UnderCover Waitress: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Documentary on Food Servers

Waiters and waitresses in the Southern California area must read this. Over the course of this year, 2012, documentary filmmaker Lee Godden will be interviewing food servers about how this occupation has effected their lives.

Godden is interested in compelling stories about human relationships and the experience of serving food. One of his goals is to raise social awareness about the food industry. People may not realize that a waitress is sick but cannot go home because she has no sick time benefits, and also no health care. Many servers work in restaurants that they themselves can not afford to eat in.

There is a human side to working as a waitress or waiter. We forge relationships with our regulars, we get "high" on the thrill of a busy evening, and are willing to come to work each shift not knowing how much money we will make. Serving is a gamble. It is no surprise that, when compared to the general population, servers are more likely to have problems with addiction.

Godden is also interested in interviewing food industry experts, such as journalists and professors who focus on the food industry. For more information, visit http://www.wheresmyfood.com/.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Update to Get a Real Job

According to The Smoking Gun, the picture of the receipt from the rich banker I posted in Get A Real Job is a fake.

I trust the Huffington Post as a good source of news. I also trust The Smoking Gun.

The latest story is that the restaurant receipt was originally for $33 and change, not $133 and change. The tip was a little over $7, not $1. The real receipt was photoshopped.

Of course, the future ex-banker blog and twitter account are no more. And I am feeling had. I guess I'm not the only one. 

The "F" Word

Pssssssst! Wan'na know a secret? Come closer, I have to whisper this in your ear...

Under Cover Waitress is a feminist

Don't you ever use that filthy word!

Another gem of a comment from Inspiration and the Objectification of Women:

As a waitress also working my way through college, I strive to make as much money as I possibly can to save up and pay off the ever-looming debt that awaits upon my graduation. Sure, after graduation, if I'm lucky, I'll be able to find a well-paying job in this economy, and with that, I will also help to pay it off; however, I would prefer to not spend those subsequent years still living like a poor college student. 

Why not take advantage of the stupid men who are willing to throw money at you because you are wearing tight clothing? The only thing skimpy about the Hooters' uniforms is the short shorts, and they also wear tights underneath. It's not slutty, it's not skanky, it's smart. If a man will be a womanizer, it is only justifiable that he should become poorer as a result of his schema towards women.

Ready to pick it apart with me? 

1) Striving to earn an income to pay off your debts is commendable. And she has an excellent point in being lucky to find a decent job after graduation, especially if she has been working as a Hooters girl. 

Journalist Gigi Cohen wrote Sure Sex Sells -- But Is It Good For Your Resume? for the Food and Beverage People. She interviewed three managers at three different human resources companies, and asked them if "Hooters Girl" was good, bad, or neutral on a job applicant's resume. 

What is really interesting is that two of the managers interviewed were women; one was a man. He was the only one of the three who didn't want to say that women selling sex to men was a bad thing, but he did caution that it wouldn't be good if said applicant was not looking for a job in the hospitality industry. I find this amusing; I guess it depends upon how you define "hospitality." The male manager continues to offer caveats to keep sexually-themed restaurants off of a job resume, for example, if was awhile ago. Sounds to me like he is backtracking so as not to get in trouble with his own employer. 

The two women managers don't hesitate to warn people of the dangers of listing Hooters girl on a resume. The image of the Hooters girl is most likely not the image that a potential employer is looking for in a new hire. One manager even points out that such a listing on a resume may leave a new hire vulnerable to sexual harassment. (Hey, she likes it.) Better to start a new job off on the right foot than as the company slut. 

Some idiot's fantasy. This is
how men see Hooters girls.
2) Why not take advantage of stupid men willing to throw money at me because I am wearing not just tight, but very little clothing? Please see 1) above. 

3) Regarding taking advantage of womanizers and having the last laugh, I prefer not to play into their worldview. They may be idiots, but they vote. Now that abortion rights have been torn to shreds, high-profile womanizers are attempting to remove women's access to birth control. This will affect poor women first, and my comment-leaver is claiming poverty. Better for our society to stop tolerating misogyny. 

4) And, last but not least, those "tight" uniforms. They are more than just tight, they are skimpy. That is why people's breasts are showing and almost falling out of them. If you don't think this is skimpy, then you will never be able to dress appropriately for another job. 

