Saturday, November 20


I feel my interview went well. Last I spoke with 902, she made the impression that I was the candidate they were hoping to hire, and final arrangements would be made when 901 returned from vacation. When they (three people around a conference phone) and started saying, "We will start the formal portion of this interview now" I got a bit nervous, as 1) I didn't expect the switch from casual to formal in such a direct move, and 2) I was under the impression there would be no formal interview. In fact, at that last phone call with 902, she said, "As far as I'm concerned, the last 6 weeks in Juneau seems to us to be interview enough."

I know I interview fairly well. I don't get exasperated, I don't have awkward silences, and I have a wide variety of experiences to draw from. Had I realized this would be such a formal occasion, I would have done what most interviewees do and take a minute to think about that question that everyone asks: What are 3 strengths of yours? What are 3 weaknesses? Realistically, my answers were honest and strong, with the exception of my last weakness - I wholly admit it should have had a better answer (no, I won't tell you what I said.)

The interview lasted an hour, with a total of 12 questions. I talked about my ease with change, being able to relate with a large variety of people from different backgrounds and age groups, and knowing my skills to problem solve, think rationally in stressful situations, and work ethic would be a good match for working in tourism. I admitted being a part of such a large company after working the past year in a staff of 6-10 people would mean my propensity to accomplish tasks on my own (ie: I need to work on delegating) would need to be reevaluated if I were to be selected for the position.

There was good discussion at one point where they asked me what I felt the company needed to do now that they have a full year of being merged as HAP (formerly Holland America separate from Princess.) I suggested marketing themselves to the local community as being a transportation company instead of being available solely for cruise ships in the season. It seems HAP hasn't found it necessary to brand themselves outside of new letterhead and fliers, and more attention should be paid to that. Most people don't know what HAP is. 901 admitted that was a main discussion point at the end of season meetings this past September.

The hour went by very fast. It seemed at some points that 902 was interrupting my answers to add some comment or clarification, and I don't know if that was good or bad. I'm sure if I listened to myself I would cringe at some things, but overall, I am happy with it. There was the usual, "what do you see yourself doing in 5 years/10 years?" and I honestly answered I would be starting my coffee shop and in 10 being a successful business owner and active member of my community. Their follow up question asked how it would be beneficial for a large company like HAP, who tries to hire for long term growth of their business, benefit from hiring a person who was so pointedly looking to leave at some point. I was direct in saying something in the lines of - having a goal to be a business owner does not mean my talents will be in hibernation in the years leading up to that point. If I were to stay with HAP for the five years proceeding the start of my venture, only good things would come of it for HAP. I would hope that in those years, the management staff would have a solid team of well trained problem solvers, who grew to make the Juneau division the most successful port in Southeast. Recruiting would benefit from increased positive word of mouth and other divisions would have people who would want to transfer to our shores. Being in a place for a limited time doesn't mean that change can't happen and the company won't benefit. In fact, I think there are positive side effects to knowing there is a set end date. I ended with, I know Juneau would be a better division with me as a part of it - cocky, maybe, but clear.

So, who knows. I wish I would have recorded the interview. Jacob and I used to talk about how great it would be if employers used interviews as a learning tool instead of just a selection tool. Can you imagine if instead of being told you didn't get the job, they could reference specific answers as to why you didn't get it? There can be mock interviews, but nothing really compares to that moment, where your mind is pumping and you have to be on. Regardless of the result, I am happy to have more experience with formal interviews. I should have some word with in two weeks.

Friday, November 19

So I'm out of the drug biz

Today was my last day at the coffee shop. Thanks to everyone that made a special trip to say good bye and to all the regulars that wished me well. I have flowers sitting on my table from Terry and cupcakes from Frank. Lots of hugs and "I didn't know it was your last day!"

Mackenzie was great - she knows I don't like a big to-dos with goodbyes, so I left the shop with a see ya later and she said the same. I then realized I forgot to clock out, so I went back in...arg! I always forget something!

Packing more stuff for Bloomington. I'm staying there between now and the end of semester instead of hanging around Carbondale. There will be a final trip to move things once D is done with class, but for the most part, I'm out. Thats the plan. I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, November 17

To infinity...and beyond!

I have three cats in bed with me.

My interview is tomorrow.

I think the purring with triangulate and knock all of my stress and uneasiness out to space.

Tuesday, November 16

Took a little break

I've been away from Carbondale, and the internet.

I drove up a load of my belongings to Bloomington, and had a great weekend with friends. Meryl and Renee had a birthday gathering, I got to brainstorm with Audrey about Sweet Pea's Treats, and coffee with Kristy was long overdue. I talked with the BN peeps about working again, and it seems I am welcome still.

