Write-Ups & Shout-Outs

First off I’d like to thank some of the contributors to the comments sections: waiterextraordinaire, newcomer foodserviceninja, and of course, Mike the Waiter. You all have great, thought-provoking and entertaining comments. Thank you, all!

Also, I happen to know that waiterextraordinaire and Mike the Waiter have their own fine blogs. I urge you to check them out. They’ve provided me many interludes of entertaining reading. As for foodserviceninja, it sounds like the name of a blog, but I don’t know as of yet. From his/her comments here, I think it would be a fine read if there is a blog.

In fact, in finding the URL for waiterextraordinaire, I happened upon his most recent post, Steven I Need To Speak To You. It is a fine topic. WaiterEx was called into the office because of an email complaint from a table in which the guest wanted to give him a $20 cash tip but expected to receive the change left over on his gift card, $8. The guest had uttered the familiar words, ‘No, that’s for you,’ when asked if he needed change. As waiters we all know that means keep the change. Fortunately for WaiterEx, it appears his management understands what went wrong and that it really wasn’t his fault. Management also appears to understand that WaiterEx is indeed extraordinary – and that buys a lot of forgiveness.

It’s tough when you hear, ‘Hey, you got a second? I need to talk to you in the office.’ It’s usually something bad. It happened to me just recently as well.

My previous shift at Michael’s I had made the mistake of paying off the wrong table with another table’s credit card. I caught the error before the second table paid, so that one was cool. But the first table was charged for less than they actually should have been billed. I went to the manager to correct things. We fixed the second table, but she informed me that we couldn’t up-charge a card after the fact, once the guest was gone. She pointed out the difference was something like $27.

That was all she said. So I looked at her, waiting. Finally, I said, ‘So what are we going to do about it?’

‘You have two choices. You can make up the difference yourself –’

‘That’s not going to happen,’ I said. ‘Next.’

‘Or we can write you up.’

Okay then. By the end of the shift she said she wasn’t going to have time that day because she was going into a manager’s meeting. I assumed, frankly, that would be the end of it. Most of the time, with good employees such as myself, management might take you to task about something and threaten the follow-up, but then never do anything. Probably this is partially because of laziness, and partially because they think they’ve already made their point and don’t need to beat a responsible, well-performing employee over the head about it.

Well I got the call at the start of my next shift. It was short and sweet. They (a witness is required at Michael’s for write-ups) pointed out how important it was in this economy to keep our costs down and that’s why I was being written up. Okay. I could understand that. Write-ups aren’t just for misdeeds and things like being late – they’re also for poor job performance. And my screw-up was poor performance.

Side Note: In fact, I wish restaurants would do this more because it would give them the opportunity to legally and credibly fire deadwood waiters. Instead, they wait for them to do something wrong like stealing or missing shifts or whatnot, and it never happens because shitty waiters have a sixth sense about how close they are to the firing line. Whereas, if they would serve write-ups when hacks don’t greet tables for ten minutes, or take orders wrong, or forget to fire entrees, etc., they could cut loose the hacks after three strikes.

I wasn’t going to let it go that easily, however. I questioned why I would even be asked to pay for the mistake myself? Would they chase down a dishwasher for $3 if he dropped a plate?

The ‘other’ manager said that our day manager had been corrected on that. She never should have asked me to do that; it wasn’t legal. Then they started the tape loop again and explained about the need to save dollars, etc.

I responded, ‘Believe me, I do understand that. But it seems awfully inconsistent to go after me with a write-up here when it was simply a mistake I made in the course of the job. Are you writing up the cook when he burns a $50 porterhouse? That kind of thing happens every day and it doesn’t seem likely that you’re doing it.’

They claimed that they did . . .

But I had made my point. I signed the form, told them no hard feelings, we’re all cool, and went on with my day.

I’ve been written up plenty of times in my career. Most have come during ‘witch hunt’ binges that appear to be dictated by upper-management: An announcement will come that ‘we’re cracking down on things around here,’ and 60-70% of the staff will be written up at least once, and then it ends and everyone forgets about it. I remember one place where there was a ‘shoe crackdown.’ The condition, cleanliness, color, and physical properties of our shoes were inspected 5 or 6 times over a two week period. Forms were flying all over the place. A month later, waiters started showing up again in non-conforming  ‘Athletic Shoes.’

