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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Who remembers actual pay packets?

The man from the BBC was interviewing Martin Sorrell this morning about his "pay packet". Considering this is almost seven million pounds a year I assume he was being flip.

But then I hear about Premier League footballers "putting in a shift", busy midfielders described as "grafters" and Adebayor's £150,000 a week referred to as "wages" and I wonder how long that whole world of factory work and weekly wages will have to be dead before people stop reaching back to it as a source of metaphor. It's as if we can only deal with silly money by comparing it to the dimly-remembered serious sort.

 Sorrell is probably old enough to have done a holiday job where he was paid in a brown envelope. I doubt the same thing could be said of his interrogator.

When I worked "on the bins" in the early 70s the Securicor van would draw up in the yard on Friday morning. We would queue at the van's window to be handed our money in sealed envelopes. These had a cellophane panel through which you could count the carefully folded notes. There were also tiny holes through which you could check the coins, all without breaking the seal. I can remember the heavy breathing of the men as they counted.

11 comments:

  1. Maybe more recently than you think - I had a holiday job in the early 90s working in a factory for a large international firm, whose name you would certainly know, and I remember queuing in the canteen on Friday lunchtimes to get my brown envelope.

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  2. Another metaphor which survives: in this part of the world (and in others, for all I know) certain women are described as "someone you wouldn't want to take an opened pay packet home to".

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  3. We were paid in exactly the same way (brown sealed envelopes, cellophane window etc) by members of the wages staff who brought our wages neatly piled in a brown tray which they carried in front of them in exactly the same fashion as a waitress does.

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  4. A possibly apocryphal tale from the early 70s -

    The computer company ICL pitched a bid to automate the payroll at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead. The systems guys quizzed the management and workforce at length about the complicated timekeeping, overtime and bonus systems and after a long time programming and fixing up a computer interface to a pile of notes, coins and envelopes they showed the resultant test paypackets to middle-management and union reps.

    Shock ensued - "they won't stand for that." "Why not, it's accurate and quick?"
    "Yes, but they get two pay packets a week. One with some level of pocket money and one they can hand over unopened to the wife."

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  5. I worked at Foyles in the glory days of the late 80s, before it started to be run like a proper shop, and we were paid weekly in cash in exactly the brown envelopes you describe.

    This was actually deeply irresponsible of them. I was newly arrived in London, working on the edge of Soho and being paid in cash on a Friday evening. I considered it a success if I still had some of it left by Sunday morning.

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  6. Until about 1990 I still got a pay packet exactly as you describe. After that the company I was in insisted on paying directly into the bank account.

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  8. My first job at the Co-op, herding up the trolleys and shelf-filling (biscuits and pickles) was paid in a packet. Collected from the cash office - a collective of middle-aged ladies who looked like Les Dawson in drag - wearing Co-op tabards and polyester trousers (brown usually)

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  9. My first ever pay packet... £99 exactly, brown envelope, HMV by Bond St, June 1988, it went up to £119 the next week, it was like winning the pools! No wonder I spent 10 great years there #bestjobsofar

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  10. My first 'weighing in' comprised twenty of the all new slimline pound notes; the old ones were as big as Bruce Forsyth's mutton chops.

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  11. I worked for BR in the 80s and the whole pay packet was cellophane. A wonderful thing to behold on paydays, which I think were thursdays. It was especially good if it was a thick packet (although one could occasionally be deceived by a surfeit of pound notes or fivers).

    Now the money goes into the bank, as I'm sure it does for us all - then it disappears without my hands ever really touching much of it.

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