Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Practicing what you preach 

Like many kids of my time, I had a job as a paperboy growing up. I drove my bike several blocks to a nice neighborhood in north Manchester, NH, filled side baskets with newspapers dropped there and then went out on a 45-50 paper route. My route included the parents of Adam Sandler and, I recall, the mother of Justice Souter. (I do not recall meeting the more famous children in either case.) I got about $2/wk per route for seven days, paid the newspaper 18 cents a paper for Monday through Saturday and 75 cents for a Sunday. At fifty papers, that gave me a profit of $33.50 a week for a job that took me about two hours each afternoon. (The Manchester Union Leader, back then, had an afternoon city edition.) That was well above the minimum wage of $1.65 an hour back then.

Peter Swanson indicates that wages have gotten much worse, and yet the StarTribune is complaining about low wages.
An article in City Pages (not exactly a friend of the free market) from 2000 describes the compensation for Star Tribune delivery carriers. Calculating the pay on an hourly basis depends on several variables: the fee per newspaper, the length of time it takes to complete a route, the cost of gasoline, and customer complaints that result in fines. A new carrier will presumably take longer to complete a route and will make mistakes that generate more customer fines.

The carrier profiled in the City Pages article receives 18 cents per paper, delivering more than 200 papers on a 34-mile route. After gas and fines, he estimates that he makes "a little more than nine bucks an hour." He finishes his weekday route an hour before the 6:30 a.m. deadline, with papers first available at the depot for pick up starting at 2:00 a.m. This means that fines and gas cost him approximately $5.00 each weekday.

A carrier who has similar fines and a similar route, but who takes the entire 4.5 hours to deliver 200 papers could easily make less than $7.00 per hour for this "thankless and difficult" (quoting the editorial) job.
I later drove a route dropping papers at honor boxes and morning residential clients in Manchester. I made about $110/wk -- in 1977.