Friday, July 30, 2010

Things Underemployed People Shouldn't Do Include: International Drug Smuggling.

I have just started reading a fascinating book by Sandra Gregory, who at age 27 got arrested for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Thailand into Japan. This book, along with overdosing (bad pun intended) on the National Geographic tv show "Locked Up: Abroad" has taught me one valuable lesson about underemployment. It is far better to be underemployed than locked up in a prison, particularly if that prison is in: Venezuela, Peru, or Thailand. No matter what the drug dealer tells you, you will never have a pleasant all-expenses paid holiday. No matter how many times he tells you he's done this, they will try to make you carry more than you intended and do something really stupid like sew kilo upon kilo into your suitcase. And going to jail will be horrible.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Job Is An Exit To Eternal Summer Slacking.

Remember those dumb jobs of high school summers past? For me my quintessential high school job experience was being a day camp counselor. You worked a long day, sometimes enjoyable and sometimes excruciating, and if you brought it home with you, you carried it only long enough to complain about it to your parents before going to someone's house (party).

Sometimes, and I mean this in the best of ways, I feel that way about my job in the restaurant industry. In some broad way, I am potentially working towards a career of some sorts, but the reality of my life right now is that I have a job where people regularly show up hung over, under slept, totally disinterested, and/or on autopilot.

Yesterday I worked an early morning serving shift, arriving at work at 6:40, clocked out at 2:30. Headed to the bar for my shift drink and was joined by a coworker (remember that 2:30, though early, had been the end of a full 8 hour work day for me). Took myself to solo dinner at one of my favorite East Village spots where I have an unlikely rapport with this line cook whose name I don't even know. We somehow end up chatting every time I go make our strange connection realer, he told me he will be trailing to work at the restaurant I'm at. Only in New York. Following, I joined some friends in Williamsburg for drinks and trivia night. I came close to pulling the elusive, rare breed of summer abandonment: the all-dayer. Sure I'll be a little tired at work today- but I'm working in hotel room service from 3pm - 11 pm. It's not like I'll really need to bring my A game. The only thing I'm definitely bringing is a book and a sensible dinner.

And while having a summer-style job is great over the summer, I know come September (and my one year anniversary at the restaurant) I'll miss sensing that with the crisp weather comes a return to trying hard.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

That Chocolate Sprinkle Is Moving: Oh God, It's Not An Ice Cream Shop, And That's Not A Sprinkle!

A reader forwarded me the following email chain, with the simple question: "If this had happened while you were working, what would you have told me?" To which I replied, "I would have apologized and sent a manager to talk to you, on the hope that they would comp. your meal."

Below are the emails, with names changed to protect the innocent.

FrequentFalafelEater, to BigFalafelInfo

I am a frequent BigFalafel customer, but I'd like to report a problem at the Upper West Side location. While I was eating there today, July 25, 2010, at about noon, several of the customers spotted a large cockroach on the ceiling. The roach then ran around the walls of the restaurant in plain sight of everyone, including several employees. When I reported the cockroach to the employees, they laughed and said they'd handle it later. 15 minutes later, the roach was still running around in the restaurant and the employees had done nothing. Before I report this obvious health code violation, I thought I would alert you so that you can improve employee training on dealing with pests in the restaurant.


BigFalafel, to FFE

Dear FrequentFalafelEater,

Thank you for your email, My name is MisterManager and I'm the director of operations of BigFalafel.

First, I would like you to know that since this morning I was on the phone with both my employees and our pest control company trying to resolve this situation asap. My pest control company that has been servicing us as well as other tenants in the building (the travel agency, ect...) has brought to my attention that due to a major extermination of the residential building's basement and garage many of the retail tenants have spotted water bugs in their establishments, it is very important to note that the water bug did not come from within our store.

That being said, I'm absolutely shocked of how my employees took action when it accrued and I'm on my way to the uws location as I'm writing this email.

FFE, I wish I can convince you that this is not a typical BigFalafel situation and would like to mail you a gift card so you can give us a second chance.
I promise we won't disappoint you.

If you're interested please reply with your address, I really look forward to your response.


