Incongruous Expectations

As I write I am serenaded by the melodious whine of an air compressor, the pitchy buzz of a reciprocating saw, and the staccato ‘tac tac’ of a nail gun. My folks are having new windows put in, and I am left pondering the seemingly incongruous expectations we place on those who make their living performing manual labour; namely, the perfection that is expected from those to whom a pittance is paid.

My father, ever the attentive consumer, has been pointing out, and asking questions about, some of the imperfections he’s noticed as the windows are installed. Now he has every right to complain, and should; this work is costing him upwards of $30,000, and that’s no small sum. However, how much of that 30 grand do the installers, who in addition to labouring all day in the sun must now listen to said complaints, see? Expecting perfection for 30 G’s is a right, but to expect it from someone making a couple bucks over minimum? I don’t know. If you’re expecting to get what you pay for, than those expectations must be balanced between the value expected from $30,000, and the value assigned to the slightly-more-than-minimum-wage employee.

When programmers (or whoever was to blame), probably paid [let’s say] double the salary of a skilled labourer, manage a fiasco like the Diablo III launch, shouldn’t one expect double the error 37’s from the latter? I’m not suggesting that the salaries for these two jobs should be comparable. The former go through much more school and training, and deserve higher salaries. As someone who has designed and built interlock patios, I understand that jobs requiring manual labour are not the most difficult, and the wage paid for them reflects that. However, it takes time and practice to master anything (as evidenced by the numerous incredibly botched interlock jobs done by do-it-yourselfers one can see in almost any neighbourhood), and most labourers aren’t being paid to master, they’re being paid to get by (as evidenced by the numerous botched interlock jobs done by poorly run companies that I have had to repair). Expecting perfection from said workers can only be deemed excessive when their salaries constantly tell them they are incapable of it.

By no means should one not expect good work, a $5,000 patio should look like a $5,000 patio, just like a video game designed to played should be playable, but one should also keep in mind that perfection cannot (or at least should not) be expected of someone who is being paid for shit.


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