Longtime Friendly's waitress resigns over corporate policy
August 23, 2002 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Longtime Friendly's waitress resigns over corporate policy This lady got screwed - want to do something about it? Send your comments to corporate creeps at: http://www.friendlys.com/cgi-bin/comment.cgi
posted by Pressed Rat (48 comments total)

 
Mystery Shoppers always have this uncanny knack of coming in to your store at the worst possible time. In my company, we take every single Mystery Shopper report with more than a few grains of salt.

That and they're like customer service Nazis that expect everything short of a foot massage.
posted by dopamine at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2002


It seems odd that they would suspend her for three days from a "mediocre" review, when the shopper admitted that it was busy and stressed that Kennedy was "very nice" (as to the food, a lot of times a server has no control how long it takes the food to come out). It sounds to me like the management was looking for an excuse to perhaps get rid of her.
posted by witchstone at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2002


Unless there's more to the story, Friendly's (or more likely the managers at that particular store) had a brain fart that they surely now regret (this is not the kind of publicity they're looking for). I doubt that your request to send comments to "corporate creeps" will make them regret it more.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:49 AM on August 23, 2002


Not nearly as screwed as this lady.
posted by NedKoppel at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2002


One of my biggest complaints about my days waiting tables is that most folks never differentiated between my performance and the performance of the hostess, the kitchen, or the manager. If the food is slow to arrive, cold, inedible, it's not (usually) the waitstaff's fault. They didn't cook it, seat you too close to the smoking section, or forget to schedule more than one waitress for the lunch rush. This mystery guest should have had a Friendly's Frappe and chilled.
posted by alou73 at 9:04 AM on August 23, 2002


If those mystery guests came into the video store where I work it would take them a week to fill out their report.
posted by peachwood at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2002


I wonder what kind of rating this guy would get from a mystery shopper?
posted by debralee at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2002


She got suspended for three days and quit a job she worked at for 16 years? They shouldn't have suspended her, but her actions seemed a bit extreme. It seems like there is more to this story than the reporter found.
posted by rudyfink at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2002


Tobias said that "mystery shopper" programs are common throughout the restaurant industry and have helped Friendly's deliver "great guest service" for its customers.

Ok, I know it's a bit off topic, but which are they? Guests? Customers? If they're guests than I would assume that food is free since dinner guests at private homes don't pay. Guest and customer are no synonyms, just a way to weasel out of the "customer is always right" and high behind "great guest service".

I apologize for the above rant, but when I am a paying customer, I'd like a little more respect than guest service seems to engender these days.
posted by shagoth at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2002


This just shows that applying sweeping, corporate evaluation systems to local franchises is both impersonal and ineffective. An employee's performance should be judged by those who work with them on a regular basis, not by some arbitrary "test", based on one customer, of one day, of their entire career.
posted by buz46 at 9:45 AM on August 23, 2002


The manager should have chucked the mystery shopper review into the circular file and moved on with the normal order of business. Part of a manager's job is to protect good employees from the predations of the powerful-yet-clueless, not grab up a torch and join the mob.

Sounds like, however, that this shithead "manager" will get every penny of his due, with his bosses' email buckets filling with complaints and his regular customers leaving in droves. What a dumbass.
posted by UncleFes at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2002


Please though - let's ensure that those email buckets are being filled with well-worded, dramatic complaints.

That story made me sick.
posted by Pinwheel at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2002


alou73 said: "One of my biggest complaints about my days waiting tables is that most folks never differentiated between my performance and the performance of the hostess, the kitchen, or the manager. If the food is slow to arrive, cold, inedible, it's not (usually) the waitstaff's fault. They didn't cook it, seat you too close to the smoking section, or forget to schedule more than one waitress for the lunch rush. This mystery guest should have had a Friendly's Frappe and chilled."

The thing is that every restaurant usually trains the waitstaff to understand that the customer IS their direct responsibility. When I waitressed, then cocktailed and later tended bar at Damon's we were told that if the customer had ANY problems they were ours to fix unless we couldn't and then to get management to make them happy. That means if they wish to be reseated, you do so. If an order gets farked up, you fix it, comp it, give em free dessert, whathaveyou...

