I'm thinking about ditching work today. Aaand I've only been there for a week...
October 21, 2012 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I do NOT want to come in to work today. My shift begins in 3 hours and I'm seriously considering just not showing up. One week working there and I already want to quit - HELP!

I'm a full-time college student and I just acquired a part-time job as the to-go person at a Japanese restaurant nestled in an affluent neighborhood (with hopes of becoming a server). The menu is extensive and just had some new additions, making the memorization process even more stressful, though I've made colored flashcards to get myself on track.

The girl who trained me for my first three shifts has quit as she is relocating, and I was praised for my competence and ability to pick up rather quickly. However, this past Friday was my first day on my own. I was told it was by far one of our busiest days ever, and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. A slew of phone calls for orders came in simultaneously, especially during critical moments as I was placing orders on the POS system (something I'm still learning), which I did incorrectly many times. In short, I fucked up a lot of orders -- a couple customers complained that their orders were incorrect, I wasn't properly highlighting the orders so that the kitchen and sushi bar would know that these orders are to-go and not dine-in, I misquoted the estimated time it would take for their orders to be ready which caused angry customers to scream at the general manager, and a lot of menu items are so specific and tend to be listed under different names on the computer, causing me to work at a snail's pace. I feel HORRIBLE when I have to stop a server to assist me when we're slammed (though they're very sweet and patient and willing to help). Other than that, my lack of being able to identify what a menu item is just by looking at it caused my orders to become so backed up. I've tried being organized by printing out tickets of customer orders and placing the foods next to them, but when I'd have no idea wtf a food item is, I'd set it aside. And that pile continued to stack up until I had a few towers of food boxes. At that point, walking out amidst the 3-hour rush seemed like a good idea.

Also, I was scolded by the general manager, a more aggressive and almost abrasive female (especially under stress), for misquoting customer order wait times. In the middle of the storm, she told me to tell customers it would take 1hr 15min. However, they'd come in early, and the hostess would come in and ask me to give an estimate for their waiting time. Since we were extremely slammed, I'd give her an arbitrary number, completely brainfarting and disregarding what was told by my manager. This of course, resulted in a handful of pissed off customers. When confronted by the GM about this, I felt like a fucking moron when all I could tell her was that it was an honest mistake and that I was sorry. I realize I should have considered the time they placed their order by what's noted on their ticket print-out and have done the math then and there, but it's very difficult when you have a bunch of pending orders while dealing with a customer on the phone with 1-2 already on hold. I wanted to die. :(

I confided one of the managers after my shift who told me that it mainly just comes with experience. When the general manager (who scolded me for the misquote) came into the back office, she told me that, "Tonight was basically the perfect storm." I'm praying tonight isn't similar. :( The only thing I'm proud of really is the fact that I acknowledged my mistakes and asked the managers for advice (because I *do* care), but I really, REALLY don't feel like going in later. Any words of advice on how to deal? I'm hoping this job will help me acquire better phone skills, and I know that I need to really work on relaxing under stress. It's just the fact that I'm having to learn everything at once + I have tons of school work in a demanding major is making me rethink even having a part-time job... but it pays well for what it is. Everyone I've vented to keeps telling me I'll be fine, but I almost want to cry as my work shift approaches because I'd rather stay home and not deal with all that stress. What do you guys think?
posted by HiphopAnonymous to Work & Money (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think starting a new job is just like this, and you'll be fine. You'll certainly feel better about yourself if you go in, and not very good at all if you just don't show up! I just started a new job and just a week or two ago I was pretty overwhelmed and felt like I couldn't figure anything out, but now it's much, much better - and it's only been about a week of me doing the job with no training. I would definitely go in.
posted by queens86 at 1:37 PM on October 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

You need to suck it up and go in to work and try again. To not go in would so unprofessional, and immature, and it'll set you up for some bad work habits later on. Don't try to save face -- do right by your employers on this one, and if you still feel like this is a bad fit, quit. But to not show up for a shift because you're embarassed? No way. Bad karma.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:40 PM on October 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

This job is going to teach you skills that will be useful for the rest of your career: how to recover from early mistakes, how to pretend to be confident when you're anxious inside, how to go to work even when you really don't want to. If, once you get more experienced, you discover the environment is actually toxic or exploitative, go ahead and quit. But if you're just wanting to run because you're scared you'll make more mistakes, this is an opportunity to learn how to handle that feeling and stick it out. Because honestly, every new job can feel that way at first - even professional jobs. You just have to suck it up and pretend you're coping until you get enough experience that you actually are. The ability to do this will be invaluable throughout your life.
posted by embrangled at 1:45 PM on October 21, 2012 [40 favorites]

I think you should go in and give it some more time. Lots of jobs can be difficult and stressful when you first start and it's good to learn how to deal with that. Also, if you want to be a server, you're going to have to know how to deal with it, because this kind of thing is what a server deals with all the time. Of course, once you get the hang of it and are able to find a rhythm that works for you, it's not so bad and even kind of enjoyable.