Remember this: It's not slutty, it's not skanky, it's smart: 

What kind of car was that? 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Get A Real Job

A friend forwarded me this photograph before I saw the article in the Huffington Post:

Too bad we can't read the illegible signature.

According to the Huffington Post, a full-of-himself banker spent this much on lunch for himself and his employee. The employee, who is most likely now an ex-employee, snapped the photograph and uploaded it to his blog. Not linking to his blog because it has been taken down, but it was titled "Future Ex-Banker" on Wordpress.

Supposedly, this sorry piece of humanity is quite proud of his 1% status, and punishes anybody who speaks of the 99% in his presence. Not sure if or what the waitress said, but I am curious if someone in or around the restaurant said or did something in support of the Occupy Movement that set this banker  off.

The restaurant manager has said he will ask the waitress, Breanna, how her service was. If it was up to par, then he will (supposedly) make it up to her. Oh, and I have a bridge to sell you. Nice apricot orchard nearby... I'll sell you them both for a discount.

I don't doubt for a minute that Breanna's service was fine. If it really wasn't, then maybe ten to fifteen percent would be more appropriate. In reality, she probably made an effort to give them exceptional service, only to receive this slap in the face.

"Get a real job?" Really? If waitressing is not a real job, then I guess we  don't need to really take it seriously. Next shift, I won't bother washing my hands or making sure my apron is clean. I'll let my hair fall anywhere I want it to, and pick my nose while I'm at it.

I'll get your food to you when I'm good and ready. Or you can get up and get it yourself. Since waitressing isn't a real job, I won't put any real effort into it. Yeah, I see you pointing to your empty water glass, but I'm busy texting. Can't you see that?

Is this why some people are surprised that I am a good cook and appreciate good wines? I work in a good restaurant, but since it's not a real job, they must assume I know nothing about food.

Speaking of "real jobs," I fell in love with a guy who had long hair, a beautiful voice, and musical talent. We attended an animation festival that featured a song (embedded below) that made us both laugh so hard my sides hurt. He still has a beautiful voice and musical talent, but as we got older he did cut his hair.

Waitresses don't have "real jobs." Musicians don't have "real jobs." As a matter of fact, quite a few "real jobs" went overseas, leaving American citizens without their former "real jobs." This was to save the few from having to pay real wages to the many workers and real taxes to the government. And that is, in part, how we got into this 1% vs. the 99% in the first place.

And yet, the myth that the 99% should just get a haircut and get a real job continues.

Had the option of embedding this from YouTube. Please enjoy George Thorogood and The Destroyers:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Former Waitress Running for United States House of Representative

Democrat Franke Wilmer is a professor of political science at Montana State University. She has served in the Montana House of Representatives since 2007.

She will run for Montana's one and only seat in the U. S. House of Representative against seven other candidates.

Her successful career began working as a waitress. She likes to say she pulled herself up by her apron strings. She also says she understands the value of educational opportunities because without Pell Grants, she would not have had any.

Hard work + access to education = a great career.

Take that, "just a stupid waitress" people! :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Denny's Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Whenever discussion turns to the various and sundry, tawdry claims of sexual misconduct against waitresses at places such as Hooters and the Tilted Kilt, there are always those who respond that you can't agree to work in your skivvies and expect to be treated with respect. Work in a sexually charged environment with power differentials, you may as well expect to be treated like nothing more than a set of tits and ass. D'uh.

As much as I prefer to not push blame on the victims, I have to admit that anybody who agrees to hula-hoop in a thin, white tank top for the enjoyment of fat, slovenly men sucking chicken wings shouldn't be surprised that the rest of the world isn't lining up to ask her opinions.

Predatory behavior exists everywhere, whether it be strip clubs, "family" breastaurants, or ... Denny's Restaurants. I kid you not.

A waitress at a Stockton, California Denny's was subjected to her manager, Henry Guiaro, asking her if her boobs were real. He also suggested she enter a wet t-shirt contest because she would win.

This guy really has a screw loose. His girlfriend allegedly got mad at him for calling out the waitress's name while they were having sex. Heh.

Sounds cut and dry, right? Sexual harassment, complaint, sanction. Another one bites the dust. Believe it or not, it gets even better.

