Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another McDonald’s alumni success story

A couple of months ago I wrote about PM John Howard enthusing about GenYers can-do attitude, when it came to working for fast-food multinationals. Not everyone agrees, however, the Oz’s Louise Evans opining that “gen-Yers consider lifting a finger to serve someone other than themselves beneath them”.

Harsh. In any case, as I’ve emphasised before, sweeping generationalisms should only be used in jest or cliché unless there is meaningful data to underpin their supposed attributes in adult life. Such data is unlikely to exist before a generation hits 30, or even 40, to be on the safe side. The GenY-attribute game is therefore currently pointless as a serious academic field because it is premature, and not because, as Kate Crawford# seems to imply, generation-defining data doesn’t exist for pre-Yers. (An overview of some boomer-vs-Xer comparative data is here.)

Still, even the most dramatic generational hard-data – Australia’s suicide rate has peaked at mid-1960s-to-early-1970s born males for twenty-plus unbroken years, since this cohort were teenagers/early-20s in the mid-1980s* – permits many exceptions. And in the category of Australian male Xers inherently unlikely to top themselves, or otherwise be blighted by any of the connected troika of unemployment, mental illness and housing insecurity, I’d like to nominate this grouping of (mid-30s, I’m guessing) Melbourne slumlords, three of whom met while working at McDonald’s.

That there is good money to be made in leasing a property for, say, $320/week and then sub-letting its individual rooms for, say $750/week total (five rooms at $150/week each) is plain. There are no overheads other than power (which can’t be separately metered) and (minor) letting costs. In an incidental Melbourne-vs-Sydney anecdote, it would seem that while such sub-letting arbitrage is regrettably present in both cities, Sydney’s prime customers are overseas backpackers (four to a room at $120/week each, while the head-lessee pays ~$500/week), while Melbourne’s slumlords primarily service desperate, one-to-a-room locals.

It is striking how slumlord (and convicted illegal-brothel operator) George Maatouk has learned to talk the talk:

"We're not 100 per cent right in how we run our [sub-letting] business, but if we weren't there to start off with, these people wouldn't have anywhere to go . . .The demand is just growing; we can't keep up," Maatouk said. (same URL)

Take a bow for that, McDonald’s – a former employee of yours still striving for manifest excellence in customer service. However, maybe McDonald’s can’t take all the credit here, for young George’s Getting of Spin-dom, as he has had some excellent spin-meistering role-models in the non-profit slumlord sector, also.

In June, the Age ran this story about the fate of Western Lodge, a hellish boarding-house which had lately and suddenly attracted a bidding-war of good intentions, either triggered by, or actually causing, the sale of the underlying freehold and so the imminent eviction of the residents:

Wesley Mission had wanted to step in and improve the situation at Western Lodge . . . The best case scenario, said [Wesley’s] Micaela Cronin . . . would be to build an alternative home nearby.

"Most of us would like to get Western Lodge closed down but there are 60 people there, some of whom have been there for a long time, and it is their home, as much as that is disturbing.

. . .

Clare Amies, the chief executive officer of Western Region Health Centre, a non-profit group [that had taken over the operation of Western Lodge only two months earlier], said Western Lodge posed a dilemma: it was an inappropriate environment, but it was home to many people and there were few alternatives. "We might be able to put them in a place 20 kilometres away … but that will not be their local community, with local support and services."
(same URL)

What useless, hand-wringing fucktards. (George Maatouk himself couldn’t have purred “Location, location, location” any more convincingly.)

The actual “best case scenario”, dare I suggest it – meaning, this time something concrete to be done, not just bandied around hypothetically – would start with Clare Amies and Micaela Cronin stopping being/aspiring-to-be salaried slumlords themselves, “non-profit” or otherwise. As George Maatouk & Co make plain and exemplary, customer service excellence in the slumlord and fast-food industries exists in direct proportion to the unhealthiness of these industries’ products.

Saving on the salaries of Clare Amies, Micaela Cronin and their ilk would only be a small start, though. A bigger, necessary step is for more public housing in Victoria. (That’s “Victoria”, not “Melbourne”, much less particular suburbs within it – quality of domicile has to come in above “supportive” location.)

In tandem with this, GenX men need to be shifted from their current implicit priority at the very bottom of waiting lists – and so automatic prime customers for George Maatouk & Co – into becoming screaming, red-hot priority cases for public housing.

For it is clear that for two scandalous, long decades, the safety-net for GenX men has been set too low – six feet too low, in fact.

# Kate Crawford “Generation cliché” AFR Boss Magazine 13 October 2006

* This astonishing statistic continues to receive minimal media attention, and even within that, lame theories on what The Something About Xer Men might be. For a recent example, see:

Adam Cresswell, “Suicide rates mask men at riskAustralian, 16 September 2006

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