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Ah, the sykeout. Quinn was correct that Ellie had four seasonal jobs, and since we're on the subject (and I don't intend on covering temps again) I'm showcasing what being a temp is like. I've never been one myself, but I've hired and trained my fair share, and seen exactly what they go through. Every state is different, but with the ones I worked in, temps are absolutely positively disposable. There are no write-ups or notifications on any job security or performance when dealing with temps. The only communication they receive is if they're working or not. Even their schedules are subject to change in the middle of working. You either need them, or you don't. Seasonal temps are especially subject to job insecurity. If there's any weakness in sales for a season, they are undoubtedly the first thing to go. Ellie's first job at Kohl's was her own fault, using it as a means to get holiday deals. That is not far removed from reality. I've seen it time and again. Don't even question that notion. It happens. And I preferred using a generic clothing company for this job, but back when I was writing that story, I wanted real Black Friday doorbuster items, and what Quinn and Ellie are there to get, was actually doorbusters they were promoting. So I went ahead and ran with it. The second job was a pet store, Pet Agreed. This is an example a company hiring temps based on the 'unknown' in terms of holiday sales. Companies would rather over-staff and cut hours later, then under-staff and lose profit. Pet Agreed didn't need Ellie. If they did, it would've been during the initial hours of the Black Friday opening. Having a few temps was their assurance any extra flood of business would have a warm body there to greet it. The third seasonal job was a craft store, like Michael's or Pottery Barn. The sign is cut off, but the business doesn't matter. This is what I call "peon avoidance." The love is gone. Temps, they don't need you. You've had your day in the sun with them, but they're moving on. You just don't fit their needs. You're just TOO DIFFERENT. It's not working out. Just collect your things and go. The equivalent of a girlfriend or boyfriend who is the "relationship lightswitch." There was a time you were their everything, and they really relied on you and loved you for what you could do. Then one day, it's like they're a different person. And they didn't even bother to call. The fourth and final job is Rick's Sporting Goods. The 'job-tease.' Many companies do hire on temp staff after a certain period of observation. But after holidays?... not so much. Being hired on as a temp is much more likely when a company is acquiring them for some type of expansion. A permanent increase in business. There's also the rare scenario when a company needs to shutter a group of employees for some reason or another, and find replacements. Instead of going through the arduous process of interviewing, drug screening, background checking, and orientationing new people who you don't even know will work out.. let the temp agency do most of the leg work and just send bodies your way. Then it's just a matter of who's cutting it, and who needs to go back to the agency. There is another rare scenario where an employee may crack during the holiday season and quit. That would've been Ellie's best chance. But it didn't happen. Now she's going into the off season where NO ONE will be hiring anyone for anything. Now that's not completely true. Someone's probably hiring for something somewhere... but with Ellie's experience and job tenure, she's pretty screwed. Now fortunately, I've always given my temps some form of notice or status on their departure. And if one was good enough, I'd still bring it to the attention of my superiors. Even if they had to go to another department of shift, a good worker still benefits the company, if not my shift personally. But I have seen these other instances happen. The only time I'd ever cut a temp with no notice was if they were hostile (fist fights,) reckless (broke tens of thousands of dollars of equipment,) irresponsible (showed up drunk,)  or stole. All of which have happened.

66 thoughts on “Syke

  1. First!

    I don’t think I could handle temp work. The stress of uncertainty would undoubtedly cause me to lose it.

    1. If you’re a temp all by yourself applying for a seasonal job as your sole income, it can be. If it’s to ‘supplement’ your income, it’s probably not much of a stresser since its finality is already known. If you’re a temp from an agency, you just go back to the agency. And in that case, it IS probably your sole income and somewhat stressful.
      You’d be surprised how many folks rely on temp agencies to just find them jobs continuously. Not out of necessity, but laziness, since many just toe the line, working the minimum they can for each company they’re sent to work with. They use the agency as a complete crutch.

