A Fort Myers man, frustrated with an onslaught of summertime Facebook posts about labor shortages in the service sector, spent September doing an experiment. He ended up going viral because of it.
Joey Holz, 37 and a Cypress Lake High School graduate, applied for 60 jobs over 30 days. He did so methodically, submitting two applications per day.
All of the applications went to service-related jobs such as fast-food restaurants or construction work and the like.
Holz shared with Gulfshore Business the resume he submitted. He redacted the names of his previous employers. But he included the job types.
Holz, now a freelance web designer, has experience as a cook in a cocktail craftery and kitchen. He has worked as a delivery assistant for a produce delivery company. He has worked as a cook, counter and deliver driver for pizza and ice cream shops. He has been a cook and assistant manager at an Italian bistro.
None of this experience seemed to matter much to the prospective employers to which he applied.
“’Nobody wants to work,’” Holz said he kept hearing from his friends and on social media. “The guys who are saying these things, they haven’t actually put in a job application.”
In October, Holz, who goes by the name of Joey Mohawk on Facebook, posted the results of his study. Of the 60 applications he sent, he did not receive a response at all from 44 of them (73.3%). He received an email response from 12 of them (20%), a phone call from three of them (5%) and an interview from just one of them.
“I applied to some local fast-food joints,” Holz said. “I just kept targeting places that had anyone looking for jobs. I used social media to determine who was being the most vocal.
“In mid-August, right around my birthday. A guy was complaining about not being able to keep medical staff at his medical facility. I’m thinking that if people are making more in unemployment than they were at the medical facility, that sounds like it’s a ‘you’ problem.
“The wages are always in favor of the employers. But it’s different now. Things are changing.”
In Florida, the minimum wage just increased from $8.65 to $10 an hour on Sept. 30. That rate will incrementally increase to $15 an hour by Sept. 30, 2026.
Holz’s experiment got posted to a Facebook group called “No one wants to work.” “My story started picking up some steam,” Holz said.
Did it ever.
Google searches for “Joey Holz” were pretty much non-existent but hit a peak on Oct. 22. A Google search for “Joey Holz” between Oct. 19 and Oct. 21 generated eight pages of links to stories about him and his experiment.
Business Insider, Orlando Weekly, Rawstory, Reddit and legions of other websites, large and small, regional, national and international, picked up the story online.
“I love this story about Joey Holz,” said Chris Westley, the dean and a professor at FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business. “It’s not like a scientific study. If an economist were doing it, he’d make sure that the sample market represented the market as a whole.”
But Westley admired Holz’s efforts to spotlight. Westley agreed with Holz’s theory that wages are too low.
“The labor market is having trouble finding workers,” Westley said. “They’re not offering a higher rate. They’re going to do it eventually. In the labor market, if the wages are too low, there’s going to be a shortage of workers. If the wages are too high, there’s going to be a surplus. Right now, we’re seeing the shortages persisting. That means the wages are too low.”
But regarding the restaurant industry, things are a little more complicated to say the restaurants are simply stiffing their employees fair wages, Westley said. “In defense of the restaurant industry, the profit margins are very, very narrow,” Westley said. “Some of them have their backs to the wall. They don’t have the luxury of raising raises to attract the workers that they need. It’s possible that a lot of these restaurants today are having a hard time doing that.”
Holz’s first media request came from a WINK-TV reporter Oct. 2. Since then, his phone has been buzzing with requests from local, national and even international media outlets, calling him for his commentary.
“It’s not the small business owner’s fault that the system is working like this,” Holz said. “It’s the lack of value given to people. People have been making too little for so long. The minimum wage is so unlivable right now. It’s creating a gap. And that gap has finally gotten too big. It no longer sustainable. That gap will continue to widen.”