Cafe Mess

MVWJ was actually kind of pathetic, but thankfully short. I was 17, had absolutely zero job experience, and needed money. There was a small, trendy coffee shop in our neighborhood that had bounced from owner to owner for the past decade. I went in to interview with the latest owner, who seemed like a nice, professional guy. However, he would not be running the café. He’d bought the café so his wife, who spoke poor English, would have something to do. I spent most of my “training” helping a few of their friends lug huge refrigeration units and scraping the scum from the floor with a butterknife. It was on this day that the couple decided I would be paid national minimum wage, which was actually over two dollars less than state minimum wage. Joy. They paid me with straight cash and told me to come back the next day. I was their single employee, as they thought it was too much money to hire even one more person.

I had to arrive at four thirty to get ready for our five a.m. opening rush, which was a total joke. Maybe three people came in before seven thirty, but I was too busy preparing breakfast stuff to complain. The mammoth cleaning effort hadn’t been extended to the cooking/food handling equipment, which looked like they had been bought in the mid-eighties and hadn’t been cleaned since. I got to leave that greasy horror and run the till later that morning, and another problem became apparent. I had gotten very little training at the till, and they hadn’t briefed me on the drink names at all. So an order would consist of me stammering out “uh, hi” and the customer rattling off their drink order, which I would have to get the wife for. She would snap the drink names at me and get them all herself, skulking off to the back as soon as she was done.(I found out later she was watching me on the security video feed)

Enter a new customer, lather, rinse repeat. I eventually got a little better at orders, but then she would storm out and scold me for not including tax in the total. She didn’t know how to either, and so when she took the till to show me she just spent a half hour fiddling with it. After a few hours of stimulating conversation with our resident crazy homeless guy, I got paid for my shift in cash and was told to call in the next day if I could work. I went home and slept for a few hours, decided that the little money I was given really wasn’t worth it, and didn’t call.

The day after that, she called and chewed me out for not wanting to work, passive-aggressively hinting that I was just lazy and wanted to get money for doing nothing. I hung up after being verbally abused for a few minutes and that was the end of it. Six months later their little café experiment went belly up, and they just locked the doors and walked away, leaving all their equipment and the work of a few local artists (who still haven’t gotten their paintings back) inside.

Comments (12)

JeffAugust 20th, 2010 at 6:15 am

“It was on this day that the couple decided I would be paid national minimum wage, which was actually over two dollars less than state minimum wage. ”

You may not have realized at the time, but I hope you do now that this is totally illegal. After that I’m not surprised at anything else that happened.

Karen HanAugust 20th, 2010 at 8:08 am

They should be reported.

rafboyAugust 20th, 2010 at 8:20 am

Two things- state minimum wage trumps national. And them paying you cash probably meant that they didn’t pay taxes on your earnings.
Having been in a similar situation where an employer paid me cash (less taxes, deducted from my pay)- and then never paid tax on my earnings, the IRS could have come after you, if you didn’t report them first (as I did to my employer). But then again, seeing that they didn’t pay you the state minimum wage, I’m guessing they wouldn’t have reported your income at all.

Frau BlucherAugust 20th, 2010 at 11:11 am

what losers. I hope they got taken to court.

efaneoAugust 20th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

If I was one of those artists I’d have smashes a window to get my art back, ‘s all I’m saying.

SurrealianAugust 20th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Wow… that sounds horrible. What they were doing was illegal, and they were taking advantage of the fact that you were underage and didn’t know any better. Good for you for not continuing working there.

OPAugust 20th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Hey all, OP here. I did smell something fishy about the cash-only payment, but it could’ve been worse. The owner told me to bring in my social securities card so he could eventually get direct deposit going for me. As crappy as getting paid cash is, I’m glad those people didn’t get my SSN to boot.

I guess they couldn’t find anyone with half a brain that would want to work for them, so their son ended up working for them. One of the few times I went in there, he said they paid him in soda. I really hope he was joking.

TanekAugust 20th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

state minimum wae doesn’t REALLY trump national. They are two seperate bodies of law, you can violate one without violating the other. However, unless you’re paying at or above both the state minimum wage AND federal national wage you are violating the law.

TMSAugust 21st, 2010 at 9:49 am

I wouldn’t let these people run an ant farm, let alone a business. They sound like they had absolutely no idea from day one what they were doing, and I’m surprised they lasted six months. Hell, I’m surprised they lasted six days. Good for you though for not putting up with it, and after one day of that hell, I wouldn’t have gone back either.

rafboyAugust 23rd, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Sorry. My mistake- the higher wage trumps the lower wage. Whichever is the higher wage is the one you’re supposed to get.

meSeptember 13th, 2010 at 3:43 am

there should be a tag for ‘breaking the law’.

A. ZeeApril 26th, 2011 at 10:31 am

What a complete mockery of a “business.” You were so right to hang up on that biatch and never go back.

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