UnderCover Waitress: 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waitresses and Guns

Not only as a mother, but as a human being, my heart bleeds for the victims and families in Connecticut after a mad man shot and killed children and adults in their schoolhouse.

While the National Rifle Association (NRA) bides it's time before using it's financial power to ensure that our rights to reasonable safety are trampled in favor of protecting outdated and poorly interpreted wording in the second amendment, please remember that those who spend time in the restaurant industry are not immune to gun violence. For example:

In New Jersey in May, a working waitress called the police as soon as she saw a man waving a gun outside of the restaurant. According to the news blip, the nineteen-year-old perpetrator had just stolen a car, driven it to the restaurant, and I don't want to think about what he was going to do next. Kudos to the waitress for acting quickly.

A stressed-out Florida chef went to work packing. When he threatened the waitress "I swear to G-d I will shoot you in the head" it wasn't an empty threat. Fortunately, the unstable chef did not follow through.

This from South Carolina in March:
The South Carolina House gave its final approval Thursday to a bill that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they don't drink. 
Of course, since the weapon is concealed, servers don't know not to serve them. Yeah, that one isn't enforcable until AFTER the place gets shot up.

It's not just South Carolina. 

A waitress' ex-boyfriend, feeling sorry for himself, went to her place of work for a beer. He told her to pay for it, and of course, she refused. So he threw flammable liquid on her and shot her with a flare gun. What a catch; I just can't imagine why she was breaking up with him.

If you are on your way to Wal-Mart for semi-automatic pistol, but really hungry, take "Rob P.'s" advice on Yelp and head on over to Crawford's Restaurant Guns & Ammo:
How can you find this place anything other than paradise?  It offers chow, guns, ammo, and hunting licenses!
How could I not find that place paradise? Oh, I could probably find a way...

Stun guns are fun, too. An exotic dancer shot a waitress with a stun gun and drove off back in 2009. Nothing changes.

For another take on how America responds to gun violence, please read Truthout's Op-Ed, "NRA Has More Blood on Its Hands Than al-Qaeda: What Do We Do?" by Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks. As this conversation continues, I expect it to get heated and even abusive. Unfortunately, it may become violent.

Those of us who wish to live in country that protects our right to safety and peace must not back down to the desires of the ignorant and paranoid who seem to believe that the only way to to remain safe is to run around with a deadly weapon. Until they snap and kill countless victims before doing the world a favor and taking themselves out of it.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tip Bombing

I learned a new term this morning: Tip Bombing.

Myfoxphilly reports that an anonymous group left a 400% tip for a waitress during a lunch shift in Virginia. The bill was $208; the tip was $900. 

This group is hoping to encourage others to be so generous. While I completely appreciate that not all diners can afford to overtip on such grandiose scales, this is a fun and nice thing to do. 

I hope everyone gets bombed with this type of tip at least once. ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Questions and Answers

Long time, no see, my friends. I hope everyone is staying warm and earning good tips. 

A number of questions have rolled in and I thought I would do my best to offer answers. 

How much is the waitress expected to tip out? I think in Massachusetts no more than 15% is the law.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no law limiting the percentage a waitress may be required to tip out. There are laws limiting who may receive tip outs, for example, in some states (including Massachusetts) managers and owners may not dip their hands in the till. 

Laws also protect waitresses from earning less than minimum wage. In states that pay less than minimum wage to tipped employees, the employee must leave with at least minimum wage, or she does not have to tip out. The problem, of course, is if she admits she had a bad night, she gets blamed and told she is no good at her job. Some workers choose to make under minimum wage for a shift to avoid being fired. 

I have been a busser for two years, being tipped out from servers each night, but never really thought about how much they are expected to give me. What is the average percentage a servers gives to their busser(s) out of the tips they make?

Restaurant owners and managers make the rules regarding how much a server is required to tip out to different helpers. As management at your restaurant. 

5 or 10 percent of server tips is common for bussers. If a busser is paid minimum wage by the employer, then any tip outs received add to the wage earned. If a busser is paid like a tipped employee, then the busser must be given enough money to bring up the wage to at least the minimum wage. 

Employers like to make paying bussers and other front of house staff the responsibility of the servers, but in reality, it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that all workers make at least minimum wage. 

I am a waitress and I don't get to claim my tips my owner does as I look at my pay stubs it looks like I am makeing WAY more than I really am. What are the laws on that and how much should i be claiming.

You are required by law to claim your income. For example, if you make $100 in tips and tip out $20, you claim $80 in tips. I don't understand what you mean by your employer claiming your tips, but it sounds like it may be that the owner is keeping track of credit card (and cash?) tips and including them in your paycheck. 

Income is claimed once. If your boss includes your credit card tips on your paycheck, then you do not need to claim those tips a second time. 

I am a waitress, I believe my boss takes too much tax out on me. I work 15 a week @3.00 an hour,gross is 45.00 after taxes 33.80. How much tax supposed to be.also pay check is different every week at the same hours.thank you

How much tax is taken out of your paycheck depends upon how many deductions you claim on your W-4. The only reason your paycheck would differ is if you are claiming any tips each pay period. Otherwise, it should be static. This is a question for your boss. Good luck. 

Best to all! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bribery, Blackmail, Extortion

Ask the Waitress!

Got a question about an extremely sticky and slimy situation on the dining room floor.
I have a question about tip pooling. We have several stations that are money makers, several stations that are moderate money makers, and other sections that don't seem to do as well as the other stations. Every server is aware of this and obviously wants to be in a money making section.
These "good sections" are given to the servers who tip the head guy more money. Every server knows that if you tip this person more (5%  or more of sales $1000- $1500) you are immediately scheduled in the big money stations. It is killing morale. 
Anyone who has approached management has had their schedule altered. One server was threatened with termination if he complained again. Are they breaking the law? And if there is no law, shouldn't there be? 

Really, there is two different questions. "Is this illegal" and "Shouldn't it be illegal?" Easy to answer the second question: Yes! The first question, however, demands more discussion. Let's start with some definitions.

Bribery: According to the Free Online Legal Dictionary, bribery is "the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties."

Blackmail: "The crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person's money or property."

Extortion: "The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right."

We can rule out extortion because there is no threat of violence or force. This situation sounds like bribery to me.

The Portland Restaurant Worker's Association has a good page that describes tip legal jargon.

Tip Pool: Tip pools may be mandatory. Servers may be required by restaurant owners to give a certain amount to other, traditionally tipped employees, such as bussers, hostesses, bartenders. The Department of Labor (DOL) spells out that reasonable tip pools may require servers to share either 15% of their tips, or 2% of their sales.

Please note that the DOL does not specify how large or small a percentage of tips must go into the tip pool. Requiring waitresses to put in more than 15% is legal.

Tip Out: When the term "tip out" is used in legal documents, it refers to voluntary sharing of tips. For example, a waitress may want to tip the dishwasher for giving extra help on a busy night. She is not required to.

Okay, back to the original question. Is the extra tip out truly voluntary?

The restaurant owner is requiring waitresses to pay 2% into the tip pool; this is considered reasonable by the DOL. But, this head FOH employee wants an additional 3% in return for good sections. That 3% is voluntary in that nobody will be fired refusing to tip out extra. It is also bribery.