    2. I’m with you. I’ve never worked a temp job, and I (hopefully) never will. I’ve had full time jobs my whole life, aside from when I was in highschool, and thankfully, they worked with my schedule.

      But the concept of losing your job that quickly? And with little to no notice? That’d make anyone’s blood pressure rise… aside from lazy people who really don’t care either way- I doubt they’d care too much.

  2. I spent most of five years as a “Permanent Temporary”. All the hours that they wanted you to work, with none of the benefits. The pay was good, at the time, and overtime pay was better. But, that looming “fire you for your hair cut”, and the union don’t care, because you aren’t allowed to join.

    And to the firsty one, the stress was nuts. And that was just the job.

    1. That’s interesting. Was that through an agency? Cause usually when wanting to officially hire-in an employee from a temp agency, the temp must work a certain amount of hours. After, for example, 200 hours are worked by the temp, the agency will allow the dismissal of the temp on their end, and the hiring from the official company. This is because said company would pay a regular employee, say, $12.50 an hour, but through the temp agency, the agency charges the company using the temp, say, $15-16+ for each hour.
      I’m surprised that company would shell out that extra expense for so long if the man power was needed, and someone like yourself was competent enough to keep around.

      1. Not a temp agency. USPS. The big facilities live off of Casual Workers, or did at least a few years ago. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to work for years like that, hoping for a permanent position.

        1. Still do. They just changed the name to PSE (Postal Support Employee). Then us full-timers complain to the Union that the PSEs are stealing our overtime. It goes to arbitration and we get a few thousand dollars to make up for the imaginary time we should have been paid for.

      2. I think part of the cost might be in the non-salary benefits as well. If you are working through an agency, you can be labeled as an independent contractor or whatever, and they only pay your hourly rate. If they bring you onboard as a near-full time employ, it’s a lot harder to get away with not giving you sick leave, vacation days, health insurance, etc. And for people working at or near minimum wage that can easily add up to as much as their salary.

        Heck, the law firm I work for does that a lot with the non-attorney staff, and even sometimes with new lawyers (fresh out of law school). They aren’t doing it just to be cheap; they manner of their business means you can have several busy “all hands on deck” months followed by several slow ones, but the end result is the same- they benefit from being able to beef up and cut the body count on short notice.

    2. One of the craziest part about temp agencies is that you can be paid only a small part of what they get paid, sometimes as low as 30-50%

      1. How is that crazy? It may seem unfair, but it’s standard. Every single job involving billable hours–whether it’s temping, law, graphic design, auto repair, or prostitution, pays you a fraction of what the company handling you charges–and 50% is unusually high.

        1. Even if it’s standard, sometimes the temp agency is getting paid $20/hr for someone employed at $10/hr. So, businesses see the overhead as worth the money for a reason

  3. This “Then one day, it’s like their a different person. ” should be they’re, as long as we’re gathering nits.

  4. Poor Ellie, she’s like a collage graduate who majored in English, just no openings for someone with her specific skill set.

    It is odd that she doesnt have any in’s through her family however. As large as it is, I am very much surprised that no-one has anything they can offer? Hitting the pavement and hunting for a job is the least effective way of getting a job, interpersonal connections is always going to be your best bet.

    Now we know what her sisters do for a living (most of them) and I’m not suggesting that one of her sisters would hire her, but ONE of them knowing about an opening, or their husband knowing or their husband having a brother/sister that knows something etc.

    Thats been the main thing thats helped me out since I finished high school, having a large family there is always someone that knows something or someone that knows something :(

    1. Good point, but would you have recommended Ellie for a job even just a year ago when we actually knew her? She has a high school diploma, likely backed by mediocre grades, and minimal skills. That’s much different now, of course, but back then Ellie wasn’t exactly a boon to the workforce.

      1. Would I have hired Ellie a year ago when we actually knew her? That depends on a number of factors.

        As a theoretical, who am I in relation to her? Am I a friend? Am I Ginger’s husband? Am I one of her sisters friends?