Before the waitress, Brandy Cachu, went to court, she complained about the treatment she endured to another Denny's manager, James Murti. Murti, being the man of G-d that he is, told Cachu to pray about the trouble to make it go away. (Not sure if Murti is a football fan...?)

Don't know if Cachu prayed or not, but Guiaro then showed up in a doctor's costume and invited Cachu into his office for an examination.

G-d helps those who help themselves. Cachu helped herself to legal representation. Her lawyers helped them all to a court case. Good for Cachu. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Drama and Hooters

A while back I took out a reference to blow jobs at Hooters restaurants. I had received a "we are not hookers! we are students!" email and decided that my flippant comment could be taken as fact. As I did not have specific facts at the time, I removed the joke.

Today, I have facts. It was in the mid-90's that a male manager was fired from Hooters for complaining about advice given to waitresses from a traveling employee trainer.

"In his April 7 U.S. District Court complaint... the 31-year-old Gray claims that a trainer named Cat told waitresses that they were 'the ones with the pussys [sic] and you are in control because of that.' Then she reportedly added, 'If you need the extra money, go ahead and suck a dick or fuck a customer if the money is right.'"

Whether or not this was an isolated incident is the subject of debate. Certainly, Hooters pays a contingent of lawyers to help keep them out of hot water and push a "wholesome" image.

The Ask Men website wants all Hooters customers to know that Hooters girls must sign a form giving up their rights to protection against sexual innuendo in the workplace.

'I hereby acknowledge...the work environment is one in which joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace.' 

Kari Lyderson, writing about the recent Titled Kilt sexual harassment lawsuit for Working in These Times, hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that punishing one predatory manager for his egregious behavior does not begin to deal with the disturbing cultural trend of objectifying young women in so-called "family" restaurants. (Or anywhere else, for that matter.)  She states:

"The reliance on tips to even make minimum wage is a problem for many restaurant employees—putting them at the whim of market fluctuations and unpredictable customers—but much more so at a place like the Tilted Kilt where many tipping customers expect a sexual dynamic that would likely be considered a "hostile workplace" in most other professional settings."

The television show, Under Cover Boss, aired a segment featuring the Hooters franchise. As a fully clothed waitress, I have certainly never been required to bend over and lick beans off of a plate with my hands tied behind my back before I got to go home. What is "wholesome" about this? Were the beans organic? Is that it?

CBS.com has a bonus scene you can watch online. The under cover boss shadows Amanda, a Hooters girl. It's hard not to like Amanda; she is working because she needs the money. At 23, she has a 2 year old child.

What drives me nuts, as a waitress, is the hair. Hooters girls are required to have "styled" hair. They are not allowed to put their hair back in bands or ponytails -- they can be fired for doing so. As a result, Amanda is constantly touching her hair (and, consequently, touching her face) to move the hair off of her face. Where I work, hair has to be held back so it doesn't fall in food. Repeatedly touching one's face is grounds for reminder, reprimand, and possibly being fired. This is a basic hygiene issue enforced in real restaurants.

 Sauce was my inspiration for today's post. She was also the inspiration for Inspiration and the Objectification of Women. She recently commented to let me know that when I discussed the sadness I feel over beauty myths, sexual objectification of women, and a predatory culture that not only judges the personal value of a woman by her figure but also has unrealistic expectations for what that figure should be, I got it all wrong.

Unfortunately, she has not (yet?) come back to answer a respectfully worded question from another Anonymous. He/She/It was interested in her opinions, as an intelligent and well-educated woman, of her boss using her breasts as a marketing tool.

For the record, when Sauce writes:

"Miami happening made me nervous.  It wasn’t the “job” of it that scared me, but rather the idea of living up to 100 of the most beautiful women in the world.   

Trust me, that is some scary, intimidating shit.  Luckily I quickly realized that – besides my rather small, totally real chest – I actually fit in pretty well body-wise...

 I was ready for bitches."

it is because she is

"the sort of person who is far more interested in personalities, intelligence and kindness." 

Got it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC)

An important report by the ROC, "Tipped Over The Edge" was released on Capital Hill on February 13, 2011.

The ROC is a restaurant advocacy group working in nine states, including California and New York. They focus on both employees and employers. They encourage restaurant owners to take the "high road" to a profitable business by valuing and treating employees well. Happy employees who can pay their bills tend to value their jobs; they stick around and work hard in return for being in a good situation.

