to get paid and in many cases not being paid.Here in PA our government was shut down, hiring was frozen by governor, wages were stagnant, pensions not paid out.In fact just yesterday Penn Dot was audited and found to be paying 4.2 billion to our State Troopers rather than doing the road work that we are being taxed $5 per vehicle upon.If this isn't fleecing and corruption I don't know what is...We need to get back to the idea that humanity matters, people matter, job salaries matter...
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  • Kate ☀️ Olson
    January 1, 1970
    (free review copy) You'll want to sit down for this. No really. Go get a cup of coffee and settle in, because I have a LOT of thoughts. To start with, here's my rating math for this one:Subject matter: 5My actual fondness for the writer: 2Ability to hold my interest: 5Academic content to back up assertions: 4Word choice: 1Math says my overall rating is 3.4 and I DO recommend this book.Subject matter: Since I first read Nickel and Dimed WAY back when it first came out, and then later in a grad pr (free review copy) You'll want to sit down for this. No really. Go get a cup of coffee and settle in, because I have a LOT of thoughts. To start with, here's my rating math for this one:Subject matter: 5My actual fondness for the writer: 2Ability to hold my interest: 5Academic content to back up assertions: 4Word choice: 1Math says my overall rating is 3.4 and I DO recommend this book.Subject matter: Since I first read Nickel and Dimed WAY back when it first came out, and then later in a grad program, I have listed it as one of my favorite books. I haven't read it since 2004, though, so I can't give actual evidence for why I respect Ehrenreich so much more than Guendelsberger, but I suspect it has to do with the professionalism with which ND is written. Back on topic, though, the topic of low-wage work and how workers are treated is a topic of fascination for me, because I have done low-wage work. I worked retail, factory and janitorial jobs, albeit back before they were changed by technology to become so ruthlessly monitored and understaffed. I am currently a public school teacher, which isn't technically low-wage, but I'm not upper class by any means. My husband works a decently-paid Teamster job that while protected, does not offer paid sick leave and treats employees like robots. I GET everything the author describes. I have the upmost respect for workers in the jobs that are described, and I desperately wanted the nitty gritty dirty details of inside Amazon, a call center and McDonald's - this book more than delivered those. In addition, I am equally frustrated with the corporate and political entities and beings who perpetuate the untenable working conditions described here and I will surely be recommending this book to others for an updated look at low-wage jobs. My actual fondness for the writer: Oh boy. The good thing is that technically she recognizes how privileged she is. AND I understand that this book isn't necessarily written for me - the people who need to read are those looking down, who have never been paid low wage, or like Paul Ryan as she references in the book, did so so long ago that their experiences aren't comparable to today's in the same job. Overall, I honestly was just so frustrated with the author during the majority of this book because of her privilege and her moral outrage on behalf of the workers. Saying, "you should NOT put up with that" is so degrading to someone who needs the income to literally stay alive. The author's moral outrage is appreciated of course, in the sense that it's great that she understands how hard people are working for not enough pay, but her tone comes off to me, a late-30s middle class Midwesterner, as immature and privileged 90% of the time. Her outrage at people being penalized for being late grated on me to no end - I can't imagine a single job I have ever had at which I wouldn't have to explain myself if I am late on a regular basis. And shouldn't people be on time?? Or am I just too brainwashed?? As a teacher, coming back from lunch or a break late means my class isn't supervised - not acceptable. So, while I get that the measures in place by these companies are draconian, her reaction to some of them was beyond privileged. AND. AND. The ending. Let's just say that it didn't offer a solution, which maybe it doesn't need to. BUT, it kind of implied that was offering something of a fix, but that fix was laughable to anyone actually working a job she describes. My husband and I, in our current situation, with our current financial obligations including massive student loans, will not see a true fix in our working lifetime, even if "by working toward a better world, you'll eventually stop hating yourself for your failures as a shark. And, slowly but surely, you'll start feeling like a human being again." I'm a pragmatist and while the author basically says that you shouldn't listen to me because I'm not going to tell you that everyone should immediately RISE UP against pay injustice, I believe in true solutions that require real work from high up to enact. Those don't happen overnight. Teachers are undervalued, but the only way to get higher pay is through major political movement at the highest level. Yes we should band together. Yes we should keep fighting. But we need to stay employed while we fight these fights. And yes, I'm annoyed that my inner rage at injustice has been "sandpapered" (as she calls it) down to allow me to keep working in a system that sometimes treats me unfairly, but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND DOGS I NEED TO FEED MY KIDS. And dogs.Ability to hold my interest: I inhaled this book in 3 hours and couldn't put it down. Her stories are riveting and there's great academic history included.Academic content to back up assertions: I loved the historical and academic interludes throughout the book that give backstory on why so many of our current work practices are in place. I was quoting them to my husband and will reference them often in the future.Word choice: The word "f*ck" was used 134 times in this book. Yes, I used search on my Kindle to get a count. And no, it wasn't just in dialogue. The word "sh*t" was used way less, mostly in dialogue. She used the phrase "sucks donkey balls" twice. The word c*nt was used at least twice. Why does that matter? Well, I have had it drilled into me that profanity = laziness when it comes language. This isn't fiction and she wasn't directly quoting profane people. For what was supposed to be journalism, this was extremely jarring. To me, it signaled unprofessionalism and crassness that make this book one I could never recommend to my teachers to use in high school classes, unlike Nickel and Dimed. Overall, the tone was casual and crass and something that turned me off. Yes, that's personal preference and maybe I'm just old, but I just can't imagine why editors wouldn't have seen this as a negative too. In my experience, if I want to be taken seriously, eliminating profanity is required - for the politicians and media professionals she wants to reach, perhaps this should have been a consideration.OVERALL: Yes, I'll recommend this book - WITH the caveats of language and privilege.