Employers aren't legally required to have a workplace that feels fair, only one which doesn't discriminate on the basis of impermissible criteria such as race, gender, disability, age over 40, religion, in some places sexual orientation, national origin, etc. For example, if black, Jewish, or older waitresses were encouraged to tip out 5% of sales and other waitresses were given the best sections without any extra tip out, that is illegal discrimination. Everybody must be held to the same rules. The problem here is that this rule smells like bribery or blackmail.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has this to say about Job Assignments:
It is illegal for an employer to make decisions about job assignments and promotions based on an employee's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. For example, an employer may not give preference to employees of a certain race when making shift assignments and may not segregate employees of a particular national origin from other employees or from customers.
Nothing about favoring some employees for other reasons. Sometimes, an employee gets favored because the manager thinks she is highly skilled, other times because she has worked for the employer for a long time, and sometimes because the manager wants her friendship. In this case, people are paying money in the hopes of being favored.

Unfair Management Practices

Most information about management and labor practices is relevant to unions and organized labor. At-will employees enjoy less protection.

Whistle Blowing

There are two general types of whistle blowing: internal and external. Internal whistle blowing is complaining to management. External whistle blowing is complaining to the EEOC, for example.

Deskin Law Firm writes Retaliation by Your Employer After Making an Employment Complaint or for Whistleblowing. This document states that you can not be retaliated against for asserting a protected right. That means that if you complain to your employer that you are being discriminated against for being Asian, you can not be fired or put on a bad shift as a result of your complaint.

However, it is also my understanding that not all internal whistle blowing is protected. If you complain to management about something that is not a protected right, you may be fired or otherwise punished. It seems that the restaurant the original question asker works at is not worried that they are guilty of anything illegal; therefore, they feel comfortable threatening those who complain with job termination.

If somebody gets fired for complaining and fights for unemployment, I'd love to see the judge's face when the restaurant representative attempts to justify the tip out arrangement.


I want very much to find something saying that this bribery is illegal. Unfortunately, food servers are almost always (if not always) at-will employees. Tip outs are common and allowed; tipping out extra is not illegal. Rewarding those who tip out extra seems immoral and unethical, however, it may not be illegal. I would love for somebody to tell me different, and include a source.

In the end, sometimes the best thing to do is look for other opportunities.

Thanks for asking the waitress!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Titled Kilt Deleted Scene

Well, well, well, look what showed up in my news feed after I posted Under Cover Analyzed yesterday. In Under Cover Analyzed, I wrote my impressions after watching Tilted Kilt on Undercover Boss.

This deleted scene exemplifies something I said yesterday: that Kaliane is the victim of mixed messages, and as a young women being encouraged to flaunt her sexuality and her body to make money, she had no way of knowing exactly where Rob Lynch would draw his imaginary line. Here is the deleted scene in which we watch Lynch and Shayna, the "good" waitress:

So, it is appropriate for Shayna to shake her boobs, tell Lynch to raise his skirt, and advise Lynch on how she shows off her body. But the best indicator of Lynch's hypocrisy is Shayna making verbal jokes as she instructs him to shake a mixed drink: she says he knows how to use his hands because he is a man. This does not make Lynch uncomfortable.

Kaliane, on the other hand, is reprimanded for telling jokes and suggesting her customers try a Pink Nipple, which is the name of a drink. This makes Lynch uncomfortable. I fail to see the difference.

It seems quite obvious why this scene was deleted. It blurs the line Lynch wanted to draw for the broadcast of Undercover Boss. We see the good waitress, Shayna, displaying similar money-making techniques as the bad waitress, Kaliane. In context, Kaliane didn't do anything wrong. Please do not misunderstand me: I think the entire Tilted Kilt operation should be shut down for preying upon young women. Given that, it is hard to fault Kaliane for playing the role of sex toy when that is exactly what she was hired to do. Even harder to fault Kaliane when we watch Shayna playing sex toy and not being faulted for it. Nay, on the broadcast show Lynch lauded Shayna for how great a worker she was.

Simply put: Rob Lynch is a hypocrite. The episode of Undercover Boss was crafted to make it look like some behavior is okay and other behavior is not. The show was nothing more than a spun sham, and this deleted scene proves that.

Read all of my reactions to the broadcast episode in Under Cover Analyzed. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Under Cover Analyzed

So, Rob Lynch went under cover as "Ryan" at the Tilted Kilt on CBS's Under Cover Boss. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I might have some comments on the situation. Heh.

Bear with me; not everything I have to say is negative. I think there are important, underlying implications in what I saw last night that were not what the restaurant was trying to portray. Also, this may be as much commentary on the show Undercover Boss as it is commentary on the restaurant Tilted Kilt.

First, the best line of the evening came from my companion with whom I watched the show: "This is just an advertisement for the Tilted Kilt." Yeah, pretty much. No business owner would agree to have the show broadcast if it didn't make the business look good.

Restaurant Work is Hard Work

It is always fun to watch somebody with no experience on the floor or in the kitchen figure out that what we do requires skill. I greatly enjoyed watching Lynch wander around the bar looking for a bottle opener. In this moment, I believe I laughed with him. Of course, any professional would have had a wine key in a pocket or pouch.

In that brief scene, we watched him look for a bottle opener, serve a bottle of beer without a chilled glass, charge the customer incorrectly and ignore another customer. Lucky for him it wasn't busy.

Rich People Don't Get It

Four working class people got lucky last night, and I do not want to deny them their good fortune. This is not about finding fault with the four people who were chosen to be filmed at length and given money.

Rob Lynch sounds surprised to discover that working people do things like work two jobs to make ends meet, have family members with expensive health problems, and have children who, regardless of their current needs, will never be able to pay for college (in the current system.) The restaurant industry is full of people working long hours and desperately trying to make ends meet. Lynch did not meet four especially unlucky people. Lynch met four typical Americans.

Money is finite, and it is a travesty that we don't teach people how to manage money in high school. I am thinking of the cook who was given $20,000 for a family of six so he could quit his second, part-time job. Unless he knows or learns how to make money grow, he will be looking for another part-time job in one year, maybe less.

Obviously, if he invested the full $20K then he would still have to work the part-time job for his daily bills. With some good advice, a diverse portfolio and (as always) a little bit of luck he may be able to eventually quit the part-time job permanently. Money is finite. I know people who would spend a windfall like this on their credit card debt, then go back to using the credit card so they end up in the same situation. Lack of understanding about how to manage money keeps some people poor.

Yes, I know, Lynch also gave his employees money for their kids' educations and to pay off existing medical and educational debt. This is more helpful than a small pot of money to quit a job that will be needed again when the money runs out. I think Kalliane may be the luckiest of the four because she is getting steered from the wrong track to the right track early, before she has serious financial problems. So, Lynch's generosity helped people and that's great -- I mean that --but in the grand scheme of things it is a drop in the bucket. We need system-wide change so more than just four chosen people can do better for themselves.


My favorite line in the show was, and I paraphrase, "Strip clubs do a better job of protecting the women than the Tilted Kilt." They do. They probably still do, for all of Lynch's promises.

For one, bouncers in strip clubs have one job and one job only: security. That's it. A customer gets out of line? He gets bounced out. Period. Nobody has the right to hang out in a strip club, and the club reserves the right to require you to leave.

