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Dealing with Obnoxious Owner

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alyseb Oct 13, 2008 10:13 AM

I am having an ethical dilemna. There is a bakery in my community, The Bean Counter, that has fabulous pastries (fruit and marscapone tart) and delicious coffee drinks.

Twice I have observed and overheard the owner (who thankfully is not always present) loudly discipline and demean her staff. The first time involved a teenage counter person dropping a slice of cheesecake. The owner in the presence of customers announced in an elevated tone of voice that the employee would have to pay for the dropped slice. The employee visibly winced when she was addressed in this manner in front of a line of waiting customers.

This morning the owner referred to another employee as "stupid" (again in the presence of customers) for incorrectly making a coffee drink.

When should a customer who overhears such an inappropriate exchange say something?

I endorse the 'praise in public, criticize in private' philosophy for dealing with people and believe no one deserves to be demeaned.

Bottom line: I love this bakery, but am troubled by what I see/hear.

What would you do?,

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    bubbles4me RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 10:17 AM

    Man, I hate that....makes everyone uncomfortable! I would write a letter telling the owner that you love the shop but seeing this kind of display is very painful to watch and may in the future keep you from wanting to come back....

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      Buckethead RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 10:30 AM

      Stop going there, and let them know why.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead
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        ML8000 RE: Buckethead Oct 13, 2008 08:10 PM

        A 2nd on that. That's a real buzz kill. The pastries might be good but who needs to see that.

        1. re: Buckethead
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          MattInNJ RE: Buckethead Oct 14, 2008 09:59 AM

          Agree, hit em where it hurts the most, the wallet.

          1. re: MattInNJ
            rednyellow RE: MattInNJ Oct 15, 2008 09:31 PM

            Right then and there on the spot, I'd say to the owner, I don't give my money to jerks (or a much stronger word) and I'd leave.

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          fourunder RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 10:47 AM

          "...a teenage counter person dropping a slice of cheesecake. The owner in the presence of customers announced in an elevated tone of voice that the employee would have to pay for the dropped slice.
          _______________________________________________________________________

          If I was in the employ of an owner or business that tried to charge me for such an incident or even a dropped entree/s, damaged dishware, glassware or other in a restaurant.....I would resign on the spot and notify the State Labor Board. Working for such a tyrant would be ridiculous to continue......and I do not believe it is legal to charge employees for mishaps.

          With regard to being in the presence of such a display of rudeness by the owner....I would interject immediately and let it be known I resent the behavior of the owner in front of myself and other customers.

          I would not stay too make a purchase.....and I probably would find an alternate bakery for future purchases as well. If I were in a position to do so, I would also offer any staff employment with me at my business if they chose not to continue working for such a tyrant.

          1. rockandroller1 RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 12:03 PM

            I think saying something on the spot would just cause a further scene and if the owner is already an a-hole, they may just curse at you (or worse) and the situation could get out of hand.

            I would probably turn and leave quietly and send them a letter (anonymous if you wish) telling them that you have repeatedly witnessed the owner being hostile to the employees and that you think it's a terrible management style and very unfortunate, and that they'll no longer have your patronage, or that of your friends, or family or co-workers if they continue to manage with an iron fist.

            4 Replies
            1. re: rockandroller1
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              fourunder RE: rockandroller1 Oct 13, 2008 12:28 PM

              One of the benefits of being 6' 1" and 225 lbs.........all right 235 lbs, is you can be intimidating without raising your voice, just with a cold stare and a few choice words......just ask my son and his friends while they were growing up.

              I would agree with a letter if I actually cared about going back to the bakery, but I would not return. My experience with food industry management who treat their help poorly, is that they care even less what others think while reading something someone sends them in the privacy of their secure surroundings. In these specific scenarios/instances mentioned by the OP, the owner's insensitivity towards his employees and customers made others feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. This person needs to be knocked down a few pegs with immediate disapproval and disappointment.

              As the child's saying goes.......stick and stones may break my bones...but names will never hurt me......I believe the only thing that truly hurts these pompous people is the "wallet" factor. Expressing my displeasure and walking out, possibly taking a few others with me is the only thing that will make the tyrant think twice about his actions.

              What I might actually do is when it was my turn, I would ask the owner to help me personally, pester him/her with many questions, e.g. "how much is this? and how much is that?", place a very large order packaged in many boxes........and then, when the order is completed and the total price is given to me....... I tell them I changed my mind and no longer am interesed in being his customer due to the horrid treatment of their staff which I witnessed first hand.

              What can I say? I obviously have too much time on my hands.....that's why I am here on Chowhound.

              1. re: fourunder
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                cimui RE: fourunder Oct 13, 2008 06:41 PM

                I agree that the most effective (though not necessarily the most tactful) thing to do would be to confront the owner -- and despite being a scrawny 5' 1", I've learned to perfect my stink eye, as well. :) Very few situations like this degenerate into something physically violent, though I wouldn't be deeply surprised if it degenerated into something verbally unpleasant.

                I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly untactful, though. I just think that a situation like this would irk me so much I'd have to say *something* to the owner or at least glare mightily. Depending on how egregious the situation was and how badly it irked me, I might catch the owner's gaze and say, "That is NOT acceptible", and walk out. In a less eggregious situation, I'd glare at the owner, be very sweet to the abused employee and tip very, very well. Either way, I'd post the name of the place and the owner's name on every board I could find -- including your local Chowhound board, Yelp, Citysearch -- EVERYTHING.

                And I'd organize a letter writing campaign among all of my friends and family and all the Chowhounds in the vicinity, to complain about employee treatment.

                [I know this would never happen, but wouldn't it be great if the entire line of customers had walked out upon seeing the incident? That would be a powerful statement.]

                Mistreatment of those in a weaker position gets me hot and bothered like nothing else.

                1. re: cimui
                  KaimukiMan RE: cimui Oct 13, 2008 10:03 PM

                  yes, it is a nice idea that having the entire line of customers walk out would teach they tyrant a lesson. instead i suspect the owner would watch the customer's walking out, then turn to the employee and say "now look what you've done".

                  put it in writing - in very explicit terms, and don't go back.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan
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                    cimui RE: KaimukiMan Oct 14, 2008 06:22 AM

                    you and the other pro letter writers make good points.

                    but consider: if you describe the incident clearly enough in the letter, it wouldn't be a shocker if the owner were to retaliate against the employee, later. tyrants still like scapegoats. would you describe the owner's unacceptable behavior only generally?

                    also, there is something to be said for never allowing yourself to sit by passively when you see injustice. there are theories that say it kills a little bit of your moral capacity each time you do nothing (and other people's to see no one else acting) and that each public action, no matter how small, strengthens your own, as well as other people's, ability to behave morally.... on the other hand, i do understand that it's easier for people to change behind closed doors when they don't feel as though they're losing as much face!

                    i just wish there were a way to shame the owner a bit in that moment, but not so much that he/she had to act out by firing the employee / mistreating the employee further; later make it clear through a written letter exactly what it was that was objectionable; and convey a credible threat of loss of your and others' business if that behavior continues.

                    fantasy #2: wouldn't it be great if all of us had been in that store and some of us had walked out, while the remainder wrote letters?

                    btw, would anyone give the owner a second chance and go back after writing a letter or expressing face-to-face disagreement?

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              givemecarbs RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 12:58 PM

              That is such a shame. Many times I have patronized an eating establishment where I have thought to myself "this place rocks but boy, I would so not want to work here." If it is a place I frequent a lot I can tell if the owner is not there because the food and service is off by quite a bit. Many owners are passionate and perfectionistic about their food and drink. By the force of their personalities they make everything line up perfectly so that the customers get an amazing experience. I suspect that at many of the places I go where everything is divine that some of these scenes play out, just not in front of the customers. I would have just walked out shaking my head but I would have felt a guilty twinge of regret for missing out on yummy food. If you had said something at the time, the owner might have just waited until later to really lay into the employee. There are two other things to consider at least. There are cultural differences in the amount of emotion that is acceptable to display publically, and also, could the employees be her relatives? At one place I love to go the sister of the owner usually takes the orders and frankly she is a moron. The owner, her brother, is angrily impatient with her constant demands for help with the register, but you can tell it's all in the family and these two have been at each other for a very long time. One other thing, on the thread Decline in Home Cooking on this board, chowhounders have expressed concern that parents are not preparing their children for life by not teaching them life skills. While it doesn't excuse her behavior, the owner is probably very frustrated at having to teach her teenage employees everything the parents should have taught them long ago. I doubt the owner will change, the best you can hope for is for is for her to take it to a private place. My own experience with this was when I went to a place that makes it's own chocolates around Easter. The owner was putting the finishing touches on a gorgeous four foot tall rabbit. I drew closer, fascinated. As he worked on his masterpiece I could hear a foul stream of curse words flowing endlessly at the rabbit. I turned away smiling and thinking yeah he's an artist. But the rabbit wasn't having it's feelings hurt.