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  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very good book. (Look at me being a professional reviewer, lol) My actual review goes up on Shelf Awareness right around pub date, but here are my informal thoughts:On the Clock both infuriated and entertained me. Guendelsberger is a journalist, which means she cites lots of sources and provides a long list of supplemental reading should you wish to do a deep dive. BUT she's also funny as hell, having written for places like The Onion. The resulting book is that rare non-ficti0n tome t This is a very good book. (Look at me being a professional reviewer, lol) My actual review goes up on Shelf Awareness right around pub date, but here are my informal thoughts:On the Clock both infuriated and entertained me. Guendelsberger is a journalist, which means she cites lots of sources and provides a long list of supplemental reading should you wish to do a deep dive. BUT she's also funny as hell, having written for places like The Onion. The resulting book is that rare non-ficti0n tome that kept me up reading until I should have been in my second REM cycle.She worked three jobs for this book: in an Amazon warehouse, a Convergys call center, and a McDonald's. Each is repetitive hell in its own way, with stress both physical and mental. All of them strain the boundaries of human tolerance, and it makes sense... because service jobs are meant to maximize productivity for the benefit of the company. (And sometimes for the customer, but let's be honest - make the customer happy and the company makes more money.) Guendelsberger goes into the history of timed tasks, assembly lines, and now -thanks to technology- the ability to track and monitor everything. Yes, you might be followed into the bathroom to prove that you have stress-induced diarrhea from being screamed at over the phone all day. (WTF, seriously) If you've never worked a service job, or if it's been a few years, this book is eye-opening. She draws connections between this type of work and the opioid epidemic, the rise of Trump, and the wage stagnation we've seen in the last 40ish years even in the face of massive gains in productivity. Honestly, I didn't expect such a heavy, complicated subject to be so readable. Strongly recommended.
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  • Samantha Melamed
    January 1, 1970
    An essential update to Nickel and Dimed, On The Clock turns the drudgery of work in 21st century America into a compelling and elucidating narrative that should be required reading for policy makers, business leaders and anyone else who hasn’t held a low-wage job in the past decade. This book documents the daily realities of those jobs, examines the economic climate that fosters them, chronicles the creepy history of workplace productivity schemes and delves into the science of what these jobs d An essential update to Nickel and Dimed, On The Clock turns the drudgery of work in 21st century America into a compelling and elucidating narrative that should be required reading for policy makers, business leaders and anyone else who hasn’t held a low-wage job in the past decade. This book documents the daily realities of those jobs, examines the economic climate that fosters them, chronicles the creepy history of workplace productivity schemes and delves into the science of what these jobs do to bodies and minds. Yet, it is also occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. I was dismayed to learn how much more grueling algorithmic efficiencies had made the food service jobs I once worked as a teen, and to understand the true cost of Prime delivery. For anyone wondering why so many Americans feel forgotten, On The Clock is a crucial wake-up call.
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    A sobering look at three industries that use low skill workers - Amazon warehouses, McDonalds, and a call center for several national accounts. All of these companies use contractors so that they don’t have to provide any benefits. All used sophisticated software models to control every minute that employees were in the building. Being one minute late, or taking an extra minute in the bathroom, or talking to other employees was stealing from the business. Turnover was extremely high but there al A sobering look at three industries that use low skill workers - Amazon warehouses, McDonalds, and a call center for several national accounts. All of these companies use contractors so that they don’t have to provide any benefits. All used sophisticated software models to control every minute that employees were in the building. Being one minute late, or taking an extra minute in the bathroom, or talking to other employees was stealing from the business. Turnover was extremely high but there always seemed to be plenty of new hires. Managing child care or illnesses was impossible for everyone. Many employees had children as teenagers and are trapped in this system. The author thinks that the despair of these workers was what got trump elected. Huge respect for my son-in-law who survived almost a year working at a call center.
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  • Molly Seavy-Nesper
    January 1, 1970
    I devoured this book. Guendelsberger takes you inside an Amazon warehouse, a call center, and a San Fransisco McDonald's and exposes the ways in which technology is making workers' lives miserable. The book is funny, heartbreaking and enlightening. You'll think twice about ordering random junk on Amazon -- and it will encourage you to practice radical empathy when talking to a customer service rep, or the fast food workers giving you your fries. It's a marvelous piece of writing and journalism.
