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Killing Them With Kindness — Or Just A Good Contract

, , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: ProfileElectronic | June 26, 2022

A couple of years ago, I was working on a part-time basis in a small firm owned by friends. The pay was not very good, but the atmosphere was, and I was allowed to set my own timings, so life was good overall.

Then, a friend whom I knew only through social media approached me for a job in her company. Even though they were offering good money, I turned down the offer as I knew I could not get the benefits I was getting in my current job. Plus, the commute to the new office was very long; I would have to travel two hours one way and change three trains just to reach the office.

A month later, an employee from Human Resources of the new firm approached me again. They offered me almost four times the money I was making and I could set my own work hours. There was also extra pay for working overtime and on weekends. This was important. I joined the new company.

My friend did not know the terms of the new agreement I had with HR; where I’m from, such information is confidential. She used to act like I owed her big time for the opportunity I got. So, one day I corrected her.

Me: “I turned down the offer you were involved with. One month later, I had my own negotiations and got much more favorable terms. I’m here because your company really needs me, not because of you.”

I didn’t share the details of my agreement with her, but we both realized that she was making significantly less than I was. This totally changed her attitude toward me.

Now, she wanted me out, and I was determined to stick through for at least a year. She decided that she would make it very difficult for me to work so I’d quit on my own.

There are a lot of stories I have about how she tried every trick in the book to make me quit. I’m sharing some of them here.

She was my manager and was in charge of allocating work. She started piling more work on me than any other member of the team. I was happy to comply; she did not know that, as part of my contract, I would be paid one and a half times the hourly rate for every hour I worked overtime and two times the hourly rate if any work was allocated to me over weekends or holidays.

Every time she tried to ruin my weekend by calling me to the office unnecessarily, I happily complied. This continued until the time I left the organization and told her how much extra money she had helped me make.

After the long commute to work, I used to be hungry, so I developed the habit of stopping at the food court to pick up a glass of fresh fruit juice and carry it with me to work.

My manager thought that this way she could harass me without actually seeming to do so. She sent a notice that bringing liquids to the office was a hazard.

Ironically, she used to have coffee delivered to her desk three times a day. I pointed out that the rule applied to her, as well, and if I couldn’t have my juice, she couldn’t have her coffee. She had to literally spend an extra unpaid hour at work every time she wanted her special coffee.

Meanwhile, I was happy to leisurely sit in the food court, have my glass of fresh fruit juice with some snacks, and then begin my workday a half-hour later than usual.

It’s Lonely At The Top… Because You’re Bad At It

, , , , | Working | January 5, 2022

My husband and I are regulars at this popular global pizza chain outlet. We always ask to be seated at the same set of tables because of this awesome waitress. She’s always smiling, she’s super attentive, she never gets the orders wrong, and she has great customer service overall. Every time, I compliment her in person and to her manager and leave fabulous online feedbacks.

During the course of about three years, I gather that she is studying in college and works here part-time. Once, I ask her about her wages, and I am upset because she doesn’t get paid a lot. My husband is a manager at a global footwear chain and I persuade him to hire her as they pay considerably higher. He just says that he would rather consider her after she’s finished her college degree as she can join as a manager-trainee rather than a store assistant — that’s if she is willing.

Then, just like that, we start eating more at home and we do not visit that restaurant for about a year or so. One afternoon, we are both back from work early and plan to meet at this restaurant for a quick lunch. The place is not so busy. There is no host, so we just seat ourselves at our usual table.

A new waitress brings us the menu. I am a little disappointed that we do not have our regular waitress but do not mention that. We place our orders: two meals (one drink, appetizer, and a personal pizza), one additional large appetizer, and a pasta. The waitress seems a little stressed out in general. We talk about the old waitress and think that she may have graduated and left this job.

We wait for a few minutes and our drinks have not arrived. We flag down our waitress and she signs at us that she’s getting our orders. Soon, she brings our drinks and just two appetizers that come with the meals. The large appetizer is missed out.

Me: “Hey, where’s the additional appetizer?”

Waitress: “Sorry, ma’am, it will take a while.”

Me: “Okay, no problem. And I ordered my drink without ice. This has ice in it.”

Waitress: “Oh, sorry, let me take it back.”

I never order drinks with ice because I start wheezing. When my drinks get mixed up, the staff (at all restaurants I have ever visited) usually remake the drink without ice, or, if it can’t be made without ice, they suggest me an alternate one. This drink can definitely be made without ice, so I send it back for a new one.

And we wait! After a long wait, the waitress is back. By now, we have finished off our appetizers.