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                at24 RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 01:19 PM

                I probably would be a wimp and end up making a phone call to the place and ask to speak to the owner. I would be polite yet firm and let them know that although I really like their bakery- that as a customer I was very displeased by some of spectacles that I had witnessed as they belittled their counter staff in front of everyone.

                I guess at that point if they got an attitude with me- I would tell them they just lost a loyal customer and that I will be more than happy to tell others to stay away from their establishment due to the rude people that operate it. The phone call allows you to stay anonymous and at the same time you can be specific about the incidents you have witnessed. Plus -it lets the owner know as a customer you have more of a "problem" with their crappy behavior than with the klutzy counter staff. You would think in these economic times an owner would not want to lose any customers and would hopefully correct their behavior. But with some people you can never tell.......

                I understand where you are coming from- I used to go to a pasta place in the mall when I lived out in Seattle. The food was great but the chef or whatever he was- was a monster. He would scare the s**t out of me and I was the customer!! It got to the point where I didn't want to even eat there if I could see him working, kinda like the soup nazi on Seinfeld.

                1. Miss Needle RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 01:35 PM

                  Oh boy. I have no tolerance for people like that. I would probably write a letter or give them a call, emphasizing that her behavior does not reflect well on the business as opposed to giving a speech about employee rights (as I have a feeling that the owner probably doesn't give a damn). In order for the letter to be effective, you need to appeal to what she probably cares most about.

                  I would not confront the manager face-to-face. As somebody already said, if she's a bitch, this could elevate to something physical. And even if it didn't, I can picture a face-to-face confrontation infuriating and embarrassing the owner so much that she fires the workers out of retaliation as she sounds like somebody who gets very defensive and needs to make sure everybody knows that she's the boss. While she may be an ass to work for, the workers may really need the job.

                  1. ccbweb RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 03:11 PM

                    We had a very similar situation; a bakery we liked quite a bit but an owner who was just unpleasant at best and a real jerk on a regular basis. We ultimately decided that we wouldn't patronize them anymore. We told the owner why and when others ask whether we shop there we say no and tell them why as well.

                    As someone noted above, I'd refrain from saying anything in the immediate for fear of making a situation worse for the employee but I'd be sure to say something to the owner so that she knows why she's losing a customer. Otherwise, there's really nothing to choosing not to buy things from them apart from their losing a sale...and if its a successful place overall, losing the one sale may not mean much. Losing a customer as a direct result of behavior that might be changed, though, could help make something click for the owner. It might not, of course, but its worth a try.

                    1. irisav RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 03:52 PM

                      I've been confronted with a very similar situation. The Vic Market were I do my fruit and vegetable shopping has a particular stall that in summer offers the best selection/quality of tomato. The proprietor of the stall, however, regularly berates and demeans his staff (who are all young migrant women) in the middle of the busy market. I loathe this man as a result because it is clearly the power exercise of a bully. But I've never had the guts to say anything, my small protest is to not shop at his stall - but of course he would be completely unaware of how I feel and that he has lost a customer.

                      So if you can stomach it please tell her what you think of her attitude to employees, but I think it would be best be done in reaction to her abusing staff in front of you again. I fear, however, this means you may have to forgo shopping there for some time.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: irisav
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                        bibi rose RE: irisav Oct 13, 2008 06:39 PM

                        There are few things more unpleasant than watching an owner/manager browbeat an employee. I always worry that commenting (even later, by mail or phone) risks making things worse for the employee. People who "manage" that way don't change, in my experience of working for/with them, and they tend to look around for someone else to blame about everything. By their logic, it will be the employee's fault they got this reprimand. Oh, and if it's a manager doing it, unfortunately it's almost certain that the owner knows and just doesn't care.

                        Another thing that sometimes makes me want to complain is listening to owners and managers diss their customers. Recently I was the only customer in a gourmet shop and the owner was gossiping to his one employee about about people, using their last name. How did he know I wasn't a friend or relative of those people? It was very weird. The employee (to her credit in my mind) wasn't saying more than "Uh huh." I bought my sandwiches and got out of there and can't make myself go back.

                        1. re: bibi rose
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                          givemecarbs RE: bibi rose Oct 13, 2008 06:59 PM

                          I hope some small business owners read chowhound. I have seen the big fish in a small pond petty tyrant in other businesses as well bibi rose. I go to three different game and hobby shops in my area to play cards and at each one the owner has disappointed me by gossiping about other customers where I can hear him. It made me squirm in my seat and feel reluctant to leave (silly I know) as I knew I would likely be the next topic, or more like target. Hmm, I guess gossiping was what people did before flat screen tvs started to cover walls everywhere in my area. Maybe I should rethink my dislike of tvs in businesses.

                          1. re: bibi rose
                            im_nomad RE: bibi rose Jun 7, 2009 11:13 AM

                            oh bibi you just hit on one of my pet peeves in any sort of service situation, those employees who are seemingly oblivious to whoevers around, as they gossip or tear someone else down. I witnessed this just yesterday while at the grocery store. I wonder if they even realize how bad it looks, never mind who might be listening.

                          2. re: irisav
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                            cimui RE: irisav Oct 13, 2008 07:22 PM

                            In a less than proud moment at a farmer's market in Boston (the one near Fanueil Hall), I saw a vendor screaming racial epithets at his employees and later at a woman who was shopping at his stand for handling the cabbages before buying. I was so upset, I threw a tomato at him when his back was turned. I wish I'd had the guts to confront him to his face, as well -- calmly. I guess in situations like that it is nice to be fourunder's size.

                            1. re: cimui
                              im_nomad RE: cimui Jun 7, 2009 11:15 AM

                              hehehe, good for you cimui. I've been there and thankfully didn't witness anything like that, but I hope at the very least you launched one of those huge beefsteak tomatoes at him, and not just a little grape ;)

                          3. oldbaycupcake RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 06:51 PM

                            While waiting for my order at a deli I was shocked to watch the owner verbally bully and reprimand an employee in front of customers. When my order was ready, I was so ticked off I asked to speak to the owner. When he came over, I asked him if I could speak to him outside. Let him know I found his behavior completely unprofessional & I wasn't sure I could continue to be a customer of his. I pointed out to him that I was polite enough to criticize him privately & that he should try that approach with his employees. He seemed to be really ashamed & started telling me about the stresses of running the business. Not a valid excuse but he was ill prepared for the quick success of his business.

                            As a restaurant consultant, I was able to refer him to another consultant and a good accountant that dealt with small businesses. He has since gotten the guidance he needed, seems completely at ease & I've never seen anything remotely like that again. In retrospect, all 5 feet, 100 pounds of me should have been more cautious & a letter or a phone call would have been the smarter choice. The Pit Bull in a Skirt in me emerged at that moment!

                            I wonder if the bakery owner in the OP charges herself every time she overcooks a tray of cookies or a souffle falls? Of course it's not legal to dock an employee"s pay or make them pay cash for a dropped piece of cheesecake. Loss of product is one of the costs of doing business a.k.a. shrinkage (not the George Costanza kind).

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: oldbaycupcake
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                              bibi rose RE: oldbaycupcake Oct 13, 2008 07:40 PM

                              That's a great story, oldbaycupcake. I bet your speaking to him in person made much more of an impression than a letter or phone call.

                              1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                The Ranger RE: oldbaycupcake Oct 14, 2008 11:59 AM

                                That's exactly how I've handled it; asked to speak to them away from any audience and addressed the situation immediately. A Letter might work but chances are quite high that it won't because you've removed the immediacy of the situation.

                                I'm glad you were able to provide him services, too, and that he took advantage of them!

                                1. re: oldbaycupcake
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                                  FrankieSandals RE: oldbaycupcake Oct 14, 2008 12:03 PM

                                  Great job!!!

                                  Life is not a spectator sport.

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                                  pigtails RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 08:01 PM

                                  i once worked in a restaurant for a tyrannical, cruel owner. she was really nasty to her staff, and she didn't care at all who saw it. finally, after several months of taking her abuse and feeling stupid, she told me she didn't think i was up to the job. i was so relieved! i finished the week and immediately found a new job - at a much better restaurant! i heard later from my co-workers that i was actually expected to beg to be able to keep my job, that i wasn't supposed to just leave when she told me to go! now, that approach never even occured to me, i admit! in the end, i learned a lot from the experience.

                                  needless to say, i have no desire to eat at this place. it's in my neighborhood, though, so sometimes it would be convenient - but i just can't do it. the food there has no love for me. call me schmaltzy, but i believe in food being an expression of the person who makes it and the environment it comes from.

                                  the wierd thing is, my partner is totally willing to go there! no qualms! she knows of my sad, sad history there and is still willing to eat that food. she knows better than to try to talk me into it, at least.