The ROC looks at racial discrimination in the restaurant industry, gender inequity, and has even suggested unions for restaurant laborers.

Tipped Over The Edge -- Gender Inequity in the Restaurant Industry found that

"...women who work in the (restaurant) industry face systematic discrimination, poverty wages, a lack of sick days, and five times more harassment than the general female workforce."

One reason for the poverty is the low minimum wage for tipped employees. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is still $2.13 per hour. Employers are supposed to ensure that tipped employees make enough in tips to bring home full minimum wage. Instead, many employers tell servers to claim more than they made to avoid paying a tip credit. So waitresses pay tax on income they didn't make.

The report also states

"Seven of the 10 lowest-paid occupations in the United States are restaurant occupations...Servers – of whom 71 percent are female – are almost three times more likely to be paid below the poverty line than the general workforce and nearly twice as likely to need food stamps as the general population."

A female server is five times as likely to file a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) The culture of breastaurants such as Hooters and Tilted Kilt only encourages predatory behavior against women. Hooters Girls are required to sign that they acknowledge that "entertaining" guests and putting up with sexual innuendo is part of their job. They must also state that they do not find this offensive nor harassive.

Among other things, Tipped Over The Edge also discusses the industry practice of allowing or even requiring sick employees to handle food. Very few restaurant workers get sick days and, therefore, can not afford to become ill. When they do come down with a disease, they simply work sick. There are also times when waitresses work sick because they are responsible for covering their own inconsistent shifts. If nobody can cover, they work sick.

Other advocacy groups behind this report include the National Organization for Women, National Coalition On Black Civic Participation’s Black Women’s Roundtable, and others. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate, Not Roses

Today's Let's Blog Off topic is "When Smell Takes You Back." For many people, aroma and scent are strong triggers for memories.

I have an incredibly strong sense of smell, or so I'm told. Driving through the flat, agricultural lands of Yolo County, California many years ago, I said to my companion, "I smell onions."

He shrugged and said, "Well, there is an onion field over there. You can smell onions?"

"Yeah." I was equally surprised that he could not smell a thing.

Being the human bloodhound has its down sides. Any noxious odor in the air and I have trouble breathing.

The scent of food, however, is almost as important to the experience of eating as staving off hunger itself.

The smell of coffee in the morning = sunrise, birds chirping, the pitter-patter of toddler feet running down the hallway (why do children always wake up first?)

The smell of corn tortillas being lightly fried in peanut oil = homesick for California, Spanish, and good Mexican food.

The smell of spicy hot chocolate on the stove = winter, my children are playing in the snow.

The smell of butternut squash soup = extremely cold out, we have a fire in the wood-burning stove. I associate winter soups with fires in the hearth.

The smell of cucumbers = the cucumber patch I grow every year is doing well.

And so on. Every food has its smell, and each of those smells is part of an association in my mind.

Happy Valentine's Day. I wish for you aromatic chocolate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Florida Waitress Wages

Got an interesting comment last week from Anonymous on my post about proposed legislation in Florida to lower waitress' minimum wage.

A server makes over $100 in a 4hr. Shift on a busy night. You do the math. I think they more than meet the requirement.

How many things can you find wrong with this picture? 

1 -- Does anybody work four hour shifts? Seriously? The only times I've worked four hours or less are those that I get sent home early because the restaurant isn't busy. 

2 -- Let's assume on a busy night that servers are making $25 per hour. Busy nights are Fridays and Saturdays. That leaves seven breakfast shifts, seven lunch shifts, and five dinner shifts that are not good for $25 per hour. 

3 -- During the nineteen less lucrative shifts, waitresses still pay tax on an assumed tip rate. 

4 -- Not every waitress gets to work in a restaurant that offers $25 per hour shifts. 

5 -- Not every waitress in good restaurants are given those desirable shifts. 

6 -- The best shifts are not year-round. Tourist season may be busy, but during the quiet months Friday night at the restaurant may be dead. 

And so on. 

This gives the opportunity, once again, to recommend Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ironically, she worked as a waitress in Florida for the first part of her research. Her colleagues were full-time waitresses, and homeless. And, no, they were not pulling in $25 per hour. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Tilted Kilt

I first reported on this last June. A group of waitresses at a Chicago Tilted Kilt location complained of sexual harassment from a male manager. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission recently gave the nineteen women the green light to go and ahead and sue the Tilted Kilt franchise.