Waiter Shoes About One Year Before Retirement

Oh, management . . . what would we do without you?

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6 thoughts on “Write-Ups & Shout-Outs

  1. waiterextraordinaire Sun, March 15, 2009 / 9:34 pm

    Wow that is great insight for myself as I am not too used to working in corporate restaurants before this one. Like you I am somewhat miffed at being written up when I know other waiters who have had complaints haven’t. That is the thing that bothered me when I found out some others who have had a complaint have not been written up.There should be some consistency like you say amongst all staff as far as writeups. Wouldn’t hurt either if a good waiter is given some back up once in a while from management. Wouldn’t you agree? Thank you too for the mention of the blog!

  2. The Hooters Girl Mon, March 16, 2009 / 9:46 am

    Wow, I cannot believe that she even brought up the possibility of you covering the difference! That is ridiculously illegal!

  3. Food Service Ninja Tue, March 17, 2009 / 5:17 am

    I forgot about that incident at work the other night -was told if guest walks their table we could once get it comped off then after we ate it. Forgot all about it being illegal -tho they can fire you for it.

    You might ask them to see the cooks write ups with the names redacted. Fat chance huh?

    Mike-sadly getting manager back up of the staff in a corporate restaurant is almost nonexistent. And the write-ups are much more common and under the bad managerial tyrant a weapon -CYA buddy!

    And thanks for the mention!! The FoodServiceNinja blog is on wordpress at http://FoodServiceNinja.wordpress.com

  4. Food Service Ninja Tue, March 17, 2009 / 9:30 pm

    Thanks for reminding me forcing me to cover the walked tab is illegal-we have had some issues with that of late and some mention of us covering it was made> I had a lady walk her tab for a flipping $5 glass of wine while I was dealing with a table from hell’s split check i issues-there was some controversy, the table of 6 had moved 3 times to be in my section and had tabs open at the bar and another server some of which never were entered into the computer. Custom made drinks were rung under differing names/pricing. One big shot in his own mind reg was buying some chic’s drink atleast according to her.

    Folks Mike only got 30.7% tip counting the $8 on the GC. A server of his caliber thats an occasionally made %age -not the nor but far from impossible.
    Waiter-Ex->thanks for the story idea-I will have to blog about how incident where I learned to say “I will be back with your change.” I had a guy go postal when I asked if he wanted change once . LOL.

    SO while dealing with all this crap the lady walked on her wine and they had told me next time I could pay for it.

    Mike-I suspect your manager is doing CYA action in case the caller complains further to corporate.

    • waiternotes Wed, March 18, 2009 / 1:18 am

      Indeed, it is illegal. As I said, do they ask the janitor to pay for a light bulb when she knocks over a lamp? It’s the kind of thing you expect from independent owners – that money comes right out of their pocket and they feel it. You might forgive them for that emotional response. But corporate places that pull that shit … at best they’re just being stupid. Worse is that they’re bluffing, hoping to psyche you out so you’ll be more careful next time. Worst is that they think the can actually punish you this way and get some money out of it.

      There are so many analogies … a cashier makes the wrong change; a cement worker doesn’t mix in enough water; a barista makes you a latte instead of a cappy …

      If you’re employed by someone, they can’t go after you unless they can prove malice, such as stealing or purposely letting someone else steal or ‘economic vandalism.’ I made that up that term. That’d be the employee who doesn’t benefit from bad performance, but just enjoys seeing his employer suffer.

      Advice to anyone waiting tables: If you’re ever asked to pay (literally) for a mistake, do as I did – refuse, then reference an analogy as written above. Let them decide how to pursue it from there.

      Thanks, Ninja, for your comments. Sometimes I have to go into a hypnotic state to decipher your stream-of-consciousness shorthand, but it’s good stuff.

  5. Food Service Ninja Tue, March 17, 2009 / 9:41 pm

    opps I got Mike the Waiter and Steve the Waiter Ex confused in my post above. Switch out the Mike with Steve and it will make more sense.

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