I am running out of juice. I expelled a load of energy last week with confrontations and plans for a quickened escape from Carbondale. Monday and today I'm sluggish and unsettled. My computer is dying won't hold a charge or work while it's plugged in, so with being out of town and sharing D's computer, I'm not all that connected...and it's nice.

Packing and reading, playing with the kitties. Pretty simple.

My HAP interview will be Thursday or Friday.

I'm ready to be out of here.

Wednesday, November 10

Talk it out.

Today was awkward. Having yesterday's conversation looming in all things, working with the S (the new girl) and J (the boss) was delicate. Trying to keep in mind that it is work, and not my coffee shop, I put on my big girl pants and I get my stuff done. Drinks are made. Chats are had. I start S working on dosing shots.

I love training new people. I get really excited to take apart the process of making coffee and help someone see how much variation is involved, and at every point, how there are very intricate things that can make the beans' full flavor come out. It's the little things that will make a mediocre place become a great place, and when the shop uses old beans to begin with, every shot can use all the help we (as baristas) can give it.

Tips were mentioned again, as I asked S to tell me what she thought the process of collecting/documenting them was. There was confusion still, and when J came back in, I asked him to (again) try and explain the process to S. This time I stood there and listened. This time I waited until he was finished talking and asked S come questions so J would understand how his message was coming across. This time, he actually used the words "tip wage." S made some excellent observations - such as, if the tips were being documented, how to the tips get split when there is a credit card? How does the computer know to give that to two people.

There are still questions he can't answer. One night isn't going to make his plan change. Today J said that he needs to think about changing his system. S asked what that system would look like. J explained it as a typical restaurant set up where tips are claimed, tips are taken home at the end of a shift, and it would all be reported as such on pay stubs.

I hope it is clear that this isn't about the money. If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't be working in coffee. I hope at the end of all this (the next 9 days) the people working for J will see that they are being exploited and misled into thinking that they making more than they are. Hiring someone at tip wage is different that hiring someone at minimum wage. Yes, that person will still make minimum wage (either from tips, or from their employer's pocket). But, what would patrons think if they knew their contributions to at tip cup weren't exactly what they thought it was? What if Jim, Melissa, Joe, Frank, and the other wonderful regulars knew that they were not giving their barista a little extra, but instead were doing nothing but throw away money?

Again, this shop is a small coffee shop. For a two week period, the average total for all of the workers collected tips are between $450-475. That isn't a lot when it's divided by the hours worked. But from an employer's point of view, that is a lot of "free money" that (in this case) J doesn't have to come up with. He doesn't have to calculate that expense into his cost of goods. The customers are paying that portion of the labor wages. Again, the customer's are paying that portion of the labor. How would they feel knowing that?

If everyone stopped tipping, J said yesterday that $450-475 is enough "to reconsider having a manager on staff." I don't know if he was saying I would lose my job if I pushed for ending the tip cup. I told him he was going to have to figure out what was going to work for the shop, and whether or not he had a manager was none of my concern.

If $450 is enough for J to be freaking out, his business plan needs to be reevaluated.


Sorry about that. I can't help but get expressive about this situation.

I'm happy to say that S is smart and all of the girls who have heard of my leaving and have read yesterday's post (hey girls!) have been wonderful. Everyone is supportive and most have said they knew something wasn't quite right with the situation. A person I trust (who also use to work there) said I was going out with a bang, and it's about time someone called J on his shenanigans.

I really will miss all of you.

Now, I'm going for a walk, clear my head, will return with groceries, and enjoy the evening with a beer and movie 5 of Harry Potter. A side story - D brought home a flier from (gasp) another coffee shop in town and they are having a Harry Potter dinner. Do I dare ask to go? :)

Tuesday, November 9

Tip Wage Rant in a Small Coffee Shop

*Today I go on a rant. You've been warned.*

I had a rough conversation today with my boss. I finally got up the guts to confront him about something that I completely disagree with, and with Carbondale soon to be in my past anyway, today was as good as any other.

Tips. They make someone working in service feel so good. It could be a quarter, or five bucks, but it is worth so more than face value. In a coffee shop, usually a tip cup (or jug, or bowl, or cheeky vessel) sits there encouraging you to help with someone's college fund, or selflessly lets you restore your center by donating to a Karma cup. Where I work is no exception, only ours isn't in your face. It is chipped and blends in with the counter, and is small.

Anyone out there ever been a waitress? Your relationship with tips is different. You bust your a$$ for your tips - breaking into a sweat to get drink refills, extra ranch, more drinks, a new steak to replace the one that wasn't quite right only after your guest ate 3/4th of it. Waitress, you probably make tip wage, less than the rest of the minimum wage workforce, because you have the potential to make a great deal more, and your state wants to give your boss a break. Yeah, you make $4.95 an hour, but you end up making $15/ hour after all the theatrics you go through on your shift. And your patrons acknowledge this. They know they are "supposed" to tip you.