Ultimately the waitstaff are there to provide total service to the customer and if they do so, one would hope they get rewarded for that in the tip. If Friendly's was understaffed that night, management should have come onto the floor and helped out in whatever way necessary to make the customers happy. There should NOT have been a suspension for circumstances beyond the Friendly's waitress's control and her quitting really solved nothing.

In short, what bunk!
posted by gloege at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2002


well-worded, dramatic complaints

Does "fucko" have one k or two? :D
posted by UncleFes at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2002


The manager may not have had any choice in the suspension, if it's corporate policy.
posted by TCMITS at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2002


Heh. That photo on the "Toy-Yoda" link cracks me up again and again. She's PISSED!
posted by ColdChef at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2002


Regarding tipping: many restaurants and bars tip out the busboys, hostesses, and sometimes kitchen staff. This being the case, I see no reason why tipping shouldn't reflect the restaurant's service as a whole.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2002


Ishmael:

Because only the server's wage is pre-garnished in anticipation of the tip.
posted by Pinwheel at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2002


but which are they? Guests? Customers

guest implies a more personal, hospitable atmosphere, one you share with your friends and family rather than 'customers = $$'

either way, it doesn't matter what they call you. they'll treat you the same either way, and most waitstaff doesn't give a flip if you're called a guest, customer or hoolamakkarashiiki. you're just going to piss them off when you tell them you didn't want onions in your hash but neglected to tell them when you ordered and now they have to take time away from their other hoolamakkarashiiki to deal with your stupidity. plus, you'll only tip them a buck-fifty on the $35 ticket. we're lucky to get good service at all.

Ishmael: during the brief time i waited tables, tipping out pissed me off more than anything. there were nights i actually lost money because i had to tip out based on my total sales rather than my actually tips on nights when the tipping was really bad, and i had to tip out to buspersons, hosts that weren't even there. [i hated that place. i'm glad they closed]

and tipping the $2.20/hour waitstaff based on the performance of the $6.00/hr kitchen/hosting/busperson is just cheap and shitty.
posted by tolkhan at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2002


gloege: I worked at Bennigan's. Irish burgers! Irish apple pie! Irish potato skins!

I see your point about the "guest" (yes, we, too, were instructed to call them that) being my responsibility, especially since it the greatest impact on my pocket book. The hostess got her cut, and the cook got his $7.50 no matter what. However, many guests aren't always vocal about their problems until it comes time to add the gratuity. Or they are unforgiving about problems you try to correct. If you come to Bennigan's for a steak on a Friday night at 7:30 when the wait is always one hour long and you have a bad experience, maybe you, Mr. Guest, are partly to blame. I quit Benny's over six years ago, and I'm still bitter. Let it go, alou!

Ismael said: Regarding tipping: many restaurants and bars tip out the busboys, hostesses, and sometimes kitchen staff. This being the case, I see no reason why tipping shouldn't reflect the restaurant's service as a whole.

These folks are usually tipped out on your sales, not your tips. If I the waitress makes no money, the bar, bussers, hosts, etc. still do. In fact, technically you could go into debt waiting table.
posted by alou73 at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2002


Ismael: I agree that you should tip out based on your tips and not total sales. Of course, then we're talking about the honor system... a whole 'nother ball a wax.

However, I think more restaurants should tip out. I worked in local seafood joint/bar one summer... where I was often the only cook on duty, making my measly $5.25/hr. Usually there were three or four scantily clad all-leggy waitresses working with me. They would scamper home every night with an easy $200, while I made about 40 bucks, BEFORE TAXES, and I would still be there cleaning the dump long after they left.

No wonder the back of the house doesn't get along with the front. 3% from each of them would have made a world of difference.
posted by Witty at 10:39 AM on August 23, 2002


My beef: secret shoppers enforce suggestive selling: the verbal banner ads urging you to pad your order. I've started with "All I'd like is..." and ended with "... and that's all; nothing else" and still been wheedled about fries and whatnot.

I get the feeling that some servers would rather not pester the customer, but it's a "condition of continued employment" -- I wouldn't want to get fired either.

Secret shoppers are not customers -- they have greatly different motivations -- so how valid are conclusions drawn from one masquerading as the other?