At the Tilted Kilt, security is rolled into one man's series of tasks over the course of the night. Rolling silverware, dishes, maintaining tap kegs, storing and stocking and taking out garbage and recycling. Except, of course, when he is bussing tables. Who has time for security? No wonder the servers come up and complain about their treatment after the customers have left. "Security" is too busy to notice if something is amiss in the restaurant.

The employee was specific about how security training was lacking. He said he was told, "Don't hit them unless they hit you first." End of training. Lynch is wise to express concern; however, while Lynch and the producers of Undercover Boss are careful to say often that security will be improved, we never hear how Lynch plans to improve security. Lynch makes a point of saying on camera that the employee handbook gives security guidelines, but never lets on to what those guidelines are. Which brings me to my next point:

Lying Loud and Often

History professors will tell you: history has shown repeating a lie often and in a loud voice will cause some people to believe you. Fortunately, this strategy backfired recently for Romney. I didn't fall for it from Lynch.

I lost track how many times Lynch said, "We do everything we do with class." Not! Dressing women in push-up bras with their cleavage spilling out for all the world to see lacks class. You can't get around that. You can't get around the fact that Tilted Kilt waitresses are dressed for the strip club. It lacks class. Everything you do, Lynch, does not have class. If you wish to have class, you must dress your employees in uniforms with class. An overabundance of skin is not classy, it's slutty.

Lynch wants it both ways. He can't have it both ways. His establishment lacks class.

He gets on Kalliane's case for telling dirty jokes. That was the line Lynch claims "we do not cross." How was she supposed to tell? I felt sorry for her watching last night. I saw her as the victim if many mixed messages. When Shayna (in a different location) makes a point of deliberately and forcefully shaking her boobs back and forth while mixing a drink, this is a line it's okay to cross. Both types of behavior lack class, but Lynch approves of the latter. Very confusing for a young employee who is getting better tips for her "inappropriate" behavior while wearing inappropriate clothing.


Really? If my family required me to run around nearly naked I'd disown them. I guess only skinny women can be a part of Lynch's family. I'd love to talk to his daughter in private and get a sense for her true feelings about the Tilted Kilt. I have no idea what those might be.

Tilted Kilt also tries to bill itself as a family restaurant. Again, saying something repeatedly does not make it true. Lynch refers to "his competition" possibly being crass. Tilted Kilt's uniform is much more crass than Hooter's uniform. Of course, I think anybody who would bring children into either restaurant needs his or her head examined.

In closing, someone left a comment here recently that sums it up well: a family restaurant shouldn't need "security." I agree; but a crass establishment that preys on young women does.

More hypocrisy here!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tilted Kilt on Undercover Boss

Judging only from this 31 second preview, Rob Lynch of the Titled Kilt already shows that he is the poster boy for hypocrisy.

He dresses his "entertainers" in push-up bras that cause their cleavage to be spilling out for all the world to see, bare midriffs, and skirts as short as hot pants. The young women who sign up to prance around in this costume know full well that the more they flirt with ugly, horny men and pimply-faced twenty-somethings, the more money they will make in tips.

On camera, Lynch chides a flirtatious bodacious for making him feel "uncomfortable." That what she does to make money, and guess whose idea that was?!? Equally good for ratings is her response that it must be because Lynch is married. 

Admittedly, this is nothing more than a 31 second teaser. It is possible that Lynch and the Tilted Kilt will redeem themselves in the full show and display for America not just cleavage, but what a wholesome, family atmosphere is in the Tilted Kilt. Possible, but extremely unlikely.

Here is what I had to say after watching the full episode: Under Cover Analyzed. 

Mark your calendars for November 9! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Waitress Moms

I can't let election season end without commenting on Waitress Moms. We've all heard the term, no? According to Globe and Mail, Waitress Moms are white, uneducated and working class women. I might add, they don't sound very bright.

I know a lot of waitresses. They come in all colors of the rainbow, and much to the chagrin of self-important customers who must feel superior, waitresses also have all levels of education. "Waitress Mom" was coined to describe a female demographic that is easily duped because she does not read nor analyze news sources. Therefore, she is fair game for dubious political advertisements on television. Two paragraphs from Globe and Mail:

Waitress moms abandoned Mr. Romney in big numbers in the wake of his “47 per cent” remark. Many of these women may not make enough to pay income taxes, but they resented Mr. Romney’s suggestion that they are “dependent on government.”
 Yet, these waitress moms had a lot to do with Mr. Romney’s rise in the polls after the first presidential debate on Oct. 3. The precariousness of their economic situation – millions of working-class women have been unable to find full-time employment in the past four years – led them to take a second look at the Republican nominee.

The article goes on to point out that Waitress Moms favor Obama for his stance on women's rights to health care, including preventive health services and abortion. As far as the news is concerned, Waitress Moms seem to flip-flop and change their minds as often as Romney.

I thought the Dallas News article, "Waitress Moms" May Serve Up Big Impact On Presidential Election, make the demographic sound especially, well, stupid. A single mother whose children receive Medicaid is quoted as saying "I don't want [their Medicaid] messed with" but is considering voting for Romney. And this from another Waitress Mom considering Romney:
“Women worked so hard to get where we are today and to take our rights away from us is — no,” she said, shaking her head.
Well, let's see: Romney and Ryan wish to repeal Obamacare and turn Medicare and Medicaid into a voucher system. "Voucher system" boils down to once you have used up your credits, you pay out of pocket or go without. Obama supports the idea that this Waitress Mom's children have access to health care. And what about women's rights? Ryan thinks your 15 year old sister's rape and subsequent pregnancy is a precious little bean and gift from G-d. Obama supports women's rights to control their bodies and their health care.

The president is a consistent man; he also supports Lily Ledbetter equal pay for equal work. Which brings me to why Waitress Moms say they are considering Romney: the economy. Which blows my mind; Romney does not support the government protecting women from pay discrimination in the workplace.

I think a big part of the problem is that people do not understand all of the various forms of income. Salaries, wages and tips are not the half of it; these are the types of working class income that people who work for a living must pay up to 35% taxes. Investment incomes, interest, capital gains, fees, bonuses, and more are all taxed at lower rates, but they are income. If you can swing it just right, you don't even need to work. Should you not pay taxes on all types of income? Obama will raise taxes on these other forms of income, not on some waitress's tips.

Back to Waitress Moms, Bryce Covert, writing for Forbes, gives more credit to the ability of Waitress Moms to analyze the message from both candidates. However, she is too disturbed by the fact that a Waitress Mom can think that she must change the name given to the demographic: white, uneducated women in the working class are dubbed "Secretary Moms" by Covert.
"...men can no longer graduate high school knowing they can easily land a factory job. But it’s hit women just as hard. These are the waitress moms, but they might be better described as secretary moms, because this mid-wage job loss has been concentrated among secretaries and administrative assistants." 
She is correct, but I thought the term Waitress Mom was coined, at least in part, because those who lost their administrative assistant jobs went to work as waitresses. Which has everything to do with the fear of more job losses.

It seems to boil down to whether a voter wishes to continue to trust "trickle down" and giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, or whether the American voter will choose to even the playing field by building a society that works together. Tax the wealthy, build the infrastructure, and give the middle class the breathing room to keep the economy going. As long as we continue to pander to the lies of the greedy billionaires, the majority of American citizens will be hungry, cold, and wondering where all the jobs are.