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  • Kali
    January 1, 1970
    This review is going to be long as I organize my thoughts. Feel free to not read it— but I think you should read this book 👍❤This book tackles the invisible. The working poor in this country that are often called lazy, stupid and unambitious while they work their a**es of every day just to barely survive.What politicians refer to as “flipping burgers” has turned into a well-oiled money making machine understaffing, timing their employees every action, and giving no real dignity to their workers. This review is going to be long as I organize my thoughts. Feel free to not read it— but I think you should read this book 👍❤️This book tackles the invisible. The working poor in this country that are often called lazy, stupid and unambitious while they work their a**es of every day just to barely survive.What politicians refer to as “flipping burgers” has turned into a well-oiled money making machine understaffing, timing their employees every action, and giving no real dignity to their workers.You often hear that low-wage jobs are supposed to be temporary or for teenagers but that is not the reality. The reality is that many adults with children live off of these jobs as their livelihood in a captive market where they have no power and all jobs accessible to them have the same level of suck because employers know they have nowhere else to go. Training and high turnover is written into the budget and there’s no real motivation to keep workers happy.A few experiences highlighted in the book:- Technology and algorithms have made it possible for businesses to predict the exact amount of customers they will get at a certain hour of the day, allowing the least number of people to be scheduled that could *just barely* handle that load, maximizing profits for the employer but forcing workers to spend the whole day “in the weeds”- Unpredictable work schedules are common leading to inconsistent hours total and shift days leading to difficulty for workers to plan their lives and finances (schedule often posted day before it starts)- Down to the second clock systems that penalize you for being a minute late to clock in but make you wait around if you’re early (The author was lucky enough to work in places that still give you breaks. Did you know some states aren’t even required to give you unpaid meal breaks?)- Most jobs had no PTO or paid sick days. They have point systems where you deduct points if you need to leave early/be late and when you reach a certain point value you are fired. This takes the human element out of it and deems the person that’s late every day as equal to someone who’s mother is in the hospital.- One family that the author worked with had an infection and couldn’t afford (no insurance) the hospital visit and antibiotics so they ended up taking horse antibiotics from a pet store Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy *time & sleep* two huge factors in health and happiness.Examples:- you only need one job to pay your bills so you don’t work over 40 hours a week- you can afford luxuries like a house cleaner, grocery delivery, etc giving yourself down time- You can afford to live closer to work and cut down your commute (many people the author worked with were commuting HOURS to and from their minimum wage job).- You don’t have to drive your child an hour out of the way to a better school because the one in your area is not well funded, or drive them out of the way to a daycare that is covered by your child care creditsLow income workers in America are working often multiple jobs or long hours and often commuting hours to their jobs because they cannot afford to live where they work. This means not only do they make a measly amount of money, they also get very little free time, even when they’re not on the clock— and miss out on sleep which has huge health and happiness ramifications.Other notes author touched on:- Guendelsberger discusses how “assembly line” work has become the norm and takes all the satisfaction out of “low skill”/low wage work replacing it with monotony and lack of purpose. Instead of having one guy build the whole engine, he now secures one piece. Factory workers used to feel pride when they left a hard days work.- People blame the decline of the “American nuclear family” on weird things like same-sex marriage and pop culture while many low to mid income families are dual-earners often choosing opposing schedules to spend more time with their children and offset child care costs. Or working more than 40 hrs a week to come home and only sleep next to each other and get up and do it all again. How can couples stay together if they don’t even see each other? Wrap up:These are the realities for many Americans. And even if those of us with blue collar/white collar jobs are struggling too we can’t deny our privilege. Most of us can use the bathroom if we need to go. We can have a discussion with our boss about being late because of an appointment and not miss out on pay. We have sick days. We can get to work in under an hour. We have medical benefits. “When I imagine telling Kolbi or Jess that I made twice as much money working thirty-laid back hours a week at my first newspaper job as we make answering phones forty hours a week, I cringe. Because it’s so so so unfair. It’s embarrassingly unfair.”People deserve better. Low wage earners are not humans of low value. You are not better than them because you had opportunities. You are not better than them because you had access to sex education and didn’t have a child at 16. You are not better than them because you were lucky enough to be born in America. TLDR: No one in this country should be working 40 hours a week and not be able to pay their bills. No one in this country should have to take horse antibiotics because they have no health insurance. No one in this country should be fired or docked hours or pay for being sick or taking care of a sick family member.We need stop pointing our fingers at each other fighting over scraps while those at the top are having a whole damn feast.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    On the Clock is a compelling, eye-opening, and necessary read for all Americans. Emily Guendelsberger gives us an up-close look at what it means to work the daily grind of low-wage work. Businesses boast that productivity is at an all-time high, ...but at what cost? Apparently, the heart and soul of the country.Guendelsberger does such a great job taking us through the three jobs that she took (as a journalist undercover), each for about a month or two: an Amazon warehouse, a customer call cente On the Clock is a compelling, eye-opening, and necessary read for all Americans. Emily Guendelsberger gives us an up-close look at what it means to work the daily grind of low-wage work. Businesses boast that productivity is at an all-time high, ...but at what cost? Apparently, the heart and soul of the country.Guendelsberger does such a great job taking us through the three jobs that she took (as a journalist undercover), each for about a month or two: an Amazon warehouse, a customer call center, and McDonald's. At each job, she was micromanaged to the second, with each job warning her about "time theft" which is when workers might--gasp!--take a few seconds to catch their breath. The jobs were all high-paced and stress-inducing on purpose to make sure that the workers didn't have time to think, talk, or otherwise act like humans. After all, if robots are so efficient, it pays for workers to try to emulate them, right? This is the new work in America, where everything is timed and where managers assume the worst of their workers. I couldn't put the book down; it was so fascinating and horrifying.. I could practically feel the exhaustion at the Amazon warehouse and the stress of the call center right along with Emily. That would have been enough, but she also intersperses her personal narrative with lots of evolutionary biology and history to help readers understand how, exactly, we got to this point. All in all, it's a wonderful book that caused me to think a lot about issues that I had taken for granted. Furthermore, the hopeful and optimistic tone at the end of the book is just readers need after such a dark look at what's become of the world of work. Guendelsberger assures us that even though we're at the cliff's edge, staring into the abyss, there's still time to turn around. We still have the power to stop this. She even offers some tangible solutions that I hope leaders take to heart. I would recommend this book to anyone wondering why we seem so stressed out these days when we are supposedly living in the best of times.
