To her disappointment, the author discovers that want ads are not a reliable measure of the actual jobs available at any particular time.
This is because the want ads are an "insurance policy" for establishments that hire only minimum wage workers. Since such workers are poorly paid, they often leave when better job offers come along. The high turnover means that employment slots can open up at any time. This is why these establishments must run constant ads for non-existent positions.
Take for example a motel or bed & breakfast. There is usually a high turnover of housekeeping staff in these establishments. Poor pay, unreliable hours, and grimy work make it a challenge to keep such positions filled for a reasonable length of time. The want ads have only one purpose: to furnish the establishment with an ongoing selection of resumes so that when a position opens up managers can quickly fill it. Housekeeping staff are crucial to a motel's viability. Dirty rooms (even at a low-cost motel) will negatively affect customer satisfaction rates. By extension, unhappy guests never become repeat customers.
In chapter 1, the author discovers that want ads do little to inform anyone about the availability of "real" jobs. Frustrated by the fact that she has had no response to the many resumes she sent out, she finally approaches a big discount chain hotel for a housekeeping job. At the hotel, she is instead directed to the hotel's "family restaurant." There, the manager asks no questions before hiring the author on the spot for a waitress position. For her part, the author is tempted to tell the manager that she is merely conducting an experiment and not necessarily interested in a job at his restaurant.