                                  so, long story short, when i see someone abuse employees, it just leaves me with no appetite at all. that said, many restaurants have these sorts of "intense" environments and it is kind of an industry standard. but you have to think, if someone is willing to berate employees in front of customers . . . . what do they do when there are no customers? also, how do they expect employees to learn customer service when they themselves are so rude? no amount of desire could ever make me eat at a place like that.

                                  1. ipsedixit RE: alyseb Oct 13, 2008 10:52 PM

                                    I would confront the owner right there on the spot and stick up for the employee.

                                    I would tell the owner that if he didn't start treating his employees like the dignified human beings that they are, I would stop giving him my business.

                                    I would then pay for that dropped piece of cheesecake and that incorrectly made cup of coffee and walk out.

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                                      alyseb RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 07:53 AM

                                      I yelp'd the business and found a review from 2007 citing the owner's "paranoid and anti-social" traits and that she is "horrible" to employees.

                                      I did sent a detailed letter to the owner yesterday and told her I referenced my observations on Chowhound. That being said, I'm on a permanent fruit-cheese tart diet.

                                      Thanks for all your suggestions......

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: alyseb
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                                        fourunder RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 07:58 AM

                                        Bravo for your efforts, determination and compassion.

                                        1. re: alyseb
                                          rockandroller1 RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 10:36 AM

                                          A second Bravo. I doubt you'll hear back, but it does feel better to get it off your chest I think. Do let us know if you get a response.

                                        2. toodie jane RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 09:44 AM

                                          Some immediate, well-chosen comforting and reassuring words to the employee can difuse such a situation, and if phrased correctly, can embarrass the employer/manager at the same time. But I'd focus on trying to make the employee feel more comfortable.

                                          "Don't worry, dear, everyone flubs every now and again, your boss here included. Here, if he/she is such a miser, I"LL PAY FOR IT. You'd do best to find a job where your efforts are appreciated. I assure you, your boss is in the minority."

                                          something like that.

                                          A similar situation happened to me, a manager went off on a rant calling another employee 'old and feeble', I protested and got included in the diatribe in front of customers. Two lovely patrons came up afterwards and asked for the manager's name and phone number so they could complain, and present their view. Many kind words were spoken, and that kindness went a long way for a couple of able, but older, dames!

                                          1. jgg13 RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 10:36 AM

                                            Why not let the employees decide if they like working there, and not worry about it? The people working there clearly view the pay/positives they're getting as being worth the negatives of the job, so IMO customers should just keep their nose out of the whole thing.

                                            41 Replies
                                            1. re: jgg13
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                                              FrankieSandals RE: jgg13 Oct 14, 2008 11:49 AM

                                              Because that's the easy way out. Have some balls and speak up. The owner sounds like a real asshole, and needs to be told that his behavior is unacceptable. To witness abuse and watch silently encourages bad behavior.

                                              1. re: FrankieSandals
                                                jgg13 RE: FrankieSandals Oct 14, 2008 12:22 PM

                                                It is none of your business how the employees are treated. It isn't a matter of "balls", it's simply that I don't care how they're treated. They're employed *at their own choice*, if they don't like it, they can simply get another job. So by definition, either they don't care about the treatment and/or they overall like their job because otherwise they'd have left - thus there's no problem to worry about on the part of the customer.

                                                1. re: jgg13
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                                                  bibi rose RE: jgg13 Oct 14, 2008 02:27 PM

                                                  There seem to be so many toxic managers in retail and food service that it's probably hard to find a job without one. Just from observation as a customer-- so many times you see owners and managers behaving like pigs toward their employees. For me (and I realize this is a different dilemma than the OP stated) it's less of an ethical problem than an issue of finding a place unpleasant to patronize. One of my main places to buy shoes is excruciating if a certain manager is in just because you have to listen to her snapping at people. And then she's icky-poo nice to customers. I don't know when she is worse-- when she's snapping or when she's sucking up. It's a chain, and I've thought about writing to headquarters just because it's so unpleasant shopping there thanks to her. But they probably don't care as long as she gets her paperwork in on time or whatever.

                                                  1. re: bibi rose
                                                    jgg13 RE: bibi rose Oct 14, 2008 03:20 PM

                                                    "probably hard to find a job without one"

                                                    Then perhaps if the person can't handle that sort of atmosphere, they should reconsider their choice of careers? I don't have much sympathy for people who stick around in jobs that they hate - just go get a different job if it bugs you that much.

                                                    "it's less of an ethical problem than an issue of finding a place unpleasant to patronize."

                                                    Fair enough. If it annoys you that you have to listen to those things, then take your business elsewhere. But it isn't the job of the customer to police the employer-employee interplay, that's up to the employee to decide if that sort of treatment is worth it for them.

                                                    1. re: jgg13
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                                                      milkyway4679 RE: jgg13 Jun 10, 2009 08:24 PM

                                                      I know this is from last year, but reading this thread I had to respond. I am a 19 year old college student, and deciding to "just go get a different job if it bugs you that much." doesn't work. I NEED the money...otherwise, I won't be able to purchase books, clothing, food, and continue to get my education, so that I can get a better job. I have a boss that berates me regularly, just because he can. I am (according to other managers) a stellar employee, and always do an excellent job. But, I can't give up this job because I need the money. And when there are dozens of people vying for only a few jobs, then I need to take whatever I can get. So unless the manager physically abuses me, I keep my mouth shut, and do my job, simply because I have no other options. I think you are not seeing the situation from the perspective of these people. I wish that someone would speak up to my boss, but his "sweet as pie" attitude towards the customers means that no one sees nor hears his poor attitude towards the employees.
                                                      Next time you decide that someone can obviously just "go out and get another job", and that it is entirely their responsibility, remember that not all of us are as obviously blessed monetarily as you, and sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do to earn a wage...but it would be nice to know that sometimes, people do care about you, and will speak up if an employer treats you poorly.

                                                      1. re: milkyway4679
                                                        invinotheresverde RE: milkyway4679 Jun 10, 2009 09:33 PM

                                                        Of course you have to do what you have to do to get by, but you're not trapped. If the way your boss treats you is a problem to you, you leave; if you don't leave, it's not much of a problem.

                                                  2. re: jgg13
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                                                    FrankieSandals RE: jgg13 Oct 14, 2008 04:07 PM

                                                    "it's simply that I don't care how they're treated."

                                                    Therein lies the problem. Some people "get it," and get involved, and some people don't, and they watch real life pass them by from the sidelines. To watch and listen to a teenager being abused by their boss, and not say something to let the owner know that their behavior is wrong and making everyone uncomfortable, is encouraging their behavior. Maybe it's the kid's first job, and he/she might think it's the norm to be abused at work. Intelligent, seasoned adult by-standers should intervene and speak up to let them know it's not ok. Saying nothing is akin to remaining silent in the face of an off-color joke.

                                                    I've walked away regretting not speaking up so many times when I was younger, that now I'll always get involved. I would have said something to diffuse the situation and draw attention to the ornery owner like;

                                                    “Man, somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

                                                    “Somebody’s grouchy today, did you bet on (team who lost the night before)?”

                                                    “I hope the staff gets combat pay for working here.”

                                                    “That’s not right.”

                                                    “Is it really worth making her feel bad and making everyone here uncomfortable over a piece of cheesecake?”

                                                    “I’ll pay for it. Life’s to short to let a piece of cheesecake ruin anyone’s day.”

                                                    All it takes is one person to say what everyone else is thinking, and then several others to speak up and support that person, to deliver an effective message to the bully. Unfortunately, the "I don't want to get involved" mentality is still pervasive, and most people walk away saying, "That was so wrong," and regret not coming to the defense of the humiliated individual.

                                                    If the owner doesn’t respond appropriately at an attempt to diffuse the situation, then I would escalate. Even a lot of miserable bastards come around when someone calls them on their shit. If you let them run roughshod, they'll never modify their behavior.

                                                    1. re: FrankieSandals
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                                                      cimui RE: FrankieSandals Oct 14, 2008 05:18 PM

                                                      nice, frankie. i like your approach(es).

                                                      1. re: FrankieSandals
                                                        im_nomad RE: FrankieSandals Jun 7, 2009 11:22 AM

                                                        I like the "i'll pay for it. life's too short" one especially.

                                                        I went to a deli counter last weekend, and the lady who served me had a scowl on, and just before sidling up to the glass case for my order, turned around and made some comment about where the hell was everyone (in other words, she was either too busy or couldn't be bothered to serve me, and someone else should have). I got a real impatient vibe from her as I asked for my first item, and while mentally stewing a second, I finally piped up and semi-sweetly said "you know , if you're too busy, I can wait", following which she started stumbling over excuses "oh no i was just thinking about or was distracted" or some sort, and perked right up.

                                                        some times you catch more flies with honey, than vinegar, as hard as that can be. I was *this* close to telling her to forget it.