Give it a few more shifts and if it ends up not being the thing for you, then fair enough, put in your notice. But you have to give it some time to get past the initial learning curve or you'll never be good at anything.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:47 PM on October 21, 2012

Not showing up is far worse and far more embarrassing than showing up and making some minor mistakes.
posted by grouse at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your ability to cope with the stress and skill at handling the demands of the job won't get any better if you don't show up. It can and will get better, but only if you put in the work.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

A substantial percentage of students flake out and disappear from part-time jobs. A week from now, no one will really care if that's what you choose to do (well, one or two people will remember you were sort of a flake and think snide thoughts). But if you're in serious panic attack mode, do what you have to do.

On the other hand, the cool thing to do is set yourself reasonable terms and deadlines for leaving in a more professional manner. If it's still this much trouble, say, two weeks from now, let people know that you're having trouble balancing work and school and will need to quit soon--preferably ASAP but you don't want to leave them in the lurch.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:50 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

This experience, and the way that you're feeling, are both totally normal. This is just what new jobs are like. Keep going; you'll get the hang of it soon.

It's ok to tell the manager that you'd like more help during the rush, though it may not happen.

It's ok to answer customer questions with "I'm sorry, I don't know". If they push, you can say "I'm sorry, I'm new, and I really don't know". If you have time you can try to find the answer for them, but you don't have to if it's too busy and you can't handle it.

Don't expect to keep all the customers happy, especially during a rush. It just wont happen.
posted by windykites at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is Sunday. Sundays almost certainly won't be nearly as busy as Friday nights. You will be fine. Probably even someone with experience would have had a tough time Friday, and the fact you didn't run screaming midshift bodes well for you. As for managers, they are stressed too, so take nothing that was said to you Friday personally.

If after tonight you still feel this is a bad fit you can always reconsider. But I am betting you will be fine, and I am the veteran of way too many third shift Waffle House bar rushes.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Don't ditch. Show up. You can do it. You are a competent person who is learning new content and a tricky new skill.

Doing a thing you are not already good at... even if it means screwing up and having people mad at you for a short time... is a critically important life skill. It's a (scary, uncomfortable) stage you'll go through at every job; and if you stick with it, you will emerge on the other side as a person who can handle this job, and who knows how to learn on-the-job.

Keep going, promise yourself you will take at least ten shifts before you consider whether to quit. You absolutely can do this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:58 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should go in! You'll feel better about yourself, for one thing. Tell yourself that if it's really unbearable after X number of shifts, you can give notice and quit. Then see how it goes. If you really, really can't handle it, give yourself permission to quit. But learning to distinguish between "this sucks but I can power through it" and "this sucks and it is crushing me and I have to leave" is really, really useful.
posted by Frowner at 2:00 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Quitting a restaurant job is no big deal. On the other hand, having a hard time when you're new, in a perfect storm, is no big deal either. So what's to lose by going in?

Proceed as you have already: Tell them you care, you want to get it right, but you need some help. Then, whatever happens, do your best.

I think you'll be fine. And if you can learn this job, under pressure, you'll have something real under your belt. I waited tables during some perfect storms a looooong time ago. And today, when my professional job goes crazy -- yes, it still happens -- my coworkers express amazement at my ability to keep cool, calm, and collected under fire. Well, I wasn't born that way.

And please give us a report back!
posted by LonnieK at 2:01 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let them decide if you're too intolerably bad to do this job or not. As long as most folks are allowing for you to be new and screwing up, keep trying. And yeah, Sunday can't be this bad.

I haven't worked in a restaurant, but I have had some similar feelings about working the counter at my new job (there is a LOT of complicated shit I have to know, with higher stakes than a fucked-up meal if I get it wrong). As long as they don't expect you to be perfect about it and allow for you to be learning for awhile... you should be okay.

Like someone else said, give it 10 shifts. It probably won't be as bad as Friday, really!
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go in.
Restaurant work can be like this sometimes, and will really teach you some important skills. An experienced worker thrown into a new environment such as you describe would also have had some trouble I would guess (at least, I would. Not knowing what the items even are by looking at them!) Don't be too hard on yourself, just keep on moving forward. Take it to heart what the manager said "Tonight was the perfect storm"; at least, the way I read that is to say that everything fell apart, not just you. The silver lining on that is that they don't happen very often!
Go in!
posted by bebrave! at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2012

Next time ask the GM or whoever is complaining how they'd prefer you do it. "Maybe I just wasn't trained very well." Put it on them, since it's their responsibility to train you for the job.
posted by rhizome at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2012

If you were really so bad they would've fired you. They may be a bit intimidating in the middle of battle but they took the time to make nice excuses for your first busy night. They want you to come back and pull this off.

