Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just one question

Page Six, the celebrity gossip section of the New York Post, is claiming a victory over Dr. Phil. (Free registration required to view the online article, but I recommend bugmenot.com.)

September 26, 2005 -- PAGE SIX gets results! After our story revealing that multimillionaire TV shrink Dr. Phil (above) was paying his transcribers just $7 an hour, the rate was raised by a buck — to $8 an hour. Our spy adds, "You get a few extra perks if you work the graveyard shift. Eight dollars an hour is better, but most transcription jobs pay $12 to $14 an hour or $17 to $20 an hour." Dr. Phil's rep did not return requests for comment.
I will preface my comments with a disclaimer that I have never seen his show, and I don't believe I had ever seen his picture until today. Thus I can claim full objectivity here.

My single, very simple question to his transcribers: if they could earn more transcribing for someone else, then why don't they? I doubt that Dr. Phil can coerce them into continuing to work for him, so why do they persist in low-grade jobs when they could do better elsewhere?

The simple answer: they evidently cannot compete with transcribers who are worth $12, $14, $17 or $20 per hour. A production whose transcripts are of the greatest importance, like a show that posts transcripts very soon after broadcast, would necessarily need to hire very productive, very accurate, very good transcribers. Dr. Phil could probably hire transcribers who are at the top of their pay scale, but he apparently does not need that quality of work for his show's transcripts -- that is his choice, and a function of his particular circumstances.

So many people complain, "I deserve a raise. I could make more elsewhere!" The response to this is the same that I give certain customers when I help manage my aunt's wine store. To those that complain some of our prices were higher than our competitors, I would reply politely, "Well, that's what we charge, and you may go elsewhere if that's what you wish." Now, we sometimes bargained on, for instance, Krug or Taylor Fladgate (20-year tawny is just yummy). A customer might deem it worthwhile to drive across the hamlet to save $5 or $10 at one of our competitors. But when it came to most items, profit margins were small enough (typically 30% on wine, 20% on liquor) that we had to be firm on prices.

For one, a reduction in profit from $3 to $2.25 (25%) can be significant to a business of any size. Second, it's not robbery to charge what the market will bear. It was ever a ridiculous claim that Microsoft could have charged less for Windows 98 "and still made a profit." If at my aunt's store we charged 75 cents more for a bottle of cheap vodka, based on how much we bought it at wholesale, well, that's simply what we could charge. Lots of people clearly had time more valuable than our slightly higher prices, because they came to us instead of elsewhere.

Now, Dr. Phil's wealth is irrelevant to how much his staff should get paid, but the gap in their compensations is indicative of how much their particular forms of labor are valued. People are worth in pay only what others are willing to give. People apparently value Dr. Phil's entertainment a great deal, enough to make him a millionaire. By the same token, they indirectly don't place an especially high value on his transcribers' labor. For further reading, I recommend my previous entry, "How much do you 'deserve' in pay?"


Blogger TKC said...

Check this quote out from the Village Voice:
To the case: Oklahoma City's schoolboard had ended its 13-year-old school busing program mandated by a federal court to assure integrated elementary school grades. The schoolboard decision, Kluger notes, "left eleven city primary schools with all-black enrollments." The rationale: The city's residents had the right to send their children to neighborhood schools—"as if," Kluger pointed out, "blacks could readily pick their neighborhoods."

Huh? Just who is forcing blacks to live in certain neighborhoods? It is right up there with 'slave wages' and these transcribers working for half the going rate. Who is being forced into these jobs? No one. It is such a surreal complaint.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 3:52:00 PM  

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