Friday, February 09, 2007

Jobs I didn't like -- Part I

Well, someone else was blogging about the worst job she'd ever had. And then she was asking her readers what was their worst job. Sometimes I have a lot to say and I don't think that I should leave a comment that long on someone else's blog, so I'll write it here.

It's hard to actually pick a worst job or a best job. There was good things and bad things in all of them. I learned something while I had the job, which, unfortunately, sometimes just means that I learned that I didn't like something or that I wasn't good at something.

The first thing that I will mention wasn't really a job. I was a booster at Six Flags. That means that you work there for a day, and you don't get paid yourself, but whatever group you came with gets paid. A group like your school or church or club or some charity makes some money, and Six Flags gets extra help on weekends for cheap, and I don't think that income taxes and such are paid. And if you work the morning shift, you get to go and enjoy the park after you're done with work, so maybe you have a bit of fun. It is usually a good arrangement for everyone.

So I went in with a church group, and we helped out with food service. We did dumb stuff that didn't need training and didn't require us to handle any money. For about half the day, I helped these two girls with cash registers fill sodas. I was surprised at how different the two girls were. To my left was this black girl who was working her butt off and really trying to help people. She didn't look overly happy about it, but she wasn't rude to anyone either. She kept the line moving and all of that. To my right was a white girl who kept telling us that she was a cheerleader. Who cares? When she was working, she did smile and look pleasant and all of that. When she was working. She kept trying not to work. She would stand so far away from her cash register that people assumed that line was closed and get in another line. She would lean against the wall a lot. When a supervisor would come by, she would flirt with him. Sometimes, there wouldn't be any costumers for a few minutes, and everyone would stand around and talk about what a bad job it was and how they needed to get a new job and all of that. And the lazy white girl talked about that the most, and I wondered what was so bad about going to Six Flags and pretending to do stuff while everyone else worked.

My first job that I actually got a paycheck for was at a pet store. Now that probably wasn't a bad job, but I was confused about some things, so it only lasted two weeks. I knew that teenagers had weekend jobs and after school jobs, but I'd never had one. There were a lot of teenagers at the pet store, and I thought that they would be happy to have someone who could work a regular Monday thru Friday 9-5 while these kids were in school. I had not volunteered to work evenings or weekends, and I was really surprised to find those on my schedule. But, since I had not specifically said that I would not work them, I did, but it caused some problems, like finding a ride to the mall. But my mom thought me having a job might be a good idea, so we worked something out.

I hadn't realized when I applied for the job that changing the newspapers under the puppy cages would be my job, but I did it anyway.

There was a problem with the lunch breaks. We were at the opposite end of the mall from where the food was, we only got half an hour break, and I can't eat that fast. But I tried. But then the break schedule ended up being something ridiculous, like you'd work for an hour, take your break, and then have to work six or seven more hours without a break.

I was "let go". At the time I didn't see the difference between being "let go" and being "fired", so I wasn't happy about it, even though I didn't want the job anymore. You were supposed to be trained for a week, make minimum wage, and then a week or two after that you are supposed to be making commission. But they still have to pay you at least minimum wage if you don't make enough in commission. So, after two weeks, if you're not making enough commission, you get fired. I didn't think that rule really applied to me, because at the time they were remodeling and hiring a new manager, and the week of training never really happened. I had like two days of training, and then I spent all my time cleaning cages and doing inventory and stuff like that, waiting for them to get back to my training, but they never did.

So what did I learn from this job? Being around cute animals all day can still be hard work. And in the future I needed to be careful anytime someone mentioned working for commission.

Okay, so then I found out the difference between being "let go" and being "fired." When you are "let go", and you apply for another job, the people at the place you were "let go" from say nice things about you. My next job was at Kmart.

This is not the worst job, just not as good as I expected. I quit looking for jobs that I thought would be fun and just said I want to work. I got hired. Great. We need someone in the layaway department.

Before that day, I did not even know what layaway was. My parents had never used it. I had never used it. I think the whole thing is a bad idea and bad for the economy and should be done away with. But that's another story. Never mind. I had a job. I was a little annoyed that I couldn't wear jeans to work, because those were usually the only pants that I could find that fit. I learned that buying XL pants in the little girls department usually worked, and usually cost less money than the same thing in the juniors department. Great. On to the next problem.

Despite the fact that I worked about twelve feet away from a door to an office that had three managers in it, the managers never came out of that door when I asked for one. There was a manager standing at the front of the store, and if you called on the loudspeaker that you needed one, that one would eventually walk all the way to the back of the store to find out what you needed, after a bunch of other people stopped him along the way to get help with their own problems. Sometimes this took half an hour. Never did a manager open that door to help me. Never. Once in a while I would grab one on his way back from the men's room, but that was it. They never answered the page if they were in the office. So not only was I at the back of the store and felt cut off from everyone else, being twelve feet from the office did not get me anything helpful. It didn't help me get a timely lunch break either.