Now, have you ever heard of a person in a coffee shop making tip wage? Would you take a job making coffee for $4.95 an hour?

And this is the confrontation I bring up with my boss today.

In the world of tip wage, if a person doesn't make enough in tips to cover the difference between the tip wage and minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference - hence, the person makes minimum wage no matter what.

In Illinois, the law says any person making a minimum of $30 a MONTH in tips is in an industry which can pay its workers tip wage. The basic run down is this:

1) The worker must be told they are making tip wage
2) At no time may the employer hold the employees tips unless there is a stated tip pool
3) the employer must make up the difference if the tips are less than the difference between tip wage and minimum wage

**You can reference the Department of Labor website here if you are interested in reading up on this. Illinois specific fact sheet is here.

Right now at the shop I work at, there is a tip cup on the counter. At the end of a shift, the money is counted, put in a bag with all of the deposit bags, and each person is responsible for reporting the money at the end of their shift. At the end of the pay period, the money is totaled for each person. There is a report generated and all of the credit card tips and cash tips are totaled, and if the total is more than the total amount needed to supplement a tip wage to minimum wage, that employee is given their extra money on that period's pay check.

Here is my problem. When people are hired at the shop I work for they are not told they make tip wage. They do not get to take their tips home at the end of their shift. Most don't understand what happens with this cash once it is put in their tip bag. Most employees think they make minimum wage and never make tips.

It LOOKs like the money is taken by the shop and not given back. Some people make enough tips and are given, what he calls "*bonus checks."
*I won't tell you the amount effort I went through to get him to admit he didn't actually calculate the wage difference, then get the report so I could calculate the wage difference, then get him to give the "bonus checks", then get him to do all this himself.

Today, when my boss was explaining his system to a new employee, I hit my limit. I asked to talk with him and called him out on taking advantage of working group (ironically, students) uninterested in researching this system, and told him I couldn't work for someone that was openly dishonest with his employees. I pushed up my last day to November 19th, and asked him to be honest with his current employees, and rethink his methods when hiring new employees. He claims he has spoken to someone who has authority in this matter, and claims he is doing his reporting correctly, but I won't go into how I know this is untrue.

I hate having waited so long to do anything about this. I hate knowing the main reason I didn't do anything was for my disinterest is working in a hostile environment or looking for a different job. I was lazy. If any of the people I work with are reading this, I'm sorry it has taken me so long to do anything other than have him re-explain, and re-explain in hopes that I missed some little thing that would make his method make sense.

So, now I've made him think about how he is going to change his system. He needs to be upfront when hiring and let applicants know they would be making tip wage. He needs to report tips, and wage, correctly. He needs to let people take their tip money home with them. This is, if he wants to keep operating on a tip wage scale. He could be like every other coffee shop I know of (including one you may have heard of: STARBUCKS) and let his employees make minimum wage (or whatever wage above that) plus their tips. I don't think he will find many people interested in working for tip wage + tips. How can someone make more in tips when they aren't a full service establishment?


So, I put it all out there. I told him all of my observations. I called him out on his hiring practices. I told him he was being sneaky and inconsistent. I told him it appeared he was stealing from his employees. I wish I would have busted out the big word - fraudulent - but it didn't come to me. I told him I would be leaving the shop sooner rather than later because I wouldn't train people thinking they would be getting money that they weren't getting. I hope he takes me seriously.

Thursday, November 4

Happy birthday Dad!

Happy birthday Dad! Love you!

Midweek vacation

I got to see my family this week! Josh and Krista rode the train up to Bloomington and from there it was a great two days of family. Wednesday we met up with Miah, Jessie and the kids and enjoyed the afternoon together. I let Ben run about with my camera, and these first shots are his point of view. :)

Josh shared with us the video of the show he and Krista are working on right now. Micky's Talent Show has a huge variety of characters, of which Tigger and Buzz Lightyear are two. The blue shirt Ben is wearing - it's a Buzz shirt, if that tell you anything.

Cecilia is walking all over the place and was very interested in the salad dressings from the fridge. It took her a while to participate as she, like her aunt, does not like to get up after a nap.

We all had dinner together and then Josh, Krista and I went back to Bloomington for the night. We explored some thrift stores and book shops before making the trek to St. Louis, then I drove solo back to Carbondale. Lots of driving but totally worth it. It's so rare that we all get to see each other. In fact, this time last year was the last time Josh made almost the exact trip.

Josh and Krista showed me the inside of the tour bus they live in between cities, and I was impressed with how they were able to convert a 45 ft. coach into a home for 12 people. Sleeping nooks, two lounges, and satellite tv and internet. Not like any bus I've driven!
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