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Show them the money

I have very little influence, even in my own home, and an endorsement from me is usually the kiss of death. But that has not stopped me from trying to get raises for other people, which is a pretty nice gesture considering I can’t get one for myself.

My campaign to improve the professional lives of folks I barely know began recently when I noticed that the receipts I get at supermarkets, pharmacies, post offices, health centers, car dealerships and other such places include surveys I am asked to fill out so I can let management know what I think of the service and if the employees who help me deserve commendations, promotions or, ultimately, raises.

Whenever I go to a store to buy a toothbrush or a box of Twinkies, which is why I need the toothbrush, I am handed a receipt long enough to encircle the Green Bay Packers.

On this receipt are coupons for things I don’t need, such as feminine hygiene products, and at the end is a survey I have to go online to fill out, a process that often takes longer than the shopping experience itself.

I wondered: Does putting in a good word for someone actually help?

“We do look at the surveys,” said Fredy, a supervisor at the post office branch near my house. “Unfortunately, I can’t give the employees raises. I can’t even give myself a raise.”

Jeffrey, who works behind the counter, said of Fredy, “He comes from a poor family. When they named him, they could only afford one D.”

“Now you’ll never get a raise,” Fredy said.

“The first time I saw one of those long receipts,” Jeffrey told me, “I thought, ‘Another tree has fallen.’ But if you want to fill out the survey, be my guest. Just watch out for paper cuts.”

I went home, got online and gave Jeffrey a glowing review. When I went back a week later, I asked him if it did any good.

“Well,” he said, “I’m still here. I don’t know whether to thank you or not.”

At the pharmacy, Christina, the morning shift supervisor, said that even if she gets the highest marks on a survey, she can’t get a raise.

“I’m capped,” she explained.

“You’re not wearing a cap,” I pointed out. “And you deserve a raise.”

“I do,” Christina agreed. “Even my boss said so.”

“Then what good are the surveys?” I asked.

Said Christina, “That’s the $64,000 question.”

“Sixty-four thousand bucks would be a nice raise,” I said.

“It would put me in a higher tax bracket,” Christina noted. “Not that I would complain.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said. “Just be sure to spell my name right. I don’t want anybody else to get the money.”

One person who definitely deserves a raise is Tony, the service adviser at the dealership where I take my car for service.

“Whatever you’re getting paid, it’s not enough,” I told him.

“My boss would probably say that I’m lucky I get paid at all,” Tony retorted.

“Nonsense,” I said. “You’re the best.”

“I sure have you fooled,” Tony said. “But go ahead and take the survey. If I still have a job, it’ll be a miracle.”

I gave Tony the highest marks, along with a gushing comment. The next day, I got an email from his boss, who assured me that Tony is still working there and agreed that he is, indeed, terrific. No word, however, on whether he’ll get a raise.

Since then, I have filled out surveys for my dermatologist, the woman who helped me with a computer problem and the guy who replaced my cracked windshield. All, I trust, remain employed.

One person I haven’t put in a good word for is myself.

“If there were a survey for what you do,” my boss said, “do you think you’d get a raise?”

“I’d probably end up owing you money,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “I could use a raise. Working with you, I deserve one.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma