What is perhaps most astonishing of all in Nickel and Dimed, however, is the resignation expressed by those whom Ehlereich works beside.
It raises an important question: if those in some of the higher echelons of society are able to recognize the injustice and exploitation evident in Ehlereich’s narrative, why are those who are subject to such treatment unable to recognize it as such?
Although she had planned to remain in each of the three locations on the itinerary for at least a month, Ehlereich acknowledges that she has been defeated by Key West; She simply lacks the physical stamina to do what unskilled laborers do just to survive.
Another important observation Ehlereich makes in the course of her experiment is that in addition to earning low wages and living paycheck to paycheck, unskilled laborers are hit with extra costs for necessities such as rent and food.
Within American culture, it is common for those who enjoy such advantages as having a safe and comfortable place to live, access to medical services, and proper nutrition to believe that these are the just deserts of their hard work and determination.
The flip side of this common attitude is the idea that those who lack such things, the have-nots, are deprived due to their lack of motivation and resourcefulness.
After one of Ehlereich’s co-workers with The Maids suffers an accident while working, it takes Ehlereich’s threatening to incite the other workers to strike before their boss will agree to give the injured worker a day off to recover.
Ehlereich’s final stop is Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she takes a job at Wal-Mart in the clothing department restocking the racks.
Those without means to purchase a fridge lose out on the savings, and moreover, are forced by their condition to subsist on cheap, but often unhealthy, food sold in convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
After Key West, Ehlereich makes a second go at her experiment in Portland, Maine, where she again takes two separate jobs – one as a housecleaner with The Maids housekeeping company, the other as an aide at a local nursing home.