Monday, June 11, 2007

Tales of Woe...

We did have smooth sailing, didn’t we? For all of about a month and a half. Forty-five days, give or take, during which I started to believe I might have a chance at making this entrepreneurial thing happen after all. And then the scales tipped and I have been thrown entirely off-balance once again.

I went to bed at 7:30 Saturday night. Actually, I started out with the intention of grabbing a few z’s while waiting for the husband to emerge from the coma into which he had fallen upon returning from the inaugural Tillamook Farmers’ Market. Where he had spent six hours huddled next to the oven, trying to fend off the cold and rain, and selling nothing to nobody. I put in my ten hours at the café, came home and puttered around with some housework, but I just ran out of gas. I crawled into bed in the guest room, so as not to disturb the husband (or to avoid him disturbing me) and pulled the covers up over my head.

I slept like the dead until midnight, when I got up, changed into my pajamas and then dove back into bed. Between menopausal insomnia denying me the respite of sleep even when I am fifteen degrees beyond exhaustion, and the joints in my fingers and wrists aching so much that sleep would most likely elude me notwithstanding my hormonal status, I’m amazed that I slept as well and as long as I did. I must have finally hit the wall.

Staffing problems continue to bite me in the ass. I can only choose from those who apply, and they’re not exactly beating a path to my door. The applications I do get are either from entirely over-qualified professionals who are new to town and are maintaining their paid unemployment status by handing out resumes to every employer in town, or from very young people who have never had jobs and have not got the slightest idea what having one is all about. I have tended to choose from the latter category, because I suspect someone with a master’s degree in genetics probably doesn’t really want a job at my café. But I haven’t had much success with the young ones, either. Apparently, they want to work here because they think it will be fun. When they find out that there is actual discipline, responsibility and hard work involved, they lose interest almost immediately.

Last week provided me with a couple of stark examples of why not to hire the youngsters… First, there is "J," whom I hired about two weeks ago. She seemed to be catching on pretty quickly in the kitchen. And, since Ms. Cook flaked out on me, I’ve been casting about in every direction looking to beef up the kitchen staff.

Fast forward to the eve of "J’s" third week of employment at the café. On Sunday, she comes to me and whines that she cannot work a certain day that she has been scheduled because graduation practice is that morning, and if she misses the practice, she can’t "walk" (participate in the ceremony.) This is unusual news for me, because I would swear during her interview that she told me she was "out of school," which I assumed meant that she had already graduated. AND the schedule has been up since Friday morning, and she is just now realizing that she has a conflict. And things only get worse from there; ultimately the graduation/job conflict deteriorates into this girl informing me that her whole week will be filled with graduation-related activities that conflict directly with every shift for which I have her scheduled. She keeps telling me she is "so sorry" and "please don’t be mad at me." In truth, I am pissed about the situation, but I decide to cut her some slack since she is a new employee, and perhaps I didn’t adequately explain the process of asking for time off when she came on staff. She somehow gets my home phone number and keeps trying to call me at home about the whole mess…this does not make any points with me, either. When she finally gets in touch with me, I tell her not to worry, it’s going to be rough, but it’s water under the bridge, and we will start off fresh the following Monday morning.

On which day she waltzes in five minutes late, goes directly to the bathroom, and finally reports to her station five minutes later. And then writes on her time sheet that she arrived promptly at her scheduled start time. God dammit!

Then we have "K," who applied at the café because the local Credit Union, where she has worked all during high school, is not going to offer her full-time hours after she graduates. "K" wants to start making more money to save for school. She is a nice girl, a sweet girl…I really like her. But her status at the bank changes daily, apparently. Saturday afternoon, she comes to me with a NEW schedule that the credit union has given her. After I practically tied myself in knots trying to schedule around the OLD one, they have changed her hours, and—you guessed it—every one of her shifts conflicts directly with what I have her scheduled to work. And next week, they have decided that she will be covering someone’s vacation, and they have her scheduled to work almost 40 hours. Leaving her completely unavailable to me. God freakin-dammit!!!

So, in the past week I have lost one cook entirely. Of my two remaining cooks (who are actually still cooks-in-training) one leaves tomorrow for a three-week vacation, and the other has just started a five-nights-a-week class and is not available to work any nights until mid-July when the class ends.

And I realize today that neither of my new hires is going to be of any use whatsoever.

At whom do I wave the white flag?


  1. What a f***ing mess Lisa.  I can't believe that you just can't get a break with your staff.   What a nightmare.  I'm can only imagine how frustrated (and exhausted) you must be.  I swear, if I were close....I WOULD throw on a apron and head on over.


  2. This sucks in the worst possible way.  I am crawling under the covers with you having been through umpteen young employees, the difference being male not female and ITs, not cooks or wait staff ...  No matter the delivery of employment obligations and in-house 'rules' we couldn't get anyone to either show up, work a full day or let us know ahead of time when they needed time off.

    We screamed "UNCLE!!" and gave up all thought of time off for good behavior for us.  

    Eventually, (and I'm afraid to say this out loud) we found M, who has been with us for a year and a half.  In that time he has been a few minutes late many, many times, but has only taken off one sick day and one short week of vacation time -- which he asked for and was given.  We forgive the few minutes late because he is a good, hard working young man who SHOWS UP and does his work.

    How'd we find him?  Who knows.  The only qualifications we had for hiring were -- trained IT and from a middle class working family.  

    Good Luck Lisa finding some new folks to work for you.  I know it's not easy and I'm with you in spirit.

  3. Meanwhile, dd, who would be a responsible and effective employee, cannot get anyone in your line of work to talk to her because she is only home for the summer.  I would think 14 straight weeks of excellent work + six weeks of vacation at Christmas to fill in for empoyees who want time off beats 2 weeks of no-show anytime but hey, what do I know?

    Don't raise the flag yet!


  4. Hire five, one will work out....

  5. Boy I don't envy you a bit girlfriend!  Keep hanging in there!  Best wishes for smoother sailing.................soon!  Hugs,  Lisa

  6. I would be furious! Maybe its time to round up the troops for a staff meeting and make sure everyone knows the expectations and consequences!  Of course getting everyone to show up  for a meeting would be a challenge.

  7. Unbelievable! Who takes a three week vacation???? I took ten days to go to Ireland!! The work ethic is just so different than "our" generation is use to. And to think our parents complained about us!! Just think what this group is going to be up against when it is there turn to be old crusties...hahah.

  8. Darn, I really don't know what to say. Except that YOU aren't doing anything wrong and there's nothing wrong with your execution of your plans. It's just too bad there's no way to clone the best of the people we had as Chatel and put them to work. The place would be packed.


  9. What a mess you're faced with. I'm feeling your pain.

    Maybe it's time to change your tactics. Give a couple of local state and federal parole officers a call. Seriously. Be very specific as to your needs and wants. If necessary, do change your money-handling procedures so excessive amounts (ie. more than you'd be willing to lose uncompensated to employee theft) are no longer on the premises when you aren't. Pay a decent, living wage that will allow John or Jane Parolee to get re-established in life, making it worth their while to hang in there with you when the going gets tough. Be very clear about your expectations regarding drinking and drugs, etc. Then be supporting and hopeful. The life you save might be your own (or hubby's) from overwork and stress