Me: “Hey, did you just remove the ice from my old drink?”

Waitress: *Without missing a beat* “Yes, ma’am.”

Me: “But I had taken a sip out of it. Even otherwise, why would you do that? Don’t you just remake it?”

Waitress: “No, ma’am. We are not allowed to remake drinks. You can place a fresh order, but we won’t replace this one for free.”

Me: “But my order said, ‘No ice’.”

My voice is stern and the waitress looks like she’s about to cry.

Husband: “You know what? Leave it here. Get a fresh one without ice this time. And please bring our appetizer soon.”

She looks relieved and goes away.

Husband: “Before you say it, I know; you were right and she was wrong. But she looks like she’s having a hard time.”

Me: “It’s not even crowded. Why would she be so stressed?! [Old Waitress] was super awesome; we never had trouble!”

After a while, the waitress brings our pizzas out. There’s no sign of our large appetizer and my fresh drink at all.

Me: “Hey, what about the appetizer and fresh drink?”

Waitress: “Ma’am, I’m really sorry about the delay. I will get them for you right away.”

Husband: “The pizzas are already cold!”

She just looks at us in tears.

Me: “Never mind. Please go and get the rest of the food.”

We eat the cold pizzas with no drink. We have waited long enough to just want to go away now. We flag her down again.

Me: “Hey, you know what? Please cancel the rest of the orders and get us our bill. We’d like to leave.”

Waitress: “Bu, ma’am, the appetizer is ready; I can bring it out.”

Me: “Go ahead and bring it immediately. But please cancel the others.”

She goes away teary-eyed and comes back with the appetizer, which is awfully cold already. I can’t take it anymore!

Me: “I do not want this; it is cold. Please return it and do not charge us for it.”

Waitress: “Ma’am, the manager will not allow it. You have to pay for what you have ordered.”

Me: “But we have only eaten cold food and you have gotten every order wrong so far. We have never had this bad an experience here.”

Waitress: “Okay, let me check with my manager about what can be done!”

Every time she goes inside the kitchen, she comes back looking worse. She’s now almost in tears again.

Waitress: “Ma’am, the manager does not agree. We will bring you the drink and pasta, too. We cannot cancel anything as it has been so long since it was ordered.”

Me: “Exactly, that’s the point. It has been so long and we just want to get away now.”

The waitress starts sobbing slowly.

Husband: “Hey, are you okay?”

Waitress: “Sorry, sir! The manager is cooking today as the cook has called in sick. She’s slow and has been getting all orders wrong since morning. We are having a tough day.”

Me: “Oh, no! That explains your stress. I’m so sorry for being harsh on you. Calm down; it’s not your fault anyway. Please get your manager here. We will explain the problem and cancel the rest of the stuff.”

She goes away to bring her manager. I hear someone screaming from the kitchen that the orders cannot be cancelled. A minute later, the “manager” walks out angrily with the waitress in tow.

My husband and I look at each other in disbelief; it’s our regular waitress! The moment she sees us, she’s all smiles.

Old Waitress: “Hello, ma’am! Hello, sir! How are you?”

Husband: “Well, not having a good time, as you may know by now.”

She looks sheepish.

Me: “You cannot remake drinks, orders are delayed, and food is cold. And you cannot cancel the orders?”

Old Waitress: “Ma’am, it reflects badly on our sales metrics to cancel orders.”

Me: “But you did it all the time when you were a waitress.”

She’s struggling to explain!

Me: “You knew that you couldn’t just take the ice out of drinks. Is that even allowed? That’s so unhygienic!”

Old Waitress: “Well, I made some changes since I took charge. But I can remake the drink now. We will get your food out soon. We will fix it, ma’am!”

Me: “No, you gave our waitress a hard time all this while and now you want to fix it. You have changed so much, haven’t you?!”

Husband: “Just cancel everything and give us the bill for our food. We are done here.”

She tried hard to convince us to wait, but we were beyond done by then. When we just placed the money on the table and started leaving, she was forced to give us the bill.

We tipped the waitress and apologised to her for the hard time she had. We really felt bad for her for having to deal with that obnoxious manager. I did give feedback about our experience and we haven’t been back to that place since.

My husband dodged a bullet by not hiring that lady. Now, any time we want to talk about someone moving up the ladder and becoming rude and obnoxious, we use her name!

Listening To Your Customers Would Be A Handy Skill

, , , | Working | November 11, 2021

My husband and I buy our first apartment. Our renovation budget is considerable as I have saved well for a few years. We both make lists of all the renovation work that’s needed and hire a handyman to help us with it. My husband talks to him about the plumbing, carpentry, floor tiles, etc., and I talk to him about the electrical sockets, paints, curtains, mirrors, etc.

