Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reader Writes In - Stupid Store Policies

The following was submitted to the Lobsterboy for my review and feedback. I asked (and was given) permission to publish it. Names have been changed to protect the guilty...err...innocent. I will add suggestions I shared with the author at the very end. Fax this in to your local Red Lobster!

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To Whom it May Concern,

At some point in everyone’s life, they face certain critical decisions. Where to live, what education to pursue, what God to worship, whether or not to pull the plug on Grandma, etc. For some time, I have felt that I was facing one of these critical moments.

For several years, I have worked at Red Lobster. In fact, I've worked pretty hard at being a good Lobsterhead in the time that I've been there. Minus smoke-breaks (an unfortunate and necessary evil considering my addictive nature) I'm usually, pardon the phrase, "hauling ass". I make people laugh. I sell them booze. I bring them food. According to our strange social custom of tipping, I also take whatever money they decide to leave in excess of the obligatory bill and use it to pay for my own vital needs (see also, "beggar").

In addition to answering the strange demands of my guests, pampering their egos, and providing food and entertainment, I answer to the every whim of my managers as well. I clean and tidy until their hearts are content, labor to keep their stress level low by not "riling up the natives", and generally try to be agreeable no matter which flavor of corporate bullshit I'm being asked to eat that week. Need me to add yet another annoying line of dialogue to my already twenty minute table approach? "Hi! I'm Boner, I promise to take sweet, sexy care of you today! Do you give a shit about our Fresh Fish today though I’ve told you ten times before? Are you under any time constraints? What? I already made you late getting back to work?" Sure! Okay! Need me to suffer the brunt of some “from on-high” evil cost-cutting corporate ways? "I'm sorry sir, we no longer have teaspoons. Yes, we still have tea. Yes, that is ridiculous. Yes, you will be allowed to bring your own spoon from home, or we can stir it with our dirty fingers. Whichever you'd like." Whatever you say management, you'll appreciate my hard work later. Right? Eh... Right?

While many of the servers I've seen come and go at our restaurant couldn't have found their ass with both hands, ran around like there was a four-alarm fire on top of their heads every time they got double sat with a couple of two-tops, or couldn't shake off their drug-induced stupor long enough to bring an old woman her water with lemon in under twenty minutes, I've always felt that I have been fairly competent at my job. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I try to always be "working" when I am at "work". Because of my perception that I do my job well, I have always assumed I would be acknowledged as what we call a "good employee".

In their infinite wisdom, however, our management has promoted a policy of fairness at work. "Fairness" in this context, is similar to another concept you may have heard of before: Communism. Don't shit yourself just yet, I'll explain. While most things in America have traditionally been "merit based", particularly in a corporate environment, our management sees things differently. We reward mediocrity every day. If you happen to be bad at your job, our management is incapable of firing you. They just can't bring themselves to do it. If one person chooses not to do any work, they can safely assume that someone else will come and do it for them, with no fear of actual reprisal from a manager. Fifteen guest complaints? No problem! Don’t show up for your scheduled shifts? No problem! Now, on top of all of this, our management will also ensure that those same lazy servers have just as many hours as you. To keep it fair.

This concern for fairness also extends to which sections we can work. Do a great job every day? Suck it! We need to be fair about who gets what section. We sure wouldn't want anybody to feel bad. In addition to having to wade through a sea of people texting on their phones, fixing their tables so that we don't have to deal with the customer's plaintive and hungry stares, and generally cleaning up after everybody who was too lazy or slow to do their own job, we now have to be concerned with the equitability of the situation. I'm pretty sure management is going to start checking my pay stubs and forcing me to redistribute or burn all the extra money I make so that our less than stellar servers don't have to feel bad. Great.

In a strictly capitalist work environment, productivity would be rewarded. In a communist work environment all people are rewarded equally, regardless of their contribution. You see, Red Lobster has more in common with Red Russia than good ol' Red White and Blue America. Since I agree with this new corporate standpoint, I have some suggestions which may help bring us closer to our communist aspirations.

#1 - Do away with "The Brig", and add "The Gulag". Because it is necessary for the new "Red" Red Lobster to maintain some level of output from all of its employees, the forced labor camp theme of our new room will help "reeducate" our bad employees. You can't fire all the lazy people. But you can force them to stay on the clock for free until they can figure out how to refill the glass racks in the alley. Douchebag Dan comes highly recommended for the position of taskmaster.

