Infotech Marie, bookseller paid at minimum wage: “The salary is low, the osteopath note high”

Marie, bookseller paid at minimum wage: “The salary is low, the osteopath note high”

Marie has been a bookseller for ten years. She often hears that she is lucky to do this job, to have access to “all these books”to be able to “read all day”. To which she responds: “Wait, let’s talk about the weight of the boxes” that she wears every day (at Christmas, “Harry Potter” packs of twenty). At 31, she manages the youth section of a medium-sized bookstore (twelve employees) in the Toulouse region.

In the bookstore sector, salaries are aligned with the grid of the collective agreement: that of Marie is slightly above. She earns 1,560 euros gross per month or 1,200 euros net, the equivalent of a minimum wage. This is 805 euros less than the median net salary in France (2,005 euros, in 2020 according to INSEE). Shortly after the birth of her child, she redid her accounts: this “passion job” which she adores, but in which salary changes are rare, is it sufficiently profitable?

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Revealing his salary and dissecting it publicly. For many of you, this sounds like a nightmare. But here’s what we wanted to do: discuss your compensation to understand what’s behind it. What does this sum say about your work? Of you, perhaps? How important is your salary to you? Besides, is it fair? If the subject inspires you and you want to talk about it, you can write to us: [email protected]

Do you feel paid enough?

Compared to my working time, 35 hours on paper, yes. Compared to all that my position requires of memory, of knowledge, it is frankly quite ungrateful. We bring more than books! We sometimes give very personal or very specific advice. If someone comes to you looking for a book set in Boston in the 1940s, you’re not going to say, “I don’t know”…

The job: “We sometimes carry 500 kilos a day”

What are your working days like?

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The main mission is to inform customers, those who know what they want like those who will ask for “the book with the blue cover they were talking about on TV”. In the youth department, customers often look for a book related to a specific issue, such as “get rid of your pacifier” or “what to do in case of bullying at school?” “. This is the most fun part. Then there is a lot of storage: putting away new releases, the shelves in which customers make a mess… Then you have to take care of book orders and appointments with representatives of publishing houses, who make tours to present new products.

There is also reception work. In my bookstore, we receive at least one pallet of books a day. A pallet is twenty-five or thirty big boxes of books. Some bookstores that receive a ton of books a day have a dedicated receiving team, but not mine. Then there are a lot of small tasks: putting notes on the books, managing social networks, answering emails, organizing signings… And obviously, we don’t sit in a section of the bookstore to read in the middle of the day : getting to know your books is done at home, in your free time.

What is difficult in your job?

It’s physical. We are standing most of the time (in some bookstores, it is even forbidden to sit down). We carry a lot of weight, sometimes 500 kilos a day. At the end of the year, with what we receive for the holidays, I sometimes put away a ton of books a week. Literally. Sometimes you also have to read stuff that you really don’t want to read. And the relationship with customers can be exhausting: you come across abrasive or rude people, who don’t say hello or thank you, and you can’t answer them… So it requires a lot of personal and emotional investment.

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Last winter, an intern asked my colleagues and me what was the main advantage of working in a bookstore. We looked at each other and the only thing we found to answer was: ” There are books. » We talk about a “passionate profession”, it’s very true.

Would you say your job is important to you?

Yes. I’m having fun. We talk a lot with the children, we see them grow and we can help them on certain subjects, by offering them the right reading materials. So we are no longer just “the saleswoman”, we become “his bookseller”. It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling. This work is what I love to do, deep down. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t do something else. But if I am given the means to do this job well, I sign and I stay.

Single salary, total transparency… In these companies, “we put the money in its place”

The salary: “I sometimes put 20 euros aside”

How has your salary evolved since you started working?

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Little. In another bookstore, I had become a “supervisor”. It’s like a “plus plus” department manager. I earned 1,350 euros net. There, I have a job as a saleswoman in a classic bookstore. But many bookstores prefer to hire unqualified salespeople rather than booksellers: it’s cheaper.

Can you save at the end of the month?