Out of all the changes, there are two electrical sockets that are important to us: one in our bedroom near the headboard for the bed-lamp, and one in the kids’ bedroom so that the existing socket doesn’t touch the bunk bed and instead is moved to the lower level. I explain these two specifically to the handyman along with all the other changes. He seems to nod at everything instead of making any notes or measurements. His quotation is not very high and appears to be with very little profit margin. We agree on the quotation, but we make plans to have some buffer amount.

One day, while the work is going on, we go to visit the progress. My husband goes to the master bedroom and I go to the kids’ bedroom. I see that the sockets are missing but the first coat of paint is already done. I am furious as this would mean that we would not have enough outlets in the room and have to use a power extension cord. With my toddler running around, this is a hazard. I go into the hall to discuss this with the handyman and hear this.

Husband: “Hey, what happened to the bedside sockets?”

Handyman: “Oh, looks like we have forgotten. But we have started painting already. Do you actually need the sockets?”

Husband: “Yes, that’s non-negotiable.”

Handyman: “Okay, let’s do it!”

Me: “Yeah, you may want to do the same to this room, too. Sockets are missing here.”

Handyman: “But we have started painting the walls.”

Me: “Yes, you shouldn’t have. You should have completed the socket work.”

Handyman: “No, we cannot do it anymore!”

He mumbles something and walks away, leaving my husband and me staring at each other.

Me: “Did he not just agree to do the same thing in our room? Why would he not agree for the kids’ room?”

Husband: “No idea! Let’s ask him.”

When we go around to find him, I talk to his workers and gather that most of the items on my list are not being planned for at all. I pull my husband aside to talk.

Me: “Looks like he has completely ignored my list of work. He’s planned for only things that you explained.”

Husband: “Yeah, but we texted him both our lists, right?”

Me: “The way he talked about the sockets makes me feel like he’s not paying attention to what I am saying. He’s just doing whatever you are asking him to do.”

My husband is upset listening to this. He calls over the handyman in a loud voice.

Husband: “Hey, why can’t you do the kids’ room socket?”

Handyman: “Because we painted the wall.”

Husband: “So what? You’ve painted this room, too. Moreover, we said it was important.”

Handyman: “But in the kids’ room, we have to drill over the door frame; it will impact stability.”

Me: “No, that’s not right. I have measured the space.”

I take a measuring tape and marking pencil and mark the drilling point and prove to him that there would be enough space between the bed and door frame to get an electric pipe. In response to the handyman’s surprised look, my husband says:

Husband: “Yeah, we’re both engineers, though she’s better at electrical and civil stuff than I am.”

The handyman mutters something and finally agrees. A while later, the handyman’s brother, who’s handling painting work, comes over. 

Brother: “If you choose the colours and designs, we can continue with the paint work.”

Husband: “Yeah, about that… You may have to redo the ceiling and first coat. Socket work is pending. Apparently, your brother did not listen to my wife at all.”

[Brother] stares at the handyman for a second and then turns to us.

Brother: “No problem, we will redo the first coat and then move ahead. Please select the colours and patterns.”

I take a look at the catalogue and select some really fancy patterned designs for four walls. I am conscious that it may go over budget, but I really like it.

Handyman: “That’s not possible to do. It takes a lot of time.”

Husband: “No, again, non-negotiable.”

Brother: “Sir, we will do it. It may take just a day more than plain walls but we’ll manage it.”

The rest of the work was smooth as we approached the handyman’s brother for all changes. He asked for the list again and made sure he got done all that we asked. Our house was perfectly renovated with really cool paints. The budget went over 20% more than the original quotation and the handyman was not happy that he made very little profit on our work.

Though his work is good, we never contacted him again for anything.

A Tale Worthy Of A Book

, , , , , , , | Right | August 3, 2021

My father has taken me to public libraries every weekend since I was almost three. It used to be a long walk, but I enjoyed looking at books. My schooling was in English and the books were in my first language, so I could not read much until about eight. The public libraries did not carry a lot of English books.

When I was about ten, we moved to a neighborhood where the public library was less than five minutes’ walk from my home. It was open for three hours in the morning and evening. Every evening, I would rush to the library soon after school. Usually, I would be there within five minutes of opening. Their usual practice was to set up periodicals first as evening newspaper readers would start coming in. Instead of waiting for them, I would just start dusting the kids’ section seats and turn on the lights and start my reading.