There are over thirty examples of sexually harassive behavior listed in the Complaint. Women who complained about the treatment were retaliated against by being given few or especially bad shifts. (A bad shift is one in which the restaurant expects to be quiet. No tables = no money.)

The three counts in the lawsuit are sexual harassment, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Under the first count, sexual harassment, the following examples are listed:

A.)  Taking a straw full of water, placing it down at least one of the Plainitffs’ dresses, 
releasing the water  and making comments such as “I’m trying to  get your panties wet” and 
“That’s how Daddy likes it – with your panties wet.”
 B.)  Stating to one or more of the Plaintiffs: “meow, meow- you’re a dirty kitty.”
C.)  Making comments to one or more Plaintiffs such as “You don’t know what I’d like 
to do to you”. 
 D.)  Telling one or more of the Plaintiffs: “I want to f@%k you” and “I want to f@%k 
you so bad”.
 E.) Telling one or more of the Plaintiffs: “You look f@%king hot”.
F.)  Loudly discussing pornography with customers. 
 G. Engaging in talk about pornography with one or more Plaintiffs, including reference to 
“the 80’s bush”, and explicit content about Dennis Sotos and his wife’s sexual life. 
 H.)  Asking one or more Plaintiffs to “smell my finger.”
 I.)  Saying things about riding his handlebars when referring to his mustache and women 
sitting on his face. 
 J.) Dennis Sotos and owner Thomas Sotos calling one or more Plaintiffs by sexually 
derogatory nicknames, including a name that a Plaintiff was told translates from Greek to 
English as: “You give me a hard on.”
K.)  Propositioning one or more of the Plaintiffs. 
L.)  Asking a Plaintiff to have her and a female friend participate in a ménage a trois.
M.)  Commenting to a Plaintiff about the breasts and buttocks of other female employees. 
N.)  Making out with customers in plain view of the Tilted Kilt staff in the restaurant, and 
taking women in his office. 
O.)  Telling a Plaintiff about his sexual exploits with women in his office. 
P.)  Telling a Plaintiff that the way to get to a promotion was to have sex with him. 
Q.)  Forcing himself in an aggressive sexual manner on a 19 year old employee. 
R.)  Grabbing one or more of Plaintiffs’ breasts.  
 S.)  Grabbing one or more of Plaintiffs’ buttocks.
 T.)  Attempting to kiss one or more of the Plaintiffs on the mouth. 
 U.)  Attempting to hug one or more of the Plaintiffs. 
 V.)  Licking one or more of the Plaintiffs’ ears.
 W.)  Poking one or more of the Plaintiffs in the side and/or buttocks. 
 X.)  Commenting about the look of one or more of the Plaintiffs’ buttocks.
 Y.) Continuously engaging sexual innuendos with the Plaintiffs and other employees. 
 Z.)  Continuously touching, hugging and kissing other young female employees of Tilted 
Kilt Chicago. 
AA.)  Grabbing waitress’s breasts. 
 BB.)  Putting ice down employees’ skirts. 

Sounds like such a lovely place to work.  >sigh<


Fellow blogger William Kendall has a knack for finding good comics in the public domain. I thank him for this one.

I'll get back to the heavy news items next post. In the meantime, enjoy the lighter atmosphere. :-D

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Florida Proposed Legislation to Slash Tipped Workers Minimum Wage

This is breaking news.

A Florida senate committee in Tallahassee unveiled SPB 7021 on Tuesday, just two days ago. The proposal is to lower 

...Florida's minimum wage for tipped workers — now $4.65 an hour — to the federal tipped minimum of $2.13 for companies that agree to guarantee that with wages and tips their employees will make at least $9.98 an hour.

The (non-tipped employee) minimum wage in the state of Florida is currently $7.67 per hour. The guaranteed tip credit bringing waitress wages to $9.98 per hour is based upon an average of just under $10 per hour for waitresses in Florida. Personally, I think shaving off the two cents from the tip credit is bloody ludicrous. 

Remember, a tip credit is the difference between minimum wage and tipped employee minimum wage. Therefore, if minimum wage is $8, and tipped employee minimum wage is $5, a waitress must be compensated an additional $3 per hour per shift, either from tips or from the restaurant. (The latter seldom, if ever, happens.) 