Covert ends her article:

"... women feel the pain and know that everyone needs more help in a down economy.
 Obama’s lead with women still holds with those who have a college degree, who also gave him 52 percent of their votes in 2008. But a new allegiance from working-class women could add even more momentum this time around. Secretary moms, out of work and feeling the burden of difficult times, may be turning toward a Democrat in the hopes of giving everyone a better chance to escape this mess."

I hope she is right.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paycheck Deductions

Ask the Waitress!
Hi!  I am considering taking a server position in Oregon.  I understand that I should get min wage. My question is: how much can be taken out of my paycheck?  

Oregon is a state that does not allow tip credits. That means that servers make a base wage of full minimum wage. As of January 1, 2012, in Oregon that wage is $8.80 per hour. In 2013, that wage is set to rise to $8.95. Waitresses in Oregon currently make a base wage of $8.80 per hour.

Waitresses in Oregon receive tips. Therefore, they usually make more than $8.80 per hour by the end of the shift. Tipped employees are required to claim their income for tax purposes.

The short answer to "how much can be taken out of my paycheck" depends upon a number of factors, including how much tip money you claim. I don't know the exact set-up of the restaurant the asker is considering working for, but will walk you through a common scenario.

Base wages are paid via paycheck every two weeks.

At the end of every shift, each waitress much claim her tips. Sometimes that is done via a computerized POS ("point of sale") system, some restaurants instruct servers to fill out a quick form with their name, date, and tip monies earned.

Okay, let's say you work six shifts in a two-week period. Each shift is six hours long.

6 shifts x 6 hours = 36 hours.
$8.80 x 36 hours = $316.80 before taxes.

To make the numbers easy, let's say you make $50 in tips each shift.
$50 x 6 shifts = $300.

Your before-tax income for the two-week period is $616.80. You already took $300 home with you. Your paycheck, before taxes, will be $316.80. However, and this is the important part: Taxes based upon an income of $616.80 will be taken from your paycheck. Remember, you already took $300 home as pre-tax income.

This is why waitresses see different amounts of tax removed from their paychecks each pay period. Tipped employees' income varies, therefore, so do taxes paid each pay period. Sometimes, a waitress will do so well in tips that she actually owes the restaurant money for taxes. That, however, is much more likely to happen in states with tip credits (i.e., waitresses only make $2-$3 per hour.)

Waitresses pay the same categories of taxes as any other salaried or wage-earning employee, such as state income tax, federal income tax, social security, medicare. Other paycheck deductions may include employee contribution to health care; you must check with your employer about what deals they offer, if any.

Another thing to be aware of: no employer may remove monies owed to you from your paycheck without your permission. Many restaurants like to hold waitresses responsible for non-paying customers, which is unreasonable for reasons I have detailed in the past, including waitresses are not security guards. However, they will try to get you to sign something giving them permission to do this. It is often in fine print, and if you do not sign you will likely not be hired.

I hope this helps explain how waitress paychecks work, in general. Thanks for asking the waitress!

Edit: I need to add to what I said about waitresses owing the restaurant money for taxes. In states that have tip credits (pay waitresses less than minimum wage,) employers are responsible for ensuring that the waitress is taking home at least minimum wage minus tips. If her income dips below that, the restaurant must make up the difference. This is not relevant in states such as Oregon that do not allow tip credits to begin with. Even in Oregon, if a waitress made, let's say, $1000 in tips in the above scenario, she may owe the restaurant money back for taxes. That, however, is unlikely.

Monday, October 29, 2012

EDIT: Governor Romney, May I Present Miss Sandy

As the East Coast hunkers down, evacuates, and survives Hurricane Sandy, allow me to remind us all about what is at stake November 6. 

Stay safe.

EDIT: Did I, contrary to my usual m.o., post a quickee-meme based blog post? GUILTY
Am I just a stupid waitress who allows my "liberal political leanings" to color my understanding of "the facts?" NOT GUILTY!
I do, however, appreciate that new readers may be confused as to the depth that my posts usually go into, and I apologize to any of you who were grossly disappointed.

Check out this link:

It spells out what Romney said to King about FEMA:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.  Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep?  We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? 
Send it back to the private sector? G-d help us. Why bother having government if people with no money have to beg for disaster relief? Giving disaster relief to the private sector would turn FEMA into the health insurance debacle the majority of us have been suffering under for decades.

Where I am currently situated, we got lucky. Everything is closed, but we are home and I must take care of my beautiful kiddos to day. :-) My heart goes out to all of you in hard-hit places such as NYC. To all of you, but especially to those of you, such as waitresses, who depend upon working shifts for income and are unable, like all hourly workers, to make the money you need to survive right now. May the government do it's job and get us all through this natural disaster.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Mark Your Calendars

Friday, November 9, 2012
8 pm, 7 central

The "Undercover Boss" television show on CBS airs Rob Lynch going undercover at the Tilted Kilt.

Rob Lynch, is 6'6" tall, with a broad chest. He is not the easiest person to disguise, so this in itself should be interesting. I am curious how they did it. 

I am most interested, however, in watching with an eye for how these people dance the line between "we are a restaurant" and "come ogle nearly-naked, young women." Lynch likes to refer to the Tilted Kilt as a "family environment." Only in families that value their daughters' intelligence and ability to acquire skills less than their sons'. 

He does not get any points from me for having his wife and two daughters work at the corporate offices of Tilted Kilt in Tempe, Arizona. In corporate, they don't have to wear scanty "costumes" to work. 

According to the Broadcast Newsroom,
Through his "Undercover Boss" experience, Lynch gained valuable insight into key areas of the business that he will continue to fine-tune and improve in the coming months. Jobs that he participated in during the experience include bartender, line-cook, manager and busser/security guard.
Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say after the airing.

On a side note, I have been swamped lately but have not forgotten about all the waitresses out there working for a living -- on the good shifts, anyway. Keep up the good work! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Credo and Darden

Familiar with Credo? They used to be called "Working Assets Long Distance." Credo started as a long-distance telephone company that used profits toward progressive actions and groups, such as Planned Parenthood. Credo also offers cell phone and internet. 
Anyway, they are among the many voices telling Darden to treat it's workers better. While $2.13 per hour may be legal under federal law, it is pretty ridiculous in this day and age. Employers who simply pay as little as they can get away with are not investing in their employees. 

You can read about (and sign, if you so choose) Credo's campaign petitioning Darden to pay all tipped employees at least $5 per hour at Tell Darden to Stop Exploiting Workers. After that, check out the services Credo offers and consider switching telephone and internet service providers.

EDIT: Just an FYI: I am a customer of Credo, but I am not an affiliate. That means I don't make money or get any benefits if my readers choose to join.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Question About Cash Tips

Ask the Waitress!

"I recently started working as a waitress and i am new to this whole reporting my tips thing. How do most waitresses keep track of their cash tips in order to report them on their yearly taxes? am i supposed to just keep a sheet at home and record what i made in cash tips every time?
Also i am confused about the credit card tips that are reported on my check? do i pay taxes on those credit card tips? can i expect my paycheck to fluctuate bi weekly depending on how much i get paid in credit card tips?"

First, workers in the fifty states are required to report all income to the IRS. Income does include cash tips.