P. S. When I tip on takeout orders, does the money get split among all the staff? I hope so.
posted by kurumi at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2002


As a frequent Friendly's customer (when you've got a 4-year-old, you just are), I'm amazed Friendly's is now insisting on quick turnarounds on orders - when are they going to send some of those "secret shoppers" to the Friendly's in West Roxbury, Mass.?

The last time I was in there, the young'un and I were entertained by one guy's effort to get some service after he'd been sitting at a table for 15 minutes or so. He wound up getting into an argument with one of the waitstaff that ended with the waitress yelling at him "It's not my problem, it's your problem!"

The real problem with Friendly's, though, is that they are either unable or unwilling to adequately staff their restaurants (well, at least, the one in West Roxbury).
posted by agaffin at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2002


I always hated having a job where you depend on the general public for 2/3 of your paycheck. Especially when most of them never really realize that, or just plain don't care.

Never again. I still cannot drive past an Olive Garden without shuddering.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:10 AM on August 23, 2002


Mrs MITS and I rarely patronize chain resturants because we are both, sadly familiar with how the staff are treated from first hand experience. The only exceptions we make are Chili's and Olive Garden for sentimantal reasons. First Date and Engagement Dinner respectively.
In general we find we have a much better dining experience both in terms of service and food when we go to small mom&pop places with about 12 tables and where the Chef and Hostess are also the owners. When we find a place we like, we always make the effort to establish a personal relationship with the management and staff.
We are not made of money (we tend to go to places where the entrees max out at $13-$15) but have both done our time in 'food service' while we were in college and thus tent to be generous tippers (always at least 20% and usually over 25%
posted by TCMITS at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2002


Your search - hoolamakkarashiiki - did not match any documents.
No pages were found containing "hoolamakkarashiiki".
posted by jaronson at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2002


were you supposed to find something, jaronson?
posted by tolkhan at 11:39 AM on August 23, 2002


Well, I assumed you were making that up, but I thought I'd check anyway. Mind if I use it? Never hurts to have a good nonsense-word in your pocket.
posted by jaronson at 11:58 AM on August 23, 2002


Did you anyone note how much the lady makes per hour?

$3.30 per hour + tips which are probably in the range of $1 to $5 per customer. This seems me to be a very low wage but perhaps i am wrong and this the going rate for waitstaff in Upstate NY.
posted by yertledaturtle at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2002


The market will provide the waitress with a new job; she knew the situation with regard to mystery shoppers; management is completely within its rights, and since she's resigned, she doesn't deserve to get any compensation. So there. In fact, she should be thankful she had a job in the first place, if she's going to keep mystery shoppers waiting for 11 minutes.

gibber, splutter, ack... sorry, just possessed by the spirit of the MetafilterMarketroids.
posted by riviera at 12:02 PM on August 23, 2002


Mind if I use it?

we'll set up a per-usage fee structure ;)

the off-topic point, of course, is that the wage-earning employees don't care what some suited dick at the corporate headquarters thinks is a good term to use. much as the way, during my lengthy stint at Hell-Mart, none of us gave a damn when they switch from "customer service" to "guest courtesy." you were still gonna wait to get your paint mixed or your fish dipped.

back on topic: i'm with the thought that something else was going on here that we don't know about. her evaluation was Mediocre, not Crappy-As-Hell.
posted by tolkhan at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2002


I hope the lady gets a better job. If she has a loyal following and such she should go to a "mom and pop" and she would do better, and the mom and pop would be thankful to have her and not subject her to obvious corporate nonsense. 11 minutes instead of 10 minutes. For that you suspend a star employee? Right. Smart.

TCMITS: I agree. My favorite restaurant is a smallish Italian affair owned by a man who immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily. When my wife and I go in we are greeted by name, and when we sit down the waitress brings our customary drinks and the kitchen has our customary appetizer already in the oven.

On top of that the food is extraordinary. It's little wonder why it is my favorite restaurant. And they benefit from our repeated visits and generous tipping.

kurumi: I do not tip on take-out orders. Why should you? What do you tip upon? There is no service except handing you a bag, and you have not even sampled the wares yet. There is no criteria to tip upon. Even at my regular place listed above I do not tip for a carry-out order. I'm even loathe to tip delivery people, as I consider that cost to be in the product's cost. Although I still do often tip them a dollar just, well, no reason I guess.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2002


Sounds like a case for Bart's People.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2002


From what I understand, the origin of tipping relates to giving the server money at the outset of a meal to "ensure proper service".
posted by Ms.JaneDoe at 12:49 PM on August 23, 2002


The woman was on Good Morning America this morning and made a point of saying that she was lucky enough not to have to depend on the income from Friendly's. It was her customers that made such a stink about her situation and one guy contacted a newspaper and here we are.

