UnderCover Waitress: October 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

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I like it when I get the Halloween dinner shift.

We don't go all out. We have a basket of candy for anybody who comes in to "trick-or-treat." This being a small town, most of the candy gets scarfed by wait staff in the nights following Halloween. I am glad I work in a restaurant that is happy to have little ones come in for trick-or-treating.

Our boss is rather conservative and would not tolerate waitresses wearing costumes or flashy make-up. This suits me just fine; I prefer subtlety.

I have a set of clay horns that blend in with my hair. They are strung on a thin piece of elastic which I am able to hide under my hair. They are not big and flashy so it takes people a few moments to notice.

Have a friend who has two little, skin-colored furry horns. He attaches them at his hairline with theatrical glue. Again, they are small and subtle.

Other ideas for subtle Halloween on the floor costumes include fang caps. This might be expensive, but they fit over a person's canine teeth. Or a small tail that matches the waitress uniform. Nothing obvious from the front.

The best is watching people's facial expressions change when the realize, in our dimly lit "ambience," what they are seeing.

Happy Halloween. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bad Judge of Age

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Over the years I have gotten numerous reactions from people whom I card for alcohol. Some of this is certainly caused by my own inability to judge age. I prefer to err on the side of caution, so if I think you look young, you get carded.

Approached a table one evening with a happy looking couple enjoying animated conversation. He looked old enough, but she struck me as youthful. She had a full, round face with no wrinkles but definitely a few freckles from the sun. Her nappy hair was loose, and she had a number of colorful tattoos. Next to the table, I knew she was wearing patchouli oil.

When the couple ordered wine, I politely requested her ID. Her eyes became even wider, and she stood and hugged me. She hugged me right there in the middle of the restaurant. I laughed and hugged her back, and said, "Something tells me you are over 21."

She was absolutely beaming as she handed me her card. My new friend was in her forties.
The Blog Entourage

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Jobs and Civil Rights

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Interesting question:

Can working at the Tilted Kilt get me fired? 

This begs another question: From where?

If you are employed in an "at will" situation, then a private employer may fire you for anything or nothing at all, but not for a protected reason.

Federal law prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. There are federal civil rights protections in place for the disabled and for people over the age of 40. States may make their own civil rights laws in addition to the federal statutes, as long as the state laws do not contradict the federal laws. For example, in the state of Vermont employees are protected from discrimination based upon sexual preference. A Vermont employee may not be fired for being gay.

Therefore, at will employees may be fired by private employers for behavior exhibited outside of working hours. Government employees and contract employees may be subject to different rules and regulations, depending upon which government office or what the contract says. Which brings us back to my own question at the beginning, "From where?"

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Five Hot Jobs for Retirees

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Made me look!

Saw Five Hot Jobs for Retirees and couldn't resist looking to see if waitressing was among the recommendations. But first, I think we need to ask ourselves why retirees need to be employed in the first place. If you are going to retire, that means you are leaving your profession and ceasing to work. The reason so many elderly people wish to remain in the workforce is that they can no longer afford to retire. Anybody healthy enough to work wants to because it beats the abject poverty they will be forced into if all they have is Social Security.

So, the five hot jobs for grandma and grandpa are:

Health Care

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the elderly would be more likely to receive health care, not give it.

Computer Work

Because sitting in front of a computer is a job description. Actually, people use computers to help them do other things. For example, you may input data into a spreadsheet and run calculations. But if you don't have any training in the field or know what you are doing, you will probably screw things up.

Government Work

Because this is yet another area that requires no prior experience, knowledge or training. Enough said.

Temporary Work

Right. I suggest we all chip in and get our geriatric family members those little scooters so they can get around town and work a different job every week.

And finally... (drum roll, please): 

Okay, so they didn't mention waitressing but retail is probably the closest with temporary work a close second. Retail work requires being on your feet and interacting with various and sundry customers. It requires energy and much social interaction. I thought retirees were supposed to relax and enjoy life, not fetch different sizes for thirty-somethings to try on.

