Benefits are not worth it
My last position in the service was as the Human Resource Chief for Group. I pretty much just pushed
paperwork up the chain and then back down again all the while keeping track of the amount of paper being
pushed and reporting it to the general’s staff. It had little if anything to do with civilian Human Resources
(HR) but the title was there and so when I first hit the corporate market place and recruiters saw Human
Resources on my resume I had experience and I was employed.
One of my first jobs was a three month contract as a benefits coordinator in the HR department of a
collision repair company. They were a middle sized company. They worked the margins between
insurance companies and customers to repair mostly body damage to vehicles and they made money
primarily on the backs of semi skilled blue color workers. When I say they worked the margins, I mean they
paid as little as possible to their employees, charged as much as possible to their customers, and billed
the insurance companies whatever they could get away with even if they hadn’t done the work in order to
squeeze every possible penny out of an industry that exists based on accidents and the resulting
I was hired to process health benefit paperwork, but it wasn’t too long before my role was expanded to
include all general HR paperwork, payroll, and even some of the product numbers via accounting. And of
course the increased responsibilities did not come with any form of increased compensation, just an
imagined sense of security that developed in response to the thought that they couldn’t get rid of me
because I was too valuable. I also looked like a duck but didn’t know it at the time.
One of my collateral duties was to handle any paper processing errors or unpleasant issues that came
up. Like the time I got a call from one of our auto body techs from the hospital. His nine year old son had
a bad fever and they had rushed him into the emergency room. As his boy was being treated the billing
person informed him that his insurance was no good. He tried contacting the insurance company but they
gave him the brick wall of runaround and ineligibility. Then he called me. After some confusion, a bit of
effort, and a few calls, I had it worked out and the boy was covered. It had turned out that per our
company policy, he had missed eligibility by two days and so his insurance would not kick in for another
month. I called the insurance company and spoke with our rep there. I asked what the deal was with the
rules and she said we made the rules and not them they just enforced the rules. She told me, They could
back date his enrollment and he would be covered. I asked why they just didn’t do that. She said because
then they would have to bill us for the previous month’s premium and a processing fee. Since it was
outside of our policy agreement they could not do it without authorization. I said what do you need from
me to make it happen, suspecting there was a form and I would need a signature from the VP of HR. To
my surprise the rep said, “I just need you to tell me it was ok.” I said, “OK.” It was done. His boy was
covered. What would have been an extreme financial burden on him and his family turned out to be about
a six hundred dollars addition to our normal forty thousand dollar a month premium.
It was a very enlightening experience for me to have had. I was with that company for about nine months
until they offered me a permanent position at $14.25 an hour which was the rate I was getting from the
staffing company. (Funny, it did not occurred to me at the time that the staffing company must have told
the company I was working for what I was making. Of course that would have been unethical and unfair as
the company I was working for would never had told me how much they were paying the staffing company
for my services.) I told the HR manager that I would have to have double what I was making in order to
deal with the crap of this position as a regular employee. The two days later, I began training my
The way they did things was dishonest and stupid. By telling the company I was working for how much they
were paying me the staffing company guaranteed I would quit and they ended up loosing both their hourly
commission on my billing rate and the finders fee they would have charged if I had accepted the offer. The
Company I was working for lost nine months of training and got a week and a half of disinformation and
bitter feels as I went out of my way to put my replacement on the wrong path.
I picked up a lot of useful knowledge while working there as well:
The company can change the policy but they won’t.
Benefits are not free. You will have to pay for them.
Not all benefits are the same and some just are not worth the cost.
The company usually but not always pays some cost usually for you alone.
The cost the company pays will never be worth the difference in better pay.
If you chose to not have benefits it will just save them money.
If the benefits are decent and you select self plus family then the company usually pays about as much as
you do for benefits.
And the big one: that anyone can be replaced.
No one is so valuable as to be irreplaceable.
Your job is just not that important.
As a side note: It should be noticed that the VP of HR, a female, made much less then the other VP’s all
men. A little bit of gender bias but mostly a reflection of their worth to the company. HR is support and not
intellectual based support such as IT. It is a distractive support and is viewed in the same category as the
guy who takes out the trash. In HR you just have to wear nicer clothes and attend more meetings.
In general, I have found that employer provided health benefits are not really worth what you might have to
give up in order to get them and definitely not worth what the employer claims they are worth. This is the
case with almost all of the none money benefits that an employer offers. Think about it for a moment. It
takes a lot of effort to find and arrange a big and varied package of benefits. Putting together a package
of everything from health insurance and 401k to discount cards and movie tickets costs a company in time,
resources, effort and actual expense. They don’t do it without cause. In the end, all of these benefits and
perks are no more then shinny bobbles to distract you from the cold purpose of getting a job; money. If
they can entice you with things that seem to be worth more then they are and pay you less money as a
result then they can work the margin and save on each employee thereby increasing their bottom line.
The early European explorers made a killing in the new world because the indigenous people didn’t know
any better. The same thing goes for employees. But do you really want to believe that a couple of strings
of beads are worth the island of Manhattan.
The Lesson to Learn:
Get what you can when you accept an offer of employment but go into it with you eyes open and with your
needs and goals clearly focused in your mind. Don’t let yourself get lolled into a lower salary by the
concept of a total compensation package. You can’t pay your rent with a teeth cleaning or two free passes
to an amusement park.
The Brutal Truth:
It’s better to get something then nothing. The more you can get the better. Remember, if you turned down
the benefits they offer they are not going to give you their supposed value in cash.