I'm glad she's out there talking about it to make a point. A lot of people are depending on the income and they need someone to stand up for them.

What this calls for is a change in corporate policy. Any food service company that thinks a one minute delay calls for a three day suspension is run by people who have never worked in a restaurant a day in their life.
posted by perorate at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2002


perhaps i am wrong and this the going rate for waitstaff in Upstate NY.

Well, you're wrong about one thing. Mt Kisco is in no way "upstate NY". (Sorry, it's a pet peeve of mine, as my ancestral lands are in the north country.)
posted by kittyloop at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2002


When you have corporate spies with stopwatches checking up on your wait staff, it's no longer a resturant. It's a food factory.
posted by TCMITS at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2002


What this calls for is a change in corporate policy.

That's sorta like moving a glacier because there's a puppy sleeping at the foot of it. Just move the puppy out of the way.

The manager should have defended his employee, or simply ignored the rules. Before you yell: ignoring the rules happens ALL THE TIME, I personally do it all the time for my subordinates, and I speak as a suit in a corporation that works for other corporations. And I have restaurant manager experience. This is a case of manager gutlessness, not an indictment of the mystery shopper idea, which at its heart is so obviously stupid that it must certainly be continuing only through good old-fashioned inertia.

Any manager that won't go to bat for his people on something as inane as this doesn't deserve the title or the job.
posted by UncleFes at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2002


TCMITS: "When you have corporate spies with stopwatches checking up on your wait staff, it's no longer a resturant. It's a food factory."

Why should that be so? Setting aside the perjorative "corporate spies," what is wrong with a restaurant trying to improve customer service? I think most customers like getting their food sooner rather than later. The problem isn't the fact that they're trying to improve their response time, the problem is the draconian methods they're using to get their employees to comply.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:53 PM on August 23, 2002


what is wrong with a restaurant trying to improve customer service? I think most customers like getting their food sooner rather than later.

I think you're missing the point: this 'mystery shopper' came in with a set of central-office-mandated criteria and an I-Spy mentality. Many 'mystery shoppers' will do the same. But if you're looking to improve things in a restaurant, even a chain restaurant, isn't it better to talk to the people who go there, rather than sending in someone who doesn't know the place and doesn't plan on coming back until the next six-month snoop? I've no idea about what sort of chain "Friendly's" is, but I'm guessing it's a sit-down job, where 'atmosphere' counts for something (the "friendly" bit, yes?) rather than the 'food factory' approach of McDonalds and company.
posted by riviera at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2002


Nothing wrong with trying to improve customer service. But why is it the waitperson's fault if the food arrives a minute late?
In many factories they have what they call "time study" analysts. Their job amounts to sitting around with a stopwatch and watch other people do their jobs. This data is then used to set a 'per piece' standard and daily quotas are derived from that basis.
The secret shopper with the stopwatch reminded me of this, hence the 'food factory' reference.
But trying to apply this kind of production analysis to working in a resturant seems pointless to me. Some customers require more attention than others. The waitperson's productivity or efficiency is often dependent on factors over which they have no control.
McDonald's is the ultimate food factory where staff interaction with the customer is brief and kept to a minimum and EVERYTHING is done to the tune of a stopwatch. But a sit down resturant with table service shouldn't be run that way. I'd rather have my server slow down and interact with me a bit than have them rushing to satisfy a clock
posted by TCMITS at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2002


$3.30 per hour + tips which are probably in the range of $1 to $5 per customer. This seems me to be a very low wage but perhaps i am wrong and this the going rate for waitstaff in Upstate NY.

This lady must have gotten a few raises'. Here in Atlanta the going rate for servers is $2.13 hr. + tips.
posted by bas67 at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2002


As someone who's gotten both glowing and withering secret shopper reports in his 12 year retail career, I can honestly say, that I've always wondered what kind of person would take a job that basically calls for them to be a professional fink.