There were things that you would just assume, but then they wouldn't happen. So I got into the habit of asking about dumb things. But even after I would ask about them, something would still go wrong. Someone called in sick, and I was asked to work a double. I had already taken my lunch break, so I asked to make sure I was going to get another break. I wanted the extra money, but I didn't want it bad enough to skip dinner. The manager said of course I would get another break, so I agreed to stay. I waited what I thought was a reasonable amount of time, and then I asked about this other break that I had been promised. They said something about I had already had lunch, so I could only take fifteen minutes. But I didn't agree to that. I specifically asked about that before I agreed to stay. But nothing I said persuaded them to give me the hour break so that I could go somewhere and eat or even half a hour to get something from the snack bar they used to have in the store. And I really don't understand why they refused. Even if I hadn't asked about it first, even if they were totally surprised that I expected to be allowed to eat dinner, what was the big deal? If they had gotten someone else to come in on their day off, or if the person who called in sick had come to work as scheduled, someone would have been assigned to give that person a dinner break. What was the big deal about having someone assigned to give me that same dinner break?

Other odd things happened. A month or so into the job, I'd be told that something else was part of my job. It was part of someone else's job last week, why is it suddenly part of my job now? Oh, it was always part of your job, but we didn't have time for you to learn it last week. But you have to do this from now on. And I'd never know if that was true or if they were just trying to get out of doing it themselves. And once they had me go through the entire layaway to look for this little piece of paper. If someone had told me it was important at the time, I would have held on to it, but they didn't, so I didn't, so now it's gone. Get over it. No, you have to go find that little piece of paper. That's a really dumb idea. There are thousands of packages in the layaway department, and you can't just go through all of them looking for a two inch long piece of paper. I just went upstairs for a moment, thinking I'd look in the obvious places just to say that I tried, and then if that wasn't enough for them I'd tell them what they could do with their piece of paper. But I got lucky and actually found the thing. So it was a couple of months before I quit.

I told them when I first applied for the job that I would be going back to college full time at the end of the summer. School was my priority, not this part-time minimum wage job. I was very clear on that. There was a form to fill out when you needed a certain day off. And you were supposed to fill it out two weeks ahead of time, but in reality as long as it was something reasonable and you got it in the door before the schedule was posted for the next week, you usually got what you asked for. And I knew that I had to register for school, and I knew that it was going to be this awful all day chore, but I had not yet been notified which day. So I did try to remind them that I would miss a day sometime in the next few weeks, but I didn't know what day yet, and I would tell them as soon as I knew. And they said that was fine. The day after I got the notice in the mail, I filled out the day off request form, and went to take it to the lady who made the schedule, but the office was full of people all trying to talk at the same time. She told me just to leave it in the box and she would get to it later. So, that's what I did, and I went back to work. A couple of hours later, the schedule goes up, and I'm scheduled for that same day that I cannot be there. Not only that, but the day I asked off was my normal day off anyway. It wasn't written in stone or anything, but I hadn't worked that day of the week for like six weeks. There was a new girl there, and she looked at the schedule and saw that it was almost the same schedule that she had worked the last two weeks, except that she had the day off that I needed off, and I had off the day that she'd had off last week. She'd sort of made plans, making a guess which day off she had. So she wanted to switch with me, and that should make everyone happy. So I went and explained the problem, and I said that I had someone who wanted to switch days with me, but I was told that I couldn't do that. Once the schedule was up, it was too late to change it, except under emergency conditions, or with written permission from the store manager. Fine. I'll make an appointment with the store manager. They didn't want me to do that or they could give me an appointment until after the day in question or some nonsense like that. Look, I'm not going to be here that day, and I've been telling you about this for like a month, and I told you I'd be going back to school when I first applied for the job and you said it wouldn't be a problem. Well, you should have gotten the form in on time. I gave you form the as soon as I knew for sure which day I needed off. This is something that you already knew about. This is something that should not be a surprise or a problem or anything. If I had a real problem, these people couldn't handle it, so I'd be better off quiting. But I just thought that if I said it is either change the schedule or I'll have to quit without two weeks notice that they'd arrange for me to talk to the store manager for five minutes. Nope. I'm sorry about that. When will you be leaving us? I could have stayed a week, but I really hated working Saturdays, so what I actually said was Friday. Fine. And that was it. Whatever.