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  • Rajiv
    January 1, 1970
    On the Clock is must read, this book is equal parts funny and heartbreaking with an eye opening look at how efficiency in business impacts the mental health of regular people (and the psychological and evolutionary perspective of what that means) who are happy to just have their jobs.If you don't work in the service industry (like McDonald's, a call center or an Amazon warehouse like Guendelsberger did) you know that their jobs are tough, but I didn't have a real appreciation for what it's like On the Clock is must read, this book is equal parts funny and heartbreaking with an eye opening look at how efficiency in business impacts the mental health of regular people (and the psychological and evolutionary perspective of what that means) who are happy to just have their jobs.If you don't work in the service industry (like McDonald's, a call center or an Amazon warehouse like Guendelsberger did) you know that their jobs are tough, but I didn't have a real appreciation for what it's like (a mile in their shoes and all that). I've worked difficult jobs, but it didn't follow me through the day and at home and cast a pall over my entire life. Guendelsberger's excellent writing and wry first person style makes you feel the nervous dread or anger that the everyday workers have and then explains why this is and what it does to your mind and body (I didn't know how chronic stress affects your decision making), with enough lighthearted anecdotes from her to show how resilient people are to find humor in even the most stressful jobs. A+ would HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
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  • Meagan Houle
    January 1, 1970
    I've read many articles about how Amazon exploits its warehouse staff, and I know enough people who've done call centre and food service work to understand it's a jungle, and not in a remotely fun way. Even with that prior experience, nothing prepared me for Emily's vivid account of her time at Amazon, Convergys, and McDonald's. I felt embarrassingly naive as she described the intrusive ways companies have found to survey and punish their lowest-level workers, pitting them against each other and I've read many articles about how Amazon exploits its warehouse staff, and I know enough people who've done call centre and food service work to understand it's a jungle, and not in a remotely fun way. Even with that prior experience, nothing prepared me for Emily's vivid account of her time at Amazon, Convergys, and McDonald's. I felt embarrassingly naive as she described the intrusive ways companies have found to survey and punish their lowest-level workers, pitting them against each other and ridding their jobs of what little joy they once offered.Working these sorts of jobs in warehouses, call centres, and restaurants has never been especially coveted, but a combination of overbearing technology and impossible performance targets has made these positions harrowingly difficult, on top of the low pay and precarious scheduling. As Emily reminds us time and again, the root issue isn't demanding work, safety risks, or lousy benefits. It's the systematic dehumanization of employees, to the point where Emily, who only had to work these jobs for a short period, had to turn off parts of herself in order to function. It's the blaring alarms when you take five seconds too long to assemble a burger. It's the algorithms that are intentionally programmed to ensure staff are underscheduled, so that they can never "get out of the weeds." It's the ruthless monitoring of bathroom breaks, and the sickening propaganda during training sessions. It's the inescapable reality that, for these enormous companies, human beings are just bodies, means to an end that can be replaced too easily to bother with trifles like dignity and respect.A lot of books and investigative pieces have scratched the surface of why these jobs are so unsustainable and soul-crushing, but Emily comes the closest I've seen to getting to the heart of the matter. Since she lived these experiences directly, she was able to communicate the relentless, exhausting monotony of them--the longing for sleep, the dependence on medication, the craving for unhealthy foods, the loss of connection with loved ones. She intersperses her own trials with the stories of her coworkers. Reading about a colleague who resorted to fish antibiotics because she could not afford proper medical attention for a serious infection nearly made me stop reading altogether. It was too depressing, too outside my ability to remedy. How could I keep inflicting this conveyor belt of misery on myself?But then we come to Emily's most impressive strength: her writing is so urgent, so spellbindingly compelling that I couldn't put the book down. That meant I was able to take in her suggestions for a better future, something that somehow seemed achievable, despite the seeming infallibility of the corporate world. It made me doubly thankful for my own job, where I am deeply respected; but more than that, "On the Clock" was a galvanizing force, spurring me to consider what I can do in my corner of the world to counter the dehumanizing effects of service work. A writer who can make you feel overwhelming despair and plucky optimism in the space of a few hundred pages is one who can change the world.
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  • Michaela
    January 1, 1970
    ---Full disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. --- So, I'll have to come back & finish the review. In reading the reviews of others, however, I noted 2 things, First, people complaining about curse words in a book about stress & desperation. Are you fucking kidding me? Secondly, people are complaining about a lack of references, when the book is only JUST out, & even I read an ARC. Where are these people supposedly getting completed books from that they can gripe a ---Full disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. --- So, I'll have to come back & finish the review. In reading the reviews of others, however, I noted 2 things, First, people complaining about curse words in a book about stress & desperation. Are you fucking kidding me? Secondly, people are complaining about a lack of references, when the book is only JUST out, & even I read an ARC. Where are these people supposedly getting completed books from that they can gripe about references so early out of the gate? To that matter, I found the information presented to be thorough & quite solid. So these folks bitching & then touting their degrees as if that makes your opinion the be all end all, I have fancy-ass degrees too, so suck it. This info. is solid. Your top result on google not agreeing w/ the author's info. means diddly. (Also, if you're so damned smart, how are you not aware of google's altering of search results?) My point in this bitch session about questionable reviews, is that books like this are going to get push-back. It's inevitable. So please keep that in mind before putting too much stake in contrariness. Best to just read the thing yourself, I think.
