And what exactly is my salary??
July 24, 2006 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I am a full time college student right now and have just gotten a job at a bicycle shop. The problem is, I have no idea what I am being paid. When I inquired about employment I was initially turned down, saying that there was not any positions currently available. After some pleading and explaining my passion for bikes the manager entertained the idea. During the interview he asked me when I was looking to make. This question somewhat blind-sided me as I didn't want to give too high of a number and leave a bad taste in his mouth or worse, lose the job. I told him that pay was really not important to me and just working with bikes and learning was the most important aspect of the job. Long story short I got the job but we have yet to discuss salary

I have been working there for the past few days and I still don't know what I am being paid. I do like the job very much. It's casual and fun and I am learning a lot about bicycles. What I told the manager was true about pay not being that important to me but I must admit that I am curious. So now I am in a bit of a tough spot. I want to get in good with the shop and show that I'm passionate about the work. I also know that I am in a probationary period. I'm apprehensive to rock the boat by getting into a salary negotiation that will make me come of like a greedy jerk. What should i do? How should I approach this? If I do get into a negotiation how should I handle it. I worked for five years at staples selling furniture (head of furniture department) so I have experience selling high ticket items, albeit not bicycles. I feel kind of silly in this situation but I really wanted to work at a bike shop. Should I just say the hell with it and see how it plays out? Money isn't that important right now, I don't really have any expenses, it's just going to be spending money. Should I take what they give me and show that I'm worthy of more in the coming months? Thanks in advance
posted by Evan Gaffney to Work & Money (18 answers total)
I have been working there for the past few days and I still don't know what I am being paid.

I am guessing: whatever the legal minimum is. It's much harder to get good raises than it is to start off with a fair salary.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2006

Wait until your first pay packet (if that isn't too far off) and if it isn't close to your expectations then bring it up with the manager. I wouldn't rock the boat until you are sure there is a problem, and it sounds like you can afford to sit tight and see how it plays out.
posted by fire&wings at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2006

It's possible that the shop owner interpreted you telling him that "pay was really not important [to me] and just working with bikes and learning was the most important aspect of the job" meant you were volunteering to help out, and you might not be getting paid at all, especially since no positions were available.

Did you fill out a W-2? If you did, then you're probably getting paid. If you didn't, you might ask about it as a way to find out.

I wouldn't be offended if I had an employee of mine (note: I don't have any employees) casually said something like "I'm sorry, I totally forget what you said I was getting paid." You could even add "I am trying to budget/save up for something" if it makes you feel more comfortable.
posted by nekton at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2006

Well, if you're interested in negotiating a salary, I don't know how much harm you did to your own cause by telling him money wasn't important and then starting to work before discussing salary.

But for finding out how much you are earning now, without sounding like a 'greedy jerk', I'd catch him during a slow time or maybe even ask for a moment of his time at the end of your shift.

At that point, I'd say something about how you're really enjoying X, Y and Z about the job/co-workers/environment and then casually mention something like, "Hey... Did we ever discuss what my starting hourly salary was?"
posted by jerseygirl at 10:20 AM on July 24, 2006

Just bite the bullet and ask outright.

The sooner you are comfortable with separating the business/hr stuff at work from the actual working and interacting part, the better.

Bosses are used to being asked about money, they're used to people quitting, calling in sick, lying, slacking off, you name it. It's part of being the boss.
posted by davey_darling at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2006

"So, uhhh, am I getting C-Record carbon or Shimano Tiagra?"
posted by fixedgear at 10:39 AM on July 24, 2006

Ask. He'd be just as embarassed he didn't tell you as you are asking. Or he should be.
posted by hoborg at 10:43 AM on July 24, 2006

If you are working legally you should have filled out a federal W4 form. (not a W2, nekton) If you are working legally then you have to at least make the minimum wage which is $6.75 in NY.
posted by JJ86 at 10:44 AM on July 24, 2006

Discussing money has been the hardest part of working in the real world. I consider myself an honest hard-worker, and skilled in my field, but asking for a wage that reflects that is still difficult. I have found that asking upfront is the best way to get what you want, and the "oh by the way. . ." route is the fastest way to get the lower end of expectations. Anyone who has ever done fundraising will tell you to make eye contact and spec high, and since you're fundraising for yourself. . . If you're unsure of what the going rate for bike-shop employees, ask around. If you're not comfortable asking co-workers, call another bike shop in the area to get some ballpark figures.
posted by fantastic at 10:54 AM on July 24, 2006