                                                  3. re: jgg13
                                                    s
                                                    swsidejim RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 05:34 AM

                                                    I agree with jgg, let the employee stand up for themself & decide if they want to put up with it or not. Most of us have probably worked in, or currently work in situations like this. You either deal with it, or move on.

                                                    I wouldnt get involved, I have a life, and my own things to deal with. Also you dont know if the employee is constantly screwing up, and this was the last straw.

                                                    Perhaps some folks just have never had to deal with an unstable boss before. The world & work is a harsh place sometimes, you weigh the options, and if the money is good enough, a little verbal disrepect is easy to ignore, shrug off, and laugh about once 5 o'clock comes.

                                                    1. re: jgg13
                                                      invinotheresverde RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 08:22 AM

                                                      jgg, I totally agree. This has nothing to do with the customer and everything to do with the employee. The tyranical boss can't treat her employess like crap if they don't accept it.

                                                      Can't people just mind their own business every ONCE and a while? It's like some people feel it's their right to stick their noses into situations that have no bearing on them. Don't like what you see/hear? Spend your money someplace else.

                                                      Really, this sense of entitlement ("the poor employee can't speak up for himself, so big, important me must intervene") has to end.

                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                        The Ranger RE: invinotheresverde Oct 16, 2008 08:35 AM

                                                        People _DO_ mind their own businesses, too often, rather than choosing to speak up. Hiding behind the "it's not my business" or "better them than me" are used too frequently which allows bullies to continue bullying.

                                                        The real issue isn't entitlement, it's apathy; standing idly by and not doing anything.

                                                        1. re: The Ranger
                                                          invinotheresverde RE: The Ranger Oct 16, 2008 09:17 AM

                                                          I don't think it's apathetic to intentionally not involve myself in something that's none of my business. It drives me nuts when people get involved in situations that have nothing to do with them.

                                                          I've got a little secret for you- bullies are going to keep bullying, whether you tell them it's wrong or not.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                            f
                                                            fourunder RE: invinotheresverde Oct 16, 2008 10:01 AM

                                                            By reason of extension....does talking about the situation here count? If you feel getting involved for the employees sake is out of bounds for you, fine, but there is the question of how you feel being subjected and witness to the behavior which makes your experience relevant to have an opinion and act accordingly. I would argue from a customer service stand point, being neglected and subject to witness the offensive behavior is relevant to me or anyone else present wishing to make a purchase at the time of the incident. Interjecting to voice your resentment of the situation before you and then adding your displeasure of the owners conduct in front of yourself and other customers is within reason of your business at the time of the situation. As suggested, the owner should manage her employees out of the customer's view.

                                                            From your previous posts, I know you have been in the front house service of restaurants for a while. Hypothetically......Let's say a couple of patrons sitting at a table in the main dining room or at the bar in the restaurant during Prime Time Saturday Evening Dinner Hours. They could be Husband & Wife, Boyfriend & Girlfriend or simply two people gender non-specific.......for whatever reasons, become involved in a seriously loud argument with many expletives being thrown at each other and possibly a few drinks are violently knocked over on the table..... do you ignore the disturbance, or do you become involved and interject to see if there is a problem or say if their loud behavior continues....they will be asked to leave and not return.

                                                            From all your previous detailed posts on various topics I've read in the past....I find it very hard to believe you would remain on the sidelines.

                                                            1. re: fourunder
                                                              invinotheresverde RE: fourunder Oct 16, 2008 10:06 AM

                                                              Professional and personal obligation are two vastly different things. If this happened at my work, I would be professionally obligated to step in; if it happened where I was a patron, I'd probably enjoy the fireworks!

                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                f
                                                                fourunder RE: invinotheresverde Oct 16, 2008 10:11 AM

                                                                Touche'

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                  Caroline1 RE: invinotheresverde Oct 16, 2008 12:44 PM

                                                                  invino, this is not directed to you, but this seems like an appropriate point to insert my comments with some semblance of relevance.

                                                                  Granted, an employee can say to a tryanical boss, "You can't talk to me like that." And simply because the well established character traits of the boss are already in place, the boss says (or think), "The HELL I can't! Watch me!" Nothing gained. Maybe something lost.

                                                                  But when a customer says to the boss, "I don't think I'll be shopping here any more, no matter how good your product is, because I can't handle the way you treat your employees." The tyranical boss cannot say, "The hell you won't." And it's even likely that such a person will say or think, "Well, I don't need YOUR business!" BUT... It's also highly likely that at some point in the next 24 hours the boss will think, "Maybe I do need to make some changes. I'm loosing my temper AND losing customers because of it."

                                                                  I think that makes it well worth "getting involved." In the long run, you'll likely be doing a lot more for the boss than for the abused employee. But if anything comes of it, everybody wins, including the customer.

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                                                    invinotheresverde RE: Caroline1 Oct 16, 2008 01:02 PM

                                                                    Good points, but I just don't like sticking my nose into other people's business. I really don't believe it's my place.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                      PattiCakes RE: invinotheresverde Oct 17, 2008 10:28 AM

                                                                      But it IS your business if you are a customer & the situation is making you uncomfortable. Perhaps you do not feel it's your place to pick up the gauntlet for an abused employee, and I can understand that. But why would you spend your money in a place that makes you, the customer, uncomfortable? Lord knows we've all seen a million threads where customers are urged to take their complaints to the manager rather than whine ineffectively. A word to the manager letting him/her know that you can't patronize (or encourage others to patronize) a place where scenes like that occur is appropriate.

                                                                      1. re: PattiCakes
                                                                        invinotheresverde RE: PattiCakes Oct 17, 2008 12:00 PM

                                                                        The situation makes me feel uncomfortable?

                                                                        It doesn't directly involve me, unlike a bad waiter or bad food, so i won't intervene.

                                                                        I don't meddle. It's just not my way. Posters can speak of moral obligation, etc. til they're blue in the face, but I know my place. My place is in my business, not someone else's.

                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                The Ranger RE: invinotheresverde Oct 16, 2008 10:51 AM

                                                                Sometimes the bullies do continue bullying but, in my experiences, when called on their actions quickly pull in their horns and go off looking for different victims. Also, in my experiences, the "victim" is provided a respite from the bully's antics and sees options open up before them that were closed or not seen prior (i.e.: standing up for themselves.) All from a minor action that had nothing to do directly with me.

                                                                It's a touch burden to bear but those that do often have broad shoulders, a thick skin, and the strength necessary to carry such. :)

                                                                1. re: The Ranger
                                                                  invinotheresverde RE: The Ranger Oct 16, 2008 11:16 AM

                                                                  I guess I don't think it's my place to try to "teach" adults right from wrong. YMMV.

                                                              3. re: The Ranger
                                                                jgg13 RE: The Ranger Oct 16, 2008 10:38 AM

                                                                Yet again, the employees have every ability to cease the relationship with their employer. There is no reason to intervene - if they don't like it, they can very simply leave.

                                                                And yet again, we should be focusing on encouraging personal responsibility.

                                                                1. re: jgg13
                                                                  The Ranger RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 10:53 AM

                                                                  In some markets, they do have that ability to move to a better job. Not so much in jobs that you are established, experienced, or a combo of both. (i.e.: "over-qualified" is used for that portion of the workforce.)

                                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                                    ccbweb RE: jgg13 Oct 17, 2008 07:23 AM

                                                                    There are many on this thread who advocate overt moral correction of the owner in this case. I'm not sure that's called for and tend to lean toward invino's idea of not sticking one's nose in where it may not belong (and also into a situation in which one doesn't have much information). But, I do think there's a significant difference between intervening with the belief that you can or should help the employee and deciding to take your business elsewhere and letting the owner know why. When one has an objection to something there are (to vastly oversimplify) two ways of responding: exit and voice. You can choose to exit the system/situation etc. and no longer have dealings with it while not saying anything about the reasons for leaving. (In this case, you'd just stop going to the bakery.) You can also use voice, that is speak up in the hopes that whatever it is about the system/situation you don't like will change. (This seems to be what those who advocate attempting to intervene in some way that they hope will make things better for the employee would do.)

                                                                    My preferred way of handling such a situation (as I've noted elsewhere in this thread) is a combination of exit and voice. That is, stop patronizing the bakery but tell the owner why I'm stopping. Its a personal choice on my part to say "I don't want to support businesses that are conducted in ways I don't agree with" but I don't think that choice has any effect unless I tell the owners of such businesses why I'm making it. They're perfectly within their rights to not care and to continue on as before, there's nothing requiring them to want my business particularly.

                                                                    1. re: ccbweb
                                                                      jgg13 RE: ccbweb Oct 17, 2008 08:14 AM

                                                                      Yes. I'm a strong proponent of voting with one's wallet. If something offends you about a place (poor service, poor food, funky smell, don't like their politics, obnoxious owner, whatever it might be) you should certainly take your money elsewhere - and yes it'd be more effective if you communicated why.