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  • Jami
    January 1, 1970
    Would recommend to people who like books like Nickel and Dimed, Educated, Maid, etc. The author is a journalist who, after being laid off from her newspaper, went to work at Amazon, Convergys (a call center that did tech support for AT&T, among other huge companies), and McDonalds. My mouth was a big O while reading--even though I knew before that these companies treat their workers terribly, seeing these details really made it salient. (Amazon has painkiller vending machines in their fulfil Would recommend to people who like books like Nickel and Dimed, Educated, Maid, etc. The author is a journalist who, after being laid off from her newspaper, went to work at Amazon, Convergys (a call center that did tech support for AT&T, among other huge companies), and McDonalds. My mouth was a big O while reading--even though I knew before that these companies treat their workers terribly, seeing these details really made it salient. (Amazon has painkiller vending machines in their fulfillment centers??) It also made me want to change my behavior in concrete ways (for example: always completing the survey when I get help from tech support, because it can help them make a 50 cent/hour bonus). I thought she did a decent job of being aware of her privilege (that she's a journalist who's here covering a story, not someone who needs to be here to survive, and what a difference that makes in attitude), centering others' stories, and by showing how the workers reacted differently to other Amazon news stories. (Several of the Amazon warehouse workers she spoke to said that the articles focused on the wrong things--the lack of air conditioning, for one. In response to that criticism, Amazon installed AC (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars), but AC doesn't help in such a huge, open space, and didn't actually really decrease the temperature. It was just a PR tactic.)
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  • Radhika
    January 1, 1970
    On the Clock is a must-read for anyone looking for an interesting, funny, fast-paced -- but most of all SMART look into low-wage work in the 21st century. Guendelsberger deftly weaves in the latest scholarship on labor and capitalism with an outsider's look into the sometimes mind-numbing, frequently painful and always non-stop nature of modern capitalism in the U.S. She has a keen eye for description and storytelling, and some many of her anecdotes (spoiler alert), from the Advil dispensers at On the Clock is a must-read for anyone looking for an interesting, funny, fast-paced -- but most of all SMART look into low-wage work in the 21st century. Guendelsberger deftly weaves in the latest scholarship on labor and capitalism with an outsider's look into the sometimes mind-numbing, frequently painful and always non-stop nature of modern capitalism in the U.S. She has a keen eye for description and storytelling, and some many of her anecdotes (spoiler alert), from the Advil dispensers at Amazon to the surprise broken coffee pot handle at McDonald's are hard to forget. Though the book is framed as the story of a Philly journalist who was forced to take a series of blue collar jobs after her newspaper closed, the book is so much more than a travelogue: it is an incisive look into the nature of work for most people in the U.S. today.
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  • alli
    January 1, 1970
    A book that should make you angry that the unrelenting desire for higher profits leads to treating labor as disposable. Guendelsberger's firsthand accounts of just a few mechanized jobs shines a light on to something everyone who works for a living will experience soon (if not already): a world where our individual autonomy at work is completely lost, and in return we'll get lower wages, fewer benefits, and no job protection.
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  • Emmaj
    January 1, 1970
    Well written and engaging book.I agree that one problem is that "we've stopped even imagining other, better ways we could live" (p.311).Its just taken as a giving that the best thing a person can do is make as much money as humanly possible, and screw everyone else.But it looks crazier when you put a face to everyone else.About Amazon:"Q: Your warehouse workers work 11.5-hour shifts. In order to make rate, a significant number of them need to take over-the-counter painkillers multiple times per Well written and engaging book.I agree that one problem is that "we've stopped even imagining other, better ways we could live" (p.311).Its just taken as a giving that the best thing a person can do is make as much money as humanly possible, and screw everyone else.But it looks crazier when you put a face to everyone else.About Amazon:"Q: Your warehouse workers work 11.5-hour shifts. In order to make rate, a significant number of them need to take over-the-counter painkillers multiple times per shift, which means regular backups at the medical office. Do you:A) Scale back the rate - clearly the workers are at their physical limitsB) Make shifts shorterC) Increase the number or duration of breaksD) Increase staffing at the nurse's officeE) Install vending machines to dispense painkillers more efficientlySeriously - what kind of f*ing sociopath goes with E?"About Gonvergys (a call center):"Q: Your customer-service representatives handle roughly sixty calls in an eight-hour shift, with a half-hour lunch and two fifteen-minute breaks. By the end of the day, a problematic number of them are so exhausted by these interactions that their ability to focus, read basic conversational cues, and maintain a peppy demeanor is negatively affected. Do you:A) Increase staffing so you can scale back the number of calls each rep takes per shift - Clearly, workers are at their cognitive limits.B) Allow workers a few minutes to decompress after difficult calls.C) Increase the number or duration of breaksD) Decrease the number of objectives workers have for each call so they aren't as mentally and emotionally taxing.E) Install a program that badgers workers with corrective pop-ups telling them they sound tires.Seriously - what kind of f*ing sociopath goes with E?"
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  • Katrina Feraco
    January 1, 1970
    As someone who spent a lot of time in food service (two years in a chronically understaffed Dunkin Donuts in New England and four years in a hellscape Italian restaurant full of mismanagement and out-of-touch ownership, both for less than $9/hr and demanding more of my time than I could give), I have to give ENORMOUS props to Emily Guendelsberger for actually doing the work and writing honestly about her experiences. I appreciated the perspective from multiple low-wage jobs; warehouses and call As someone who spent a lot of time in food service (two years in a chronically understaffed Dunkin Donuts in New England and four years in a hellscape Italian restaurant full of mismanagement and out-of-touch ownership, both for less than $9/hr and demanding more of my time than I could give), I have to give ENORMOUS props to Emily Guendelsberger for actually doing the work and writing honestly about her experiences. I appreciated the perspective from multiple low-wage jobs; warehouses and call centers don't employ many people out where I live, and it was enlightening to look into these industries a little bit. I appreciated the perspective from other employees on each job, especially those that differed vehemently on the work from Guendelsberger's, the human approach to research and history, and the author's own voice. Honestly, if I had to describe this book in its entirety, it would be "human". I love ripping apart corporate greed as much as the next young person, but there's a lot to be said for the analytical approach taken throughout (but especially in the third part of the book) to the very nature of corporate business which certainly helped reign in some of the rage I was feeling as someone who has worked in fast food. Statistics, history, anecdotes, facts, and a wealth of suggested reading in the back for anyone interested is fascinating.Overall, though, this book isn't meant for me or people like me who have done this work; in fact, I was super pissed off for about 50% of the time I was reading this. I have a lot of opinions about the ethics of late-stage capitalism, and reading about the way workers across the country are suffering with me just fuels that rage. This book is really meant for the people who make decisions--business owners, management professionals, "white-collar" professionals, and anyone out of touch with how hard "unskilled" labor is on the average person. Thoroughly enjoyed and recommend.