The Florida legislation is offering to guarantee a tip credit that brings waitress wages higher than Florida's regular minimum wage. Predictably, however, I am a bit skeptical. I've spent too many years with non-waitress staff looking at me like their personal ATM to be comfortable with a pay slash. 

In theory, every waitress in Florida will walk home with at least $10 minus two pennies in wages per hour per shift. If you believe this, however, I have a lovely apricot orchard in the Middle East for sale. It's a wonderful investment; I'll send you pictures. You can pay me via paypal. 

On slow shifts, she will be subjected to the guilt trip / veiled threat that, "If you can't make at least under $10 per hour, you must be a terrible waitress." Even after good shifts during which she made good money, she still will be required to tip out or tip pool. If she fusses that tipping out brings her to less than $9.98 per hour, she gets the guilt trip / veiled threat. She also earns the wrath of bussers, bartenders, and anybody else making at least $7.67 before tips. If she tip pools, she probably has to put ALL tips in the pool, not just tips after keeping the $9.98 per hour. 

This strikes me as another example of the restaurant industry claiming poverty and expecting the least powerful employee to compensate the rest of the staff. Years ago, I worked with kitchen staff and managers who were making terrible wages, and literally having difficulty feeding their children as a result. I got a peek at the books. I don't remember the exact numbers, but I was floored at the amount of money the owner was drawing while telling full-time employees he couldn't pay them more. 

When banks and businesses go unregulated, a few get rich by stepping on and breaking the necks of the many. If you don't believe me, the next time your boss pleads poverty, look at what he or she drives. 

Outback Steakhouse supports this bill. Those of you who dine there may want to consider this next time your are planning an evening out. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hooters Lawsuit Settlement, California

A class-action lawsuit against Hooters of America settled in December (2011.) Monetary information is being kept quiet, but there are changes going into effect to improve the working conditions of the waitresses, aka "Hooters Girls."

The lawsuit alleged that Hooters restaurants in California violated California's labor codes. California's labor codes are relatively strict; they are designed to protect the rights of the employee. Therefore, the settlement and the changes are relevant to California Hooters locations, but not necessarily locations in other states.

Hooters waitresses will not longer be held responsible for patrons who leave without paying (also known as "dine and dash.") I think any restaurant that routinely takes unpaid bills out of waitress tips is unethical, but to expect a 20-something in her underwear who has been bouncing around and playing "bimbo" to suddenly turn into the police and confront a 200 pound redneck man is asking a bit much. If a guest steals from you, call the real police. Don't send out Barbie and expect her to suddenly switch roles.

Hooters must pay waitresses for performing all waitress duties. This is one that infuriates me in any restaurant. I expect it is illegal in any state to require employees to work before signing in, and to require them to work after signing out. Unfortunately, it does happen in restaurants. On the flip side, we got in trouble for signing in and not starting work right away. Fair is fair.

Hooters will supply lockers for employees. This seems reasonable and necessary for any job that requires you to change clothes to work. Fully-clothed waitresses in restaurants with normal dress codes (for example, black pants, white shirt) just need a safe place to hang their jacket and stash their purse.

Hooters will guarantee break times. In California, employees must be given a ten-minute paid break for every four hours of work. Waitressing is hard work, we are on our feet and during busy shifts coordinating a bathroom break is not only difficult, it is low-priority.

I find the California Restaurant Association's (CRA) response to this requirement amusing, to say the least.

"The nature of the industry makes certain laws challenging to follow," said Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the California Restaurant Association.

"Lawsuits such as this one are putting restaurants on the defensive and potentially harming employees who may not want to take a break at a certain time...  it has put restaurants in the position of mandating breaks and forcing employees to take a break rather than putting an employee in a position of making a decision that works for them," Conway said. 

Really? Making sure employees get breaks robs us of our autonomy? Yeah, I can't imagine anything worse than being forced against my will to take a ten-minute break and not having to void my bladder at that time. What would I do with the time? I mean, I guess I could stretch, get a glass of water, wipe the sweat off of my face and pop a piece of bread in my mouth for a little extra energy.

No, the CRA is right. I'd much rather work straight through for six hours, because at least by then I will desperately need to void my bladder.

