Internet commenters were stirred into a heated conversation about low-paying jobs and living wages on Thursday after one employee revealed an insensitive comment their boss made about their weight at work.
In a viral Reddit post initially published on the platform’s r/antiwork forum, the employee said their boss exclaimed “You’re so skinny!” to them, and described the satisfaction they felt after explaining why. In just five hours, the post has received nearly 50,000 votes and more than 2,000 comments.
Following the comment about their weight, Redditor u/Unusual-Risk said they informed their boss their physique is a result of not eating enough food. When their boss asked why they aren’t eating enough, the Redditor said they were matter-of-fact in their response.
“I looked her dead in the eye and said ‘I can’t afford a lot of food,'” they wrote.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food costs have skyrocketed over the last year. Along with gasoline, new and used vehicles and a myriad of tobacco products, the cost of food has increased substantially since the end of 2020.
From December 2020 to December 2021, the BLS reports that consumer prices for all items rose 7 percent. The cost of food, however, increased by 6.3 percent—the highest rate of food inflation since October 2008.
Despite increased food costs, the “food” umbrella does not cover multiple categories of edible items. In the same December 2020 to December 2021 time period, dairy costs increased 1.6 percent, cereals and other bakery products by 4.8 percent, fruits and vegetables by 5 percent and meats, poultry, fish and eggs saw a whopping 12.5 percent increase.
These increases, coupled with a volatile job market resulting from the “Great Resignation” and supposed labor shortages, have created even tougher conditions for workers making minimum wage or close to it.
Last November, NBC News reported that many employees in the hospitality and retail industries are unable to keep up with rapidly-rising inflation rates. Two months before inflation rates reached 7 percent, between October 2020 and October 2021, consumer prices increased by 6.2 percent. In that same time period, wages and salaries for hourly workers increased by just 4.2 percent—2 percent less than inflation rates.
As employees struggle to make ends meet, they are forced to spend less money on utilities and items necessary for survival, including food.
In their original post, u/Unusual-Risk said that after explaining they can’t afford a lot of food, their boss was speechless, adding that they relished the tension they caused by telling the truth.
“The resulting 5 minute awkward silence was the best five minutes of my life,” the Redditor wrote.
Other Redditors commenting on the viral post stood firmly behind u/Unusual-Risk and blamed their boss for not paying them enough to afford food.
In the post’s top comment, which has received 10,000 votes, Redditor u/Kaitensatsuma was brief and addressed the original poster’s boss directly.
“B***h you don’t pay me enough,” they wrote, standing up for u/Unusual-Risk.
While thousands of commenters focused on the original poster’s boss, others took the viral Reddit post as an opportunity to share their experiences with low-paying jobs and the consequences of working them.
Redditor u/Lovely_Louise said that when they were struggling with a job that wasn’t paying a livable wage, their boss offered to help, but turned out to be anything but helpful.
“The best was the time my boss asked why I was so stressed, and I explained my expenses were more than he paid me,” they wrote. “Man looked me in the eyes, and offered to be a reference for a ‘weekend job,’ since he always gave me the same days off, so it would be ‘easy’ to find one.”
“I then got a bootstraps lecture about how I ‘didn’t know poor’,” they added.
Describing a time when they attempted to seek help for a desperate coworker, Redditor u/lydriseabove said their employer flipped the situation and placed the blame for non-living wages squarely on employees.
“Had to have a conversation with my last manager when my coworker was biking several miles to work and was donating plasma to afford groceries,” they wrote. “The manager and company did not give a single f**k and sent us all links for budgeting training.”
Redditor u/crawlingrat, whose comment received nearly 4,000 votes, said that they took the original Reddit post with a grain of salt before realizing that u/Unusual-Risk’s story is an example of a larger trend.
“I laughed then I realized this wasn’t a laughing manner and is in fact very sad and true for a lot of people,” they commented. “Myself included.”