                                                                      And while even if one speaks up in that case might not effectively be that much different than some of these moral save the world types posting in this thread, in an 'at the moment' sense - it's vastly different. It's not *your* place to help fix that employer/employee relationship, but there's no reason why you can't say "uh dude? i don't like how you run your business, and i'm not coming back"

                                                                      1. re: jgg13
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                                                                        fourunder RE: jgg13 Oct 17, 2008 08:45 AM

                                                                        I find this response contradictory within itself and with the basis/premise of all your previous posts with regard to this topic.

                                                                        -Yes. I'm a strong proponent of voting with one's wallet.

                                                                        - and yes it'd be more effective if you communicated why.

                                                                        - It's not *your* place to help fix that employer/employee relationship, but there's no reason why you can't say "uh dude? i don't like how you run your business, and i'm not coming back"

                                                                        Are you not one of......these moral save the world types... posting on this thread once you say....."uh dude"....

                                                                        1. re: fourunder
                                                                          jgg13 RE: fourunder Oct 17, 2008 08:53 AM

                                                                          My point was that you shouldn't be interjecting yourself in the argument, IOW trying to "save" the employee. You shouldn't be viewing yourself as some moral crusader, teaching the cretins how to act. If it's unpleasant *for you* to be there, fine - don't go.

                                                                          If one never shows up again, or say writes a letter to the business saying that you didn't like the atmosphere (or whatever one's beef was) and that's why you're no longer going to bring your business there, that's fine.

                                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                                            Scargod RE: fourunder Oct 17, 2008 09:19 AM

                                                                            OR, "It is none of your business how the employees are treated. It isn't a matter of "balls", it's simply that I don't care how they're treated."

                                                                            I find all this contradictory, too. I think there is the "in the moment" or "in the heat of passion", that jgg13 referred to, where I too, might intervene or speak up. Who knows what triggers that.

                                                                            1. re: Scargod
                                                                              jgg13 RE: Scargod Oct 17, 2008 09:59 AM

                                                                              Well personally I *don't* care how employees are treated and I don't think it is anyone's business how they are treated either.

                                                                              But I do think that people can choose to support a business, or not support a business, based on whatever factors they see fit. I'm saying that I don't think that people should interject themselves in the middle of some sort of interplay between the employer and the employee (barring something illegal happening).

                                                                              1. re: jgg13
                                                                                m
                                                                                milkyway4679 RE: jgg13 Jun 10, 2009 08:38 PM

                                                                                Why don't you care? You keep saying this, and you also don't seem to think that other people should care... How is that right?

                                                                                I think you need to take a step back, and put yourself in these people's shoes. Be a 20 year old, who is struggling to pay their way through college, and survive on their own, and so this is the only job they can get. Be the 16 year old, who is holding down their first job to save up money for a junker to fix up so they can drive to school like the "cool kids", and they don't realize that boss' shouldn't abuse their employees. Be the 60 year old who got laid off right before retirement, and now they have to take the only job that will hire them, overqualified and at 60 years old.

                                                                                You can sit on your high horse, and say that you don't care, and that it's not anyone's business, or you can try and stick up for your fellow human being, and remember that we're all in the same struggle, but sometimes others have it a lot harder than you do. By sticking up for someone, even just by voicing your concerns to their boss, you are showing them that you don't just care about their product, you care about the service they provide you. We give you a smile, and a friendly welcome every day, and if we saw someone abusing you, most of us would stick up for you...why won't you stick up for us?

                                                                                I can't force you to care about employees, and this probably won't change your opinion. But I think that it is cruel to not even care how the people who make/sell you things are treated. They are human beings as well, and as such, deserve the same kindness that you treat everyone else with.

                                                                                1. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                  alanbarnes RE: milkyway4679 Jun 10, 2009 09:15 PM

                                                                                  Well said.

                                                                                  1. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                    invinotheresverde RE: milkyway4679 Jun 10, 2009 09:41 PM

                                                                                    It's all about choice. I (and I'll assume jgg13) believe that there is no "only job you can get" or that a 16 year old would tolerate abuse just to buy a car. I believe that if an employee is willing to be treated poorly, nothing I, the customer, says will change that.

                                                                                    Ideally, every work place would be full of flowers, unicorns and rainbows. Unfortunately, that's not the case. If you're unhappy with your situation, do something about it. Holding your breath for a customer to tell your boss he's being a meanie is only going to turn you purple.

                                                                                    I maintain that it's not my place to become involved. I'm no longer a patron of The Bean Counter due to this thread. I've been told time and time again the owner is a bitch. Instead of telling her so, I simply choose not to give her my money.

                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                      smrits RE: invinotheresverde Jun 11, 2009 10:11 AM

                                                                                      Perhaps I'm missing something, but I feel there's a disconnect. Presumably, there are still people working at the Bean Counter, so the working conditions can't be that bad. Otherwise, by your logic no one would work there. In any case, how employees are treated is not your concern - so why do you no longer patronize the shop?

                                                                                      1. re: smrits
                                                                                        invinotheresverde RE: smrits Jun 11, 2009 07:10 PM

                                                                                        Getting involved is not my business. The owner has been personally rude to friends of mine who work in the area. I'll not shop there.

                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                          smrits RE: invinotheresverde Jun 12, 2009 11:52 AM

                                                                                          That seems perfectly reasonable to me - it's quite likely what I would do. Seeing people get yelled at/humiliated makes me incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassed. Its not the kind of atmosphere I'd want at to eat in. I don't do well with direct confrontation, but I would leave a note in a suggestion box or send an e-mail.
                                                                                          Depending on the situation, I like the idea of talking to the employee/leaving a bigger tip. Getting yelled at for making a mistake is disheartening but understandable. However, when you're yelling in front of customers, it seems to me that the problem is more serious. The employees deserve bigger tips for putting up with that.

                                                                                        2. re: smrits
                                                                                          Scargod RE: smrits Jun 11, 2009 08:28 PM

                                                                                          There are people digging diamonds out of the dirt by hand and mercenaries killing people. How can it be so bad? People do crazy things for money. Not referring specifically to the Bean Counter, but to jobs I have had while younger: Working conditions can't be that bad... Are you kidding?

                                                                                          Does this mean that you should patronize a shop, such as this, because it still has employees (who need a job just to survive)? It's like saying, "I support the parents" (who's children are in abusive relationships at home).
                                                                                          I would not shop at this type of place either.

                                                                                      2. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                        iluvtennis RE: milkyway4679 Jun 11, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                                                        I, for one, appreciate that there are caring people like milkyway out there.

                                                                                        1. re: iluvtennis
                                                                                          m
                                                                                          milkyway4679 RE: iluvtennis Jun 15, 2009 04:46 PM

                                                                                          I am the 20 year old who won't survive without my job, where I have a boss who treats me like garbage, simply because he hates women, and enjoys verbally abusing any woman who shows any sort of brains. I can't quit. I have no other choice.

                                                                                          1. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                            alanbarnes RE: milkyway4679 Jun 15, 2009 05:23 PM

                                                                                            At least you're young and articulate. Those are some good bootstraps to pull yourself up by.

                                                                                            Although you may not have other choices now, you will soon. When you do, please remember what it was like when you had limited options. There are a lot of people stuck in those situations their whole lives.

                                                                                            It's never easy to confront injustice, and sometimes it's not particularly wise. But it's never a bad idea to ask yourself if there's a way to right a wrong.

                                                                                            1. re: milkyway4679
                                                                                              Scargod RE: milkyway4679 Jun 15, 2009 05:36 PM

                                                                                              I appreciate that you have no choice but to work. You do have a choice about where you work. Perhaps not this instant, but you do have options. It is sometimes comforting to say, "I have a job", no matter how bad it is.
                                                                                              Why not look for a job in a similar line of work? Some may give you a lot of credit that you have managed to be a loyal employee of this person for as long as you have and realize that your gumption and toughness is valuable.

                                                                      2. s
                                                                        soupkitten RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 02:59 PM

                                                                        this post has really bugged me since i read it yesterday. the owner is without any doubt obnoxious, abusive and unprofessional. the op mentions that s/he has twice witnessed the owner act like this, and also that the owner "thankfully is not always present." i wonder if 1) the op has ever seen the owner when she is present but she *isn't* acting like an ass to her employees, or if the op has ever seen her being nice to the employees 2) if, when the owner is absent, the employees seem happy/content-- and if so, whether this (no owner present, happy employees) is the real status quo for the bakery.