This waitress seems to be working in a restaurant that keeps track of her credit card tips for her, but not her cash tips. The credit card tips are included in her paycheck. I strongly suggest to anyone in this situation that you check your paystub or ask your employer whether the taxes are being taken out of the credit card tips for you. You don't want to pay tax twice on credit card tips.

Let's assume that the restaurant is taking out taxes on credit card tips and paying employees what they are owed via paychecks every two weeks. To answer one of the questions above, Yes, your paycheck amount will vary. You should receive a base wage (that may be below minimum wage, depending upon what state you are working in) plus the credit card tips earned during the pay period.

If you get to pocket and take home cash tips at the end of each shift, then Yes, you must keep track of them. Just get a notebook and write down the date and your cash tips. (Hint, hint: I sell notebooks for this very purpose with suggested categories in the Under Cover Waitress Shop.) If you participate in tip pooling, or are required to pay tip outs to bussers, bartenders, or other employees, you should NOT be paying tax on money paid out to others. In other words, you should only pay tax on the money you get to bring home and spend.

Under the above scenario, when you file your taxes you will include your cash tips on a different line than your paycheck income. If the restaurant is removing taxes from your credit card tips, then you will not need to worry about reporting credit card tips separate from your paycheck. If the restaurant is NOT taking out taxes on credit card tips, then you may use your paystubs as a way to keep track of credit card tips. You will need to report them to the IRS when you pay taxes.

I hope that all makes sense and is helpful. Thanks for asking the waitress!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Anonymous Tip

Got a note regarding Darden this morning.

It seems that in at least one location in California, Darden has dropped a waiting period for new hires to become servers. In other words, new hires could not work as servers right away, but had to work as an SA first. Now that so many older, more expensive workers have left the restaurant, new hires do NOT have to work as service assistants first, but may begin their employment with Darden as waiters and waitresses.

I am wondering how many Darden restaurants are quietly dropping an existing "work as an SA before you work as a server" requirement now that the older and more expensive employees have been disposed of, for the most part. Remember, Darden is doing all sorts of things to save money for corporate on the backs of low wage workers, without whom the business would not exist:

  • Darden gave a personality test to weed out "undesirables," which seems to be defined as older workers, among other things. 
  • Darden cut the pay of workers that they did not demote. 
  • Darden enforced new tip out policies to "make up" for the lost pay of employees, such as bartenders, whose pay was cut. Not only did the tip outs not make up for lost pay, but it is evil to expect low wage workers who lack power to pay other employees. Employers pay employees. 
  • Darden changed it's policy in order to keep less wait staff on the floor by giving servers an additional table. 
  • The general consensus from underpaid SA's is that they are grossly overworked. This is likely in order to avoid paying more of them at any one time. 
  • Darden is cutting worker hours to avoid offering health insurance to workers in 2014. 

While, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing illegal about adopting new policies, changing policies, and being a royal pain in the ass to work for, this pattern smells bad. It seems that Darden got rid of expensive employees by adopting a new policy, then dropped that new policy in order to attract new, young, inexpensive employees.

This place feels slimy.

Anyone else with observations of the ever-changing policies at Darden Restaurants, please let me know. Thanks!    

Friday, October 12, 2012

Too Much Tip

Reddit never fails to please. While browsing in the Ask Reddit archives, I found this gem from a couple of years ago. This post generated over one thousand comments.

"Wednesday morning I was waiting tables at a seafood place when five women came in and ate. The first woman to leave asked for her check, which was $13. She left a $100 bill and walked out without waiting for change.

I waited all day for her to come back in but she never did, so I figured she was rich and could afford to drop benjamins like that. Yesterday I paid my power bill with her tip. Today she called the restaurant asking for me, and told the manager she wanted her change back.

My question is, how long does somebody have in this situation to ask for the money back? Should I reasonably be expected to pay her back money that I had for three days, and have already spent? Looking for input from waiters, restaurant owners, and whoever else. "

My first thought was perhaps the woman expected to pay for her friends, but then why ask for separate checks? She could have the money with her friends. If she expected to pay for them all, it sounds like a case of very poor communication on the customers' part.

Three days is also a long time, and strikes me as grossly unfair to the waitress. If the customer could not return before three days time, she could have called.

In "Don't Get Your Hopes Up," I wrote about a customer warning me not to expect as big a tip as the last time I waited on her.  I thought it was a downright rude thing to say, but I wonder if she mistakenly overtipped me ($10 on a $20 tab) and was too embarrassed to ask for the money back.

I am curious how people may feel about this situation today; don't know if reactions today would differ from a couple of years ago. Feel free to share. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Darden Cutting Health Care Costs By Limiting Employee Access

Thanks to all of you who responded to Sandra Pedicini's request for information. Pedicini, an Orlando Sentinel journalist who covers Darden Restaurants, published "Darden tests limiting worker hours as health-care changes loom" on Sunday the 7th. Please know that she is still interested in conversing with Darden workers if they are so inclined.

My take on her article, which I encourage you to read, is that Darden is planning ahead in the event that flip-flopping Mittens is sent home in November to one of his many mansions. The remainder of provisions in the Affordable Care Act will be enforced in 2014, and they include rules and regulations requiring employers to offer health insurance to full time employees. Darden's response to this is to not offer full time employment to employees, hence the cut in hours those who still work for Darden are being subjected to.

As I wrote earlier, the Financial Times has warned against big companies such as Darden and Sears offering vouchers to employees to go choose their own health insurance via an online marketplace. In Pedicini's article, she states:

[Under the Affordable Care Act] "large companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.
If they do not, the companies can face fines of up to $3,000 for each employee who then turns to an exchange — an online marketplace — for insurance."
This seems to be saying that full-time employees who get the vouchers discussed in the Financial Times article will cost the employer an additional up-to-$3,000. Darden seems to be spending a lot of money in an attempt to avoid spending any money on employee health care. How we choose to spend money matters.

Pedicini also writes:
"Analysts said limiting hours could pose new challenges, including higher turnover and less-qualified workers." 
Heh. Tell a Darden waitress (or SA) something she doesn't already know.

Saw a bumper sticker that I disagree with. It said, "This is America! We don't redistribute wealth, you have to earn it." The biggest problem I see is that it is impossible for workers to earn wealth when employers refuse to pay decent wages and benefits in return for labor. Trickle down does not work, and nobody gets out of poverty working for minimum wage and no benefits.

The next cry of the out-of-touch "job creators" is that they cannot afford to "create jobs" that pay above abject poverty and include basic benefits such as health care. I have seen too much to fall for this load of horse manure. Take the restaurant owner who "couldn't afford" to pay full-time kitchen staff more than $8-$10 per hour with no benefits, but paid himself $5,000 every two weeks. Take the small business owners who pled poverty when their IT crew asked for raises, then drove into the lot in brand new BMW's. Take Clarence Otis' compensation package of $8 million for 2011. "Job creators" need to invest in their employees or get out of business yesterday.

Instead of hiring an expensive firm like Kenexa to draft a personality test to weed out older workers, instead of cutting wages for hourly workers, and instead of cutting hours of workers so they still don't qualify for health care, Darden should invest in it's employees and cut corporate fat. They are putting the starving on a diet while ignoring their own obesity. The only good news in all of this is that if the restaurants are manned by stressed-out, overworked and underpaid people who spend their free time looking for a better job, customers will get fed up and stop patronizing the restaurant. When that happens, corporate goes out of business, as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I love camping -- in the woods. Camping in a restaurant is another thing... 