        In one of those instences, I would give them a chance yes, provided we were hiring. If we wernt at the time I would point her in the direction of any company I knew was looking for someone.

        This being due to my getting my job only because my father and great uncle were working at the company I am now employed with. I was exactly like her, minus gender, still am a lot like her actually in many ways lol. I was raised to always give a hand to family and to at least give a good effort for friends.

        Everyone has to start somewhere, and a lack of skills/degrees can actualyl HELP you get a job now days. It means you have lower bargining power, they can get away with paying you less. But the reversal is while there you are gaining experience and making connections, and that is where your future comes from.

        Collage degree’s are nice, but they arent a sure meal ticket. We’ve passed over people with multiple degrees in favor of someone with work experience.

      2. Well, first it’s a question of what they know the other place is looking for. If the place was looking for a bunch of cheap grunts, very easy to point Ellie at it and not worry about it looking bad. If they’re looking for something a bit more specific and skilled, that’s generally when they talk to the person hiring about Ellie’s pros & cons (very sharp, but problems with laziness) and let them make the choice.

    2. There’s a reason they don’t work together, which will be in a story two plots after this plot. Ellie will eventually be desperate enough to ask a sister for a job.

    3. I was kinda wondering that. Surely someone could use some help- perhaps Anise needed some help in her tatoo parlor. Maybe Tarra could use an extra body in whatever business she was in to. Mayhaps Ginger could talk to her husband to do whatever.

      Seems like there were a few options available to Ellie, but she never grabbed them.

      I’m thinking it’s because the sisters knew how lazy Ellie was, so Ellie knew she’d never get any of her siblings to help “the lazy one.” It might have been a waste of breath to ask for their help. Or alternatively, it could be that Ellie, for all her laziness, actually has a bit of pride, and wouldn’t bother groveling to her sisters for any help. Or finally, it’s that Ellie wants to legitimately push herself- see how tough she really is.

      1. Asking Anise if she heard of any openings from a customer or if Tarra knows of a business opening a new location that needs a lot of bodies or things along that line aren’t what I’d call groveling.

    4. English – Lit? Maybe useless.

      English -tech writing? Every engineering firm on the planet needs you. Several of you, even.

      English – rhetoric? PR means YOU.

      Many different kinds of English degrees. All a question of which one you get.

  5. I remember working the temp agencies during college… not fun, and that was during relative boom-times (late 80’s/early 90’s) when there was a lot of work to be had. From the mind-numbing drudgery of assembly-line work and traffic management for road construction, to the high-stress office-clerk & holiday customer service jobs… The biggest advantage was I could decide what days/hours I was working

      1. There are a few temp jobs around here that are dependent upon the weather. Like the amount of humidity in the air.

        Pallets of toilet paper and paper towels tumbling to the ground, temps needed to clean up the warehouse floors and re stack and such. . .

  6. You know, she could apply for a theme park… The thing is, it takes them a while to process the request.

    1. I had a cousin get her dream job at a theme park. She was a costumed character cast member whatever. Ended up being allergic to the costume.

      But yes. Forever and a day I think she waited.

    2. I know people who have worked at Cedar Point (in Ohio). The double twelve-hour shifts sounded bad. If someone didn’t show, you were required to stay for their shift. The pay was crap, and they had employee housing that was part of your salary (which is part of why the pay was so bad). They tried their best to make sure you didn’t get the full season bonus. It’s certainly eye-opener if you grew up sheltered, but really not a great opportunity (they may do it differently in year round theme parks).

      I’ve worked a seasonal job several times (including Michael’s, incidentally). I’ve always been asked to stay on. My daughter works at Kohl’s, was supposed to be seasonal, and was asked to stay on (they did her 90 day review 2 months late because they didn’t intend her to stay). Ellie should have stayed with Kohl’s. The one around here is ALWAYS hiring (which is its own kind of warning, I suppose).

  7. Using “Syke” or Sike” instead of “Psych” is peeve of mine. I don’t know how that got started, but I aim to see that it goes no further.

