Different Name for the Same Old Crap
along the way, I became an associate. Before that, I was a waiter
who became a server. Hell, Ive even been periodically transformed
from a barkeep into a mixologist.
dishwashers are now sanitation engineers. The doorperson has become
the valet. The people who used to be housekeepers are now room attendants.
By the way, those guests are the people we used to call the customers.
It just sort of happened. One day the bosses started calling everyone
associates; not just our managers, eitherwho are now job facilitatorsbut
the general manager, who doesnt usually talk to the hourlies,
started telling us what good jobs weve been doing and how
well we represent the company and keep up the good work and blah,
thing is, though, nothing really changed other than what they started
calling us. I may have become an associate, but the jerk at table
42 still wouldnt get off his cell phone so I could take his
order, the people in the back booth still think its cute to
let their brats run between everyone elses tables while theyre
trying to eat, and the businessperson who just downed his eighth
gin and tonic is still pissed because I cut him off after he wouldnt
quit hitting on the two married women who come in after they get
off work every Tuesday to sit there and drink three martinis each
while complaining about their husbands.
yeah, Im still making a little over two bucks an hour, plus
tips. The company attaches memos to my paychecks extolling the virtues
of their 401K plan, but if I put anything into it, I run short at
the end of the month on rent. I have medical insurance, but the
co-pays have gone up and the amount the insurance company covers
has gone down. So its better just not to get sick. I still
sometimes get sent home early if there are too many of us for the
amount of customerser, guestscoming through the door
it isnt just me. Everyone else is pretty much still doing
the same jobs for the same money as they were before, only now with
new-and-improved job titles and a pat on the back and a few added
responsibilities here and there.
why I think that is: somewhere along the way the bosses got together
and figured out that if they tricked the hourlies into thinking
that were more important than we actually are, then wed
be less likely to complain about stuff like not getting raises and
having to do more work for the same amount of pay. The best way
to do that is to give us titles that make our relatively dull jobs
sound glamorous enough so that well take ownership
of stuff and develop a renewed sense of pride in being barely able
to scrape out anything other than a subsistence-level lifestyle.
know what? For the most part it works. Like the other day. They
had Diegoone of the sanitation engineerson his hands
and knees (when he wasnt scraping crap off of dirty plates
and loading and unloading the dish machine) scrubbing the kitchen
floor without gloves or anything, using some kind of blue chemical
that said poison on the bottle. The thing is, they used to bring
in these guys between midnight and three in the morning to do that
stuff, guys who brought their own HAZMAT suits with them and seemed
to have a pretty healthy fear of the stuff they sprayed the kitchen
with. But someone high up decided they could save some money by
not paying those guys any more, so instead they gave ownership of
scrubbing the kitchen gunk to the former dishwashers.
way the job title trick thing works is when they add another title
on top of the one you already have. They do this by making certain
people trainers in their departments. This is how it
works. If they see an hourlie regularly taking extra initiative
on the job, then they give him or her the title of trainer and have
them start being responsible for teaching the new hires how the
company wants them to perform. The company even holds meetings to
teach the trainers whats expected of them and these meetings
usually have corny business seminar names like train the trainer
and stuff like that. On completion of the trainthe trainer
meeting/seminarthe trainers are usually given some kind of
worthless token to recognize their new status, like a cheesy pin
for their uniforms or a desktop-published diploma to hang on their
walls. Like anyone would hang anything that stupid to begin with.
(Hey, you wanna come over and check out the cool diploma I
got at work?) I even worked in a place once where the trainers
got to wear different uniforms than everyone else, but no one other
than the trainers seemed very impressed with that whole thing.
trick is to give the hourlies prestigious recognition that really
isnt. This is usually done with things like employee of the
month awards and reserved parking spaces with signs that say stuff
like star of the month or some crap like that. The thing
about the employee of the month award, though, is that everyone
eventually ends up winning it, if they stay long enough or dont
get fired first. To me, that pretty much waters down the award.
Hell, Ive worked with people who were special enough to be
named employee of the month one week only to get their sorry butts
fired the next. But for a while anyway, they got to park in front
of a really cool sign.
another thing. They dont call it getting fired any more. Ive
seen places mutually terminate their relationship with
employees as well as move them closer to a more compatible
career path. Ive witnessed former co-workers reintroduced
into the labor pool and seen them downsized. Ive
stood by as they decided to pursue more viable options
and were given the freedom to look for better opportunities.
I think the bosses figured out that if they softened the process
of firing people, then the rest of the hourlies would be more inclined
to think of the company as a place where they could share values
with like-minded individuals, rather than as the big, impersonal
profit- generating machine it actually is.
what all this is really about is companies maximizing their profit
margins by tricking their lowest-paid employees into doing more
work for the same amount of money. You know what? If I allow them
to successfully convince me that its in my best interest to
trade what used to be an annual cost-of-living adjustment (raise)
for the prestige of being employee of the month, then I suppose
I deserve the repercussions that accompany that decision. Last time
I checked, the phone company doesnt give a crap where I park
my car and my landlord couldnt care less about my job title
as long as the rent gets paid on time.
been my experience that most employers not only encourage, but reward
stupidity. Its good for the bottom line if you check your
brain at the door when coming to work, thank you very much. Should
you decide to get out of line and point out that the company CEO
doesnt seem to be struggling to meet the mortgage on his third
house, then perhaps you should consider rearranging your career
dont get me wrong. Theres nothing abnormal about acknowledging
employees for exceptional performance. In fact, it actually feels
pretty good when the general manager periodically tosses you a job
well done bone. But Im guessing the general manager
is ultimately in the gig for the same reason as youto get
paid. Somewhere along the way, getting paid came to
mean trading financial reimbursement for a bunch of stuff that not
only doesnt pay the bills, but really is kind of insulting
when you stop and think about it. At least for the hourlies, anyway.
mean, come on. Every time they call us associates, the powers-that-be
are really reminding us of our proper places in the order of thingsas
status-challenged underlings who should quit whining and be grateful
for the tidbits were graciously allowed to receive.
maybe not. Maybe the salaries consider the hourlies to be an inferior
species and think that they can prove their superiority by coming
up with a title they can bestow on usassociatesthat
will keep us in our place without our really knowing it. Maybe thats
whats really going on and were just too damned numb
and/or mesmerized to recognize it. Or maybe we just dont fucking
the sanitation engineer still makes the same as when he or she was
a dishwasher and the door-person-turned-valet is still working for
tips. Different name for the same old crap.
I have an idea. Rather than allowing ourselves to be seduced into
taking on extra responsibilities so the stockholders can see a better
bottom line, we should instead be taking ownership of
our lifestyles and personal standards of living. The company will
continue to act primarily in its best interest as long as its employees
give it permission to do so, so why shouldnt our agenda include
demanding that our employer ante-up something other than a barely-makin-it
lifestyle for the people who are its true backbone? If it continues
to view that as a non-viable option, should it morally be in business
in the first place?
enough about all that. Its time for me to get ready for work.
cartoons have appeared in Z and elsewhere for many years.