#2 - Vodka will be on tap. It helped keep the Russians happy in the freezing Siberian winter, and it will work for us too. Having a bad day in section 1? Have some Vodka! Getting two shifts a week? Have some Vodka! There is no amount of bullshit that a bottle of vodka and a rousing song won't help you forget. (AMEN!)

#3 - Red Lobster will actually pay for my rent and food now, regardless of the pay cut that I take in the interest of fairness. Can't make any money because management won’t cut the fat? Don't worry, Communist Red Lobster will take care of all of your needs! Bread lines for everyone!

#4 - Big Furry Hats. With Lobsters on front.

An alternative to all of this, however, would be to require everyone to do their jobs. America-style. Hosts will host, servers will serve, and managers will manage. That includes firing people that don’t do their job. Glasses and ice are perpetually empty? Write the server up! Then fire them when they do it again! Busser doesn’t know how to clean a table, but has been working there three years? Fire them, and give their hours to someone who wants to work!

Nobody who does their job should ever have to apologize to someone who doesn’t for getting “special treatment”, so long as that “special treatment” is merit-based recognition for a job well done. A good schedule and a good section isn’t a reward. It makes sense from both an ethical and a business perspective. Good employees = happy guests. If I’m wrong, then perhaps we should ask Marlene if she wants to work backup on a Friday night, or Donna if she wants to roll silverware. That’s the equivalent of asking a strong server to work a bad station. These people don’t have the jobs they have because they are special, they have them because they are hard workers. If anybody doesn’t understand that, they should question whether or not they are doing their jobs the way they should. Or maybe they are just Commies.

Thus, my aforementioned critical decision. Do I put up and shut up? Or do I search for new employment? Alternatively, I could just start having fun with the job, and see how long it takes for someone to notice that I’ve gone postal. Or I could plead with my management to grant me something that I rightfully earned to begin with. I suppose that every server who works hard should be pondering the same decision. Perhaps we could all just start a revolution instead…

Signed,


The Democratic Lobster League of America

P.S. We only write this because we care.

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Here are my responses and ideas to add to the above: I'd add a line about hard working people in this economy can't find work and we've got people with jobs who won't do work - I think there is a solution. :-)

BTW, I'd fax it to your regional director as well - if you don't have his/her fax # it'll be in the office where the fax is, often on a business card tacked to the wall.
The solution to this problem is to have a GM who has an eye on a higher position. When the GM's nose is so far up corporate leaders asses that all they see is brown, this crap doesn't happen. It does mean you goose-step to mindless corporatism, but they strictly adhere to the "law". I've experienced both, and while both are evil, I'll take the corporate brown-nosers if I have to pick my poison.

And if you really want to go commando you can sneak into the office and fax this to corporate from your RL's fax machine! If your store is anything like ours they leave that office open frequently, and long enough it wouldn't be hard to do it without getting caught. They have to fax so much crap that few of the managers would even bother looking what was spooling through unless there was only 1 manager in the store.

10 comments:

The Veteran Server said...

Lol! You're a goofball! I like your blog. I've worked at my major casual dining chain for three years now and they change procedure so often its not even funny! They think we don't know that they have no idea what they're doing. Whatever, just thanking God I have a job in this economy. Keep up the good work! God bless!

Ayda said...

it's really just too bad that so many jobs are like this anymore. it seems like people are so afraid to just admit that mediocrity and incompetence is unacceptable.

love your blog.

BizTone said...

HA HA HA, I love you! "I promise to take, sweet, sexy care..." Best line ever.

Robert said...

Y'know, I've also worked at both flavors of stores: the don't give a damn if your employees are actually working, reward the slovenly, keep the people that don't work and come down hard on those that do sort of store, and the uber-corporate, "we have to do it exactly this way regardless of the specifics of the situation or anything resembling logic" sort of store, and to be honest, I disagree that the latter is the lesser of two evils. I made more money, and hated my job much less, at the "slacker store". Not because I was a slacker myself, I bust my balls every day I go in, but because since I started working at a corporate love haven I've realized how much all of the rules and regulations get in the way of what I'm actually there to do: serve guests, turn tables, and make money. Forcing guests to sit through the four paragraph approach that Darden wants to be read to every table? Smaller tip. Having to split an 8-top with another server when it's dead and you have an empty section? Smaller tip. Being forced to run through the store to find a tray to put a single glass of water on for a woman sitting 2 feet away from the beverage station is waiting? Smaller tip. And so on. Just another POV.