Sent from my iPhone

FFE, to MisterManager

Dear MisterManager,

Thanks very much for your response. I'm glad the cockroach situation is being dealt with. My address is:

[omitted for reader privacy, lest you want to stalk him]

I love BigFalafel, so I was especially disappointed with my experience today. I'll give the restaurant another chance though; it sounds like you're on top things.


MisterManager, to FFE


I am very happy to hear that. You should expect your gift card by the end of this week.

Thank you,

Sent from my iPhone

The story is gross. But I think the director of operations handled the situation well. My reader says his faith in this falafel organization has been shaken to its leguminous core, but he is willing to give another shot. In this case, however, I have to imagine that 2 strikes and he's out faster than you can say "RAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And now I present you with the cutest video clip about living bug free ever created by the human species.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'd Apply But I Have Karaokephobia.

To all underemployed actors-

Do you like being in front of people? Do you like being at bars? Do you like watching people sing?

Then you should be a karaoke host. According to this job posting, you earn $25 per hour ($100-$200) per shift plus performance bonuses. I assume this bonus means you perform and do good?

And the best part? It can be your full-time gig.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did You Say Van Gogh? Oh Nevermind You're Choking On Cake.

My birthday is just less than seven months away, which means my loved ones have more than enough time to figure out how to score me a cake like this and make it taste good.

Found on My Food Looks Funny.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's An Upcharge? Look Down At Your Itemized Receipt Next Time You Drink.

Well, all my cocktail studying really paid off today. I had a party of 10 middle aged men and women in the fashion industry celebrating a birthday party. The terms of their reservation included a $250 minimum before tax and tip, with a 20% gratuity included. Awesome.

The party went well. And I asked follow ups for every drink order. Shot of tequila? I upsold the most expensive tequila we had when asked for my recommend. When I listed the vodkas that could go in their bloody marys, they picked Grey Goose, plus a $3 up charge per drink to make it a bloody mary. Upselling = finding ways to upcharge.

The following is their itemized receipt, but with certain items vagued for my protection.

5 Ketel One $55
1 Ketel One $11
As Cosmo $2
2 Best Tequilas $32
1 Patron $13
As Margaritia $2
1 Bottle Chardonnay $52
5 Glass Chardonnay $65
3 Hendricks $36
6 Tanqueray $66
3 As Doubles w Tonic
2 Grey Goose $26
2 As Bloody $6
2 Glass Rose $22
4 Snacks $16
1 Appetizer $15

Subtotal $419.00
Tax $37.19
20 % Included Gratuity $83.80

Total Due $539.99

The birthday boy left an additional $20, making his final total $559.99. Percentage tipped? 25.

And all before 7 PM.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Customers Flirt I Feel Sorry For Them.

I mean, not always. But I can't say that potential relationships are why I waitress. According to teen shopping catalogue and website mecca Alloy, that's exactly why they rank waitressing as one of the best summer jobs.

Why It Rocks: Tips, tips, tips! Not only is the money good, this is a great job to meet people! Who knows? Maybe you'll nab something more than just extra cash, like a yummy new BF!
Why It Sucks: If a customer wants a burger with everything on separate plates, you've gotta do it. And you gotta do it with a smile on your face. Annoying? Yes. But it's your job to make your customers happy.

HELLO. Separating things onto individual plates is so not the suckiest part of waitressing. How about standing for 8 hours at a time without a real meal? Or, getting cat calls from the dishwashers (fyi, enough women complained so now our dishwashers are on serious probation). Or how about customers who are trolling for something to be angry about? And the money is only good if you are working prime shifts at busy restaurants. And I've yet to meet a male customer I'd want to see outside of work.

But yeah, if all the romanticized notions of waitressing are true, I guess its just like totally the best summer job ever!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Rare Apology. Or, The Nicest Moment of My Yesterday.

Yesterday I worked a brisque cocktailing shift. The entire day was mildly stressful and I just wasn't feeling like myself. But there was one stand out nice moment.

ChubbyCustomer: Hey, I just wanted to apologize. You served me and a couple of my friends last week. My friend was really rude to you.
Underemployed (with the light of recognition) : Oh yeah, he didn't like his martini.
ChubbyCustomer: I know. I was mortified, he was so rude and condescending to you. And other people have told me he's a prick and I saw it come out then.
Underemployed: I mean, it really wasn't a big deal- but that's why I made sure to tell him that I put the order in correctly. I just wanted him to understand that I don't shake the martinis myself.
ChubbyCustomer: Totally. Yeah, I just wanted to apologize.
Underemployed: Well, thank you.