  8. And I see the numbers are coming back on the Top Webcomics voting; we’ve got a ways to go before we’re back in the 160s as before, but we’ve got the collective mojo to do the job!

  9. There’s another end to that spectrum that can be just as painful to watch. I work at a place where the manager is always uncomfortable in letting people go, even when they need to be fired, so he tries to find ways to get others to do it. “Corporate/District Manager/LP says you need to go. Not my call, sorry.” But it’s different with temps because the company leaves it up to the Managers discretion over how many to keep/let go.
    Every year we hire a bunch of temps which is fine for the holidays, but once January hits, our payroll plummets and the hours dry up. But every year, my manager decides to be the nice guy and keep all the temps that want to stay. With the complete lack of payroll and far too many associates, the schedule turns into a joke where an associate will work the bare minimum the state calls for-at least 1 day every 2 weeks.
    It doesn’t help that the second January hits, NO ONE is hiring in the area, so there’s no incentive for these temps to want to leave, even if they’re only getting 1 half shift every other week, because it’s better than no job at all.
    As a result, all the non temp associates are suffering because it’s their hours that are getting cut to accommodate the temps, causing widespread resentment. The manager, not wanting to feel bad for letting anyone go, would rather people quit from the frustration. It becomes an endurance test for the associates because eventually enough people will have either had enough or managed to find work elsewhere, cutting the team down to a manageable number again, usually leaving a month or two before we start the entire temp hiring process again.

        1. …it’s turning into a John Carpenter movie around here. Do I need the special glasses or the heated wire to tell one Mr. Blue from another?

        2. Hmm…wrong color is all.
          ‘S what happens when you change browsers and forget what color you logged in as. Also what happens when Joe and Nice Guy Eddie don’t let us pick our own names!

        3. I want to get my tape recorder for when you do get on that. It’d be awesome for that John Carpenter movie re-make.

  10. I did contracting for a while. Very rough. The pay is actually good since it’s IT-related, but it’s about the same situation. Most of the time you are told “you are to work x months”, but in reality, it’s hardly ever that number.

    Contractors are also usually the first to go as well.

  11. “Companies would rather over-staff and cut hours later, then under-staff and lose profit.”

    Damn, that’s as cold as ice. I guess I’ve never really thought about how difficult it is to be a temp worker, but it must be pretty stressful.

    I DID know a guy who was a temp worker, though, at an old job of mine. He didn’t seem to care much about his job- talked and acted like it was disposable. Turns out- it was. He didn’t show up after a week and a half later. I never knew what happened to him, and the bosses didn’t say anything about it. It’s shame, though. He actually worked harder than the two potheads did! :D

  12. Elle should consider getting into serving. There’s next to no previous experience required for most chain places, and the pay isn’t awful…. As long as you don’t kill the customers and are patient and polite.

    You know what? Maybe not.

  13. Great post, and Yikes. I’ve definitely put in my time as a temp that was cut (Arby’s) and once where it that turned into full time (Gamestop), but that was a fluke- someone had a nervous breakdown. I watched all the other Christmas employees drop like flies in the first weeks of January. Not pretty.

    I though I’d maybe give a positive counterpoint. With my temp work years long behind me, I’ve had the privilege to help start a small company that takes the absolute different tact: we treat money as the commodity to manage in order to protect our people, instead of the other way ’round. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Everyone knows they are valued first, and we all carry our water. Our style is based on Simon Sinek, who rocks: http://vimeo.com/79899786

  14. was looking at the sisters and noticed youngest to oldest they’re “birthmarks” spell gunshot

  15. This is what pisses me off about the way some people choose to do business. This lady could’ve simply said, “I hear we’re your last seasonal job. We’ve got several full-timers with leave requests that we’d like to get handled and we could use you for a few weeks longer at more hours than before.” Ellie would’ve certainly accepted. I don’t understand why people want to play mind games for no damned reason, and unfortunately this isn’t one of the unrealistic bits in the comic (looks sideways at Tarra).

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