Saturday, January 8, 2011

Il Duce Nuovo

The café has a new regional manager, a man to whom I refer simply as Il Duce. As I filled out the new paperwork and signed the revised dress code policy, I erroneously believed that, because the same people run our store day-to-day and because it’s still the same company, very few adjustments would be made.

Allow me to itemize what has changed.

Where the uniform used to be any solid-colored pants and polos, any not-too-loud shoes, and company hats or visors, under the new policy the pants must be khaki, the shoes must be black, and we cannot under any circumstances wear anything over or under our polos if it gets cold. Managers must wear black pants and Oxford-style shirts provided the company: pink ones for women, powder blue checkered ones for men, and red ones for both sexes.

Shift and Assistant Managers are advised to keep women on the registers and men on the food line and back of the house, washing dishes or prepping food. Women who normally work on the line are either given something different to do or instructed to back cashiers, and men (except managers) are no longer assigned drawers. This has not been formally sanctioned, but a couple of managers have slipped up and admitted to the owner’s “preference” in roundabout ways. This is a good policy whether official or not, for a few reasons: women clearly do not work as fast as men, men clearly are not as adept at customer service as women, and I cannot maintain my focus when I find myself within five feet of a dick. So really, it benefits us all.

Managers are still not required to wear hats, though they continue to work with the food. (I can only suppose that managerial tresses must be more sanitary than mine.) The rest of us have been provided with new black baseball caps bearing the company logo.

Women are permitted to wear ear piercings, but only small studs, no more than one in each ear, and none anywhere else. Men are not permitted have any piercings at all, or to have any facial hair except “neatly trimmed” moustaches, which apparently are no longer just for old men and child molesters. No tattoos can be visible. Shirts must be tucked in, and they really mean it this time.

Women can wear makeup, but only if it is “tasteful” and not too heavy. We are also permitted to wear nail polish, but only if it is clear. When one associate inquired about this policy it was explained that chips of nail polish getting on the food was a health concern. When she pointed out that clear nail polish chips as well, she did not get a response.

The employee meal discount has been reduced to 50% from 65%, we will no longer be awarded semi-annual pay raises, and full-time hourly employees are no longer entitled to vacation time. Salaried managers are now required to clock in and clock out, but only for accountability, as they are still not eligible for overtime.

We are not permitted to have drinks, no matter the length of our shift, and regardless of whether or not we are given breaks (which are not typically doled out unless the shift manager needs to save labor). If we are thirsty, we are to obtain permission from the shift manager to walk away from our stations and drink from the six ounce cups the customers use for water. We can also use the restroom and smoke, but not without notifying at least two people (the Zone Leader and Shift Manager). We cannot leave our stations for any other reason or at any other time; this was confirmed by an employee who was chided for walking about ten feet away from her register to discuss an order with the Catering Manager.

The dining room floor is to be mopped every hour, and the other floors swept at least that often. The cubbies underneath the registers must be scrubbed every day, and the counters kept spotless. If you can find anything such as a pen, stapler, or stack of napkins, it’s probably because it’s in a place it’s not supposed to be (read: visible).

Every item in the bakery has a specific plate designated for it, as well as a precise spot where it must be placed, and a specific angle at which the plate must be tilted. And shame on you if you use the stainless steel plate when the display chart calls for ceramic. Today one of the Higher Ups came in for a visit while I was on the register.

“Did you do the display this morning?” Blondie asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Awesome. The bear claws go on the large flat basket.”

I fixed the display and threw away my triple-shot iced peppermint mocha while Blondie went into the office to e-mail her boss. Then, after she gave my Assistant Manager some further instructions and left to go back up north somewhere, I made myself a new triple-shot iced peppermint mocha and drank it while crouched, out of view, underneath my register. Awesome.

Managers from stores in nearby regions (presumably also now owned by The Italian) have been in to *help out* all week, according to my co-workers, while I was at my other job. They make corrections using either wordless hand gestures or rhetorical questions such as, “Now, is this where we put the cookies?” Upon further contemplation, I have concluded that The Italian simply made half a dozen clones of my District Manager, disguised them, and scattered them throughout the city to whip us into shape.

For those of us who don’t know the new Regional level management, they are more than happy to identify themselves. One provided a co-worker, who was recently promoted to Shift Supervisor, a list of “important people” she needed to know and gleefully pointed to his own name on it.

The minions have also provided tips for increasing efficiency. One suggested cutting ticket times by ceasing to list side choices for the customers. (No word on whether or not they want us to also cut ticket times by ceasing to attempt to upsell.) As far as I can surmise, no other mention has been made of the actual customers during the implementation these new procedures.

We will also be getting a new Shift Supervisor. He lives in an apartment in a pricey nearby district, where the average rent exceeds his bi-weekly paycheck (before taxes) by 6%. He also happens to be the son of our new franchise owner. You do the math.

When one of the Higher Ups overheard an employee complaining that she doesn’t make enough money to justify the new policies and extra work, he denied that anything had changed besides a few tweaks to the uniform policy.

Five people have already quit (all of whom had been working there for a year or more), and others are submitting resumes around town.

It’s just like that Joni Mitchell song:

Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t want to put on eyeliner/And tattoo your face/And pierce your eyebrow, nose, lip, tongue, cartilage, septum, nipple, navel, and genitals/And wear giant press-on nails/And grow a beard/And drink a gallon of coffee before nine/And take a dump on the clock/And leave your shirt untucked/And take a paid vacation/And put the muffins in the flat basket/Till it’s gone?

Or however that song goes.


  1. It's amazing to me that some people think this is a good way to run a business. Good thing I'm not still there - if they pulled me off the line b/c I am a woman, I'd sue them.

  2. You're kidding, right? You have to be making this up...

  3. THIS IS KIND OF RIDICULOUS! even though i'm not super feminist, i'm kinda outraged that just cause i have breasts and a vagina i have to work a register!

    hmmm. well hopefully it works out ok!



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