It was a touching moment. For those of you who are curious, below is my memory of what his priggish friend said about his martini:

First of all this tastes like gin, not vodka. Second of all, it tastes like an entire bottle of vermouth was poured into this glass. I wanted it dry. It's just not what I ordered. (Repeat these 4 sentences in different order three times)

To my mind, the friend wasn't rude initially. What was rude was that he kept at it over and over again instead of letting me take his drink back to the bar and get him a new one and be done with it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Holy Boogers! This Is Horrible.

Check out this video from Fox Reality channel. I cannot speak to the validity of this video.

There is no excuse. For those who have wondered about where I work, I just want you to know that I have NEVER seen anything half as disgusting at work. What a creeper.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And Then I Dreamed Neo-Nazis Invaded. Or, My Supervisor Can Suck It.

Last night went reasonably well. Almost every table tipped over 18%, several tables had multiple rounds, and yet I was off by 12:30 AM. It started rocky.

GermanSupervisor: You don't work that often and you'll be alone on the floor tonight so just ask for help when you need it. That's what I'm here for.
Underemployed: Ok.

First of all, I've been cocktailing 3 days a week for a month. Often alone for significant portions of my shift. Second of all, when she said that to me there were only 2 open checks. SLOW. Thirdly, I've been working at this restaurant since before she was even hired- yes, she's been here a long time, but I've been here longer. Yes, she got hired as a supervisor, but I get how things work around this place. I've been working at the same damned restaurant since September of '09, and have picked up serving shifts since December (pre-German). That makes me an old timer. My last comment. Although I don't take it personally since she is a raging bitch to almost everyone, I do read it as a pathetic attempt at asserting authority, à la I'm going to insult you and then tell you its because you need schooling since I'm in charge, got it? If you know your conversation partner isn't really allowed to respond, any insinuation of insult is pitiable. And my response is my coping strategy at work. Get yelled at? "Ok." Hard to keep escalating with someone who responds calmly.

Fast forward to later in the night. Much much later. The drink rush has ended. I did great- not a single misprinted receipt, not a complaint about an order, and earlier a table with 2 bottles of pinot noir tipped 30%. My customers were happy, I was happy. Still, every time my supervisor showed up on the floor she had something to nitpick. Whatever, that's her job, but if I find it faster to get to checks on the computer by pushing which table they are at vs. listing the open checks and searching for their name, what does it matter? It doesn't, but you aren't an authority if you aren't criticizing someone, right?

But she got her time to shine. I had just sold a bottle of rose to two friendly gay guys who I'd been serving by the glass for about an hour. They had their girlfriends from college joining them. They wanted to have the bottle waiting, but close it out. "These girls will drink us under the table if we don't set limits." I really liked these guys. We had such a great rapport by this point.

Enter my supervisor. It turns out, we had 86'd the standard rose (we sold out a couple days ago and are waiting for the new supply. Rose is hot right now) The bottle I gave them was a bottle of a different rose that was from the restaurant (as opposed to the cocktail bar) and it cost $4 more. Now, the check was already closed. And the gents had left me a generous 30% tip on the $44 bottle that they were enjoying so much. My supervisor was angry, stressed, and making little sense.

Underemployed: This was the bottle I was given by the bar. I had been selling them rose by the glass, and nobody behind the bar or otherwise told me we were 86'd rose and serving a different bottle.
GermanSupervisor: Well, its your fault that you didn't look closely at the bottle and aren't familiar enough with the wine list to notice it was different. I'm going to have to go talk to your table and let them know you brought them the wrong bottle. And that we need to readjust their closed check so we don't lose the difference from what we sold.
Underemployed: Ok. They're really nice. I'm sure they don't care.
GermanSupervisor: We'll see.

Seeing that she wasn't going directly to my gents right away, I swung by to "clear" some of their snack plates away. I said quickly, "Guys, I brought you the wrong bottle. The bottle I brought you is $4 more expensive than the bottle we normally serve. I didn't know. My manager is going to come over here and talk to you, I don't really know why, but I'm sorry in advance."