If an older person truly wishes to work, then this is not directed at him or her. My sarcasm is not to offend nor discriminate on the basis of age. My point is that working should not be a necessity for those who have retired. Instead of suggesting ways grandpa and grandma can make up for their lost pensions, perhaps we need to rethink how we distribute (or don't distribute) wealth in this country.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beef Stew: Food v. Sex

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Many argue that breastaurants may succeed even when they offer bad food. Obviously, this is because patrons come in to gawk at the scantily-clad 20-somethings working as "waitresses."

Beef Stew Review: Tilted Kilt v. Seamus McCaffrey's put this theory to the test. The author visited both establishments and ordered the traditional Irish Beef Stew on the menus. She noted the pros and cons of both preparations and both establishments.

She visited Tilted Kilt first for lunch. She noted that every businessman in the neighborhood also patronized the restaurant that shift. So, Tilted Kilt is bringing people in.

However, her description of the beef stew is anything less than complimentary:

Everything was going well until we stumbled up a hunk of beef pot roast. In one terrible, meal-ruining moment our dreams of tender beef were destroyed when the meat turned into a powdery mouthful of sawdust upon intake. Enough said.

Her descriptions of the "cast members" at Tilted Kilt included "perky" and not exactly going for the authentic Irish "feel."

Lunch at Seamus McCaffrey's was not crowded, but based upon the food description it should have been:

This stew featured hearty chunks of carrots and potatoes as well as smaller and much more manageable pieces of beef. The meat was appropriately cooked and the accompaniment of soda bread would have made any Irishman (woman) proud.

The waitresses at Seamus McCaffrey's, it was worth noting, were fully clothed. 

So, as far as a restaurant reviewer is concerned, the hometown favorite Irish pub won the contest hands down. However, men seem to be flocking to new kid on the block, and it has nothing to do with the food. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hooters Girl Requirements

A couple of questions came up after I posted the latest about the Hooters Weight Discrimination Lawsuit.

Does Hooters tell their staff up-front about appearance requirements?

Yes. The following is a direct quote from the Hooters website About Page:

The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants... The Hooters system employs over 25,000 people - over 17,000 of which are Hooters Girls. The "nearly world famous" Hooters Girls are the cornerstone of the Hooters concept... Hooters hires women who best fit the image of a Hooters Girl... The chain hires both males and females to work in management and host, staff, service bar, and kitchen positions. The Hooters Girl uniform consists of orange shorts and a white tank top. Pantyhose and bras are required.

People who wish to work as Hooters Girls must apply in person. I could find no easily accessible, spelled-out weight requirements, but any reasonable person can figure out that the in-person application requirement is to give management a chance to decide whether a woman will look sexy enough in a Hooters "uniform."

The lawsuit in question is filed in the state of Michigan. Michigan is one of the few states that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of height and weight. It is relevant to mention that the plaintiff was not obese nor even unhealthy. She weighed less than when she had been recruited. I only mention these facts because it would be too easy for shallow types to make fun of her for being "fat." She wasn't.

Does Hooters hire male wait-persons? 

No. As described in the quote from Hooters' website above, Hooters hires males and females for various positions, but only females as wait staff.

If not, do I smell another discrimination lawsuit in the works?

I don't know; good question.

Federal law protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of gender, age, race, religion, gender and disability. Individual states may add to this list; for example, in Vermont you cannot be fired for being homosexual.

Gender is a federally protected status, so theoretically, a lawsuit could be filed. I don't know how it would play out, but would be interested to watch.

In Michigan, you cannot be discriminated against on the basis of height and weight. I will continue to watch for updates in this important case.

PDF: Cassandra Marie Smith vs. Hooters of Roseville and Hooters of America.

EDIT 8/24/2012:

This may be the most popular post on this blog. There are numerous lawsuits filed by men against Hooters for their policy of only hiring female wait staff. Men Sue Hooters for Sex Discrimination details some of the fun and games that have gone on over the years. The end results of these lawsuits are both money for the men, and Hooters agreeing to hire males for various and sundry other roles in the front of house, such as host.