Last on the list is relaxation of requirements regarding the Hooters Girl "uniform." I'm not certain what those changes are, but I do know waitresses complain about the regulation pantyhose. I think they feel like the tight, thick support stockings that some diabetics have to wear.

Lemondrop had some interesting comments about dress requirements back in 2009, bold emphasis is mine:

Hooters has strict policies. But some of them are really bizarre -- seemingly inconsequential things like bobby pins or elastic hair bands are banned and grounds for termination. We can be fired regularly for things like rolling the waistband of their (sic) shorts, ... neglecting to change torn nylons, or for wearing the wrong-colored bra (white or nude) – and it happens regularly. 

Any restaurant that wants waitresses to wear their hair down doesn't care about the food. Of course, at Hooters they aren't bringing people in with the food. There is a reason restaurant employees wear our hair back -- so it doesn't fall in your food.

I am happy for the 400 or so Hooters employees and former employees who are vindicated and compensated in this settlement.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday Happened

Happy Monday, everyone!

If you like ball games, then I hope you had fun yesterday. My fellow blogger, William Kendall, posted last week about his lack of interest in football, which I share. I left a comment but then felt inspired to write this post.

I have friends who greatly enjoy getting together to eat, watch, and cheer. I think they drink a lot of beer, too. I spoiled my chances of ever getting an invitation, however, when a colleague at the restaurant asked me if I liked football.

Me: "Is that the game with the funny-shaped ball?"

He truly looked hurt. He said, "That's not funny" and walked away. Fortunately, he still speaks to me, but not about football.

Then there are those who refuse to give up hope in me. Talk about persistent. This must have been around baseball season, because the guys on television were hitting a little ball with a big stick. A friend was trying to explain the rules of the game to me. Innings, outs, balls... so many things to keep track of. At one point she started to test me on what she was trying (desperately) to teach me.

She asked, "Okay, Under, how many balls does he have?" I looked at her blankly.

"I thought they all had two."

Half the people in the bar we were sitting in cracked up, the other half looked uncomfortable. I shut my mouth for awhile because I know how I would feel if some guy was making raunchy jokes about women and didn't care if I got uncomfortable. So, we stopped talking about balls, both the game and the human types.

If you are a fan of the games and ate out yesterday, I hope you tipped well. That is all I have ever cared about on Super Bowl Sunday! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

You Don't Need to Know My Name, Part Deux

Here is a blast from the past. The following post went live on Friday, July 22, 2011. It sparked some interesting conversation, and I have included the comments underneath.

This post also inspired me to create a name tag that says, "You Don't Need to Know My Name" and put it on various and sundry items. Currently, the coffee mug is my favorite. I have also designed some organic cotton t-shirts for women with a "you don't need to know my name" tag on them. This is fun; I will continue to add more products and designs. Check out Under Cover Waitress Shop to see the humor.

Here is my personal take on the whole waitresses introducing themselves thing:

I couldn't agree more with the following:

The perceptive and competent service in the small town and New York City is the exception in this crazy world. Most restaurants in this country are suburban chains, companies that have decided their key to success is training their waitrons to grovel, pester, interrupt, introduce, be clever, sell desserts, and generally make a nuisance of themselves... Corporate headquarters has mandated that they use catch phrases like, "how are we all doing here?" at least once every five minutes. Corporate headquarters never tells the servers that it is rude to interrupt a conversation... 

Which is only one of the reasons why I detest eating at chains. (Well, okay, that and the food.) Have had interesting conversations with those who believe that it is good manners for waiters and waitresses to introduce themselves by name; I think it is a waste of time and completely irrelevant. Knowing my first name doesn't get you good service; letting me do my job does.

Some people are so used to the happy, bouncy servers described in the article that they feel something is missing if I behave in a professional manner. Have had people at tables say, "I didn't catch your name...?" I don't play games. I respond directly:

"That's because I didn't tell you." Wait a beat. Then, in order to still get tipped, I add "My name is Under." Now that they have the unnecessary information, I wonder what they plan to do with it -- call out my name across the restaurant instead of catch my eye?

The best, however, was the table that not only required knowing my name, but then felt it was necessary to introduce themselves. They wasted my time giving me four pieces of useless information that I promptly forgot, while keeping me chained to their one table during a busy shift. Gee, thanks for introducing yourselves.

