An Unhappy Holiday Job

At the start of my sophomore year of college, my aunt had hired me and my roommate to work at a store she was opening up in the mall in November.  Unfortunately, it was September, and I was out of money.  Since I had to find a way to pay rent and buy groceries, I found a job listing for a haunted house. J was the owner of a laser tag arena and he thought it would be goldmine to convert said arena into a haunted house for the month of October.

My roommate S and I were both desperate for money and decided to go to the orientation for potential employees or “spooks” as J liked to call us. Attending the orientation were about 30 people, all high school or college age. We were all hired on the spot.  The haunted house would be open every day, from 6-closing (basically, whenever J felt like closing). We were to be paid per shift, not per hour, getting paid higher on the weekends. All of our wages were to be paid at the laser tag/pizza party J was throwing on Halloween after our final shift. We were required to show up an hour before the shift started to get into costume, makeup, and take your place. This meant that we were all paid the same amount, regardless of what you did, or how long you were there.

This all might sound like a good idea, in theory, however, there were many haunted houses in the area. I should have been clued in to how horrible this would be on my first tour of the arena…I had attended haunted houses before. This looked more like a spook alley my middle school put on to raise money for a field-trip, not a Haunted House that people were supposed to shell out 10-15 bucks to get into. It was more of a maze of black lit rooms then anything scary. And how could we compete with the man with no legs that chased you on his hands at the Haunted Trails just 20 minutes away? How?

S and I were assigned to be skeletons. We were to hid in the darkness, and jump out at you, with only our white skeleton face and costume showing up in the black light. J had advertised for this heavily at the local colleges, so there was a good line the first night. During my first shift there, I got punched in the stomach. Having never been punched like that  before, I ended up vomiting. Awesome. Since I was required to work the whole shift to get paid for it (J’s words), I stayed my time and got made fun of by my fellow spooks. After a couple of other near misses, I got good at evading punches or scratches or other various things people do when you jump out at them.

Word started to get around town about how much this haunted house sucked. Most people attended the other, more terrifying haunted houses close by.  Because of this, most of my shifts were spent lying or sitting on the floor trying to read my flashcards or talking to whichever spook was close by until someone would shout “someone’s coming!” and we’d all take our places. The weekends were a bit busier, but never the steady flow of people J had envisioned. We would all do the best we could with what we had, but all we had were crappy costumes, bad makeup, and an even worse location. We managed to get a few scares out of some people, but most people were only mildly startled.

The most frightening part was when a guy in a Jason mask would chase people with a chainsaw. Since this was all in a relatively small laser tag arena, the chainsaw made the entire place smell of gasoline. Both S and I would dread coming into work, as it was spectacularly boring, but neither of us ever missed an assigned shift. We both needed the money. Finally, October 31st arrived. The last day! And, it being Halloween, we actually had a good amount of people show up. When it was over, the party began. And by party, I mean J making us tear down the haunted house and set up for laser tag. But we at least had pizza. At about 2AM, J sat us all down to talk to us about the last month. He stated that “he didn’t do as well as he thought” and that “I’m gonna have to pay you all in 2 weeks instead of tonight” since he just hadn’t figured out the “numbers” yet. I was pissed. I needed that money to pay rent. After much complaints, he pretty much told us that there was nothing HE could do and we were free to leave.

Two weeks went by, and I hadn’t received a check or even a phone call. So I called him. He said it would be another two weeks. After a week, I called him again to remind him that he needed to pay me in a week. He tried to push it to two more weeks again. I told him that he had one week before I took action. He laughed, and scoffed at what I, a 19-year-old kid could do. He then offered me free laser tag for life in exchange of paying my the $500 he owed me. Um, no. After the week, I called him again. He hung up on me.