Hooters continues to hide behind it's Bona Fide Occupational Qualification ("BOFAQ") to deny men waiter positions. At the same time, however, they claim they are a family restaurant. BOFAQs are given to strip clubs because they really can't hire men to strip for straight males who come in to be "entertained." Hooters waitresses are required to "entertain" customers -- it is in their employment agreement. The National Organization for Women ("NOW") at one point called them out on this, but so far Hooters continues to have one foot in BOFAQ and one in family restaurant.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When Restaurants Go Bankrupt

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I reported last week about Friendly's declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closing some of their restaurant locations. The franchise will continue at this time, but leaves in its wake a portion of their workforce who are suddenly unemployed. The workers were given no notice whatsoever. They expected to return for their next shift and the next shift didn't exist.

I usually find myself advocating for the little guy. I think the treatment of the workers was egregious, and that they should have been given a "heads-up" that they would need to start looking for other employment. This, however, is my personal opinion.

The question came up:

Is there any way the staff can sue for not being told? 


Please remember that what is legal is not always right. And things that are illegal are not necessarily bad or wrong. The definition of "good" and the definition of "legal" are different. Legal is what we say is legal; legal is only what the law states.

Had an informal chat with a lawyer friend who made some salient points about restaurants and bankruptcy. After filing bankruptcy, one's debts are dismissed. That means creditors do not have the reasonable expectation that they will be paid.

If the news gets out that a restaurant is declaring bankruptcy, suppliers may cease to make deliveries while the restaurant remains open. They would be worried about not getting paid for those last few deliveries. Hourly and salaried employees may simply not show up to work because they may not be compensated for the last pay period. (We all know wait staff make money from customer tips.)

The needs of the corporation are at odds with the needs of the workers. The workers needed notice to protect themselves from unemployment. The corporation needed secrecy to protect itself in the last few weeks of doing business. And the corporation felt it was too risky to trust the workers with confidential information.

Obviously, we live in a society that values the needs of corporations over the needs of people.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hooters Weight Discrimination Lawsuit

People have been searching for information regarding the outcome of the weight discrimination lawsuit filed by two former Hooters waitresses. The issue hit the news in March, 2010.

In short, two Hooters waitresses in Michigan were put on job probation for no other reason than personal appearance. They had no trouble performing their job duties. They were not overweight by an medical standard. They were threatened with job loss based upon an arbitrary opinion of whether or not they looked sexy enough in almost no clothing. (Is it any wonder we have a plethora of girls and women making themselves sick with Anorexia in a society that both devalues healthy women and threatens them with job loss?)

The latest public information is from as far back as August, 2010. According to the Wall Street Journal, Michigan Judge Peter Maceroni ruled that the plaintiffs may proceed with their case.

The issue at hand was that when Hooters told the employees to join a gym, lose weight or lose their jobs, Hooters management handed them paperwork to sign. This is, of course, an intimidating situation for any employee. First, they were threatened with their jobs so they were already feeling scared. Then, they are handed paperwork and "advised" to sign. The paperwork included a clause indicating that the waitresses gave up their rights to litigate and agreed to settle for out-of-court arbitration. This clause protects Hooters, not the waitresses.

Judge Maceroni recognized that the waitresses likely did not understand what they were signing. Before assuming that they should have known, remember the situation. It is highly doubtful that management was forthcoming about exactly what the paperwork said, nor do I expect the waitresses were given time to read it.*

While Marconi's decision seems to be based upon lack of knowledge on the employees' parts, I will add that this appears to be a classic case of unequal bargaining power. In basic contract law, when the bargaining parties have unequal power, discrepancies in the contract are interpreted against the more powerful side.

As I can dig up no further commentary on the Hooters Weight Discrimination Lawsuit, I expect that it is waiting to be or currently being tried in Michigan state court. These things take time, but hopefully the outcome will be covered by news outlets and, of course, by me.

