Perpetual probation in the service industry
The wife is a nurse and her husband is a mechanic operating his own successful shop. Together they have three children, one of which is a nineteen-year-old daughter named “Julie.” Julie began her first year at a local college in September 2008. Her parents told her they’d financially support her while she was in school, meaning that they would pay for her rent, food and other things. However, Julie was determined to get a job like her friends and earn some money. She picked a local restaurant to apply for a waitress position. The restaurant owner “Sally” and her husband “Jim” hired Julie. Julie had fit their perfect server profile: young and naïve college student.
Prior to Julie’s first shift the owners told her that since she was on probation she was not entitled to her tips for two weeks and that she would only get paid $8 an hour. Although Julie found that probation rule odd she agreed to give the owners her tips for two weeks. (As a side note, withholding a person’s tips is wrong.) After the probation period ended, Julie didn’t get the paycheck that she was entitled to. She went to the restaurant on her day off to talk with the owner about her check. She sat down in a chair in the owner’s office for almost an hour before Sally would speak to her. Sally walked in and out of her office a handful of times before finally acknowledging Julie, saying: “What do you want?”
“I’m here to collect my paycheck,” Julie said. “Everybody else got a paycheck and I didn’t.”
“Oh, you didn’t get a paycheck?” Sally replied, nonchalantly. “I’ll notify the accountant and have her look into it.”
The conversation ended as Sally walked out of the office to talk with a vendor. Julie left the restaurant.
The next evening, Julie went to the restaurant to work her shift. Just as she was about to start, Sally sent her home, saying: “I don’t need you tonight.”
“But I planned on being here and earning money tonight,” Julie said.
“We are not going to be busy tonight so I need to let a server go,” Sally explained, detached. Meanwhile, her book showed many reservations.
“You could have given me a courtesy call; instead I drove all the way here thinking I was supposed to work,” Julie said, upset.
“Like I said, I don’t need you tonight,” Sally said, firmly. “The other servers can handle the floor.”
“Fine, I’ll go. Did you look into my paycheck?” Julie asked.
“I forgot,” Sally replied and as she walked away from Julie she said: “Call me tomorrow to remind me. Go home now.”
Julie was furious at how she was being treated. She couldn’t believe how hard it was to get a paycheck out of the owner for the hours she had already worked.
The next day, Sally called Julie and asked her to come to work as another server had called in sick. It was Julie’s day off.
“I can’t come to work today. I already have plans,” Julie explained.
“You’re not being reliable,” Sally said to her. “You need to always make yourself available. I’ll find someone else.”
Click. Sally hung up the phone before Julie could remind her of her paycheck.
A few days later when Julie went to the restaurant to work her scheduled shift she inquired about her paycheck.
“The accountant cut your check,” Sally said and handed the check to her.
That evening as Julie served customers she pocketed the tips, as the probation period was over or so she had thought.
“Where are your tips?” Sally asked Julie at the end of the evening when she was counting the cash flow.
Julie pulled the tips out of her apron and showed Sally who took them.
“Your ‘unreliability’ stretched your probation period another week,” Sally explained. “Those tips belong to the restaurant.”
Although Julie was flabbergasted, it dawned on her why the server turnover was abnormally high in the restaurant.
Julie had enough of punishing herself by having allowed another person to treat her with no respect. She quit. (Good for you, Julie!)
…Unfortunately, even in the so-called “civilized 21st Century” people still allow money to influence how they treat other people. Moreover, people still allow people with money to treat them differently. Although in this story Julie fell victim to an employer perpetrator she did eventually take her power back by quitting.
Written by: Lana Marconi. For more information on Dr. Lana Marconi’s private therapy practice in the Orange County, California area, and to download her self-help books visit: www.drlana.com.
Photo credit: stock.xchng.