The Downside Of Full Employment

counting money at a cash register. economy, spending, unemployment
America is experiencing a record-breaking economic boom and unemployment is at a 30-year low. It's great for job seekers but it can also be a problem for managers and consumers.

CBS News Economics Correspondent Ray Brady reports on who gets pinched when the economy grows faster than the work force.

America's restaurant owners are feeling those low unemployment numbers; waiters, waitresses and even chefs are hard to find. But there's an added price: Consumers are feeling the shortage, too:

Customer Mike McConnell describes his experience at T.G.I. Friday's in St. Louis: "No one telling anything, you know, just telling, "We're going to seat you, we're going to seat you."

"We were understaffed that night," says Wallace Dooling who runs T.G.I. Friday's. "The manager, it seems, was overwhelmed."

Dooling's company gave McConnell three free dinner coupons - company policy when people are legitimately dissatisfied with the service.

"It is more difficult to attract people to our industry to work because of the tight labor market; there are a lot of other jobs out there," Dooling says.

But consumers don't care about the worker shortage. They want service.

"Managers and the clerks don't understand customer service, don't understand what this is doing to their reputation and to their business," McConnell adds.

McConnell, a book editor, makes sure they understand, however. He writes letters of complaint or even calls the heads of the companies. He has taken on 100 or 150 businesses, including some really big ones such as Sears, CompUSA, Dillard's, Holiday Inn and Mattel.

And McConnell is not alone. The latest Better Business Bureau figures, from 1998, show a jump to a record 2.7 million complaints about shoddy products or poor service.

"You can either be a pushover or you can be pushy, and I've decided to be pushy," McConnell says.

And even more Americans may become pushy as the other side of those low unemployment numbers - the lack of competent help - keeps hitting home.

For more information about the Better Business Bureau, go to its Web site.

To gain a better sense of the nation's economy and job outlook, read Economy Is A Lion This Winter.