I started working at a popular chain restaurant, known as Applebees, during a time in which I had some detrimental hardships. Bottom line, I was homeless and had nowhere stable to go. I’d already been in a lousy financial situation, which hindered completion of college education to get a REAL job, then on top of that, I got laid off from a low-paying job at the mall. So I was in a terrible financial predicament, and now a new problem arose when I was kicked out of my house with no car, no place to go, no way to stay warm in the winter snowstorms.
I was glad when Applebee’s hired me (initially as a hostess, with opportunity to move up to server over time). With my unlimited open availability, I hoped they’d give me somewhere close to full-time hours. Or maybe at least half. No, instead they gave me short 1-3hr shifts–I’M NOT KIDDING WHEN I SAY THAT MY AVERAGE WORKDAY LASTED 2HRS. I’d work the meal rush, then be told that I was “cut” and could go home now–that’s great, but where’s home again?? Exactly.
Also the pay was horrible. I was supposed to be paid $4.50/hr+tips, tips being taken as a share of the servers’ tips. The GM told me their average hostess made approx. $10-12/hr after tips were added. But where were my tips?? I did a good job, even assisted servers with their side duties when I wasn’t busy, yet didn’t see any tips added in to my paycheck–instead, they just paid a straight $4.50/hr with just enough of a “manager’s compensation” to bring my wage to an exact $5.15/hr, which was the required federal minimum wage. Minimum wage?
While I was working at Applebees, I tried to maintain an internal positive attitude despite my bad situation and homelessness. I acted very cheerful, worked hard, and most importantly kept my personal problems to myself in order to save face. The last thing I needed was to be the topic of workplace gossip or the “workplace pariah”. For example, I carried a huge duffel bag containing clothes, toiletries, & possessions, and sometimes I was stuck lugging this bag to work with me. When the GM commented on such a big bag I was carrying, I lied by saying “Oh, I was playing field hockey right before I got here” even though I was one of the most unathletic mo-fos in the world. One time a co-worker offered me a ride home, so I directed him to a town different than where I’d originally said I was from, since this was where I was lucky enough to crash at a friend’s that night. “But I thought you lived in [name of town].” So I just cheerfully told everyone that I was temporarily staying with a friend because my dad was renovating the kitchen at our house, so our house was inhabitable for a short time.
However, my crappy personal problems did catch up to me and the managers were hardly sympathetic. It started when I was scheduled to work on Sunday. This Applebees was located in a very small, upper-class suburb town, so mass transit did not run up this far into the suburbs on Sundays. I spent all day trying to beg friends into giving me a ride to work, with no luck. Finally I had no choice but to call out of work, and while I was on hold to talk to a manager, the payphone cut out & that was the last of my change.
I called the GM on Monday to confirm her knowledge of me calling out & she said I was ok. But on Tuesday when I showed up for my scheduled shift, the assistant manager berated me for what’d happened on Sunday, and wrote me up for it. Now I am not the type of employee who gets written up, so I took this as a huge insult/punishment. At that point, I broke down & explained to the GM and assistant manager that I was homeless, had no way to get around, esp when I didn’t even know where I’d be sleeping the night before. He was like “Hmmph but I thought you said your dad was simply fixing the kitchen?” so after that lie, he just disregarded everything I said as a lie. BUT DO YOU REALLY BLAME ME FOR NOT WANTING TO AIR MY DIRTY LAUNDRY WHEN I FIRST STARTED A JOB?? I was trying to maintain a level of normalcy at this job. Hey, it wasn’t like the managers had a spare room to let me live in or anything. The assistant manager was also mad at me b/c I told him that I would have to work a second job to get nearly the hours I needed, and this job would interfere with the “unlimited” availability. His sarcastic response? “I can tell you this right now: If you’re trying to work, like, 8 part-time jobs, most likely the hours will conflict at some point and the end result will NOT be good. At all.”
But wouldn’t you expect someone to need a 2nd job, if you were only giving them like 7hr workweeks? If I was homeless and had bills and needed to save up for an apartment down deposit, I’d need a leeetle more than $19/week. I tried to forget about this during the rest of my shift, but it was kind of hard when that same assistant manager picked on me the whole night, falsely blaming me for stuff or being overly critical of my work despite my efforts. I guess he already found his reason to dislike me.
A day later, I called the GM to say I quit. 7-hour weeks at barely minimum wage was just not making it worthwhile to trek into the suburbs, esp when the only busses that went to that town stopped running after 7pm and didn’t run at all on Sundays. Last thing I needed was to work in a workplace where now everyone knew my embarrassing homeless story, and people now had “reason” to dislike me or use my attempt to cover up my drama as a reason to distrust me. And how would I ever get promoted from hostess to server now, when I’d been written up less than 3weeks after starting?? It wasn’t worth it. I’d been commended by Applebee’s regional corporates for my good work, but all of this was pretty much disregarded when they found out I was homeless scum and had factors beyond my control that would potentially interfere with ability to get to work. Basically the job woulda been ok, if it weren’t for the management using my bad situation against me.