*I was bullied by a small claims court officer in San Francisco many years ago because I tried to read the paperwork I needed to sign. He wanted me to hurry up and told me, "Everybody just signs it." I'm not "everybody."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Under Cover Waitress Forums

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This is brand new! I have uploaded Under Cover Waitress Forums for people to talk about waitressing, restaurant issues and news, and honestly anything else they would like to chat about.


Grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up and join the party.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Unfriendly Manager

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Single mother of a 2 year old child, Tara Walsh was never officially given notice that the restaurant in which she worked was closing. Corporate headquarters of Friendly's restaurant chain and local management all knew that the workers were about to be unemployed. They chose to keep this a secret.

Harsha Agadi, chairman and CEO of Friendly’s, seemed to feel that the treatment of workers was appropriate:

"The number one focus is the customer and we didn’t want any disruption to the customer experience so we planned a closure at the end of Tuesday to finish this as smoothly as possible."

So, Agadi wanted to pretend that his company was not filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. He chose to lie to his waitresses and rob them of the common courtesy and much-needed time to look for other employment. All this so that he could keep up the guise for customers, because of course, no waitress is professional enough to serve her customers well and look for other employment before or after the shift.

Agadi should be ashamed of his highly offensive attitude and treatment of workers. Responsible adults should be told when their job status is changing. Agadi used deceit and manipulation to avoid the remote possibility that a waitress might seem distracted or need to miss a shift to start a new job.

Does Agadi truly believe that waitresses (and perhaps the rest of the working class) have not the maturity nor integrity to control their emotions and do their jobs during the last two weeks? He used human beings like so many pieces of nose tissue: he used them until they were shredded and useless, then threw them away like so many pieces of garbage. There ought to be a law about an employer's duty to notify an employee about known changes that will result in job loss.

Tara Walsh is the 99 Percent

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manipulation and Entitlement

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Have been over-extended, and the funny thing is I wanted to get this post up a day or two ago, which is coincidentally the same day that Dine In Or Take Out linked to me.

Anyway, You Had To Be A Big Shot is hysterical. I won't give it away, go give it a read.

The post did bring to mind a rather memorable table. The "gentleman" had eaten in our restaurant before and complained bitterly about the service my colleague had offered. I doubt she did anything egregious; he complained that, after opening his bottle of wine and pouring his glass at the table, she did not make a point of returning to keep refilling his glass.

Now, I make a point of doing that when I can, and some people prefer to control the amount of wine that gets put in their glass. What this guy wanted was free stuff. So, he kept contacting us until the manager agreed to offer him something for free on his next visit.

I'm known for getting surly customers to admit they had a good time, so I was a shoe-in choice for waitress to wait on this guy. I actually enjoy the challenge. I gave him 5-star service. Predictably, he was a poor tipper. To the best of my knowledge, we never saw him again. And, we don't mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We Are The 99 Percent

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We Are The 99 Percent is a movement on Tumblr in which people post their stories. It is heart-wrenching in many cases.

The link above takes you to the page in which a woman writes that she is:

One of the five waitresses with degrees where I work. Lucky to be employed and PROUD to be part of the 99% who are made as hell that this is what it takes to feed our kids. occupywallstreet.org. 

This could be me (it's not, but it could be.)

This could be my colleague, a single mother who studied education. She makes more waiting on and cleaning up after rich pigs gorging themselves than she could ever make teaching children today.

I know a restaurant manager with degrees in business who works for near-slave wages because her job exists, and other jobs don't.

None of this is to disparage those who do not go on to earn higher education degrees. It is sad, however, that people study and develop skills in school, only to find that the only jobs available do not require their education. Those jobs no longer exist. So, they wait tables to pay off student loans and feed their children. I firmly believe that education is valuable for its own sake, but have almost given up trying to make that argument to working class parents.

Whenever I hear the term "trickle down," I get an image of a business man peeing on a crowd of people.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Love Pubs

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A public house is not a bar. A "pub," as they are affectionately referred to, is an establishment that sells beer, wine, maybe spirits as well as food and non-alcoholic beverages. They are usually clean, well-lit and welcoming of children. There are games to play, newspapers to read, and often live music.