What I learned from that job is that I really don't want to work at a big place where people expect me to know about things that are not even in my department, and the manager cannot be bothered for five minutes to correct a problem that had mostly been solved already but just needed a signature.

My next job was at an arcade in the mall. That's the sort of fun job that college students are supposed to do during the summer. There were a couple of things that I didn't like about it. It was only a part-time job, but since I get anything else done that summer, I might as well have had a full-time job. I always had the evening shift, and I tended to sit around all day and watch TV so that I didn't get too tired and not want to go to work. But there was very little about the actual job itself that I had a problem with.

After I'd had the job for about a month, I got into a disagreement with one of the "night managers", who was another kid my age. He sort of went into "I am your boss and you'll do what I tell you to do" mode. And he's trying to tell me that I'm fired because after I did my share of the work I sat down and talked to a friend while I watched another employee finish doing his share of the work. And I can't just sit down and rest, on the clock, for like ten minutes, while there is still work to be done. Whatever. You are not my boss, and I will take it up with him tomorrow. Really, if the boss is going to let this guy treat people like that, I just might as well leave anyway. It's just a part time job, I don't really need it, and I'll probably have to quit when school starts in the fall anyway. I seriously went in to have a calm conversation with the boss and tell him just that, but somehow by the time I got around to the part where I said I wanted to quit I was pretty much crying. Anyway, that guy was going to be leaving soon, so even if we couldn't get along there was no reason for me to quit. So I stayed another month.

Then a couple of odd things happened. Some money went missing on that last day that the "night manager" worked. I wasn't scheduled to work right then, but I did someone a favor and got change for a customer. So I had touched the money, and had no way to prove that I didn't take it or lose it or whatever. Six of us had touched the money, and to me there were two obvious suspects. One was the guy who was leaving, just because he could probably steal something and get away with it, and not even have to worry about getting fired cause he was leaving anyway. The second was this new guy that I just didn't think was that bright, and while I couldn't really picture him stealing money, it wouldn't be the first time he'd lost some. Since there was no way to prove who had done it, we were all told that we would each pay a sixth of the amount, which was about the same as an hour's pay, to make up the loss, or we would be fired. I almost didn't pay. I knew that I didn't do it, and I don't think the arcade should ask me to make up for a loss like that anyway. Basically, I worked for them for an hour, for free. The arcade still made money during that hour, just a little bit less than usual. These things happen, but I'd never been asked to pay before. I went ahead and did it. And, to be honest, I knew that I could get it back from them if I wanted. Once I accidentally went home with four dollars of quarters in my sock, and if that could happen on accident, I was pretty sure I could make it happen again on purpose. So, I paid, but I made it clear that I would never do that again.

Another odd thing that happened at that place was that they told me I had to work a couple of Sundays. I had always made it perfectly clear that I did not work on Sundays, or at least, that I did not work Sunday mornings when I was supposed to be in church. That was a big no no at the time. I still lived with my parents, and I went to church with them every Sunday morning, whether I wanted to or not. But at this particular time, I did want to go to church. So it was a big shock to see this note left for me that I had to work on Sunday morning. They hadn't replaced the guy who quit, and they had to cover his shifts. Sorry, it's not my fault that you didn't hire someone else. Everyone knew that the guy was leaving. He officially gave two weeks notice, and everyone knew that he was leaving even before that. And whatever the problem, whatever the reason, they knew that I didn't work on Sunday. The manager claimed that I did not tell them, and I had no way to prove that I had. And then I started wondering if maybe I forgot to tell them. Maybe by that time I'd told so many other people who almost hired me, maybe I had told someone else that week and got them mixed up. Whatever. Okay, I'll do it just this once, just until you hire someone else, but I won't wait forever for you to hire someone, and I will never do this favor for you again. I'm only doing it now just because there is the possibility that you didn't know I couldn't work on Sunday, but now you know.

A couple of months later, the same thing happened. Someone quit, with plenty of notice, and they waited till the last minute to try to replace him and just expected that we would fill the empty shifts. No, I won't. Not only did I explain that I would never work on Sunday again, but I'm having trouble in school and probably shouldn't try to keep this job anyway. I'm not going to be here on Sunday. Do you want me to be here on Monday? If you don't come in Sunday, you don't work here anymore. Then I don't feel bad about quiting without notice. I will never understand why these people go on about how they cannot possibly manage without you on a certain day, when just saying that means that they have to manage without you on that day and several others.

This blog post is getting to be really long. I think I'll go ahead a post it and post some more of it later.


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Rachel said...

Thanks for posting about your worst jobs. it was a lot of fun to see what jost people had that they hated.
I hope you have a great weekend.