                                                                        if the owner is the type to waltz in for a half hour each day, throw her weight around, cut down an unlucky employee or two, check the phone messages, and breeze out to have lunch with her investors, but another employee or manager is the one actually running the bakery, i'd tip big & keep my trap shut. the owner is a blowhard and a trial to her employees, but since they don't really have to deal with her so much, they can consider her a necessary evil, and enjoy their job when she isn't around (most of the time). there are a lot of owners like this in the service industry: lots of money, no service experience, "always wanted to own a restaurant/coffee shop/bar," don't we all know this person? they make themselves feel important by cutting others down. don't poke the bear, your favorite barista may get the brunt of it if the owner gets aggravated.

                                                                        if the owner is like this all the time, and is at the bakery all the time, well then this is serious. a lot of people who have bullying & abusive tendencies don't realize they are doing anything wrong-- in fact, they've probably been bullied and abused themselves and they think this is a normal human relationship. if you confront the person directly they are likely to get angry & defensive, and again blame the hapless employee for making her/him angry in the first place (and take it out on that person later). in this case i would consider writing a letter. i'd play a little dumb in the letter, saying that i saw a "manager" bullying an employee, and that it made me uncomfortable and reluctant to continue supporting the establishment. i would not name any names or give specific quotes, times, dates, etc. i would not be threatening or antagonistic or personal in any way, just sad and disappointed and expressing my regret that my favorite local place may not be a good place to work. no matter how out of touch the owner is with how her own actions are perceived, if she has any conscience at all, she will recognize herself in the letter, and hopefully take it as a wake up call. if she is a good person, she'll feel terrible and try to change. if she is a bad person, at least she might reduce this behavior in front of the customers, realizing she looks like a jerk. either result would be good from the employees' point of view.

                                                                        unfortunately the same traits of obsessive perfectionism in a chef/owner, that are desirable from a customer's point of view wrt consistently perfect food products, also tend to run with these alpha-type, hyper passionate freakout tendencies. you get the gordon ramsay type person whom lots of people think is an ass, but his employees are passionately loyal to him. you can also get these nightmare bitch-from-hell, food is sublime until the next breakdown/burnout/relapse people. these people are trying to stay on the same plane with everyone else, but it's only possible to a certain extent, and they can't change completely. it's like saying "hey don't be autistic any more" to someone.

                                                                        i also would reread Givemecarbs' insightful post re: family owned restaurants, if you think there is any chance that the owner is going off on her own family members. that's a whole 'nother dynamic-- i know that in my own workplace one person or another has occasionally lost it inappropriately on another person, because sometimes it's hard to separate work and family, when you work with your family members. i would cut a great deal of slack in that case, as it's no picnic.

                                                                        1. Veggo RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 05:54 PM

                                                                          Unless one is wearing a cape and a cowl and driving the Batmobile, bearing witness to harsh conduct between an employer & employee is, respectfully, not your province to intercede. It happens tens of millions of times every day, out of public view, mostly. Send the note explaining why you are taking your trade down the road, and you're done.
                                                                          I'm amused by the tall talk here from anonymous posters who don't use their names or post a profile. From my day 1 here I dish it out under my name, and take it in my face. I am no stranger to public confrontation, as I have chronicled here, but I try to be judicious in drawing the line that would involve myself in the affairs of strangers.

                                                                          24 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Veggo
                                                                            oldbaycupcake RE: Veggo Oct 14, 2008 09:12 PM

                                                                            No surprise that someone that is attempting to bully other posters (use of real name, etc.) would turn a blind eye to the public humiliation of a teenager by an employer. I make no excuses for what I did nor do I find a need to justify the incident and I stated that it would have been smarter to make a phone call or send a letter.

                                                                            Veggo, I've enjoyed reading your posts during my short time on CH. Looking forward to continued reading of your insight but suspect we won't always agree. That's what's great about CH, eveyone feels free to express their opinions or experiences without having to fear that another poster will judge too harshly! Cheers!

                                                                            1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                                                              q
                                                                              queencru RE: oldbaycupcake Oct 15, 2008 03:32 AM

                                                                              Agreed. Whether one uses his/her real name has nothing to do with personal integrity. There are plenty of valid safety and other reasons not to post personal information about yourself on a public forum. I think it's up to each person to decide what to do in that situation. Just the fact that the humiliation occurs in front of the customers makes it that much worse, and no one deserves to deal with that sort of behavior. In many cases, it does happen with teenagers who are very impressionable and may get the idea that this behavior is perfectly acceptable in the workplace because they've never seen what a "nice" boss is like. Even a subtle acknowledgment to the employee that the behavior is unacceptable/appalling may go a long way to help keep that behavior from occurring in the future.

                                                                              1. re: queencru
                                                                                Veggo RE: queencru Oct 15, 2008 06:03 AM

                                                                                OBCC and QC, on reflection, my "anonymity" comment probably detracted from my message. We all have witnessed couples arguing in public, and parents harshly scolding children. Both types of events are not altogether different from the poster's experience. It's just not our place to right every wrong we see, frustrating as it may be.

                                                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  soupkitten RE: Veggo Oct 15, 2008 07:21 AM

                                                                                  i think you have a valid point V. one thing that really bugged me about this thread, is that i wondered if everyone (anyone) would rush to the employee's defense if they were suffering the same abuse at the hands of a customer. customers are the ones generally dishing it out to service employees, and our greatest on-the-job hazard is assault-- at the hands of customers.

                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                    The Ranger RE: soupkitten Oct 15, 2008 07:54 AM

                                                                                    Several times, where a customer was verbally abusing a drone because they felt empowered -- or emboldened -- because there was no manager present, have I stepped up and explained to these knotheads they were neither as empowered nor bold as they thought. A couple times SWMBO has reminded me that some people are crazy and wished I wasn't so black-and-white in my good-vs-evil views of the world at large. Size or sex of the abuser doesn't matter to me, either.

                                                                                    Just because the employee happens to be wearing a name badge or uniform does not make them the poster child for customer abuse, nor should they have to be someone's personal whipping post because they it happens to one of the "on-the-job hazards." No one should be forced to expect that as part of the job (unless you're a telemarketer.)

                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                      f
                                                                                      FrankieSandals RE: soupkitten Oct 15, 2008 11:36 AM

                                                                                      Absolutely SK. As a former bartender (12+ years, 10 locations), I've often advocated and intervened on behalf of servers.

                                                                                    2. re: Veggo
                                                                                      Caroline1 RE: Veggo Oct 15, 2008 08:01 AM

                                                                                      I'm gonna chime in on this one, Veggo. It IS our right. Well, I'll go one stronger than that. It is our obligation! The attitude of "it's just not our place" is the exact same attitude that has allowed passers-by to not get involved when someone was killed on the streets of New York a decade or two ago. It is the exact same attitude that allows us as hosts, and bartenders as paid hosts, to let a drunk get in his car and drive home. And all too often kill someone along the way. And to be outright melodramatic about it, anyone remember Viet Nam? Out of all the many GI witnesses to May Lai, and hundreds more who k new about it, only ONE came forward. The others just didn't want to get involved.

                                                                                      I wijll give a couple of long winded examples from my own life, then tie them together to illustrate what I'm talking about.

                                                                                      The first incident occurred at Del Mar Skate Board Ranch way back in the 60's. My 4th grade daughter and I were having a McDonald's lunch at a picnic table overlooking the many bowls where the trials were bing held. We were the only ones on the deck. We were watching my then-5th grade son try out for a slot on a professional skate board team. Suddenly, there were two guys around 19 standing on the picnic table next to ours, using pretty foul language and lamenting that they didn't have "rich mommies and daddies" to buy expensive trucks for their skateboards. I asked them politely to tone down the raunchy language in front of my daughter. When I asked the second time, one acted as though he hadn't heard me and stepped over onto OUR table. Then casually backed up as if to get a better view of the skate board bowls below, and just "accidentally" stood in my daughter's French fries. I very quietly assessed the situation, then picked up my son's not yet touched large chocolate malt and emptied it on the toe of the guy's obivously brand new leather Nikes. It took a moment for the cold to reach his foot. He screamed, "Look what you've done!" and ran downstairs to the restroom to try to wash them off. His friend followed. My daughter was mortified. My son thought I was a hero. And as we were leaving, the park owner came over and apologized and told me the two offenders had been banned for life. Turned out the idiots had told on themselves trying to get me in trouble!

                                                                                      Flash forward. My son is in college and earning a nice bit of pocket change as a bartender at a very popular chain that had just opened in El Paso. A seriously drunk customer came in, wanted a drink, John comped him with coffee, the guy huffily said he was leaving. John confiscated his keys and comped him a taxi. And was fired for doing that, even though Texas (and California) law holds the last place a drunk driver left as legally culpable for allowing the drunk to drive. The drunk came back the next night to apologize and thank John, but he had already been fired. And with absolutely no regrets. When I praised him for what he did, he just grinned and said he'd learned it from me. I got all teary at his answer.