I did not think ahead of time that I would need to break my fast on a Saturday night and, therefore, did not make reservations. While children do not fast, my kids were hungry because we had planned we would all go out to dinner together after sunset. On a Saturday night. Oops.

Blessing in disguise, really. We ended up in a pub with great food, music playing, and a pool table. We had the best time watching my son teach my daughter to hold a pool cue and play. The other patrons were friendly and a good time was had by all.

I love pubs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur begins this evening and ends Saturday at sunset. For those of you working these next two evenings, if you live in an area with a large Jewish population you may wish to wear your running shoes Saturday evening -- we are going to be hungry!

And to those of you preparing to fast: may it be an easy one.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye, Friendly's

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Friendly's is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, which has led to the closing of 63 of it's chain restaurants. The employees and neighbors of the permanently closed locations were not informed until the last minute.

"Helen Smolak won’t have any trouble finding a job she tells us, because she has a loyal following of customers, but it won’t be the same.
“I am the opening waitress, I have been here 27 years, I have never missed a day, I have never called in sick.  Everybody knows me,” Smolak said tearfully."

For Smolak's sake, I hope she is right. Having a loyal following of customers neither creates nor guarantees her a job.

Chapter 11 is designed to help businesses reorganize and pay at least some of their debts over time. This being the case, many Friendly's restaurants are remaining open. 30 of the 63 closing locations are in Massachusetts, the state in which Friendly's was founded.

Helen Smolak is one of the 99 percent of us. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brew More Coffee

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As I sit here sipping coffee and thinking about what to write, I remember a recent article in the L.A. Times, Caffeine's buzz chases away women's depression. So, if I get depressed today I want my money back. And free dessert.

Seriously, the study also links caffeine habits with smoking and drinking habits, which aren't so healthy. But those of us who partake in these recreational chemical kicks are less depressed. (Is this an argument for legalizing drugs?) Check it out:

In addition to their greater likelihood of smoking and drinking alcohol, regular coffee drinkers were less likely to be obese or have high-blood-pressure or cholesterol levels.

So, if drinking caffeine makes up happy and healthy, I recommend we brew more coffee and keep offering those refills. Happy customers are much more likely to tip well. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tip Sharing and Kitchens

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Somebody found my blog with the keywords: "Do waitresses have to share tips with the kitchen?" In short, no. As a matter of fact, depending upon where you live requiring this is against the law.

Working in an unregulated state, I only had one restaurant require me to slip some money to the dish washer at the end of each shift. One of the dish washers told me had never, never had a job in which the wait staff tipped him out until this one. I am not entirely certain if this was legal or not. Many things happen here that do not happen in states with more rules and regulations protecting restaurant workers.

In general, tip sharing happens among those who work in the front of the house and work directly with customers. If you are told to share with the kitchen, check out your state laws.

The Nolo Press on Tip Pooling:

Only employees who regularly receive tips can be part of the pool. Employees can't be required to share their tips with employees who don't usually receive their own tips, like dishwashers or cooks. And no employers are allowed in the pool: Tips from a tip pool can't go to employers or, in some states, managers or supervisors.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pig Roast

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Chris Hedges writes a passionate plea to the 95 to 99 percent of us in the United States who do not own the vast majority of the wealth here. The best among us must occupy Wall Street. 

... The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue...

Whether you are in the mood for being arrested for civil disobedience today or not, I do recommend reading Hedge's blunt editorial. It is too easy to read about "other people" who are losing their homes or their lives due to loss of jobs, illness, and the incredible lack of affordability of medical care. People don't always realize they are next.

I listened to a well-dressed elderly woman opine about taxes after ordering her wine and three course meal. She felt she need not pay for public education since her children were grown. She had "done her bit for the schools." And people point at the younger generation and accuse them of being too entitled. This woman's complete and total self-absorption made me feel the need to vomit. (I didn't.)

I have said before that if we don't start taxing the rich, we will have to start eating them. We should get the whole community together and have a big, outdoor party. We will lend new meaning to the term, "Pig Roast."