Big City and Small Town Restaurant Service


1 -- The most irritating thing that most of these chain restaurants are now doing is the manager does one of those walk-arounds, asking everyone how things are. "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU??" I think every time this happens. I don't have a relationship with you, I have a relationship with my server, however brief and veneer that is (I forgot her name, but that is her right over there.)

Chain restaurants, please stop sending your manager around. It disrupts the experience.
2 --  (me) 
Agreed, Rufus. It also creates additional disturbance. The waitress has a sense of how often to come by. Good waitresses have empathy and get a sense for their tables.
3 -- Servers complain of being treated as objects yet when clients try to treat you as a human being and identify this is the type of response they can get?

Chain or not, your disdain for people will shine through.

4 -- (me) 
Saying "please" and "thank you" are appropriate ways to treat a server like 
a human being instead of an object. Introductions are a misguided attempt to be nice. 

Of course, if some places didn't train their servers to bounce over to the table and say, "Hi! I'm Missy, and I'll be your server" the problem would be less prevalent.

5 -- 
I don't mind introducing myself by my name so much--I also don't mind when people use my first name. I suppose its just a personality thing. 

I do hate corporate restaurants and their mechanical, stupid rules that were possibly written by someone who has not talked to an actual human being in years. And I hate being forced to robotically try to work the stupid 'service rules' into my interactions with customers thanks to the fact that the chain I work for employs a KGB full of secret shoppers.

6 -- (me) 
I have waited on people I know that introduced me to their dining companion. That is not contrived. 

Love your reference to "KGB of secret shoppers." That's hysterical -- would like to use that.

7 -- 
i always introduce myself bc I don't want to be called "hey ypu", "sweetie" "honey" etc. etc. But I throw it in casually after taking the order..."Ok, let me get this going, my name is Serenity, so let me know if you need anything while you're here". I despise when I go up to a table and haven't even spoken yet, and some yahoo says" And what is YOUR name?". it's always that person that "overuses" the name.."Serenity, could I get Tabasco?" "Serenity,this is awesome!" ad nauseum. And I agree, I don't care what your name is, and telling me just makes it awkward (unless you're a regular, totally different ballgame). -Serenity

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pay Tax on Tips

The first income tax in the United States of America was levied in 1862 to help pay for the Civil War. This initial income tax was a progressive tax, meaning those who made more paid a higher percentage of income tax to the government.

It's been a long trek through history to get to where we are now. Mitt Romney paid less than 15% of his income in taxes. The highest percentage of income paid to tax today 35%, but the rich don't pay it thanks to various tax loopholes, many of which were put in place by George W. Bush.  Some members of the middle class do pay 35%. It's harder to make ends meet when you don't have wealth stashed in foreign bank accounts.

If memory serves, tips were not always considered taxable income. While I believe the idea of requiring waitresses and other tipped employees to pay income tax on tips is relatively new, I had some difficulty finding information on the exact year it started. However, a law was put in place in 1983 that required waitresses to be taxed on 8% of their sales. That percentage has gone up. This is why stiffing the waitress actually costs her money; she has to pay income tax on money she didn't make.

Enough about history, let's talk about paying taxes on income earned in 2011.

All tips earned, whether by cash, credit card receipt, or check, are considered taxable income.

Employees must report tip income to the employer, and the Internal Revenue Service provides forms for download. If your restaurant has a Point of Sale (POS) system, you probably report tips at the end of every shift directly into the computer before you sign out. If you still place orders by hand, you probably fill out some form or other telling your employer how much you made in tips. And some employers keep track of it themselves and divvy out the earnings at the end of the shift.

The bottom line is tipped employees are required by law to report all tip income when they file their federal income tax. If you report less than a certain percentage, the IRS may assume you are not being truthful.

The rules are strict regarding what expenses may be deducted. I know it's a bummer, but I explain in Give Waiters a Tax Break why those $120 Dansko clogs, which make waitressing so much easier, are not tax-deductible. Sorry for the bad news.

There are services available to low-income tax payers. From the Internal Revenue Website:

"The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-income taxpayers... Many VITA sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040."

In addition to VITA, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics are free services for low income taxpayers who are having trouble with the IRS. Trouble can be expensive, so:

"For more information, see Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List. This publication is available at IRS.gov, by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676), or at your local IRS office."

Good luck and happy filing.