My first adult job that I got while in college was at Quizno’s. I was hired on the spot without actually filling out an application because someone else had not shown up for work that day. I had a buddy that worked there and I was actually just visiting him, and the owner asked if I wanted a job. I did, in fact, want a job! I was ecstatic, I had worked a part time job at McDonald’s before so I kind of knew what to expect. However, what I found out was that there was a nasty environment in this place that I wouldn’t fully recognize until after I had left this job and matured a little more.
The first thing I noticed was the pure motivation behind everything in the store. Being asked to skimp on all of the ingredients that would normally go on a sandwich, and skimp even more on olives and tomatoes at the time. There was a hurricane in Florida that year, so tomato prices were up I’m sure, but at the time I didn’t ask any questions and when customers asked for more of those items we were instructed to charge them accordingly. Which, to an extent makes sense, except franchise policy said otherwise. I didn’t care, I started there working part time, like really part time (4 hours a week) to help on Saturday rushes. As I powered through that, and college, many times only able to eat ramen and whatever sandwich someone messed up at work because we didn’t get employee meals without working a full 8 hour shift. Of the 8 employees at the store, 2 were full time, and both were friends of the owner.
The second thing I noticed was that I was getting more hours, and treated better than the female workers at this store. If they messed up they were told it was probably because they were partying around the night before, whereas if I messed up I was told that it was just a simple mistake and try not to do it again. In one case a young lady that had been there for 2 years was working with me solo at night. It was really… REALLY slow, we hadn’t seen anyone for 2 hours. She said we were going to close early and to start cleaning up. The next morning the owner freaked out on her, cut her hours, and gave her a “week off”. My buddy and I did this same thing a couple months later, shut down 2 hours early though. We were college kids and there was a house party down the street. It was NOT the smartest move, and not one I’m even proud of, but it’s what we did. The next morning we were told it was smart to shut down early… we both had expected to get a “week off” as well, but given the option of going to the party or not, we took the risk and were… rewarded? Again, back then I just figured it was because he was afraid of losing us, we were the weekend crew and the two of us WERE capable of running that place with just the two of us even during a rush. But the same could be said about just about anyone who worked there for more than a month to learn the little tricks that keep the line moving.
The next place I worked was at Subway a few years later as the market started crashing and my wife had just finished undergrad. Even knowing what to expect when coming into this kind of environment, and being more mature than the previous fast food job I held, I figured I would have to grin and bear it because… you gotta eat, sleep, and this is how you pay for it. She actually got a job at the same Subway, after finally convincing them that no one is hiring people with an undergrad to actually work in her field right now. Now, we have a job working under the same owner, but in two different locations because they didn’t want a husband and wife working together. We accepted this, and again looking back afterward there were some odd things happening at BOTH stores that were consistent with a culture, not just bad management.
The managers at both stores had a knack for hiring one person who was not in school anymore (my wife and I respectively) and then staffing the rest of it with kids in high school so they didn’t mind the part time work. Both managers would require my wife and I to open the store, and leave when “the kids” got there. We prepped, cleaned, did the temp checks and everything else required of maintaining the store with just the manager there until around 12:00. For some reason, at this time, both managers would make their bank runs. You know, at lunch time? Leaving both of us to fly solo for the rushes, and conveniently returning around 1:00, after things had died down. I asked my manager why this was, when she knew the lunch rush was coming and was rewarded with reduced hours, but the same workload. Instead of coming in an hour before store open I was told to come in 15 minutes prior and complete the same work while also manning the line. My wife didn’t make this mistake, and enjoyed her extra hour to prep in the morning. Every month this manager would complain about how little her bonus check was, despite it being nearly double my pay. She would say afterwards that she would have to cut hours to make it bigger, to her friends on the phone from the back room.
All of that can be attributed to just bad managers, but what comes next is something that was disgusting to me. We were told to skimp on olives (4 slices per foot long was the max now) and in order to keep that process going without offending the customer, we were supposed to wait until the last part of sandwich making to put them on. Told to sprinkle the 4 olives on as you were closing up the sandwich so they didn’t have time to see, or ask for more. I felt like this was bad customer service, but you gotta do what you gotta do. One kid was caught putting more on, and removed immediately from the line, and chastised within earshot of the customers. Those customers tipped well… they felt really awkward and you could tell. That kid was fired that night, AND not tipped out.