I Scream For Justice

, , , , , | Working | October 5, 2018

(I am in high school. I am looking around my neighborhood for a part-time evening job, and I walk into an ice cream shop to ask if they are hiring. The manager behind the counter literally throws a t-shirt and apron at me.)

Manager: “All right, get started.”

Me: “Uh, right now?”

Manager: “Bathroom’s that way; go put it on.”

(She gives me no more than a ten-minute tour behind the counter and explanation of how to work the register, then asks:)

Manager: “So, you think you got it?”

Me: *a little dazed* “I… I think so?”

Manager: “Great. I’m going next door to do some shopping. See you.”

(She walks out and leaves me there completely alone. A while later, a few customers walk in: a couple and one man by himself. The girlfriend asks for some complicated mint concoction that I have no idea how to make, but I try. I also struggle with ringing it up, and apologize, explaining that I only just barely started. The girl sneers at me the entire time, takes one sip of her drink, and hurls it at me and says:)

Girlfriend: “This is disgusting. No wonder you work at a place like this; you are such an idiot.”

(She then grabs her boyfriend and flounces out. I am so disoriented at this point I’m almost in tears. The man behind them is sympathetic and asks quietly:)

Gentleman: “I’m sorry. How long did you say you’ve been working here?”

Me: “Only about twenty minutes or so. Really.”

(He is in disbelief, and asks me where the manager went, and then goes next door to find her. She comes storming back and says:)

Manager: “Ugh, I thought you said you were fine!”

(This is only the beginning of the nightmare. I tell my parents the story, but they pressure me to keep the job. The only information the place collects from me is my first name and phone number which they make me write on the list of employees — an extremely long list with many names crossed out. They never process my social security, and distribute the wages in cash, in unsecured and unsealed envelopes on a piled table in the back. They only ever have one person manning the store, which means that employees are left alone with all the money, and the store has no concrete ID on them. Yes, wages do get stolen, and the management refuses to restore it to wronged parties. I also quickly realize that my wage is always a flat $100, despite the fact that they have me working five shifts a week, which often go over my scheduled time because the next person no-shows. The manager never appears in the store, but watches over the cameras from home constantly and calls. Because there is supposed to be someone behind the counter at all times, and there is only one person in the entire store, he yells at me if I even go to use the bathroom during my shifts that sometimes go nine or ten hours. There are no breaks for meals, either, and I am told to just eat some ice cream when I complain that I can’t work so long without food. He keeps trying to schedule me or make me cover shifts during school hours, and yells at me when I try to work on my homework. When no one comes to relieve me yet again, we get in a screaming match over the phone and he threatens to call the police on me if I walk out, since I have no key to lock up the store. Since the money is on the table, I hatch a plan and ask him how far from the store he is. He says he is a fifteen-minute drive away.)

Me: “Okay, you have fifteen minutes to get here, or I’m leaving.”

(He continues to threaten and abuse me.)

Me: “Now you have ten minutes. Hopefully no one walks in before you get here.”

(He demands I give him my parents’ phone number.)

Me: “No. Now it’s five minutes.”

(He starts screaming so loudly I have to hold the phone away from my ear. I turn and give the camera the middle finger, hang up, and walk out. Now, I don’t leave yet; I wait around right outside and look up the non-emergency police number on my phone. I ring them up and explain that I have a tip that this business is paying workers under the table and hardly has any customers, so there’s some tax evasion and possibly other financial crimes going on here.)

Me: “The evidence is lying all over the table in the back right now, and the guy in charge is on his way here. He’ll arrive in approximately ten minutes, so hurry if you want to wrap this up easily.”

(They said they’d send a car right over, and I took a seat on the patio at the coffee shop next door to wait. The cop car arrived first. By this time, I figured the manager must be in his car and unable to monitor the cameras, so I waved them down and quickly showed them to the table in the back with the money. Then, right on cue, the manager arrived and stormed in, muttering and cursing. He came round the corner to where the office was, saw the two officers standing there, and went pale. They put him in handcuffs and took him away, then thanked me and said they would investigate. I went home and told my parents that I was let go suddenly because the place was being shut down. Later, it came out that the place was a money laundering front. For some time afterwards, I was worried that whatever organized crime behind it would find me with what little info I had given, and retaliate, but nothing ever happened.)

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