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  • Jeff Zell
    January 1, 1970
    This book reminded me of Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. However, where Nickel and Dimed focused on the hardship of making a small income, Guendelsberger focuses on management practices of three large corporations: Amazon, Convergys, and McDonalds. Technology has improved the ability to monitor every word and place that a worker speaks or goes and how long it all takes. So, as she tells her story of being hired, being trained, and working in a fulfillment center, ATT call center, and as a cashier This book reminded me of Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. However, where Nickel and Dimed focused on the hardship of making a small income, Guendelsberger focuses on management practices of three large corporations: Amazon, Convergys, and McDonalds. Technology has improved the ability to monitor every word and place that a worker speaks or goes and how long it all takes. So, as she tells her story of being hired, being trained, and working in a fulfillment center, ATT call center, and as a cashier at McDonalds, she explains the impact of this constant monitoring is on her and coworkers. For those who do not do this kind of work, you will be surprised by many of Guendelsberger's observations and experiences. And, if you were brought up to work hard, go the extra mile, and be courteous and kind to coworkers and customers, you will be surprised by what she has to report. The different environments in which Guendelsberger worked each brought different challenges and experiences. I was struck by the isolation of workers from one another and the high turnover rate that is built into corporations business models. While at Amazon, she met workers who worked at another warehouse that was purchased by Amazon. They reported a very different kind of management experience. Guendelsberger is a great communicator and offers excellent backstory to how management and workers came to the place where we are now. One word of caution, if you are not used to seeing the "f" word in your books, please understand that you will experience it a plenty here. It is part of Guendelsberger's language and that of many people she quotes verbatim.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    Look, I haven't held down a job like the ones Emily describes in On The Clock. Sure, I've dealt with low wages, but not with near-impossible productivity standards and automated schedules. The working conditions that Emily describes unfold like a horror movie. And at the end, when she urges us—not just low-wage workers, but all of us—to believe that we deserve better from our workplace, I was moved to tears. As upsetting as this book can be, it's also a richly rewarding and encouraging wake-up c Look, I haven't held down a job like the ones Emily describes in On The Clock. Sure, I've dealt with low wages, but not with near-impossible productivity standards and automated schedules. The working conditions that Emily describes unfold like a horror movie. And at the end, when she urges us—not just low-wage workers, but all of us—to believe that we deserve better from our workplace, I was moved to tears. As upsetting as this book can be, it's also a richly rewarding and encouraging wake-up call.
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  • Amanda Samuel
    January 1, 1970
    An incredibly eye-opening, interesting, smart book that balances stories and lived experiences with context, research, and nuance . Emily is a brilliant, compelling, and funny writer. My only qualm is that I was looking forward to the end of the book solutions offered to make low-wage work more humane, and they were less concrete than I would have liked. Still highly recommend!
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  • Joanne
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! The author does a fabulous job telling you what it's really like working minimum wage jobs when you've got no other options. She did her research and knows how to present it in a fascinating way. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Caitlin
    January 1, 1970
    Written with great empathy (and also great jokes), “On the Clock”’s vignettes of panoptic low-wage jobs are grounded in accessible histories of labor, cognitive science, and technocapitalism. Yes, it made me angry, but it also made me hopeful.
  • Hannah G
    January 1, 1970
    On the Clock is both devastating and funny. While the book is well grounded in historical context and relevant data - setting out a thorough case for how, and why, the service industry in this country tends to deny the basic humanity of its workers - it is also a fascinating, poignant, and compelling read throughout.The openness and candid humor of the author's own first person perspective "on the ground" is key, but so are the vivid personalities and stories she encounters in each of the three On the Clock is both devastating and funny. While the book is well grounded in historical context and relevant data - setting out a thorough case for how, and why, the service industry in this country tends to deny the basic humanity of its workers - it is also a fascinating, poignant, and compelling read throughout.The openness and candid humor of the author's own first person perspective "on the ground" is key, but so are the vivid personalities and stories she encounters in each of the three parts of her journey. She conveys not only her own experiences, but these vignettes and portraits as well, with no small measure of mastery; these are at are at once heartbreaking, incisive, hilarious, and ... folksy, I'd say - even Twainsian, in the very best sense.Guendelsberger examines not only the origin of oppressive service industry policies, and the day to day reality of those who are hit hardest by them, but also explores the tragic effect these policies have on the body, making use of the scientific literature - notably referencing some of the work of Robert Sapolsky, a researcher of stress (and one of my personal faves among high profile scientists) - to great effect.Finally, there is the depth and breadth of the book's sweeping insights about American work and society. The book ultimately deploys not only anecdote and data in its case against the planned indignity of low wage work in America, but a philosophical definition of the human as well - one which is infinitely more rich and insightful than that offered by Taylorism or "scientific management" (a hidden underpinning of how low wage service industry workers are treated, and the book's primary target.)It is a sheer delight for me that the author does not shy away from a bigger-picture exploration of what it is to be human, both within the historical flux of work and society, and in an even larger sense. Metaphor and thought experiment are deployed in a particularly imaginative and effective way - in one section, the author takes us through all of history in a proverbial nutshell, and somehow conveys a fresh, visceral, personal engagement with the entire human story.With this level of achievement in a first print offering, I suspect that Guendelsberger is just getting started. From where I sit (I am indeed sneak-writing this review between calls at a customer service center), I certainly hope so!
