Long before I heard of Karl Marx, I had a conversation with a guy about everyone should make the same pay, as everyone on the "team" was needed. He was a sailor and said without the janitor or the cook, the Captain wouldn't have the time to run the ship, making the janitor and cook as important as the Captain. While I could see his point, logic told me everyone would "settle" for being a janitor/cook as it came with less responsibility. I asked him how he would get people to want to be the Captain? His theory was that after years of swabbing decks, people would naturally want a better profession and would go for it. I often wondered if college kids go to college to "follow their dream profession", or just to earn more money. Do they have a heart felt need to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, or do they pick a profession that has the higher pay? I read some where, there is only about 10% of any profession that is tops in their field of work. If that is true 90% are mediocre, and that would be sad if they're only in it for the paycheck. I guess the answer would be "would I do this job for free if I didn't need money?".
Luckily most people need and want more, and because of it, most will reach their potential in the work force and climb the ladder soon as they get tired of swabbing decks because of the reward of more pay.
Then you were very lucky that you had employers that saw your value, making you feel good about your paycheck. There are many employers (look at illegal immigration) that rather have cheap labor.
Your $12 may be more realistic than my $15, since it's a seasonal part time job. I just see how much more people need today than my generation did. SO much more mandatory expenses (car, health, renters/home insurance) and having a cell phone, Internet and cable TV shouldn't be considered a luxury in our current way of life. I never saw $4 a loaf of bread coming, nor $4.99 for a pound of grapes, or $12 pound for a steak. (just replaced my 4 year old refrigerator, as replacement part and labor wanted over $700) I couldn't imagine $10 movie ticket prices, or $7 for a bucket of popcorn, where a family of 4 could easily spend 50-60 bucks to see a movie, not even a double feature for that price. It does cost money to work, from transportation to having the right clothes, and for some folks child care. For the folks that ONLY have this part time seasonal job, let's face it, you and I will subsidize their income with food stamps and free health care, and EIC because of the current cost of living! AND these are people ready, willing and wanting to work.
With many Block and Ex-Block workers posting here, out of curiosity, and just for the fun of it, what do you think a fair hourly wage should be for 1st year preparers, and how would you recommend raises? Based on seniority, or on how many tax courses one takes (and passes the test)? Would you also include a "bonus" if they passed a goal of number of returns expected (by number of hours worked) or do you see that as another piece meal payment that would tempt them to take on returns over their head? Personally I think $15 should be the starting wage after 66+ hours of unpaid training, and they should be considered "still in training" their 1st and 2nd year.
I must give Block credit, that they did come up with "special niches" for their experienced pros. They did make us aware of who was best at doing the more complex returns, and any one getting such a return should pass the client on and not struggle with it. It was an excellent idea except for the commission based pay. Giving up the return COST the preparer money, when they already had time into the interview, and there was NO clients in the waiting room, the temptation to just do it and ask for help later made sense, OR just selling POM knowing any error would be covered gave them a sense of security that if they did screw up, it wouldn't cost the client. Working for "piece meal" pay it was just too easy to justify taking on returns "over their heads", hoping the diagnostic would tell them what they might have missed. PAY checks do matter, it's the one thing Block keeps getting wrong and why they have such a large turnover.
While I agree Block's 50% off promotion lowered pay, I'm sure management looked at it as $75 beats zero to get a new customer in the door, that would not have come in without the promotion. "In the old days", Block would give the client a certificate for 50% off, yet base the commission on the full price, where they took the hit, and not the workers, and that's how it should have been done!
One of the first things you HAVE to do to increase pay is learning when to be available. ALL tax services have what is called "dead time", until you build your own clientele and fill your working hours with clients that ask for you. Knowing what office to work at also helps. Some are higher volume than others. If you haven't filled your calendar with repeat clients in March, when there are fewer walk-ins, you're sitting there lowering the hourly pay you already earned during peak, as you're "drawing" hourly pay against it. It does take years to build a following, and years to train a client to ask for you, as many are loyal to Block, but believe all preparers are the same and it doesn't matter who they sit with. The best way to build a client base is letting them talk about themselves and being a good listener. Learning to type and talk at the same time also helps, as they're not sitting there staring at the walls, getting bored. Next is to recognize which clients ONLY want the bottom line and want it in 10 minutes, and what clients expect more time and attention, and expect you to explain every line and question they have. Taking the time to ask them about "next year's expected income" and changing their W4 if needed, they'll almost always come back to you. I had a 98% retention rate when I left Block, and many of these clients found me and are still with me today 11 years after leaving Block. My hourly pay was $41 when I left. The money is there once you know when to work, and how to built your client base.
Block did screw itself on making a "bucket" payroll IMHO. I remember the first 3 hour class when they ended 1% of volume for each year up to 10%, plus 20% of everything over 3K, where we all left totally confused as they sold this as a pay raise! It was comical as they were talking to people that are good at math, and realized NOT collecting on 100% of volume (went down to 93%, then down to 89%) was a pay decrease. They said the new higher prices would work in our favor. Well how does that work, when they give FREE 1040EZ's, or offer 50% off last year's price? Block has been very lucky, most pro's love the job, love and have loyalty to their clients, and Block has used that loyalty to built that fancy building in K.C., paying dividends on their stocks, and keeping shareholders happy. Having to give a class to explain pay should shame them all.
Tax prep should be more professional than getting paid piece-meal.
CF don't know why you got a thumbs down for that statement. I may not work for HRB any more, yet realize there is NO other tax prep company that is even near their output. They have the name recognition and plenty of 10-20-30 year preparers & EA's coming back every year. Their classes are what I miss the most. I know for a fact their marketing this year of doing new client returns for 50% of last year's price did take a few of my clients away, since they called me and asked me if I would match it. I said NO, it was apparent I didn't have client loyalty and I didn't want to price haggle every year thereafter. It should be interesting to see if they return next year when they see how much higher Block charges. Since my numbers were UP, it was worth the risk.