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Strata Performance Solutions

Helping companies find their Full Potential.

March 27th, 2014 by Robert Ringstrom

newspaperI think most of us can recall the excitement and anticipation of getting a job; especially your first job.  At least that’s how I felt about being a paperboy. It was the excitement and the anticipation of doing something so adult-like!  I was driven by the opportunity to be responsible for something entirely on my own.  When I was 12 years old, being a paperboy with my own route and income was my declaration of independence.


Unfortunately for those who aspire to be the best paperboy ever; my advice is to not hold onto the dream of flashy cars and a home with a pool.  Generally speaking, paperboys count on tips and gifts from their customers to achieve any semblance of a minimum wage.  Minimum wage employees must work on average 2.6 full-time jobs to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment.  In 40 hour a week terms, that amounts to about $20 an hour.

To this day, I can still visualize almost every customer’s door where I would leave a newspaper, following their personal preferences.  One customer wanted the paper wedged between the door handle and the frame.  That way, when they turned the handle inside and swung the door open, the paper would drop to their feet.  It was very common in those days, that milk was delivered to a box by the front door in the early morning hours. I might be instructed to leave the paper in the milk box on the steps.  When the snow got to be knee deep out on the North Dakota prairie, I would pull my load of papers behind me on a wooden sled.  I would have my 4-buckle overshoes packed with old newspapers for insulation and the hood of my parka tied tight around my face to fight off the menacing frozen air.  I would imagine myself as a storybook hero clomping through the drifting whiteness with undaunted determination.  The raw freezing weather made me feel superior.  I was elated that I was able to conquer the elements!

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Minimum Wage for Paperboys?

In the spring, I decided that I wanted a bicycle.  My parents had already given a bike to my older brother, but they decided that all three of their boys could share it.  I was not having any part of that arrangement.  With some deal-making with my parents, they agreed to support my plan of buying myself a new 24” black Columbia bicycle at the hardware store on installments.  It had a ‘tank’ encasing the top bar with twin headlights and a bell built in.  With an initial down-payment of $20, I promised to make payments every two weeks until the purchase price was met.  My parents reassured the store that they would back my plan if I were to fail for any reason.  It was well into the fall when I finally made my last payment and the bike was all mine.  As I rode my sleek black Columbia home after that last payment, I felt my breathing accelerate.  I felt great! I felt successful.

Doing something that you’re good at can reward a person emotionally and spiritually; as well as providing some financial independence.  Following those two and a half years when I delivered newspapers, at some point in my life I came to embrace a perspective of people and how they contribute to their self-worth.  I also came to the understanding that being a paperboy was an introduction to the concept of trading services for wages.  But a simple introduction to a concept is only as valuable as the action it evokes.  The action taken is a choice.  Minimum wage is an introduction to a concept.  At its best.

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….being a paperboy was an introduction to the concept of trading services for wages.”