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  • Maria Li
    January 1, 1970
    Insightful and compelling. One of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in a while.
  • Donna Foster
    January 1, 1970
    Clever undercover low wage worker is insightful, interesting and no holding back thoughts or feelings on harsh working conditions.
  • Allison Rosenberg
    January 1, 1970
    Guendelsberger's book is an incredibly engaging read. I couldn't put it down. I'm usually a fiction reader and couldn't believe how interesting this book was. Guendelsberger weaves her experience at these jobs seamlessly with research on the history and psychology of work, building a compelling case for how these jobs harm workers. It was eye-opening for me, and helped me clarify some aspects of work/life that I see regularly too. Highly recommend. The book is fast-paced, the writing is clever a Guendelsberger's book is an incredibly engaging read. I couldn't put it down. I'm usually a fiction reader and couldn't believe how interesting this book was. Guendelsberger weaves her experience at these jobs seamlessly with research on the history and psychology of work, building a compelling case for how these jobs harm workers. It was eye-opening for me, and helped me clarify some aspects of work/life that I see regularly too. Highly recommend. The book is fast-paced, the writing is clever and engaging, and the story resonates. Read this!!
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  • Farrah Rah
    January 1, 1970
    This is a wonderful book, and an important one. Take the wittiest, coolest, hippest girl from college and plop her in some really shitty jobs with a cast of opinionated, diverse, and feisty Americans who are all united in their desire to just live a good life. As Emily learns, the system just does not work in their favour. The stories that result from her experiences are as witty and spunky as, say, your most eloquent best friend’s hilarious 2am text message rants, but are also deeply saturated This is a wonderful book, and an important one. Take the wittiest, coolest, hippest girl from college and plop her in some really shitty jobs with a cast of opinionated, diverse, and feisty Americans who are all united in their desire to just live a good life. As Emily learns, the system just does not work in their favour. The stories that result from her experiences are as witty and spunky as, say, your most eloquent best friend’s hilarious 2am text message rants, but are also deeply saturated with empathy and love for these Americans. You really experience her time in these jobs and feel the relationships she develops. The lessons she comes away with are far-reaching and have dramatic implications. Please read. You will love it.
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  • Rian Davis
    January 1, 1970
    This book is about how technology is making low-wages jobs too stressful and has a really great story to tell that is marred by its imperfections. The book is at its best when it's a story of the workers who currently get by on minimum wage or slightly better. She writes that those who know what the phrase "in the weeds" really means are the ones whose lives are hardest. She divides the book into three parts: Amazon work at a warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, a call center in Hickory, North Car This book is about how technology is making low-wages jobs too stressful and has a really great story to tell that is marred by its imperfections. The book is at its best when it's a story of the workers who currently get by on minimum wage or slightly better. She writes that those who know what the phrase "in the weeds" really means are the ones whose lives are hardest. She divides the book into three parts: Amazon work at a warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, a call center in Hickory, North Carolina and a McDonald's in San Francisco.First the good: + Description of the workers: Ms. Guendelsberger does a great job of interacting with people whom she works with and describes them fairly well. She has a keen eye for detail in people and she put a lot of hard work into her research. When she describes the people and what they have to put up with, that is the heart of the book, the "meat" shall we say. I really wish she could provide more of this though. It seems many of the people who worked with her have a similar story: has a family, too poor to advance in his/her career due to lack of funds/time or both. + A dramatic way to describe these events: She writes (mostly) in a way that is interesting, and I can tell she put a lot of effort into polishing her book. I note that the events she writes about were in 2016, and she is now publishing it in 2019. The so/so:- She uses the f-bomb a lot and in my opinion unnecessarily. It's fine if it's quoted speech and relevant, but in many cases she uses it for dramatic effect and/or embellishment. However, she really didn't need to use it in any of the cases. It's enough to put a lot of readers off. - Annoying word usage: she uses "literally/literal" a lot in ways that aren't necessary. This is my personal peeve. The bad:- Her research is wrong most of the time and /or misleading or incomplete without giving the source of the information. First, the incorrect. She mentions for instance that in 2016 1 out of 25 workers are employed in the call center industry. A Google search that takes a minute shows that there are around 3 million out of 161 million workers in 2016, which means that the ratio is really 1/50. Why does she do this? It's flat out wrong unless she's using a different definition that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is using, but we can't figure this out because there are no footnotes with calculations nor sources cited. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-ad...) . - She writes about a pioneer in operational management Frederick Taylor (whom she really wants you to know is not mentioned anymore but should be). I guess. I have an undergrad in Finance and minor in Computer Science and the more relevant research is the Hawthorne Effect, which was a very interesting with implications directly relevant to her subject matter. - Her explanations of human evolution and stress are misleading at best. She writes about how humans evolved to handle stress and the fight or flight response. She cites a very good researcher in this field, Robert Sapolsky in the included resources, but makes the explanation needlessly complicated with her "clock analogy". -She's very misleading at best when describing the history of the Industrial Revolution. It originated in England according to most historians and spread throughout Europe reaching the USA later mid to late 1800s. She said it was a precursor to feudalism, a system of governance unique mostly to Europe, not other continents like Asia and Africa (making her intended audience European or European descent while ignoring the rest. Sorry African/Hispanic and Asian Americans). I have advanced degrees in Psychology and Applied Linguistics and I wouldn't use the methods she uses to teach those principles. -She's unnecessarily preachy. She beats you over the head with the idea that the reader is white collar, upper class and that we should have more appreciation for those working in low-wage jobs. I wanted to say to her using her own language example, "Look honey, I get it. I bought this book. I'm on your/their side, OK? No need to constantly bang me on the head about how we don't appreciate them enough. I'm literally buying an f-ing book on the subject, OK? "Instead, she should just step back and let the subjects tell their own stories. Let the reader decide how to handle the information. Avoid trying to teach evolution of stress and history of management because you talk almost nothing about the English and their way of management, and they're the ones who really started it (Think Dickens and his novels). Last thing: She literally (sorry, I couldn't help it) missed a chance during her Amazon section to talk to older workers who may know a thing or two about how things *used* to be when she visited a workers camp and just talked to mostly young people. The Amazon older workers she didn't mention or didn't speak with. That's huge chance missed because they're the ones who can best judge how things used to be vs. how they are now. I wish she would have talked to them and gotten their thoughts on (among other things) are things really more difficult today compared to before?In sum, recommended but skip the preachy/teachy parts and focus on the stories of the workers themselves. That is where this book really shines.