As much as I may agree with this hilarious video, it is also worth noting that waitresses and waiters who rush their diners are behaving in an unprofessional manner and giving bad service. As a customer, if I get rushed, I don't return.

Perfection: allow diners to enjoy their meal. Give them time to finish their wine and to peruse the dessert menu. When they are truly finished, expect them to pay and exit, not spread out their sleeping bags and build a campfire.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stolen Bank

Ask the Waitress!
"I have a bring your own bank system in the restaurant that I work at. Tonight my wallet/till was stolen and all the cash was taken. Do I have to pay what was stolen?"
Ouch. First, you are the victim of a crime. Sorry for your troubles.

For the record, this situation seems different from Dine and Dash. When customers dine and dash, they steal the cost of their meal and service. In this scenario, somebody stole the waitress' billfold and bank.

At first blush, it seems ridiculous to require waitresses to pay for theft. If somebody broke into the restaurant after hours and stole, would whoever locked up be responsible? (I hope I am not giving any owners out there ideas...) On the other hand, who among us has never seen a restaurant owner or manager behave in a ridiculous manner? Anybody? No?

The answer to the question is directly related to where the crime took place. For example, in Quebec, Canada, servers may be required to pay for customer theft, broken dishes, and I am not sure what else. I am sure that I am glad I don't wait tables in Quebec.

Wiser Waitress refers to federal law when she states that employers may not charge employees enough money to bring the waitress below minimum wage. She writes that it is illegal to require
"... server’s to pay the bill for customers who walk out,mistakes on bills, food sent back and breakages that bring the servers wage below min wage.  for example, if a walkout occured and the bill was $200, the owner could not make the server pay the entire amount.  Under the revised FLSA fact sheet #15, the employer may in some cases only withhold an amount that does not bring the servers wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25." [sic]
I'd quit before I agreed to work numerous shifts at minimum wage to make a restaurant owner whole from customer theft. However, state laws sometimes prevent the employer from deducting loss due to theft from the employee's pay. Each state in the union has it's own department of labor regulating worker pay and paycheck deductions.

In Wisconsin, legislative document 103.455 states, in part:
"No employer may make any deduction from the wages due or earned by any employee, who is not an independent contractor, for defective or faulty workmanship, lost or stolen property or damage to property, unless the employee authorizes the employer in writing to make that deduction or unless the employer and a representative designated by the employee determine that the defective or faulty workmanship, loss, theft or damage is due to the employee's negligence, carelessness, or willful and intentional conduct, or unless the employee is found guilty or held liable in a court of competent jurisdiction by reason of that negligence, carelessness, or willful and intentional conduct..." 
So, the waitress has to authorize the employer to make deduction for theft UNLESS the theft is the result of employee negligence, carelessness, etc. For example, if a waitress left her bank on the bar in a busy restaurant and walked away for thirty minutes, I think she could reasonably be held liable for the employer's loss when the bank disappeared.

Connecticut is more vague about whether the employer may deduct for customer theft:
"Sec. 31-71e. Withholding of part of wages. No employer may withhold or divert any portion of an employee's wages unless (1) the employer is required or empowered to do so by state or federal law, or (2) the employer has written authorization from the employee for deductions on a form approved by the commissioner, or (3) the deductions are authorized by the employee, in writing, for medical, surgical or hospital care or service, without financial benefit to the employer and recorded in the employer's wage record book." [Emphasis mine.] 
I had trouble finding anything specific on CT state laws that would or would not empower a restaurant owner to deduct wages for customer theft. If anybody has a link to this information, please feel free to share in the comments, thanks.

One thing I notice on forums and websites in which people discuss employees standing up for themselves is the feared consequence of employer retaliation and job loss. Please know that an employer may not retaliate against you for complaining about your rights being violated. This is true regardless of who is found to be right. In other words, if you complain and the Department of Labor finds that your employer did nothing wrong, your employer may not retaliate. You have the right to complain or to ask for help from organizations that oversee labor. If you are retaliated against, go right back to the Department of Labor and complain again, this time about retaliation. Or go to a lawyer.

Best of luck, and thanks for asking the waitress!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Financial Times Warns Against Darden Health Insurance

Big companies including Sears and Darden Restaurants are getting some attention for their plans to offer employees cash to purchase whatever health care plan they can find for themselves online.  While at first blush this may seem benign, and I can hear workers pontificating about wanting to choose for themselves, I assure you this is a recipe for disaster.
This is not an attempt to give workers choice and autonomy. This is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure by the employer. This new plan
"...has raised concerns among consumer advocates and some analysts that low-wage workers will be at risk if they choose their plans poorly and if the healthcare money given by their bosses does not keep pace with medical costs." 
Please don't be offended by the advocacy groups discussing low-wage workers choosing their plans poorly. This is not about "just a stupid waitress." This is about insurance companies paying gobs of money to lawyers and other analysts to craft plans that will make a profit. That just means you don't get the care you need when you make a claim: you get denied.

When the middle and upper-middle classes choose their plans poorly, and they are just as likely to, the end up paying out of pocket for all of the things that are not covered. Or they put it on a credit card, and pay it off for the rest of their lives or go bankrupt. The poor, on the other hand, are simply denied care due to inability to pay.

Darden gets to say which health care plans you get to "freely choose." I'll bet they are more concerned about saving money and less concerned about ensuring that their employees have access to medical care when they need it.
"“It’s basically a voucher leaving people to fend for themselves,” Carmen Balber, of the healthcare advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, said.
“Only after many employees face bankrupting medical debt – a phenomenon that will increase as the employer contribution buys ever less insurance – will the implications be clear,” he said.
Also unclear is if the switch to private exchanges will reduce medical costs overall."
Well, I certainly do not think cheap plans will reduce medical costs, because doctors and hospital administrators want to make money. As long as we keep access to medical care in the private sector, there will be a constant battle between insurance companies and medical professionals over how much money the doctor gets to make. It is the low wage workers and the poor who suffer the most in this situation.
"Les Funtleyder, healthcare analyst and fund manager at Polliwog, said that shifting responsibility on to low-wage workers as a way to cut costs was unlikely to work because doctors and hospitals have incentives to make them spend more." 
Darden is not concerned about the welfare of it's employees. Darden is trying to save money. With this new health exchange group of plans, Darden can fault and turn it's back on any employees whose injuries, cancer, medical problems are not covered by what the employee "freely chose." They can say, "we gave you the money, I guess you didn't spend it wisely enough."

Of course, these shenanigans will stop if we keep Obama in office. When 2014 comes, people have access to medical care without jumping through hoops and having for-profit bean counters scrutinizing their medical histories looking for reasons to deny coverage. Unless, of course, Mittens wins. He'll do whatever the highest bidder tells him to do.

