I started writing for Patch in April of 2011. But prior to that, I embarked on a short lived career endeavor which was odd and disheartening.
Late 2010, I was home paying bills and balancing the checking account. I had been a stay at home mom for about 8 years, but now both girls were in school full time. I still wanted to be available when the kids were not in school or were sick. But I also felt I needed to contribute what I could financially.
I do not have a college degree and my employability was diminished for several reasons. Because of this, I developed the hair brained idea to go back to serving after about 15 years of any service industry employment. I was terrified and honestly, to this day, I can’t believe I filled out that application.
I could only work weekday afternoons so I knew the money wouldn’t be overflowing. But, I figure the extra cash might be helpful. And how hard could it be, right? Sure.
Many days were incredibly slow and I often went home with maybe 5 bucks tops. And the wage was $2.33 an hour before deductions. Of course those days were easy, but often were not worth the makeup on my face or the gas in my car. Other days were slammed, especially around the holidays. Those days were sweat makers and really tested my abilities. It was certainly not easy work. But neither of those aspects were what prompted me to declare my strong desire to NEVER work in that industry again.
The way the management spoke to and treated the employees was infuriating. Some of the servers were young kids. But many were adults with many years of history behind them. Certain member of the management and even positions higher acted as though the servers and kitchen staff were completely disposable and worthless.
Scolding notes were left all over the restaurant by management staff berating and demeaning the serving staff. They were talked to as children and insulted often. This was probably the case 15 years ago, but somehow, it looked very different through the eyes of a middle aged woman than a young 20 year old. I was appalled. I started taking pictures of these “notes” and often wondered how I would react if the time came for me to the be the target of these misspelled verbal berating. Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.
As soon as it happened I stood up for myself and was asked to leave. The relief was palpable. I didn’t want to work there and though I did the best job I could 100% of the time, this was not the place for me. But I didn’t want to “give up”. Well, this 50-something crabby man made the decision for me and I drove home with a smile.
I took the apron and name tag (which I was made to pay for) and throw them in the outdoor fire pit and watched the flames flicker in the afternoon sun. I so knew I would not be back.
A few days later I applied to be a Patch contributor and started getting assignments immediately. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I went from working a kind of job I never thought I would to another I never thought I’d get.
At first I was amazed that so many of those restaurant employees would put up with what they do for as little as they do. I wanted to fight for them and tell them to stand up for themselves. But then I realized how egocentric I was being.
Maybe they are young and happy and don’t put much value on what some old guy says to them. Maybe the inappropriate comments don’t really phase the people who are just trying to pay their bills. Maybe how they were being treated simply didn’t bother them. And who am I to say it should?
If you take nothing else away from this commentary, please know this – that person who is serving you when your family goes out to eat probably makes a little over 2 bucks an hour with no benefits. That person, in most cases, does not control what your food tastes like or how much is on your plate. That person often has to clean up every French fry that you let your kid throw onto the floor and every booger they wipe on the seat. Please keep these things in mind when you are figuring out your tips.