While taking care of my other customers, I saw her approach the table and talk with them. I'm nervous, but not really since these guys are in my pocket, they love me, I know they wouldn't let my supervisor get away without saying I'm great. After a little time goes by, I bring drinks to a nearby table, and swing by my men.

"She had the nerve to interrupt our evening to tell us that there was a disconnect between the waitstaff and the bar," one of the gentlemen said. "Before she could even finish I told her, 'Isn't it your job to make sure that your staff knows what's going on? We asked our lovely server for a bottle of rose, she brought us one, we're happy.' I want her fired. You know he [the other gentlemen] lives at this hotel 3 months a year?" I was stunned, they stood up for me and insulted her to boot! "I don't like he face, what's her name? I want her fired." I whispered her name to him. A customer asked me a question and I answered it. They ordered another bottle after their girlfriends arrived and some more munchies. I comped them a $4 snack, considering that's the price difference between the bottle they ordered and the more expensive bottles they kept ordering.

As I opened the bottle for them and poured, I heard a phone ringing behind me. I picked up the blackberry and put it on their table, since they had rearranged slightly once the ladies arrived. "It's not mine," said my new gaymanfriend. "It must be your bitchy manager's. I'm going to answer it." I ran away. My supervisor was rummaging through the drawers of the service station looking for her phone. I helped her look. I went back to the awesome people, "She's freaking out!" I told them. "What if I drop her blackberry in the toilet?" We laughed, knowing he wouldn't. I walked away. As I arrived again to give them their munchies I saw a blackberry still on the table. Blackberries in the toilet was sort of a motif for the rest of the night. We had a great time. Again, a seriously generous tip on the bottle.

When I was doing my closeout paperwork, my manager didn't speak to me. Whatever. I don't get paid enough to stroke her ego too. Not my job. In my dream last night the cocktail bar was being invaded by neo-nazis. I guess my subconscious too was feeling neither generous nor subtle to this fucking woman.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Knowledge Is Power. Or, Why I Studied Before Work.

Tonight is my first late night cocktail shift. I will clock in at 6 PM, and clockout when we shut the bar down between 2 AM and 4 AM. I want to step up my game, not only to ensure that I keep getting these lucrative shifts, but also so I can make the most I can. So I'm studying up.

I've spent the afternoon looking over classic cocktail recipes. Why? So I can upsell. For example: Lady orders a Negroni. Before I did my studying, I would have said, "Ok," walked to the computer and hit the "Negroni" button. However, what I will do tonight, is ask, "Do you have a gin preference." Hopefully she will pick a gin that is more expensive than the well gin. Say Tanqueray. I would then walk over to the computer and push the "Tanqueray" button, and then hit the "as Negroni" button, which adds a $2 upcharge (for the Campari). Thus, instead of a $12 Negroni from the well, I've opened up the possibility for a $12-15 dollar Negroni depending on which gin the Lady picks.

And this, folks, is why it pays to know. I'm a long way away from knowing the right questions to follow up on every order, but I'm a little closer every day. And when I'm not sure what liquor actually is in the cocktail they order, I ask "Do you have a liquor preference?" That usually does the trick.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

When Work Gets You Down, Watch Cartoons.

Pinky And The Brain, "Am I the only one who makes coffee around here?"

Rocko's Modern Life, "I could do that!"

Family Guy, "I get involved?"

Hey Arnold!, "Ok, if you insist."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New Low For Me Is Pandering To Children. Or, If I Bring It You Buy It.

My shifts that are from 2 pm - 8 pm are challenging. My day starts horrifically slow, but come 5:30/6, I haul ass delivering cocktails to their rightful drinkers. I make good money on these weekday shifts, it's just really back loaded.

Around 4:30, a couple sat down with a toddler. The two adults ordered cocktails. Since I was totally not busy yet, I played with their little girl and chitchatted with the guests for a minute. I saw that they were drinking slowly. Also, since they were with their baby girl, I didn't think they planned on having another round. So I threw my shame out the window.

Underemployed (referring to toddler) : Does she need some juice?
EuroDad: Maybe.
Underemployed: We have a fresh squeezed orange juice, so there's no added sugar or anything.
Eurodad: Great.
Underemployed: Should I bring her a straw?
Eurodad: Perfect.

