Life is full of intangible trade offs

The ever thought-provoking John Kay recently used some retail examples in his FT column to explain how pay links with output.

He wrote: “I suspect that one reason French supermarket queues are longer than British ones is that the statutory minimum wage applicable to jobs such as checkout assistants is about 30 per cent higher in France…”

Does any local retailer have a view on this? Or could you set out to check if the model works?

He continued: “British supermarkets, noticing that office workers shop during their lunch break, staff the checkout more heavily then: French ones close tills to allow employees to eat at leisure.”

Again, is this true?

At Heathrow recently I bought a bottle of water at WHSmith – it is much cheaper than from the food outlets when it comes free with the Daily Telegraph. My penalty was to stand in a queue of 15 people as only one of the two tills was manned.

The point is that there are lots of things going on that affect queuing times and planning for busy periods. And what we see depends on what we measure.

Many local retailers point out the convenience to their staff of being able to walk to work in five minutes or less. The government can’t tax that. How much is that quality of life worth? For a local employer it is worth calculating and emphasising.


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