The server schedule for The Pie Shoppe was taped to the wall above a trash can and a cart holding the bus tub. The noise of food dumped into the trash with a squish and plates dropped into the tub with a jangle resounded as I stared at my schedule for the following week. It’d been completely altered to my detriment. Instead of 4 shifts, I had 3, losing Sunday altogether. My lucrative Friday and Saturday shifts were replaced with the slower Monday and Tuesday.
“Shit!” I said to myself as Star Server slumped a half-eaten Cobb and clanged the bowl on the pile of dirty dishes
“What’s wrong? asked the man, who was younger than me by a few years and an excellent server.
“The Bald Man cut back my schedule. He’s punishing me.”
“Yeah, I saw that. What happened?” he asked, his voice tinged with anticipation for good gossip.
“The Bald Man and I disagreed on what’s fair in the world.”
“He’s gotta be right, you know. You can’t tell him anything.” Star Server also had impressive kissing-management-ass skills, which I lacked, and received whatever schedule he wanted.
“Yeah, well something got stuck in my face this time.”
I told him my story.
About two months before, I had a family of five who paid their bill with a credit card. There was nothing suspicious about them: a mom and dad, two children and an elderly grandmother. It was a busy shift. They exited quickly. There wasn’t time to grab their bill book to make sure they signed the receipt before they left. Naturally, it wasn’t signed.
The Owner looked dimly upon unsigned receipts and assumed it’s entirely due to slapdash server lameness. Many times, people forget to sign credit card receipts. When I remind them to do so, there are awkward apologies on both sides: “I’m sorry, but I still need your signature.” “Oh! I’m sorry. Did I forget to sign? How silly of me!”
The assistant manager didn’t say anything when I closed out my sales that day, so I figured, with relief, nothing would come of it. Over a month later, as I was counting my cash at the end of a shift, the Bald Man asked to speak with me in the office. I walked back with trepidation knowing this would not be fun times.
The office was the size of a walk-in closet and it felt too small to hold the two of us. A table top, with a couple of metal filing cabinets underneath, rested against the full length of the side wall. A large safe was embedded in the back wall. The room felt cluttered and cramped.
After I turned over my sales for that shift, the Bald Man said, “The customer who paid this bill is contesting the credit charge.” He passed the unsigned receipt and a document across the table top. “We’re still talking to the credit card company, but we need you to accept responsibility for the charge should they side with the customer.”
What? I looked down at the document. It had a photocopy of the receipt for $68.60 on the top half. The bottom half said, “The Undersigned accepts responsibility for incomplete fulfilment of the Financial Transaction represented above as required by The Pie Shoppe, and therefore agrees to accept Financial Obligation for any unpaid Monies from said transaction. The Undersigned further authorizes said Company to deduct said Monies from the Pay Check of the Undersigned.” There was a line for my signature and the date, and another to print my name. I wanted to laugh, though this was no laughing matter.
I took a few seconds to think, still staring at the document. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry about the bill. I try very hard to make sure credit card receipts are signed. However, I don’t believe I’m responsible for the unpaid bill.”
The room was too warm and the Bald Man’s face scrunched into a frown. His dark eyes became shark-like and unpleasant to look at. He straightened his spine as he said, “Yes, you are.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’re responsible for cash receipts. It’s the same as running a cash drawer.”
“It’s not the exactly the same as being a cashier.”
“When you collect cash and lose money on the floor, you still owe it to us.”
“I agree if I lost a twenty from my pocket during my shift, I’d still owe it to you. That’s beside the point. I’m not responsible for unsigned credit card receipts. ”
“It’s not beside the point. You walk around with your cash drawer. If you’re short, you owe us the money.”
“A cashier can’t be held liable for cash over or short. But you’re still arguing around the point. This is a credit card receipt.”
“Yes, they can and are. This is the point.”
“No, they can’t. Not legally. If a cashier is constantly over or short, you can warn them or fire them. Or train them to be better cashiers. But you can’t charge them.”
“Oh really? Who’s responsible for the cash, then?” I could tell he was mocking me.
“Who do you think is responsible? The Owner, obviously. It’s his business. He’s responsible for creating a system which minimizes mistakes. Mistakes are the cost and risk of doing business. I’m your employee, not your insurance company. If I wanted to take on risk, I’d start my own business.”
“As an employee, you’re responsible for ensuring proper payment.”
“I’m also not responsible for dine and dash. I can’t stand over my customers, watching their every move. There are other responsibilities that take me into the kitchen and away from the dining room. I’m not responsible for management of the whole system. That’s your job. Maybe you should pay the credit card bill.”
He stood up. “Don’t get smart with me.”
I stood up. “Smart? You’re trying to reach into my pocket to pay your expenses.”
“You’re responsible and that’s all there is to it.”
“I think the Labor Board might feel differently.”
His mouth twisted again. “Look, Dawn, we have lawyers to check with before doing such things.”
“I’m sure you do. I’m still gonna double-check before I sign anything.”
There was a long, charged silence. I broke it with, “Is there anything else you need from me?”
“Alright. I’ll keep this piece of paper in case I need it. Have a nice night.” I rushed out, my stomach churning.
I finished telling my story to Star Server. “So I checked with the Labor Board, and of course I’m not liable. The Bald Man hasn’t brought it up again, but he did jerk me around on the schedule. Guess he figures I’m gonna pay one way or the other.” I rolled my eyes.
Star Server looked at me, his mouth pulled into a frown. “I think I would’ve signed the piece of paper.”
I looked at him and thought, of course you would’ve. “Yeah. Well, it’s not right.” I put on my apron and started wiping down the salad station.
My schedule remained that way until I was replaced as “bad server” by a couple of colleagues. One had lost his temper in a Bald Man confrontation. The other had called in sick and couldn’t find a cover for her shift.
At least when the Bald Man is petty, it’s with an even hand.