I got my answer a few months ago. An employee at our store got a rave review for his performance, but when we check the dates against his schedule, it turned out he was on bereavement leave. So unless this employee is doing sales pitches telepathically, there's some funny business afoot. Our manager hasn't taken Secret Shoppers too seriously since.
posted by jonmc at 3:33 PM on August 23, 2002


Secret Shoppers in restaurants are often not employees of the parent company, but everyday people who are given an "assignment" at the restaurant by one of several national freelance mystery shopper companies. These companies, which are contracted by the parent company, have volunteers who are, more often than not, unpaid for their mystery shopper services. They go in with guidelines, order their meals, play their part as directed (some companies will ask their shoppers to make special orders, have dessert, ask lots of ingredient/nutrition questions or stonewall the "upsells") and even pay for their meals themselves. They go home, fill out their surveys, and once they return them to the mystery shopper company, they're reimbursed for the cost of the meal.

We don't know if the mystery shopper in question was one of these "lay people" shoppers or a Friendly's corporate employee. If it was the former, it's frightening to think that the company puts enough stock in a single opinion that they would have waitstaff suspended for three days when they were billed as "nice." If it was the latter, then there is a piece of the story that we're not being told -- something within the guidelines that this waitress didn't meet. But since protecting her "privacy" keeps the company from commenting, we're all stuck spinning fantasies about what she did or didn't do -- as are all of the other Friendly's employees, who might end up in a similar situation if they fail to meet someone's test. And that's what this story should really be about -- how can their staff know whether or not they're meeting the company's expectations of them, if no one is willing to tell what those expectations are?
posted by Dreama at 6:43 PM on August 23, 2002


One question: how the fuck do people live on $2.12 an hour? I figure it's impossible to pay rent and food on that kind of wage, let alone have money left over for utilities, entertainment, and savings.

Any restaurant owner paying that little in wages is a g.d. crook. Bloody lucky his employees don't rise up in revolt and slaughter him like a pig.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 PM on August 23, 2002


$2.12 per hour plus tips, tips being the bulk of the take-home pay, under most circumstances.

Personally, I factor in a 20%-30% tip as part of the base cost of going out to eat, partly because I eat alone, or at odd hours, as often as not, and partly because I feel like I should make up for the penurious SOBs who habitually undertip any waitress who doesn't agree that their relationship should be akin to "master/nubile slave girl."

I realize there are those who genuinely believe that tipping should be a bonus for extraordinary service. That's a nice theory, but when theory clashes with reality, reality wins, and the fact of the matter is that that attitude fucks over some nice people who are earning quite a bit less than minimum wage without yer help.
posted by sexualchocolate at 9:42 PM on August 23, 2002


Ok, I know it's a bit off topic, but which are they? Guests? Customers? If they're guests than I would assume that food is free since dinner guests at private homes don't pay. Guest and customer are no synonyms, just a way to weasel out of the "customer is always right" and high behind "great guest service".

At Target, you are refered to as a guest. I was always under the impression that is was to make the guest feel like they were company, and free to browse without buying.

After more than a year since working at Target, I still find myself think of customers as guests, and almost let the term slip when I talk to other employees
posted by drezdn at 9:58 PM on August 23, 2002


I was a "secret shopper" for a year for a popular chain of family restaurants (which I won't mention by name, because I'd actually like to get back into the programme someday). This particular restaurant uses a "secret shopper" form that is two pages long. It got to be quite tricky, since there was so much information that needed to be filled out in detail. It was too much information to try to keep in your head until you could go somewhere and fill it out. I had to figure out a way to fill the form out at my table during the course of the meal without getting caught - because once an employee identifies you as a secret shopper, they're obliged to report it and you're out of the programme.

I believe that secret shopping *can* be a valuable source of input for a company, but more so for large restaurants with extremely high employee turnover. A manager, on the other hand, should be willing to stand up for his employees - particularly when they're long-time employees who quite clearly establish a rapport with visitors and have developed a regular base of return customers.

As the U.S. slides back to an "employer's market", I suspect there'll be a lot more of this kind of crap going on.
posted by tpoh.org at 6:11 AM on August 24, 2002


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