Another way to approach this is to wait a few more days, track your sales (of bicycles, and more importantly, accessories that go with them - that's where the high margins are). Then approach him and let him know what a great salesperson you - then ask/negotiate your pay!
Just to make this really clear, bike shops make waaaay more money on accessories (clothing, helmets, gloves, tires, tubes, locks, racks, saddles, etc) than they do on the bicycles themselves. You'll make more money for the shop selling 3 mid-priced bikes with $300 worth of accessories with each bike than you would selling 3 higher-priced bikes and NO accessories. Your pay can be a direct reflection of your 'value' to the shop.
Another way to add value is to "merchandise" when it's slow (aka straightening shelves and merchandise, sweeping, etc) - this will help you get familiar with the mercandise, and will show you to be a hard worker. Forgive me if you already know this stuff from your days at Staples, but this is all based on my experience. (disclaimer: I sold bikes retail/wholesale for 10 years)
posted by dbmcd at 11:06 AM on July 24, 2006

If I said that -- "Hey, I just want to work here, what's important to me isn't pay, it's the chance to deal with bikes and learn from you guys" -- I would consider myself to've signed up for an unpaid internship unless the boss specifically said something to the contrary.

If you're filling out timesheets or tax forms, you're good. If not, wait until payday. If you get an envelope, congratulations.

If you don't, it's time to talk to the boss -- something along the lines of "You know, it's really important to me to be working in such a great environment, but I'm afraid I might actually need to get a different, worse job . . . I'm concerned about paying tuition for next semester. I know I could never get such great experience as I'm getting here, or work with such great staff, but it's really important to me to keep attending college, and I'm just not sure I can make ends meet if I keep working here, as much as I like it."

If it isn't tuition, then say you're saving up for an apartment, or a down payment on a car, or something else big. (And if there isn't anything else big the money could possibly be used for -- if it's really just spending money, as you say -- then enjoy the unpaid internship.)

This tactic can also be used to try to get a raise, but you have to be very careful that you can't be replaced, that you're doing work for which the boss would usually be paying a higher wage, and that you do actually have a good reason for needing higher pay.
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:09 AM on July 24, 2006

Do let us know if you are working for free.
posted by A189Nut at 11:15 AM on July 24, 2006

Also, if you didn't fill out the I-9 "prove you are legal to work in this country" form, then your employer is violating federal law. Since he probably wouldn't do that on purpose (unless bicycle shop is code for fruit farm) odds are you are on an unpaid internship.
posted by COD at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2006

Moral: never ever in your life utter the words "the money's not important to me" unless you really really mean it.
posted by baylink at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

It still doesn't answer the posters original question. How much is he getting paid? One way to find out is to tell the boss you need to fill out a W4 for withholding (assuming you already haven't), or modify the W4 and while doing that ask, 'What do you think my take home pay would be if I were to take 2 deductions instead of the standard one'? This will open up the conversation in real dollars. If he asks why you can say 'well I usually get a big refund, and I'd rather not give ol GW a loan until next April.'
posted by Gungho at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2006

Long story short I got the job but we have yet to discuss salary.

For future reference: somewhere between the job offer and your acceptance of it is the point where you should have asked him how much you're going to get paid.

Now you've set yourself up to get manipulated, because as soon as you ask, he can come back with 'I thought you said you didn't care.'

So. If you have filled out a W-2, or the boss is paying under the table, wait until payday and see what happens. If you haven't filled one out, ask if you should. As you're getting handed the form would be a good time to say 'And how much am I getting paid, anyway?'
posted by bingo at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2006

not a W2, nekton

Right. Thanks for the correction.
posted by nekton at 5:56 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I bet it's minimum wage. How strange that we have to feel apprehensive about discussing salary! I mean, the whole idea behind working is making money!! It's akin to being apprehensive about discussing what we want to eat in a restaurant, if you really think about it. What an oddity, huh? But, yes, it is minimum wage, of that I would be pretty sure.
posted by peglam at 3:27 AM on July 25, 2006

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