The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


One of the few tangible benefits of working a service industry job is the flexibility. Whether it be a schedule that works with classes, a full time job or vacation, it is one of the true perks of this job.

Well I suppose I should be careful what I wish for, I’ve always been a proponent of wait staff/bartending being treated like a “real job” in many areas such as paid time off, benefits, respect towards sick days as well as following Department of Labor statutes, shocking, I know.

Of course we won’t be getting any of that on a decent scale, the one thing they have decided to give us is a static schedule, taking away one of the few things I like about this type of work.
First off, fearless leader wanted to take away “request off” shifts completely and let the staff work out days we need off amongst ourselves.

Because that’s what we get paid the big bucks to do, the management’s scheduling and “work it out ourselves.”

Secondly if we wanted be able to take time off we were to use out vacation pay (I made $150 for the week after taxes at minimum, the usual amount I make for one of my shifts). I suppose the part timers (32 hours and under) just wouldn’t be able to take a week off since they don’t qualify.

However one of out few competent managers managed to talk him out of it. I’ve seen server revolts before friends, it isn’t pretty, and one was brewing. I made it quite clear the shit-storm myself and others were preparing in response if this arbitrary decision was to come to pass.

Since this initial plan fell to the side, fearless leader and the minions did what they do best. Exert their authority in the lamest ways possible, be reactive instead of proactive, vindictive instead of professional and most importantly, to show who is in control.

They start fucking with our schedules and our request offs.

Requests off work kind of like this at my and many other restaurants. Usually you talk to a manager a few weeks to a month in advance and write it down. We have a book that has a certain amount of slots on each date, get in early and you should have no problem. As in all realms of life, fail to communicate and get in late, well it may be questionable if you get the time off.

So far a half a dozen of us have been affected. All of us communicated our vacation/time off needs months in advance, all of us put it in writing so there would be no questions. This is what happened to the six individuals, the names have been changed as usual to protect the innocent.

Jessica was the first case. She had requested when she was HIRED that she needed a week off in July to go on a cross state biking event. Cara put it in writing and was given the week off, with one exception. Management had scheduled her a crappy Tuesday lunch shift in the middle of her time off, like she was to drop her vacation plans for one shitty shift.

Alicia is our second case, she has family in Ohio and was visiting them for the first time in months. She had plane reservation for certain dates and certain times, management was aware of this in writing. They scheduled her for a shift that would occur while she would be sitting at O’Hare Airport on a layover. She missed her shift, was written up, and threatened with termination.

Third case is Tony and Cara, they are a prototypical restaurant couple. Been together for years, work the same shifts and pretty much kick ass. Every summer they go on a week long camping trip, they requested off two months ago. I think you see where this is going, Tony was scheduled one shift in the middle of his request time, Cara scheduled two days before they were to return.

They barely covered their shifts.

By this time every one of these employees had talked to management. In some cases they were listened to politely, in others certain managers took liberties with their income, sections and cut them off of profitable parties. As well they are mysteriously in trouble all of a sudden and being scrutinized instead of being allowed to do their job and make a living.

At any rate nothing was done…

Tim was scheduled the night he requested off , his girlfriend who he cares about was leaving town.

Stella was scheduled on a weekend she had her child and a family function, request off denied.

Then there was my situation. Every August I go up north and fish for a week. Frankly the prospect of this trip is the only thing keeping my sanity intact as far as work goes. A month ago I went to the scheduling manager and told her what week I wanted off. I was told to put it in writing and I did, as well I filled out the request off book, I made it to the very first spot on every day I needed off.

I bet even you 10% tippers could figure out what happened.

I received every day off I needed, except for Thursday’s lunch shift, three days after I leave the state, three days before I return.

I immediately went up to the scheduling manager to issue a complaint, I tied the nice guy approach.

“So what’s up with that lunch shift next week? I won’t be in town.” I said politely (believe it or not).

Using incompetent manager byline 173 from the handbook she snidely said what I expected her to, “That’s why they’re called requests and not days off.”

“What am I supposed to do if I can’t cover it, stay in town and work one shift for the entire week, and miss vacation?” I said, my demeanor taking a sharp, condescending tone.

“If you have a problem with it we can talk about this in the office.” She snapped back at me.

Which is manager code for I’ll find some reason to write you up, reduce your section size or otherwise act like an ass.

“I don’t think that will accomplish anything,” I said, “maybe I’ll take it to human resources instead.”

“They’ll tell you the same thing I told you.” She replied.

“I wouldn’t be to sure about that, regardless, I won’t be in town next week, that you can count on.” I said.

She just shot me a dirty look and returned to leaning on the wall, the only thing she does with competence.

To be continued Thursday, after I get some results…


At 7:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at a chain Italian restaurant for two years and this same situation was what broke camel's back for me. In my case, the employees were getting screwed because many of them had evening classes and needed to have certain nights off. The manangment was aware of everyone's schedule, it was all in writing, and people kept getting scheduled to work during class. So they started putting requests in for every day they had class. So the managment took away the request off book. Completely. All time off had to be requested through the management soley, and if they forgot or just didn't care, you got screwed. You can imagine the uproar. I feel your pain.