Lobster Boy said...

Robert,
I can't quibble with your siding the other way. For me it's a narrow margin to the side of corporate, but either way it is a pick-your-poison deal. I probably haven't worked in a store as severe as you illustrate (though I've experienced individual brown nosed managers who make their shifts that annoying).

As a trainer, I've always used full tray service and the like, so some of the little things that some managers nag about I don't get much grief on because I do it the right way. Even though it is annoying to use a tray to carry a single glass of water, it is so ingrained into me (my robot waiter side) that I do it out of habit any more. There was a time I chaffed more at those sorts of things, but eventually you realize it is swinging at windmills.

Lobster Boy

teleburst said...

"In their infinite wisdom, however, our management has promoted a policy of fairness at work. "Fairness" in this context, is similar to another concept you may have heard of before: Communism. Don't shit yourself just yet, I'll explain. While most things in America have traditionally been "merit based", particularly in a corporate environment, our management sees things differently. We reward mediocrity every day. If you happen to be bad at your job, our management is incapable of firing you. They just can't bring themselves to do it. If one person chooses not to do any work, they can safely assume that someone else will come and do it for them, with no fear of actual reprisal from a manager. Fifteen guest complaints? No problem! Don’t show up for your scheduled shifts? No problem! Now, on top of all of this, our management will also ensure that those same lazy servers have just as many hours as you. To keep it fair".

And there's also the flip side of this "fairness" problem and that's that sometimes the "best producers" are that way because they've become spoiled and get the best tables as well as letting their running sidework and teamwork stuff go because they solely concentrate on waiting on their tables. This is a spiralling sort of thing because other lesser servers are stuck with picking up their slack as well as not being able to concentrate on THEIR tables in the same intensive way that the "producers" are able to get away with.

Many top producers do it while holding up their end of the bargain, but far too many either are so cagey or have so much seniority that they're able to get away with murder, leaving "lesser servers" to drag glasses, fill ice bins or whatever.

Just thought I'd throw that into the mix.

"So You Want To Be A Waiter" blog
http://teleburst.wordpress.com/

ghoh said...

I worked at Red lobster for 6 years. I was terminated this past November. Without sounding like sour grapes, I would like to add something to this blog. I worked my tail off as a server. My customers liked me. My co-workers liked me. In the weeks before the termination, I had one customer ask for a manager to praise my service and another family who asked to see the manager on the way out for the same reason. GSS comments were posted and two praised me by name. I approached a table, welcomed, introduced, promised and held up the Fresh Fish menu. One customer rolled her eyes. I asked if they would like to hear about the FF menu. They said "No!". I was written up and later escorted to the door for asking not telling, despite the customers obvious body language and response. The reason. the manager wanted to show that he could fire a popular, hard-working employee to tighten his grip on the remaining servers. He is a petty micromanager that resented the fact that the servers and customers liked and respected me more than him. I never missed a shift and was always on time. I pre-bussed my own tables and others. I did my side work, cleaned my tables and walked food for others.

waiternotes said...

To the original letter writer: Brilliant! I've read this post three times in the last 6 months, and I've now linked to it in my blog. It even inspired me to make my own post.

To the blog host: you know I love you. Funny and insightful writing, as usual.

waiternotes

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being honest in sharing your experience in working for Red Lobster. I have a friend who worked at Red Lobster for years. He was a great manager, but grew tired of seeing and witnessing first hand unfairness in the work place, Directors black balling managers that they don't like who are trying to advance their careers. One director in particular, Mark would speak with other restaurants off the record. I can not patronize a business that treats its management like this.

Ex-Guest

Anonymous said...

I am in my 40's and I have worked in every possible type of food service, from festival food booths to 5 star establishments to pancake houses and I have to say, without a doubt, Red Lobster is the most excruciating work environment I have ever experienced!