Saturday, July 29, 2006

Stores and restaurants

Now I've got a bit of steam for the blog; seven days was long enough.

Shortly after getting out of the store I headed for a coffee shop in the centre of town to buy my usual apple juice and tea. Once I'd finished talking to my aunt, who was in town with a friend of hers, I went to the girls that I knew from my old school who now worked as waitresses and tillmonkeys. The conversation started with the casual hello, but it wasn't long before I asked them whether they had a policy that restricted positions there based on gender. The answer was no — in fact, there was a boy, the brother of a friend of mine, working there at that moment. I then asked them how much m oney they made on the hour, and I was shocked to see the answers from those that were strictly waitresses: One made a mere $3.15 on the hour and relied on tips to pick up the rest, and the other waitresses made not that much more. One girl that only operated the till made $7.00 on the hour. And there was no union that included the coffee shop.

Now, at the supermarket I make $7.50 on the hour and receive no commission. The state minimum wage is $6.15 and should increase by one dollar come 1 October. Bearing this in mind and obviously assuming that waitresses at that store were subject to the aforementioned wage, I was in shock. I had heard before of waitresses that made money off tips (and since there's no gratuity requirement below 7 people there and whatever you get depends strictly on the mood of the customer and quality of your service, I have no faith in the system myself), but the fact that state labour laws apparently were condoning this (the lack of a union notwithstanding) was just awful. Determined to see what was wrong, I looked at New Jersey's minimum wage standards and came across this segment:

12:56-14.4 Cash wage standard

(a) The wage rate established in this subchapter shall be acceptable in those occupations where gratuities or food and/or lodging are actually received.

(b) Employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act must pay the Federal cash wage rate of $2.13 and must demonstrate that the balance of the [$6.15] minimum wage required under State law is paid through gratuities in accordance with N.J.A.C. 12:56-4 and 12:56-8. Employers not subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act must demonstrate that the total wage, including cash and gratuities, equals the [$6.15] minimum wage required under State law in accordance with N.J.A.C. 12:56-4 and 12:56-8.

Looking at this, it seems I won't need to have any faith in the tipping system at all, yet the wage I'd receive as a waiter, if ever I did consider the position and if customers aren't too generous, would most likely be at the $6.15 bar, against the tillmonkey getting tips and being assured base pay of at least the minimum wage. Although this segment made an effort to equivocate wages, I was shocked to see the customer having to manually give the waiter pretty much the same money he or she'd spend later on.

My concern arose from not just being very close with these girls but also from prospects of moving there from the supermarket if I'm dismissed. Seeing as I have to walk or hitch a ride for five miles to the other side of the island to work where I am now, I have seen the coffee shop as more convenient as it's only a fifteen-minute walk from my house. Then again, there's a plus side to working where I am: Shifts aren't as long, there's more traffic, and I'm assured a wage that isn't counterbalanced by personal gain, regardless of how little it is and how much it is discouraged by the managers....


Lucy said...

Oh my that is pretty messed up. Yeah waiters don't get pretty high pay because they had to rely on tips. Which I wish they got rid of...well give the miminal wage plus tips. I make at least $10.68 an hour as a cashier. But when I stared as a carryout I started at $5.65. And when I went up as a cashier I was about to make $7.00 but ended up making $8.00 an hour. And since then I been getting 25 to 50 cent raises. The rest is history. You are pretty lucky too. You rate isn't so bad. But I wish they do something with restranut waiters though.

Bell said...

Wow, that pretty much kills my dreams of a future job as a teenager. x_x Pay wages are okay here, but since nobody here has to work, nor wants to work, it's hard to find employee's here, so pay starts to get pretty high for competition against employees. I suppose it varies city to city...