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  • Louis
    January 1, 1970
    Emily Guendelsberger’s On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane is the story of the author’s undercover journey through various low-wage service jobs including: working at an Amazon warehouse, a call center, and an McDonald’s franchise. Each job presents its challenges: Amazon warehouses are incredibly physical demanding with difficult metrics, callers at the call center are often screaming at employees, and people sometimes throw things at McDonalds employees, Emily Guendelsberger’s On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane is the story of the author’s undercover journey through various low-wage service jobs including: working at an Amazon warehouse, a call center, and an McDonald’s franchise. Each job presents its challenges: Amazon warehouses are incredibly physical demanding with difficult metrics, callers at the call center are often screaming at employees, and people sometimes throw things at McDonalds employees, including mustard and burgers. Guendelsberger offers astute observations that should be common knowledge to anyone who has worked in the service-industry: companies value customers, no matter how horrible they are, more than any employee; the bonus potential in jobs like call-centers or retail looks great on paper but are actually incredibly difficult to meet in reality; the lack of control, real or perceived, often results in stress or depression, and companies are often run on skeleton crews by design. In addition to real-life observations, Guendelsberger also provides empirical research on stress to emphasize the reality of many of today’s jobs.On the Clock is a well-written and worthwhile read for anyone who has worked in the service-industry or anyone who hasn’t but seeks to understand the reality of the service industry in the 21st Century.
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  • Carole
    January 1, 1970
    This isn't the type of book I usually read but somewhere I read about it and it sounded like a fascinating subject. I learned a great deal, and also learned to think about several things differently. I must also say that I thought the book was very well written and easy to read, and admit I may not have read a few more intensely economic theory type pages as carefully as I should have -- Meanwhile, while I knew some of the types of jobs the author worked at could be dehumanizing and lonely and This isn't the type of book I usually read but somewhere I read about it and it sounded like a fascinating subject. I learned a great deal, and also learned to think about several things differently. I must also say that I thought the book was very well written and easy to read, and admit I may not have read a few more intensely economic theory type pages as carefully as I should have -- Meanwhile, while I knew some of the types of jobs the author worked at could be dehumanizing and lonely and poorly compensated, the author truly conveys the depth to which people can go in their souls trying to show up every day at these places. I have had some bad jobs, but like the author, I could leave when I couldn't stand it and I did leave those -- and also, I never worked at these types of jobs---- but SO MANY people are employed in these types of jobs Emily worked. It is difficult to think what could solve the problems that are caused by all of the thinking that created the space for this to occur -- for the inequality and the drive to make a profit for shareholders or owners is the be all and end all of existence -- it is living in a future for which we are unprepared physically and mentally, and seems it might only get worse unless as a human race we stop treating profit motive as all-powerful. Ok, that was not a book review Carole, just writing what I am now thinking....
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic look at low-wage jobs, and how mentally and physically demanding they can be, while at the same time being so micro-managed that the workers have no control or input. Exactly the sort of soul-sucking awfulness that creates depression and other mental health crises. The quotes from turn of the century efficiency experts (to the tune of "well, I could not ever work such a terribly monotonous job, because I'm special, but obviously all of these poor people really love it because they're c Fantastic look at low-wage jobs, and how mentally and physically demanding they can be, while at the same time being so micro-managed that the workers have no control or input. Exactly the sort of soul-sucking awfulness that creates depression and other mental health crises. The quotes from turn of the century efficiency experts (to the tune of "well, I could not ever work such a terribly monotonous job, because I'm special, but obviously all of these poor people really love it because they're clearly inferior!") sound like they could be coming from modern CEO's. While at first I didn't love the first person present tense of some of the book, I changed my mind halfway through, as it did help to create a specific mood and tone. I thought the author did a great job of managing to make the book very personal - how the work was affecting her specifically - without turning it into a maudlin account of her personal life. She also made sure to interview people for whom this is their permanent job to get the perspectives of people who don't hate it the way the many, many, many people who quit hate it.
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