If you would like to read the full article from which I quoted above, The Financial Times requests you use the following link. You will need to register, but it is free and you can use a throw-away email address, if you prefer. You will need to access the email once to confirm registration. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Orlando Sentinel Writer Seeks Information

Received a note from Sandra Pedicini from the Orlando Sentinel. With her permission, I am quoting it here verbatim. She said it was fine to post her contact information.
"Hi there. 
I've seen your recent blog posts about Darden.
I cover Darden for the Orlando Sentinel, and I'd like to ask for your help. I'm trying to find people who have worked for new Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses - ones that have opened in the past six months. I'm also looking for anyone who works at these chains that has been labeled something called an M28. I'd like to ask them a couple questions about benefits and hours. 
Would you mind posting something about that?
I do not have to use their names. 
They can reach me at spedicini@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5240
- Sandra Pedicini"
Articles written by Sandra Pedicini for the Orlando Sentinel include, but are not limited to:

New wait-staff rules cut costs for Red Lobster — but will service suffer?;

Darden Restaurants enforces tip-sharing policy;

Lawsuits over worker pay soar as economy struggles;

Darden's profit rises, even as Red Lobster slumps;

Group won't pursue Darden claims in court; and

Darden quadruples PAC donations to $684K.

Blogger at Red Lobster Blog has spoken in the past with Sandra Pedicini, and claims she always gives the working stiff a fair shake.

Still, if you are squeamish about contacting a reporter, you may consider signing up for a temporary email address at a free site such Hide My A$$. You can choose how long your anonymous email will exist; for example, one day, one week, one month, one year... While I expect that a professional reporter such as Pedicini will do as she says and respect your anonymity, if an anonymous email helps anybody then I am glad I included the information.

So, I looked up "M28." It is a type of light cargo and passenger aircraft. It is an airplane. I am wrapping my head around how a restaurant could use the title "M28." Perhaps anyone who has suffered through being cramped in an economy middle seat for a long flight, waiting for the stewardess (who is NOT a glorified waitress) to bring a bottle of water might not be surprised at the "M28" title in a crowded restaurant...? Seriously, I read that if a server is classified as "M28," then s/he is not allowed to work more than 30 hours per week, which is supposed to be a cost-cutting measure. Still, I love the coincidence. 

Darden Health Insurance and Other News Tidbits

Direct quote from Seeking Alpha
"Corporations alter their health-insurance provisions. A major change is underfoot in the way firms provide employee health coverage: Instead of offering insurance, Sears (SHLD) and Darden Restaurants (DRI) are preparing to give workers cash and let them choose coverage from an online marketplace. WellPoint (WLP), AON (AON) and Towers Watson (TW) are placing bets on the new model, while UnitedHealth (UNH) is taking a wait-and-see approach." [emphasis mine.] 

That is all I have so far. My question is whether this new health insurance "plan" will be offered to all employees, or only those who are not hourly. In other words, does this affect waitresses and waiters? Time will tell, and I will be watching.

Of course, if the voters in the United States of America keep Obama in office for another four years, and give him some fair-minded Congressmen to work with, everybody may have access to health insurance soon enough, regardless.


Other tidbits:

A waitress in London who was considered an "exceptional employee" was fired from a McDonald's recently for so-called "gross misconduct." She added too many chocolate sprinkles to a McFlurry. I don't think those things are really made of chocolate... the gross mishandling of the faux chocolate sprinkles jar was for the benefit of a co-worker. While the co-worker was paying for the dessert, the fired waitress was accused of stealing food in the form of a few extra chocolate sprinkles. Yeah, it starts with chocolate sprinkles, and ends with embezzlement. Sheesh.


My most sincere apologies to Canada. It seems you are being infected with American bad taste, and the Tilted Kilt now has a Toronto location. I am so sorry.


Funny rant at CafeMom: If You Can't Leave A Decent Tip, Stay Home And Cook Your Own Damn Food.


And in closing, kudos to Lisa Ferreira, waitress at a 99 Restaurant in Milford. She performed CPR on a customer, a retired nun, and saved the woman's life. Perhaps her tip includes a place in heaven.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Victory for Workers at Del Posto Restaurant

Received a "heads-up" from ROC United.

The Wall Street Journal reports that after a two year battle, 31 workers at Del Posto Restaurant have won a $1.15 million settlement. The suit alleged:

  • Management helped themselves to monies from the tip pool;
  • Employees who worked banquets received a flat rate, not an hourly rate;
  • Employees who worked banquets were denied tip monies that were paid to the restaurant;

Celebrity owner Mario Batali has denied the allegations; however, he has agreed to work with ROC United to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the management and the workers in his restaurant. He is quoted as saying he wants his restaurant to be a "high road employer." High road employers use ethical employment practices that give workers the chance to make a good living for themselves. I say, kudos!

Among the improvements that will be put in place at Del Posto Restaurant:

  • Expansion of paid sick days policies;
  • A promotions policy;
  • Cultural sensitivity training for management;
  • Expansion of paid vacation policies, and more. 
So, who wants Italian for dinner?

Friday, September 21, 2012

No More Weeds!

C2it has a valuable course for restaurant customers on YouTube. Put your feet up, enjoy the education and the laugh:

Have a great weekend and make lots of tips!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Darden Foundation 2012 Report

The Darden Foundation 2012 report, Ready and Willing to Serve, was released today. You may read the entire report at http://www.dardenfoundation.com/

CEO Clarence Otis puts a good face on everything in his executive report:

"With 180,000 employees, 2,000 restaurants and a culture that is based on caring for and responding to people, Darden works to bring a spirit of service to life every day in our restaurants and communities through our philanthropic support of charitable organizations across the country and by the volunteer involvement of our employees."

I do not wish to fault Darden Restaurants for participating in philanthropic work. Darden Foundation's three main focus areas include:

* Access to Postsecondary Education, in which disadvantaged youth are given tools to help them achieve and attend college;

* Preservation of Natural Resources, which includes preservation of parks and trails; and

* Good Neighbor, in which Darden donates unused food to food banks, schools, and communities. Other restaurants throw good, edible food away.

Attention, employees! We need to fire some of you
and ask the rest to give more of your pay to our
charitable causes.
Then, we will take credit for giving to charity.
What bag behind me? 
What the shareholders and the public need to remember when "feel good" and "warm and fuzzy" stories are published touting Darden Foundation's philanthropy is where the profits that are put toward charity come from. Percentages of profits should go to charitable causes, but those profits should come from making sales and paying corporate employees less extravagant compensation packages. Telling a waitress that her pay is slashed by half only ensures that she will need to become a recipient of Darden's donation to the food shelf. So, what next? Darden gets a pat on the back for letting workers eat for free (at the food shelf?)

If you want to build a better society, require that the rich put a portion of their wealth back into the pot to pay for social services. It makes no sense to rob from the poor to give to the poor.


I can't resist pointing out how the wealth of the Darden elite and how they treat their employees mirrors how the extremely wealthy in this country often treat the disadvantaged and the poor. When I hear the middle and upper classes scream about how the poor don't pay enough in taxes, I feel like I just fell down the rabbit hole. We have multi-millionaires who pay small percentages of their income in taxes because investment income is taxed at a different rate (among other problems.) The middle class is blind to this. Instead, they groan and moan about how they aren't able to get food stamps like poor people, as if the poor have it easy with all the "hand-outs." You want a fair system? Then tax people fairly, and make the rich pay up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At The Shareholder's Meeting Darden Restaurants

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, better known as ROC United, has released their newest report on Dignity at Darden: Darden's  decision: Which  future  for  Olive  Garden,  Red  Lobster,  &  the  Capital  Grille?

