Profiles in Aisle 9

For about a year now, my girlfriend/partner/fiance (whichever label she currently prefers) has been trying to find employment – at a PETCO.  Of course, she didn’t emerge from childhood gazing starry-eyed at the pet supply giant, a wistful smile on her lips, the sound of barcode scanners in her ears and the aroma of accumulated hamster feces lingering around her.  No, this was not always her dream.  She went into debt training as a massage therapist, earning high marks (that employers didn’t care about).

After some initial success at two terrible jobs, the first at a gym that never retained a manager longer than two weeks, the second at a local spa that routinely stole her tips and expected her to do marketing work on her own time for free, the collapsing economy swallowed up the spa (which in turn swallowed her last paycheck before closing).  For awhile, she found a string of massage jobs as an independent therapist, where she had the delightful opportunity to explain over and over again that she was not a prostitute.  Pretty soon, the cost of license renewals and insurance outpaced the available work.  Now her license is expired and she has no insurance, but at least she got to keep her student loan debt.  Always fond of animals, she was very excited when she noted our apartment’s proximity to PETCO, and so the applications began.

Like everything else these days, PETCO’s application process is entirely online.  Like every online form, much of it is meaningless space filler, including the most insulting element of all – a psych test.  Yes – PETCO requires applicants to fill out a psychological profile to operate cash registers and mop up urine.  In total, it took her about two hours to complete the application.  When she called to follow up with the hiring manager, she was told – by the hiring manager – “I’m not really sure we’re hiring right now.”  Huh?

After repeating this process several times, she finally caught the hiring manager in person at the store and discovered the horrible truth about her unanswered applications: She had “failed” the psych profile.  When I heard this story, I was struck forcibly by a line from “Alice’s Restaurant”: “Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I’m sittin’ here on the bench, I mean I’m sittin here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.”  Edited for PETCO: “I’m takin’ a psych test, I mean I’m just takin’ a psych test ’cause you wanna know if I’m sane enough to restock cat food after havin’ father issues.”  She wondered: did she appear too sensitive?  Not sensitive enough?  Not willing to rat out fellow employees?  Did they suppose she’d have a breakdown while feeding the tropical fish, perhaps due to repressed memories of childhood emotional abuse suffered at Sea World?

The working poor in this country are, of course, the only ones who must endure abuse this asinine.  In short: they deliberately waste your time.  A psychological profile, personality test, whatever they want to call it for an $8-$9 an hour job no one wants.  Fantastic.  I imagine the only reason we don’t put our heads of state and captains of industry through similar tests is that we’re already well aware of their sociopathy.

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