At 11:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This simply doesn't work with the kind of people you get in service sector jobs.

At 6:46 PM , Anonymous said...

There are so many ways to reply to management regarding scheduling when requested days/or blocks of days are not respected:
1) Human Resources at corporate
2) Owner(s)
3) "Will you pay for my traveling expenses to work this pissy shift, round trip, so I can get back to my time off? If this is the case, then sure, I'll come back at your expense and work."
--most of the fine dining establishments I've served in or managed at, have had a set schedule, meaning, on any given week the same people are scheduled to work the same shifts.
Of course emergencies occur, and guess what? Time for managers to roll up their sleeves and step in.
Most corporations train all their managers how to cook as part of their training, and it should only follow, how to serve in a pinch. So Houston, do we still have a problem here?
Management that likes to rearrange the schedule on a weekly basis and keep it a secret does not a happy wait staff make upon posting. Places like that do NOT treat their staff as people who have life's that entail other things than the restaurant. (when will owners/corporate/management realize that it is the server who represents the restaurant/menu/bar AND deals with customers AND makes the sales??)
So, if a set schedule can be made (makes sense to me), if emergencies arise, or request for time off, it should be BOTH the staff as well as management to address the rest of the staff to have those shifts covered.
On a lark, and because I had never done it before (fine dining background here/tableside cooking etc) I applied and got a FAST FOOD JOB at a very well known corporate owned Beef/Hot Dog place here in Chicagoland. (don't EVER go there to eat OR work).
The GM was refusing to give me the day off so I could go to COURT.
I told him, "Fine. When there's a warrant out for my arrest for non appearance, I will phone you and corporate to bail me out, AND motion it up for YOU and corporate to appear explaining why I could not show up to work. The judge will LOVE this!! Heck, I'll file a civil suit making you liable for lawyer and court fee's if found guilty for my non appearance and bench warrant, and turn it into a trial. After that, heck, anyone can phone the print/radio/tv media. SUCH A SCOOP!! All press even bad press is good press? Better yet, maybe I should just phone corporate HR and Illinois Labor Department regarding this just in case?"

At 2:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bummer. Try to enjoy your vacation anyway!

At 3:15 PM , Blogger 6th Floor blog said...

see, that's why I don't do 'requests'.

I'd flat out tell (month in advance is fine) that I'm taking off this week. I wouldn't even consult the schedule for that week. I didn't make the schedule, it's not my fault the person responsible didn't properly fill out the shifts.

At 3:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've had a few incidents like this. My first job ever, for a mall preztel place, the in-store manager quit, and they never bothered to hire a new one. So we had to give our schedule requests to a shift leader who was supposed to -fax- them in at the end of the night. Need i say that my request didn't get faxed in, and i was scheduled for the day i needed off? Well, i spent the next week trying to find someone to cover, made it very clear to everyone i worked with that i wasn't coming in, and, well, didn't come in.

The next shift i worked after that, i got told to call the regional office, who politely told me i'd violated their no-call no-show policy and to leave my shirt and they would mail me my last check. i'm not sure they wanted me to violate common decency laws and leave shirtless, so i kept the shirt and left. Pretty sure this place got written up later for the 16 year old operating major cooking equipment and using knives n whatnot...

That brings us to today, about 7 years and as many jobs later, and i'm working as a server in a chain italian restaurant. My boyfriend's family decided to do July 4th together, but only gave about a month's notice on that. So of course our request book was filled up with requests, and i was SOL. And then one of the requesters got fired. Probably not my shining moment, but hey, they weren't going to come back, so i took advantage of the situation and took their spot on the July 4th log. I didn't just scratch out her name and put my own in, i went to the manager who does the schedules, asked, and -he- was the one who put my name in and then he initialed it. No problem, right? Wrong.

the schedule comes out for that week. I am, of course, scheduled to work July 4th. WTF. Did he think i was just joking? it didn't take much to get him to give me the day off, but i just couldn't beleive the balls of this guy, since -he was the one who OK'd it in the first place-. Not the first, nor the last i'm sure, time i'll have problems with this kind of crap..

At 12:33 AM , Blogger briliantdonkey said...

As the dickhead in charge of making schedules at my place,I can tell you it is a very thankless job, even though I can usually work it out for people 98% of the time. That said, if I were to pull stupid shit like this I would fully expect to be told to go screw myself and deserve it. Mistakes happen. I can see them accidentally scheduling you back a day early(I have done so myself), but right in the middle of your vacation? That is just bush league plain and simple.


At 3:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all there has to be an understanding that the schedule in a restaurant is a living document. Any GM with half a brain will find out that set schedules work best for all involed. Both the employee and the rtestaunt can be dependable and special request can be taken care of if management is looking ahead and not just the day they write the schduke. It's take a little plannig and understanding on both sides to make it work.


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