I then, along with S, made my way to small claims court and filed a claim. When they served him, he called me up, cursing me out for being a “trouble-maker” and “instigator.” He said I should just accept his free laser tag offer, because neither I nor Stacy were ever going to see a penny from him. I laughed at him and told him that if he didn’t pay the entire amount, plus court fees, in cash or money order, I would see him in court.

Another week went by, and he called me again telling me my money was ready. I don’t know why he had the change of heart, but I went to pick up my money as fast as I could. As S and I were picking up our money, he yelled at me again and told me he never wanted to see my face in his place of business again. Um, no problem, man. No problem.

A year later, he went bankrupt.

Comments (12)

SurrealFebruary 11th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Hah! Good for you for taking him to small claims! And I can’t believe you got punched in the stomache, hard enough to make you puke no less. Plenty of clear indications that this was not the best place to work but when you are desperate for money, we work at sucky places.

clever nameFebruary 11th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

What a shitty place! I’m glad you got your money, way to stick it to that ass!

SportyGuyFebruary 11th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I’m suprised it took a whole year for the dumb-ass classless arsehole to go bankrupt

SaffyFebruary 11th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

good for you getting your money! i wonder what ever happened to this jerk!

wolfpackFebruary 12th, 2011 at 1:14 am

well, i worked at a haunted house two years in a row. (and will be going back next year)
it was an awesome experience, despite or perhaps because of the amazing/ horrible shit that happens.
i’ve been punched, had shit thrown at me, been cursed at, threatened, sexually harassed, (all by customers, not fellow employees) and we’ve found used tampons laying around. (perhaps the customer got so scared that it shot out…? in a skirt…? with no panties…?) and that isn’t even the half of it.

it’s amazing that these customers come in knowing that their reaction when scared is to be violent. but we have a reputation for being pants-shittingly scary (sometimes literally) so we get all kinds.

but if you work at a great, well-designed haunt, are good at scaring people, and can take some abuse, it’s one of the most fucking exhilarating experiences ever. it is both my very worst and very best job.

bleahFebruary 12th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

lolz this reminded me of when i went to a halloween festival when i was little and there was a haunted house, it wasn’t very scary but i did my part and screamed when they would jump at me, one guy screamed in my face so close that i could smell his cough drop gross! anyway, one jumped out at my mom and she punched him in the face! i was like, mom! jeez they’re only doing their jobs! and she was like, sorry, knee jerk reaction. lol the poor guy was moaning and screaming at her angrily. i mean what do u expect in such a place?

JChiefFebruary 14th, 2011 at 6:55 am

“And how could we compete with the man with no legs that chased you on his hands at the Haunted Trails just 20 minutes away? How?”

I often ask this question to myself. Life can be so brutal, yet so beautiful. How can these things coexist? I think it has something to do with “free will”. I don’t know.

Fantastic story. I give this a fiver. I would insist on being paid cash at the end of the first shift. Otherwise forget it.

TedFebruary 14th, 2011 at 8:49 am

Good story. Not only did it detail an awful and funny experience, but the OP actually dealt with the situation like an intelligent adult, instead of a simpering, spineless moron with their head up their ass like we usualy see. Good job!

I hope the OP puked ON the person that punched them.

AdalynFebruary 14th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Way to stand up for yourself OP! People are used to teenagers being too dumb and timid to do anything like stroll into a courthouse and file a claim. It’s refreshing to see that you made damn sure to get your money as deserved.

Heidi BundyFebruary 15th, 2011 at 9:50 am

This story makes me so happy. You didn’t cry and you got your money back. This story should be on the front page forever. I was getting scared that all women were too emotional to handle business and that maybe I wasn’t really a girl, but a man with breasts.

Thank you. :-)


JChiefFebruary 16th, 2011 at 6:43 am

“man with breasts”? (snicker)

I often think I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. Most men annoy me, I adore women, my features are blocky, and I keep my hair pretty short, so maybe I’m already halfway there.

GtruckFebruary 16th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

JChief, maybe you are MVWMMIH –my very worst match made in heaven.

haha :D

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