That orange juice cost $5 before tax. I have no shame, and you better believe I know how to raise my check averages.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

iRelevant. Or, How Apple Will Make Good On The Myth Of The Waitron.

Sydney, Australia

They came first for the Australians, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Australian.

The iPad has replaced paper menus at a tapas joint in Sydney. According to Eater's coverage, the app not only allows for the restaurant to more quickly and accurately change menu items, but it also communicates directly with the kitchen, reducing server error. Of course, if this iPad is communicating with the kitchen, what's the server for?

Restaurateurs, beware. Next Apple will create a manager app so you're no longer needed to void things or transfer checks.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Went The Extra Mile And All I Got Was 18% Back.

I am a good server. I keep track of when your glass is empty, I remove empty plates the moment you're done with them, and I can suggest things you don't even know you want. You're unhappy? I'll actually do what I can to remedy the situation.

Like today at cocktail hour. 2 30-something women were doing drinks and a cheese plate appetizer. Drinks: 1 glass of white, 1 iced coffee, 1 grapefruit juice. Their total bill was looking something like 35-40 bucks. Not a huge tab, but today was really slow so that made them one of my high priority checks.

Before the food arrives, the lady drinking the wine asked me if she could order olives. "We don't have olives as a menu item," I told her, "but I can bring you some of the olives from the bar like we use for martinis." I put several skewers of olives (probably 12 total olives) into a small bowl and brought them to her.

Then their food arrives. They were totally underwhelmed by the scope of the cheese plate. They thought it would come with more stuff. The teetotaler (whom I'd served last week), told me she'd order it before and it had more on it. I told them them I'd check with the kitchen to see if they forgot to send up an accessory. I did. They didn't. I came back to give the ladies more water and told them that's all. Disappointment.

As I was walking away from their table, I had the genius idea to give them one of our $4 dollar snack sized items. I picked one that would go with their cheese, and brought it over, thinking it would up the likelihood of these ladies staying longer and leaving happy. "I bought these for you," I told them, "just don't tell my manager." I might have winked. They thanked me profusely, told me how sweet I was and, after refusing a second glass of wine or juice, asked me for more (free) olives. I brought them. More compliments on my awesomeness.

And yet, when it was time to look at their bill, they left the standard 18%. Not a penny more. I really felt like I gave them A+ service. Was expecting 20%, particularly because I comped them a snack and kept bringing those damn olives.

What do you think readers? Am I rightfully indignant or should I quit whining? Post your answers in the comment section. I'm really curious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

An excerpt from President Calvin Coolidge's July 5, 1926 speech in honor of the 150th celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

Happy Independence Day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

MY Generation Is Not The NY Times Generation.

Three days ago I read this article in the NY Times that cites a university researcher's (aka PhD candidate?) study as definitive proof that Gen-Y, referred to by the Times writer as the "Me-Me-Me My-Space Generation," is indeed self-important and uncaring. Really?

It seems to me a study about the empathy of college students, particularly college students born of helicopter parents, forced into SAT tutoring from the age of 14 and often still calling mom a gajillion times a week on their cell phones is more a study of the values that were practiced in their upbringing than about the awfulness of my peers.

...the authors speculate a millennial mixture of video games, social media, reality TV and hyper-competition have left young people self-involved, shallow and unfettered in their individualism and ambition.

Universities are more competitive and more expensive than ever. It is neither a surprise nor a fault that current students look out for themselves more than the students of years passed- it's what they had to do to get in in the first place, and now it's what it takes to get employed upon graduating. Criticizing Gen-Y students for self-aggrandizing and self-involvement is punishing them for the skill set (self-promotion) they needed to make their application stand out among thousands. And why should you criticize college students for ambition, when old people always seem to criticize college students for being stoned, lazy slobs?

Really, I'm just sick of the trash talk. It's hard enough for people to take new graduates seriously enough to hire them, and this bullshit will only make it worse.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cultural Consumption. Literally.

British food artist Prudence Emma Staite offers up famous images recreated at her studio in chocolate candies. The pointillism of Seurat is a natural fit for the medium, and there is something about the artist's project itself that I think works well with Warhol's own aims. Enjoy!