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Server Hell: Breaking All The Labor Laws


Server hellFrom RHUer

This is the story of how my sister and I were both servers for about three weeks.

We worked at a national chain of restaurants that have a "country store" theme and specialized in cheap food that is also pretty fast.

We were living in a tourist trap town at the time while saving money to go to graduate school. We had been working retail for a mom and pop store but it was the slow season and we weren't getting enough hours there, we saw this restaurant was hiring and we thought it seemed like a halfway decent place to work.

The training period was great, they made it sound like this place was heaven on earth to work and they even fed us during the training. Fantastic!

Our first full day on the job, it was like peaking behind the curtain to see the wizard of Oz.

First off, it was expected that every server would roll about 50 rolls of silverware. We were supposed to report 15 mins early before our shift and that 15 mins was meant to roll the silverware. You get fast at rolling silverware the more you do it, the problem is that on your first day you are slow as fuck at it. I didn't get nearly the amount I needed, t hey told me it wasn't a problem, just show up early the next shift. That was where the problem is, we were physically NOT ALLOWED to clock in more than 15 mins early. So they flat out told me I was supposed to show up early to work and not get paid. It gets better, they also informed me that per new rules they were DOUBLING the amount of rolled silverware each server had to provide. So the next shift my sister and I had to show up over an hour early, but not get paid for that time.

Nice huh?

Carolanne fightThen I found out some ground rules on my first shift. Shifts could last from 6-12 hours. Per state law we were required to have a 30 min break for ever 6 hours. But the manager at this particular establishment had found a loophole. The law never specifies WHEN we get the break. So he cheerfully informed us that we were more than able to take a long as said break was BEFORE OR AFTER your shift.

Oh yeah, no bathroom breaks either. Now imagine working a 9 hour shift without being allowed to use the bathroom. Fun times.

Oh but I've only just begun. Servers were supposed to spread out tasks for cleaning. But the head server got to assign which tasks were assigned to whom. My first day I was assigned to clean the Deli Bar. The Deli Bar is the area where we get dollops of condiments for the food, lemon wedges, little cups of cole slaw etc. After a full day of madhouse customers, the Deli Bar looks like a freaking war zone. Not to mention any leftovers were supposed to be put into the fridge, which fridge depended on the item in question. I had no freaking clue how to clean this thing or where anything went and it took me almost two hours to clean this thing. By then almost every other server had left. The manager came out to find me cleaning the Deli Bar and asked me why I was doing that.

Me: Well this is what I was assigned.

Manager: Are you kidding? We never assign new people to clean the Deli Bar, it takes forever and they don't know what they are doing

Me: ....

The next night I was assigned another task...but my sister on her SECOND day was assigned the Deli Bar. Guess how long it took her? If you guessed 2 hours, give yourself a prize.

Turns out the head server liked giving herself and her friends the quickest and easiest tasks, while the newbies got stuck with the crap jobs that took forever, especially when they don't know what they are doing. Would be fine except that was against policy and the Manager always was pissed. Of course he never actually did anything about it, just hid in his office and ate donuts (yeah, not joking either, we had a Krispy Kreme next door.)

Now the pay for being a server at this restaurant is crap, as most servers know we have to make up the majority of our wages in tips. At this place our starting salary was $2.50 an hour.

So lets recap. I'm working 9 hour shifts, with no break, not even a bathroom break. I'm coming in over an hour early to roll silverware, an hour which I'm NOT getting paid for. Then staying an every 2+ hours to clean up where I'm being paid $2.50 an hour.

Maybe if the tips were good it would be worth it. ROFLOL that's a funny thought. We had a lot of old timers come in who would tip me in nickels and dimes. I literally jingled as I walked because I had so much goddamn change in my apron pocket. And if I deserved to be tipped in nickels and dimes, that would be one thing. But I would treat these people with so much respect, I was often left little notes about what a "nice girl" I was right next to my piles of change for a tip.

Jason beer gogglesWord of advice. DON'T TIP YOUR WAITER IN CHANGE!!!

The most memorable customers I had came in 10 mins before closing. Can't turn them away but everyone is already pissed off because we can't close the kitchen or clean yet. Right away I noticed something was off with this couple, suspicions were confirmed when they started ordering everything off the freaking menu. These two were STONED. At one point the woman asked me for a to-go container and I gave it to her. Ten minutes later I came back to find her eating her steak out of the to-go container. She then asked me for more barbecue sauce, I'm not sure why she preferred the to-go container to the place but I learned not to argue with stoned customers. After which they both decided to try to leave without paying, they were caught by the hostess and grudgingly paid. But no tip for me!

After working three weeks at this place I was burned out, I wasn't eating because I was so tired. I lost 15 pounds in that time frame because I wasn't eating and was running around so much. My sister and I both went to the manager and quit on the spot.

He asked why and I said "Frankly because I want to actually eat food again."

A week later I mentioned to our brother about how we were working so many hours without breaks and he was livid. He's a manager for a bookstore and he says he works it out each week in the schedule to follow federal law and make sure all of his employees have enough breaks. Allowing the head server to force new people to work extra hours without pay, while working shifts without a break of any kind... My brother wanted to contact human services about this place.

On the bright side, it has made everyone in my family more aware when they go out to eat. Tipping starts at 20% now, and if it's a cheap place we might tip a little extra.

And they never get nickels and dimes either.



The Dumbest Question: Coupon Dilemma


Customer: "It's a coupon for a cheeseburger! Why won't you accept it?!"

Me: "Because this is a gas station, and you are trying to use a Burger King coupon. Those don't cover our shitty gas station burgers."




Entitled Custys: "Sorry sir, I can't override the FEDERAL RESTRICTIONS"



From knottywobble, Tales From Retail:

I worked for an organization that provides trees and other shrubbery, nation wide. It's a great organization, but of course we had to adhere to federal agricultural restrictions at a state by state level. Cast of characters: Tree Guy (TG), Me: yours truly.

Me: Thank you for calling, how can I help you?

TG: Yes, I'm trying to have (blank) trees shipped to my house in Arizona but your website won't let me complete the order!

Me: I do apologize sure, but (blank) trees have an agricultural restriction and cannot be sent to Arizona.

TG: What does that mean?

Me: It means they cannot be sent there because they are more than likely a non-native species that are restricted either because they can carry disease or overtake native species and cause damage to the local ecosystem.

TG: ..... But you sent them to me in when I lived in (other state)?

Me: Well, sir (other state) doesn't have the same restrictions as Arizona.

TG: Can't you just override that? I've gotten these trees from you before.

Me: Uhhhh, sorry sir. I can't do that. You received those trees in (other state) and I can't override federal agricultural restrictions.

TG: AREYOUKIDDINGME?! This is ridiculous!! I've gotten these from you before but now YOU won't send them to me? I want to speak to your supervisor!

Me: Sorry sir, my supervisor won't tell you any different. We legally cannot send those trees to Arizona and there is no way to override federal restrictions, as we don't make them. The government and the state of Arizona do. You can contact your state forestry coordinator to find out more abou....

TG: ARGGG unintelligible yelling click

I love how retail customers act like the sun rises and sets on their bequest. Sorry dude, can't go against the Feds. Also Arizona is not (other state).