The day after high school, my dad being the nomad that he was had decided, instead of trying to stay in Sacramento after the owners we were renting from decided to move back in, we were going to move to St. George Utah. A little town with about 35,000 people. One stop light, a country music station, a tiny state college and more sage brush and tumble weeds than you could fit in Texas. Anyway you get the idea.
The lamest thing was having to leave our friends, the girls we loved and My great job. To make matters worse when we got to St. George the house we moved into in St. George was a dive. My dad hadn’t even seen it before we moved there. Any way I went looking for a job. My mom had gone to college there in the 60’s and knew a couple of people.
One of her friends hooked me up with a job cleaning the cafeteria at the college. I was supposed to work 3 hours a night, after the cafeteria was closed. I worked for about a week with the guy I was about to replace. I remember thinking this guy is soooo slow. I had been busting my butt for over two years. I knew how to clean fast. Well after the guy quit I could get most of the work done in about 45 to an Hour. I approached the manger and asked if I could just get paid for 3 hours and when ever I got done I could go home. He thought it was a strange idea. And I think he thought I was trying to cheat him or something. I was completely bored. This was my second experience with soldiering. Soldiering was term coined around the turn of the century in factories though out the world. This is were everyone works along at the same slow pace to not make anyone else look bad or work to hard. If you are by yourself you just have to make it look like you are busy when there is nothing else to do, so the boss will pay you a full days wage. Mostly ridiculous.
My brother and I were pretty social and I had found a couple of girls to have fun and date. One of the girls was working at a place called Fellerstone and she said she was making 4 or 5 dollars an hour and she might be able to get me a job. It sounded good to me. They were looking for some extra help and I soon found out why it wasn’t a big deal to hire another person. They were paying piece-rate. But I soon found out what a wonderful thing piece-rate was. (Piece-rate is a form of pay for performance). My task was to glue lava rocks together. I got paid .01 for every rock I glued together. Eventually they would form lava arches, statues, they were called. The statues, were attached to a piece of rock. These statues were sold to pet stores to be put into fish tanks. I got really good at gluing rocks together. I could easily do 1200 an hour, and could sometimes do 1600 an hour. Gluing them onto the base was $.02(2 cents) and I could do 800 to 1000 of those an hour. But I because of the work space and drying time of the glue. I could only work for about 3 hours a day. This was great for me because I was going to college and could come back and forth between classes. And the girls all worked after school. You have to remember this was 1988 in a tiny rural town were you could work at minimum wage $3.15 job and buy a house for $35,000. Here I was 18 making $15 to $20 an hour making 5 to 7 times what any of my friends were. Most of the girls were making $4 or $5 dollars an hour and that was great.
I worked there for about 6 months and then I volunteered to serve a mission for my Church. I was asked to serve in Micronesia. I gave my two weeks to the owners. The owner said, we are sorry to see you go you were produced a ton of stuff. He asked me “What do you think you were making per hour?” I told him $15 to $20 an hour. Almost immediately, without thinking, he said “Wow, I am only paying the foreman $11.” I hadn’t told really told anyone before that. However, I did tell a couple of the girls after that, and I guess it got around the plant. It caused quite a commotion because everyone in the plant wanted to swith to making “lava statues.” I don’t think they sold very well because they stopped making them.
Once again, without realizing it, the owners had gotten me to stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an owner. It is amazing what can happen with you get people “Owner Thinking”
Interesting to note about FellerStone. Throughout the years I have wondered into pet shops and looked for fellerstone products. In many cities across the US. I’d say over 90% of the pet stores I have been into have Fellerstone products, but I have never seen a lava statue in a pet store.
In 1988 Fellerstone also had several other jobs were they were using pay-for-performance. However, I spoke with owner in 2007 and they were no longer using pay-for-performance (piece-rate) in their plant. I scheduled an interview with him and went to his plant. But that particular day he had something come up and I didn’t get the chance to ask him why.
Pay-for-performance can be your golden goose, but many times owners and managers get greedy and kill their golden goose, by miss management.