                                                                                      My point is that not getting involved and speaking up when we see unfair abuse going on, "minding our own business" is the same thing as condoning the action. That's a very bad example for others. Especially any children who may be present. Get involved!.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                        q
                                                                                        queencru RE: Caroline1 Oct 15, 2008 08:19 AM

                                                                                        I agree. How many problems have we had recently that come partially out of unchecked bullying, especially when it involves children or teens? While we can't necessarily step into every argument, I do think we need to make sure that we aren't too complacent. How many times to we hear stories about school shooters who were bullied in school and at work and just couldn't take it anymore? How many other teens commit suicide for related reasons?

                                                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                                                          jgg13 RE: queencru Oct 15, 2008 09:06 AM

                                                                                          Ther'es a massive difference between this sort of thing happening at the workplace and being bullied in school.

                                                                                          What's that difference?

                                                                                          The employee is 100% capable of saying, "Screw this, I'm out of here".

                                                                                          1. re: jgg13
                                                                                            Caroline1 RE: jgg13 Oct 15, 2008 09:19 AM

                                                                                            So is the student *IF* they know they are empowered. I did it twice in school. Once in 6th grade, again in 10th. So it is critical to teach kids by by example.

                                                                                            1. re: jgg13
                                                                                              q
                                                                                              queencru RE: jgg13 Oct 15, 2008 09:38 AM

                                                                                              Kids learn by example, and if they're in a first job seeing a supervisor bully the employees, they learn to think that's the right thing to do. They aren't the same as adults who should know that they are empowered to walk out of a job if they don't like the employment circumstances. They can't walk out in school, so how are they to know that they can walk out of a job they may direly need to help support their family.

                                                                                              1. re: queencru
                                                                                                jgg13 RE: queencru Oct 15, 2008 10:07 AM

                                                                                                If they don't know they can leave a job, they're just plain stupid.

                                                                                                If they need a job to support their family, they can just go get another job.

                                                                                                People need to take personal responsibility for their own situations.

                                                                                                1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                  q
                                                                                                  queencru RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 04:39 AM

                                                                                                  The law doesn't view teens (say 16-17) as adults, nor should we. They don't react the same way to situations as adults do, and they usually have to live by their parents' rules. Even with adults, I think saying "they can just go get another job" is a bit simplistic, especially in this economy where the jobs aren't exactly plentiful.

                                                                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                    alanbarnes RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 09:04 AM

                                                                                                    "If they need a job to support their family, they can just go get another job."

                                                                                                    Uh, yeah, right. Read a newspaper lately?

                                                                                                    It's been nearly a century since the US as a society officially recognized the fact that employment is not an arm's-length contractual relationship. Maybe you're in favor of doing away with workplace safety rules, minimum wage laws, and all other employee protections, but if that's the case you should realize that you're in the minority and have been since, oh, 1920.

                                                                                                    There is no excuse for an employer to mistreat an employee. In this particular situation, it sounds like the owner lacks basic management skills. S/he needs to realize that unless those skills are developed in short order, it's going to start costing her money, which is in increasingly short supply. People are reluctant to do business with somebody they don't like.

                                                                                                    My approach would be to talk to the owner at a time when there's less stress in the air and raise the issue in terms of the environment in the shop. Focus on the positive first - how good the product is - and then talk about how some of the things that happen there leave a bad taste that detracts from what should be a delicious experience.

                                                                                                    This would be taking personal responsibility for my own situation. I don't like being in a hostile, stress-filled environment, and I hope that these comments might do something to improve my future experiences.

                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                      jgg13 RE: alanbarnes Oct 16, 2008 10:40 AM

                                                                                                      If you can't get a job, that's *your* problem, not mine. That should not be an excuse - if you don't like working where you're working, stop working there. If it's a choice between working there and starving, that's *your* fault for not being more marketable.

                                                                                                      1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                        The Ranger RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 10:55 AM

                                                                                                        > If it's a choice between working there and starving, that's *your*
                                                                                                        > fault for not being more marketable.

                                                                                                        That's a very limited POV; not very practical.

                                                                                                        1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                          Veggo RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 11:04 AM

                                                                                                          jgg13, it's not that easy for everyone. Remember that half of us have an IQ of 100 or less, and 10% of us have an IQ of 80 or less. Marketing oneself is difficult when one is dealt that hand...

                                                                                                          1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                            alanbarnes RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 11:15 AM

                                                                                                            From an economic perspective, the fact that other people can't get a job is your problem. The Great Depression hurt everybody. And from a legal perspective, your argument is about 100 years out of date.

                                                                                                            At the turn of the last century, employers routinely relied upon the logic you're using. They successfully claimed that they had the right to treat employees however they wished because the employees had the right to quit. The courts adopted this rationale and held that government could not interfere with those contractual relationships. See Lochner v. New York (1905) 198 U.S. 45.

                                                                                                            But by the time the 20th century was well underway, this argument had lost all credibility. In West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937) 300 U.S. 379, 392-393, the United States Supreme Court held that the "power under the Constitution to restrict freedom of contract has had many illustrations. That it may be exercised in the public interest with respect to contracts between employer and employee is undeniable. "

                                                                                                            Whether an employer's misconduct in this case violated the law is an interesting subject for spirited debate. So is the question of whether a patron has the right or the obligation to intervene. But the notion that the employer has the right to mistreat the employee because the employee has the right to quit is, from a legal standpoint, simply wrong.

                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                              q
                                                                                                              queencru RE: alanbarnes Oct 16, 2008 11:35 AM

                                                                                                              There are also other issues that prevent people from changing jobs- such as lack of portability in health insurance. If you have a pre-existing condition that requires expensive medication for the rest of your life, you often have no choice but to stay in the job you're in.

                                                                                                              There are also some jobs that require specific skills that may not be hugely in demand, but are still necessary for society to function. I have one friend who has this type of job and while I'd say it's extremely important for society that she does her job, there are only 2 employers in her community that do her type of work. Her employer knows that she's worked at the other place already and treats her like crap as a result. Her pay is to the point that moving would probably downgrade her salary quite a bit, so she's stuck.

                                                                                                              1. re: queencru
                                                                                                                jgg13 RE: queencru Oct 16, 2008 11:48 AM

                                                                                                                No, she's *not* stuck. She could decide to change careers, for instance.

                                                                                                                People who say that they're "stuck" where they are simply are wrong, lazy, or both.

                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                  soupkitten RE: jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                  come on, if she is a teenager, her *career* is being a student, her part-time bakery position is her *job.*

                                                                                                                  and actually, jobs that are flexible enough to accommodate the average student's schedule are very, very hard to come by. a bakery or other food service job may be a cream job for local high school students-- better than working tasseling, like a lot of my classmates in high school.

                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                    jgg13 RE: soupkitten Oct 16, 2008 12:22 PM

                                                                                                                    And if we're back to the OP talking about a teenager, we can get rid of the tidbit about being locked in to a particular job due to a narrow skillset.

                                                                                                                    "may be a cream job" - see, that's part of my point. The work environment is part of the balance one has to keep in mind. If the atmosphere isn't worth working there, well, it isn't so cream is it? Why does everyone feel so entitled that they should have a great paying job with no negatives?

                                                                                                2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                  Veggo RE: Caroline1 Oct 15, 2008 08:27 AM

                                                                                                  C1, I have shared here two haunting experiences (one in Montreal, the other in Vail) where I did intervene as a citizen in a matter involving only others. In both instances, there were police cars and ambulances there within minutes. People who were completely unnerved by the original incidents got to watch one even less forgettable after I teed off. Maybe I made it worse.
                                                                                                  P.S. After both incidents, patrons offered to buy me drinks. But I'm still not sure...

                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo
                                                                                                    Caroline1 RE: Veggo Oct 15, 2008 08:34 AM

                                                                                                    Ask yourself this, and consider it rhetorical when it comes to answering aloud. No answer expected or desired. Do you think the outcome would have been better if you hadn't intervened?

                                                                                                    In my opinion, and totally not intended to sway your answer to the above question in any way, based on what you write here, those present appear to have approved whole heartedly of your actions. I place a lot of value in people who set positive examples. '-)

                                                                                        2. Caroline1 RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 06:52 PM

                                                                                          I don't know if I would REALLY do it, but I like to think I would say to the owner, "You know, I'm not going to shop here any more simply because I despise the way you treat your employees," and walk out. Oh. And I don't think I would shop there any more, whether I cut her down or not. There HAVE to be other bakeries that are good.

                                                                                          1. Scargod RE: alyseb Oct 14, 2008 07:38 PM

                                                                                            Veggo, you tell it like it is.
                                                                                            I read this thread and think that Walter Mitty is at work here. Walter Mitty is one of my favorite fictional characters!
                                                                                            "I'm only a 5" 4", 90 pound woman, but I was gonna kick him in the balls but she wasn't a he! Since it was a she, I screamed profanities at her and gave her a good dose of her own medicine. Then I backed my car into the storefront window just to show her I meant business! , I really meant to run over her, but I missed.
                                                                                            I hope no one recognized me.... Perhaps I'll send her an anonymous email and apologize.... Will she ever let me buy a scone from her wonderful bakery again?"