No never. I don’t know that word! When I have bonuses, I sometimes put 20 or 30 euros aside in the joint savings account I have with my spouse. I don’t even have a personal savings account. My husband makes a good living, that makes up for it. But I don’t know what I would do if I found myself alone with a child. Housing, eating… It would be extremely complicated. But that is not linked to the profession of bookseller. It’s the same for all minimum wage workers.

Did you ever want to change jobs to earn more money?

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When we find a job that we like, we think that the money comes after. It’s still not bad, to have the motivation to go to work in the morning. The problem with the job of bookseller is that the salary does not necessarily give you the means to live where you work, especially in the city center. I commute fifty minutes a day. Before the birth of my son, the calculation was already borderline. But when I went back to work after he was born, I lasted two weeks before saying to myself: “It is no longer profitable. » Especially since I have no prospects for short or medium term development. I looked for bookstores where to apply, in a rural department. My salary would not increase but my purchasing power would.

Have you ever tried to get better paid by your employer? To ask for a raise?

When organizing signings, it involves reading the author’s books at home, then conducting the interview, managing the audience, etc. In these cases, it is customary for the bookseller to be compensated, often in vouchers of 50, 60, 80 euros for books, or in salary. But in one of the bookstores where I used to work, I realized in my fourth interview session that I was not going to be paid for this. Just because you love what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid to do it! I won.

You spoke of a “passionate profession”. Does this justify low wages?

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We take out the same argument to the authors: you should be happy, since we publish you! But this is not a valid argument. In an ideal world, everyone would do a job they like. Especially since passion has a cost: low wages (all revolve around the minimum wage, pretty much), high osteopathic notes because of the cards… We pay for it physically and in living comfort. Housing level, I also have to make concessions. I can’t have accommodation thirty minutes from my job in which we wouldn’t be packed, my family and I.

Do you talk about your salary with your friends, your family?

I have no problem talking about it, even if the reality shocks some people because of the discrepancy with the romantic image they have of the bookstore. Many tell me: “Bookseller, it must be great, you have all the books…” I answer them: “Wait, let’s talk about the cards and the salary! » They are often surprised that I earn so little.

Money has never been a taboo for me. But if it really turns people on, I’m not going to insist. For some people, salary is a measure of their value as a human being: the more money you earn, the more successful your life. Everyone has taken that on board. While my life, I consider it successful even if I receive 1,200 euros per month. I’d rather love my job and want to go to work than earn 5,000 euros and be pissed off.

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Are you paid more or less than the average French person?

What we are “worth”: “Maybe I would become a bookstagrammer? »

What should the salary pay? Involvement, experience, level of education?

The usefulness of the profession, already. On the other hand, I don’t think we should necessarily be paid according to our studies. The salary must rather remunerate what we do every day in the field, the knowledge we have of the heart of our profession. I have lots of colleagues who haven’t studied or who have somewhat anarchic backgrounds, and who are excellent booksellers.

Do you find that there are professions in which people are paid too much, or not enough?

I understand that one is very well paid when one is very qualified, very specialized, or when one has major responsibilities. But when I see that a secretary is paid 2,000 euros a month while her boss, who would be lost without her, earns 10,000, the discrepancy shocks me, even more than the gross sums. Conversely, the care professions are not paid enough: nurses, midwives, caregivers (like my mother), home helpers… We couldn’t live without them.

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How much would you like to earn each month?

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Between 1,500 and 1,800 euros net, that would be enough for me. I may reach this salary at the very end of my career, with seniority, but it is not certain. It would allow me to have more leeway to accommodate myself and to be less ric-rac once I paid the rent, the utilities, the telephone, the car. And then, well, I would probably buy some books.

Nicolas, team manager at McDo and proud to be, 1,677 euros

And if you could earn money without working, what would you do with your days?

I think that I would get bored quickly, and that I would still like to occupy myself. Maybe I would become a “bookstagrammer”? Or I would work part-time, or as a volunteer, in animations around books. Staying a life without doing anything is impossible. A retired colleague of mine has become a volunteer librarian in her small village. I think it would end like this.

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