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Doing Even Less Than The Least You Could Do

, , , , | Working | CREDIT: alexann23 | January 13, 2023

I’m seventeen, and I am a waitress, server, and cashier at a semi-local Italian chain. I recently had to take a month off of work for health reasons, since I was in the emergency room and then had to spend time in inpatient care. While I was away, there were huge changes at my job, including new managers and two new employees.

I’ve only been working there since last June, but I picked things up pretty quickly, barring the first day that I had to deal with a packed dining room by myself while still in training; I’d messed up pretty badly with the computer system and needed the manager’s help. Still, it happens.

Yesterday, I met a new girl for the first time. It was her third day, and she was still in training. She’s my age and a complete sweetheart, and as the dining room slowly became more and more packed, we made a great team. She got to practice working with the computers and talking to customers while I took down the orders and showed her how everything worked. It was her first time “properly” serving there, and she really did great considering that, certainly at first.

The other two people who were working were a middle-aged manager and one other hourly employee. The managers at my job will also serve and work the counters; basically, all waitresses have to do double the work, and we still get paid dirt, but that’s another story.

I was running between the dining room and the counters to try to keep up — although we can only serve a maximum of two people at the counters picking up or placing orders at a time. It was to the point where my manager and her friend had bundled up and complained about how cold it was, while I was flushed, with my coat off, covered in sweat. (I cleaned myself up when dealing with the food, of course.)

The manager and her friend were sitting down together, alternating between scrolling on their phones and talking, only getting up to answer the phones when they’d already rung five-plus times and having people wait at the counters to be helped for ten-plus minutes. It was massively irritating, but I didn’t have the time or energy to confront them.

About halfway through my shift, my manager told me that I couldn’t just go in between the dining room and the counter, and if I didn’t pick one or the other she’d withhold my tips for both since I “wasn’t fully invested in either.” Ouch.

[Manager] gave me a choice on paper, but in reality, she made it perfectly clear that I was stuck behind the counter and the new girl, the trainee, was on her own. There was nothing I could really do, so I just stayed at the counter, though that was plenty slammed in and of itself, and I really, really could have used my two coworkers who were screwing around on their phones. I didn’t have time to answer phone calls, pack up orders, check people out, and take to-go orders all at once, and I had one particularly angry woman call me a “lazy b****” for leaving her on hold for about two minutes. (That stuck with me.) While I was doing all this, the new girl was stuck with a packed dining room and no help.

About twenty minutes into it, [Manager] approached me looking both angry and sheepish. Basically, the trainee had messed up and charged the wrong orders to the wrong cards and needed help, though the way [Manager] phrased this was:

Manager: “You know, you don’t have to stay by the counter the whole time. That’s not what I meant.”

I looked over and could see her friend on her phone still, and the manager herself still had AirPods in and a show playing on her own phone screen. I responded in my sweetest, most respectful voice:

Me: “I’m sorry, but as we only get paid $10 an hour, my tips are too vital for me to forfeit them, so I’m going to stay put.”

(For context, the minimum wage is $15.65 where I live.)

[Manager] was floored, and instead of helping either of us herself, she waddled back to her seat and resumed her show.

Of course, I ended up checking in with the trainee and asked if she needed my help and whether the mistake was sorted out. She said that she had things back under control and a lot of the people dining in were headed out, which was great because the counter was still slammed.

This morning, apparently, a customer called in and complained that “the blonde girl [me] and the girl with braids [Trainee] were so busy that they were sweating, while the two other women [manager and her buddy] were sitting on their phones.” I only wish I could’ve seen [Manager]’s face when she heard about the complaint.

I am definitely planning on reporting my manager to the state, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do so. I’ve been applying for other jobs but haven’t heard back and I can’t afford to be fired in retaliation. I’m a self-supporting seventeen-year-old who has bills due regardless and is trying really hard to not drop out of school, especially so close to graduation. I’ve been put in touch with social programs and assistance, but they all take a really long time to hear back from.

So far, I haven’t made a report as there’s no way to do a state audit without the name of the employee (me!) being revealed.

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