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Scargod
                                                                                              c
                                                                                              chocolatebirthdaycake RE: Scargod Oct 14, 2008 08:25 PM

                                                                                              Where's my post?
                                                                                              I posted a response earlier this afternoon?

                                                                                              I didn't curse or anything so what is up, chowhound???

                                                                                            2. viperlush RE: alyseb Oct 15, 2008 09:31 AM

                                                                                              I don't know if it has been said yet, but if you don't want to confront the owner, why not be extra kind to the employee?

                                                                                              After the employer told the employee that she would have to pay respond by saying "Everyone makes mistakes, don't worry I'll take care of it" or something like that. Let the employee know that the employer's attitude is not shared by the customers. When it is your time to order a coffee drink say something like "Whatever it is that you just made looks good, can I have one?" Or out of the owner's hearing say to the employee "Please don't think that all adult and employers are rude like that, I appreciate what you do and thank you for your service".

                                                                                              I think I am more for empowering the employee to stand up for herself than doing it for her.

                                                                                              1. b
                                                                                                Bite Me RE: alyseb Oct 15, 2008 08:46 PM

                                                                                                I would take the owner aside and tell her that I love the food, etc but that it is extremely unpleasant to come into the shop. I would tell her that her unacceptable behavior is a major turn off and that you don't care to witness it anymore. I would also tell her (and Ihave done this) that it is outrageous and unacceptable for her to call an employee "stupid" or any other name. And, then, I would not go back.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Bite Me
                                                                                                  m
                                                                                                  melly RE: Bite Me Oct 15, 2008 09:57 PM

                                                                                                  Me too. And I would let the employee know that you noticed the abusive behavior and hope they can find a job where they are appreciated.

                                                                                                2. Scargod RE: alyseb Oct 16, 2008 06:08 AM

                                                                                                  I guess there are some with Bat-capes, crystal balls, X-ray vision and telepathic powers. Though the OP mentioned two incidents, what if there was only one? Could there were extenuating circumstances?

                                                                                                  This is all about perception of when you should or must intervene. I guess that drives some people to manage while some follow; some to be nurses and some to be policemen.
                                                                                                  I was thirty-two plus years old before I realized how to treat people respectfully and I'm still working on being less judgmental. That may place me squarely on the middle of being highly opinionated, as many others here.
                                                                                                  There is a premise in psychology that those that are more sensitive to a particular behavior are likely to behave that way themselves, to some degree. This can be positive and negative behavior.

                                                                                                  1. g
                                                                                                    givemecarbs RE: alyseb Oct 17, 2008 01:30 AM

                                                                                                    As a young adult (not a teenager which is very different) I had a series of entry level positions, and the two best jobs I ever had in that pay range had the two meanest bosses. At one, the best one, I was the cashier at a holiday inn restaurant where Everyone, managers, assistant managers, front desk clerks etc all hated the innkeeper. He was so arrogant and haughty, nit-picky and peevish, trust me a real jerk who really knew how to talk down to people. It has been said that the workplace resembles a family where the bosses are like daddy and mommy, etc and some are like a really dysfunctional family. But this one felt like the family really pulled together to survive the crazy big daddy. We all watched each others' backs and believe it or not there was no backstabbing whatsoever. And this in a restaurant setting! No one ever ratted anyone out and we all did a great job! We had such solidarity and bonding. And when someone attracted the innkeepers ire, it happened a Lot, it was like a support group afterwards, everyone was so sympathetic because we had all been unfairly called out on the carpet at one time or another. This bakery sounds different, small and with teenagers being verbally abused. But never estimate the ability of a common enemy to make a great team pull together! Okay this is probably long enough but just one example. The innkeeper lived at the holiday inn and sometimes would pull a surprise inspection much later than he was usually stalking the halls. The front desk clerk would call and alert the dining room and bar that he was on his way down the long hall. We would pass along the warning like whisper down the lane. He would look so disappointed when everyone looked super busy and alert, even in the kitchen. So much fun!!!!!!

                                                                                                    1. jfood RE: alyseb Oct 17, 2008 12:36 PM

                                                                                                      There are two questions to answer:

                                                                                                      1 - Should you interject - Jfood does not believe he is the hall monitor of the world. Hard enough keeping his family between the yellow lines. In order of priority, the kid should stand up for himself, he should get his parents involved, and lastly some guy ordering a sandwich

                                                                                                      2 - Your own relationship with the shop - Jfood witnessed a very xenophobic exchange between a sandwich shop owner and a new employee. Jfood had already ordered the sandwich and he turned and left. Now this was one of jfood's regular haunts. Months later he ran into the owner on the street and the owner asked jfood where he had been. Jfood explained and the owner told him the kid deserved it. Even out of the heat of battle the guy did not understand. And jfood has still not returned.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                                                                        fresnohotspot RE: jfood Oct 17, 2008 03:53 PM

                                                                                                        Just... go somewhere else.

                                                                                                        1. re: fresnohotspot
                                                                                                          o
                                                                                                          oystershell RE: fresnohotspot Jun 3, 2009 11:42 PM

                                                                                                          As an employer. I loathe this type of behavior. It has never happened to me when working as an employee, perhaps just luck.

                                                                                                          Having said that, this is a point that merits a reality check. There is a lot to be said about not wanting to escalate the situation and perhaps going home and writing a letter or making a call. However, the older I get and the more disgusted I get with this kind of obnoxiousness, I'm more inclined to let it rip.

                                                                                                          We have become a society of numbskulls. We are afraid to speak up, to voice our distaste with such losers. SO, right or wrong. I'm going to put this owner on the money (revenue). In a low tone of voice and with searing eye contact I will let this twit know that I find their management skills lacking and probab;y as how they would feel if THEIR child was berated in similar fashion. I would express that such behavior makes me terribly uncomfortable and that it has cost you (the owner) a customer ,a customer for life. Further, I would tell the owner that my mission would be to tell everyone I know to stop supporting such a troll. REVENUE RULES.

                                                                                                      2. l
                                                                                                        lgss RE: alyseb Jun 6, 2009 01:50 PM

                                                                                                        I bet this is one of the places that doesn't have a suggestion box...

                                                                                                        1. im_nomad RE: alyseb Jun 7, 2009 12:00 PM

                                                                                                          I can't say exactly what I would do in the same situation, I'd have to be there. Bottom line, I do know, and I have, tipped higher. I might probably even tip the server a sympathetic nod or an "i'm sorry you had to have that happen" when checking out. Confronting an emotionally charged manager that sounds like they have a chip on their shoulder, not so sure i'd go there.

                                                                                                          Many of us have been there. I worked at a popular burger chain half of my first year of university, and the owner regularly blasted employees out, whether it was their fault or not. I got yelled at more than once, once was because a coffee pot overflowed . I was 18 at the time, but not a strong and boistrous 18 year old who'd readily talk back. It was HORRIBLE there, and I feel for anyone still working in the place. If an employee does something wrong, what reason is there for you to yell at them? A grain of sense goes a long way.

                                                                                                          I know of a local place that a friend's daughter as working at, a higher end inn to boot, and the owner or manager, regularly tore the employees a new one, and also took their tips to boot. I haven't been back since.

                                                                                                          The owner of that bakery must go through an awful lot of blood-pressure medication by the sounds of it.

                                                                                                          1. m
                                                                                                            milkyway4679 RE: alyseb Jun 10, 2009 08:50 PM

                                                                                                            I responded upwards to a few comments that I disagreed with, but feel like I want to say something else. I want to say thank you to the people who would stick up for the employee. I can't just up and quit my job. It's not an option. As a college student who lives in one place for half the year, and in another for the other half, it is extremely difficult to find a job. As in, I recently applied to about 15-20 places (these were the places that were hiring out of the dozens I asked at) and only one responded to interview. My first job (I have two due to college expenses being astronomical for books and supplies these days) is a wonderful job, but the main boss treats me like garbage. He regularly berates me for absolutely no reason (the stories I have), but I need to money, and I don't have the necessary skill set to get a better job, and if I leave this one, I may not be able to pay for my books this semester.
                                                                                                            I wish so many times that someone had stuck up for me, especially because I don't have the option myself. If I stuck up for myself, I would be fired on the spot by the man, and would be out of a decent paying job that I need.
                                                                                                            So again, thank you to those who would stick up for us. We're all fighting the same battle, and it's nice to know that there is someone on the side of all us low paid, poorly treated minions :D

                                                                                                            1. PattiCakes RE: alyseb Jun 12, 2009 06:11 AM

                                                                                                              The Bean Counter has a website. Why doesn't someone just forward a link to this post? Or post the post on Yelp.

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