The librarian was the kind of man who just did not look approachable. I used to hear him being hard on people who had late returns or spoiled the books, and he used to be curt with my father when he joined me on Sunday mornings, so ten-year-old me was scared of this man.

Every day, fifteen minutes before the actual closing time, they would start announcements and ask people to vacate. The first few days, I just did not understand why someone would make me leave fifteen minutes early. And since I did not have a library card, I could not take my half-read books with me. I would simply put the book back and go back home. After a few days, the librarian must have silently observed my long face, because he started making announcements about closure only in other sections.

The housekeeper lady would just smile at me and leave the lights on just enough for me to read while they tidied up the rest of the place and did their closing activities. This gave me another ten minutes to read. Five minutes before closing, I would straighten the books in the kids’ section and join them in locking up. Very soon, in my head, I had become a part of their opening and closing team! Every Sunday, I would proudly walk in with my father as if I were taking him to my own place.

We lived in that house for about five years and I had read most of the books in the kids’, young adult, and basic science sections. The librarian, still curt and limited on words, had started to smile at me. He would simply point at new books and smile at my brightened eyes. If I missed going to the library, the housekeeper lady would be worried and ask why I had missed my routine. When we were moving, the librarian gave an additional borrower’s card to my father’s account and asked me to use it. We did not move far off and my aunt lived near the library, so I went back there at least twice a week.

The next year, when I turned sixteen, the librarian asked me to get my documents and registered me for my own borrower’s account and penned my name on my first-ever library card. That day was pure joy for me and him. During my college days, I would go there if I wanted some quiet place to study. He’d simply give me reading room keys and let me be. I knew the library layout very well and sometimes helped other patrons, too. When they closed for maintenance activities, I would join them for housekeeping tasks. They both knew they just couldn’t get rid of me!

Then, life happened. I moved places and lost touch with that library. The last time I was in that neighborhood, I saw a new librarian and heard that the old man had retired and they have smart cards now.

I still love books, all thanks to my dad, that silent librarian, and the sweet housekeeper lady. I still have that card with the librarian’s handwriting!

This story is part of our end-of-year Feel Good roundup for 2021!

Read the next Feel Good 2021 story!

Read the Feel Good 2021 roundup!

Will Not Keep Your Opinions In The Interior

, , , , , | Right | October 19, 2020

I work as an architect and interior designer and have an amazing set of clients, but then there are always the occasional few who make you question your own sanity.

This particular client is my late father’s friend and he loves to keep reminding me of that. He approaches me about renovating his house.

Client: “Can your contractors do it in a minimal budget?”

Me: “I’ll get back to you when I’ve checked how much the requirements will cost. Give me about three days.”

Client: “You don’t understand the urgency! I’ll be taking only the designs from you, and I will hire my own contractor.”

This particular contractor has a big male ego and does not listen to a word I say, since I’m a woman. Unsurprisingly, it does not work out and the client has to come around and ask for my contractor.

Client: “Hey, so how much will your contractor charge to renovate the kitchen?”

Me: “It will cost you around $2300 and maximum $3000.”

Client: “Oh, $2300 works for me.”

Me: “It can go up to $3000, since the requirements are more.”

Client: “Okay, please try to keep it minimum.”

Me: “Sure.”

The work starts, and in the course of time, he comes to me with very high demands and expects the budget to remain well within the initial quote. I somehow manage to hold the budget at $2800 and am glad that it didn’t go above the initial quote.

On sending the invoice, I get a call from him and he is furious. I keep the call on speaker so that my partner can listen to this, as well.

Client: “You told me that it will cost $2300 and now you say $2800! Who the f*** do you think you are, trying to scam me?!”

I am quite alarmed but still manage to talk calmly.

Me: “I would appreciate it if you didn’t take that tone with me. I already told you earlier it could go up to $3000 and it’s come below that. I don’t know how much more I can help you.”

Client: “You have no sense of business and don’t know how to work professionally! You guys are incompetent and I won’t recommend you anywhere. You clearly don’t remember anything. You told me it’ll cost $2600 and maximum $3000 and now you say it’s $2800. How big a fool do you think I am?”

My partner comes over and speaks in a very calm yet stern voice, as I am speechless from the sheer stupidity.

Partner: “A big one. Please understand how basic math works and then call us. If you do not pay us, we will be suing you as we have everything on record with us. You have been extremely rude to [My Name] and she has been patient because you are her father’s friend. If you call her again and take the same tone, I will file a complaint against you for harassment and fraud. Do you understand that?”

Client: “Uh… but… uh… um… bye.”