This is on the same day (Tuesday, September 18, 2012) that members of ROC United and restaurant workers attended a shareholder's meeting with Darden CEO Clarence Otis. The Orlando Sentinel reports some of the details of the confrontation. 

"John Cronan, an organizer with Restaurant Opportunities Centers, said he was a former Capital Grille waiter often waited on customers while ill. "I couldn't afford to take a day off even if I was sick," he said.
Otis told him, "As a former worker, you know that we have very strict and aggressive rules to encourage people not to come to work when they're ill, so I'm glad you're a former employee and not a current employee.""
Cronan's comment to Otis was on the heels of Otis touting Darden as a great company to work for as he bragged about Darden's supposed record of great employee engagement. Otis' response to Cronan shows his true level of interest in his employee's well being.

To understand just how callous and out-of-touch Otis is with his employees, you need to know how different his lifestyle is from the people he employs. Forbes lists Otis' total compensation for 2011 as over 8 million dollars. 

"Compensation for 2011
Salary $1,022,169
Bonus $0
Restricted stock awards $1,869,007
All other compensation $489,876
Option awards $2,978,096
Non-equity incentive plan compensation $2,121,000
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings $0
Total Compensation $8,480,148"

Otis has the audacity to look Cronan in the eye and chide him for having to work sick on a waiter's pay. Otis doesn't provide any sick time pay for hourly employees. (Does anybody have a salaried waitress or waiter job? Seriously?) And yet, good luck running a dining room without food servers. Seems an odd way to encourage employee engagement by slashing employee pay, denying benefits, then playing "holier than thou" when people can't afford to stay home when they are sick.

Otis did not wish to accept the invitation to meet with the workers. He continued to resist even as his shareholders encouraged him to listen to the workers and expressed their own concerns.

One shareholder:
"wondered if Darden could be losing some of its better servers because of policies such as one implemented last year that slashed bartenders' and busboys' hourly pay and required servers to share tips with them."
Gosh, I just don't know... maybe.

Bring Your Bank

Ask the Waitress!

Is it legal for my employer to require me to bring my own bank? 

This is a legal and rather common practice. The employer is not asking you to spend your own money. Usually, restaurants that require wait staff to bring their own banks have computerized POS systems. This makes keeping track of things easier (unless the computer is programmed poorly.)

Every time you take payment, you either put in a credit card tip or receive a cash tip. You may need to make change with the bank you brought, which seems as if you are spending your own money. You are not.

Let's say you bring $50 for your bank.
You make sales of $1,000.
You earn $200 in tips.

If all of your sales were credit card sales, you will go home with your untouched $50 and $200 from the till (minus tip out.)

Lets say you made cash sales and used your bank to make change. A customer spent $50 and wanted to tip you $10. He handed you a $100 bill. You handed him $40 back. You now have $100 from the customer and $10 left in your bank = $110.

When you cash out, the till will expect you to give it the $50 that the customer spent on food.
$110 - $50 = $60.
$60 = your $10 tip plus the $50 bank you brought in.

Make sense?

I understand that it may seem difficult at first; if you wait tables on a regular basis then you will likely be able to set aside what you need for the next shift's bank. Once you are "in the groove" regarding having a bank handy, you may find it is easier and faster to carry your own bank. I prefer carrying my own bank because I can make change quickly for a table instead of making them wait for the register.

A reasonable employer will help you make change if you run out of your bank or need smaller change. For example, your first table pays with a $100 bill and wipes out your bank. A reasonable employer will change the $100 bill for you so you can function the rest of the shift.

So yes, it is legal to ask servers to carry their own banks. Carrying your own bank does not cost you money.

Thanks for asking the waitress!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Darden Salaries and Wages

The following comment on Dirt on Darden got under my skin. My sympathies, of course, are with the anonymous waitress who wrote the comment:

"If I have a good enough night, and an SA has helped me over the top serving a big party or something I do share some of the tip with them, but honestly, if I tipped out all the SA's on top of what I'm tipping out now at the higher rate- I just could not do it. I'm a server trying to feed my kid-if you tip one you must tip them all or they hate you..it really hurt us when the tip out went up, now many of us cannot go even higher..I hate to leave but I just am feeling crappy about the whole thing now."

This is my response in the comment thread:

"Anonymous, Darden WANTS you to feel crappy about it, they want you to feel guilty, and they want you to feel responsible for compensating other employees. It is the responsibility of the employer to pay employees. It is not your responsibility to pay other employees; you are there to make money just like they are. It is your responsibility to feed your child. Darden has the resources to pay people a decent wage, they just don't want to. They want you to feel obligated to do it for them. Does that make sense? No. If you have no other way of accessing how much money other positions make, look at what managers and higher-ups drive."

I am so tired of corporate and managers at various businesses that employ low-wage laborers (not just restaurants) extracting a sick combination of loyalty and guilt from workers in order to save money. It is worse (in my opinion) in restaurants because managers essentially sick waitresses and other FOH staff against each other by making waitresses responsible for paying other employees. Everybody starts fighting about the tip outs and forgets who is truly responsible for worker pay.

I have been on the fight from both sides: waitress and hostess. As a low-paid hostess, I depended on the tip out to supplement my little-over minimum wage, hourly pay. Of course, I got angry when people tried to pay less than policy dictated. As a waitress, some restaurant tip out policies are so high that you feel like your blood is being siphoned at the end of the shift.

While battling over tips, everybody loses sight of who is really responsible for paying restaurant staff, and the resources that are available with which to pay people. So I visited the Glass Door website and poked around looking at various Darden careers and their salaries.

People at the top are certainly making six-figure salaries.

The Executive Vice President of Operations is making about $240,000 annually in salary alone.

Directors average $137,000 per year.

Brand Managers pull in about $100,000 per year.
Associate Brand Managers only make $80,000 per year.

Accounting Supervisors make about $70,000.
Employee Relations Managers also make about $70,000.

Assistant Managing Partners: $65,000.
Analysts: $60,000.

Executive Assistants: $50,000.
General Managers: $50,000.
Kitchen Managers: $50,000.
Assistant Managers: $30,000 to $50,000 annually.

Sales Managers at least $40,000 per year, but
Sous Chefs may make less than $30,000 per year.
It seems that Darden values it's salespeople more than it's cooks. Good food, however, sells itself.

BOH Employees in general: $8 to $10 per hour.
Host / Hostess: $8 to $10 per hour.
Bartender: $2 to $15 per hour; I am sure that it depends upon the state and the $15 may include tips.
Busser: $11,000 annually.

Some of you are probably screaming about how expensive it is to run a restaurant. Yes, it is. The profit margins for restaurants are lower than other retail businesses because the product cannot be stored forever; food goes bad.

And most people don't go into the shoe store hoping for free shoes. "Hey! I tried on these shoes and they hurt my toes! I want to take them home but not pay for them." What?!? That's like the people who complain about the food but still want you to pack it up for them. Some of them have the audacity to claim it is for their dog. (Too cheap to buy dog food?)

But I digress. There are two main points to this blog post: 1) I think it is safe to assume that Darden can afford to pay workers a little better than they are paying them now. It would mean shaving the top off of some of the six-figure salaries. 2) Business owners and those who make decisions regarding salaries and wages have a responsibility to pay workers a living wage. There is no excuse for waiting around for the government to raise the minimum by another 25 cents. When your employer pleads poverty, look at what he drives.