Also, while this won't help you tonight I definitely suggest eating everything on the menu in the first month of the job so you are very familiar with the food.
posted by michaelh at 2:09 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I completely forgot to mention in my original post that I do have 4 years of previous serving experience; albeit in a hotel restaurant serving breakfast, I've dealt with rushes n' all that before. Except it's easy to tell an omelette apart from a bowl of oatmeal. A lot of these sushi rolls/nigiri/sashimi things look alike and some of them even have different names than what's on the menu. On Friday, for example, a gentleman had ordered 'Unagi.' Fortunately there was a computer right behind me so I Google Image searched and realized it's eel.

I think if it *REALLY* came down to just not showing up to work, or throwing in the towel midshift, I wouldn't actually do it. That's basically a big "fuck you" to them and I'm not the type who bites the hand that feeds. I mean, shit - without last week's paycheck, I wouldn't have been able to purchase my Halloween costume this weekend.

I can do this. I can do this I can do this I can do this. I'll suck it up and go in tonight, and give this at least a month or so before I reconsider. I think I would hate myself more if I walked away without putting in a good fight. Thank you so much for the prompt pep talk (greatly needed!). I'll come back and keep you guys posted.
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 2:09 PM on October 21, 2012 [25 favorites]

Never done it myself, but a friend once gave me a sort of lesson about human behavior from her own experience working as a maitresse d'... People don't mind waiting, for the most part; they love waiting less than expected; and they HATE waiting longer than expected.

When giving wait times, err on the very high side. And as a perk, a few people might decide to go elsewhere, thereby lightening your load.
posted by pla at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Assuming you are not Japanese, etc., management knows the menu is complex and the job is hard. By the time your first month is over you may find you like the job and your co-workers.
posted by lathrop at 3:04 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to work as a temp, and that is a whole series of first-day-on-the-jobs, and sucked ass. What I discovered was a quick "Please bear with me, I'm new here" did a LOT to soothe ruffled customers, especially if I said that before they started getting angry.
posted by telophase at 3:09 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

OK, so it sounds like a complicating factor is that you're not really familiar enough with the cuisine to be 100% comfortable working at this kind of restaurant (unagi=eel is basic information). After you survive tonight (you will!) you ought to squeeze in some extra time to bone up on the menu and Japanese food in general. There are tons of videos, websites, and books to help you.

Also, don't feel bad about asking the servers etc. for help -- ask as needed (it's just your second night) and if you feel like you asked too much, bring in a bag of candy on your next shift to say thanks.

(And I agree with telophase. It sounds counterintuitive given what jerks so many people are, but there was even a study that found that presenters at conferences got more slack or approval if they said something like that at the beginning of a botched presentation. I forget the details. :))

Hang in there!
posted by wintersweet at 3:40 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep at it! The skills and speed will come. I can remember menues and prices from straunt jobs I had years ago. When it is slow, get coached by their best people on how to rock it.
posted by vrakatar at 3:40 PM on October 21, 2012

One thing that I've found helpful is understanding the big picture - your performance at work as a newbie is really the responsibility of your supervisor and manager.

The only thing within your control you can do is show up on time and do your best and smile. You're a college student, so you're not dumb by any means. This means that your performance is a direct reflection of how their business process is structured and the quality of training provided. If there's any blame for failure, it's on them and their processes. That's why they may get grumpy: because the buck stops with them. You're certainly not the only newbie on this job who's made mistakes.

Think about it, if the buck stops with you instead, they wouldn't even care that you messed up.
posted by xdvesper at 3:51 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can completely see how you are demoralized and frightened, but I actually think you have handled all of this pretty well.

Look, you had a bad shift, maybe a horrible shift, but you apologized for your mistakes, genuinely want to do better and talked to management. They haven't fired you, and in fact noted that things were worse than usual and your job was harder for you than they had expected. To a certain extent it sounds like you are holding yourself to a higher expectation of performance than they are. So long as they are satisfied enough with your performance to keep you coming back - and not being unreasonably abusive - you have the option to keep going. If this job aligns with your ambitions (if even just to get a more lucrative serving job) - then I think you'll get a lot by sticking around.

There will be other times in your life when you will have really awful days at work, when your performance will be so far below your own standards that you want to just crawl in a shell and not come out. It is part of being human. But, if you learn from those experiences you come out a lot stronger after.
posted by meinvt at 4:12 PM on October 21, 2012

This is totally normal. You were thrown into the fire, a swamped Friday night, on your first night alone, without the menu and processes down to instinct yet.

You made it through and had the strength of character to go back.

Yay for you!

When you get home tonight give yourself an awesome treat, and be proud of yourself.
posted by Vaike at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2012

How do you expect to get better at all the things you want to get better at if you don't go through this phase? People are not, by and large, magically and suddenly good at things just by showing up.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:46 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely normal for a new job. In a month or so, you'll be an expert.

And yes, I think the key is to tell people that you're new.

Beyond that, try your hardest to remain polite and calm. I always found in retail that, no matter how many mistakes I made, the customers responded kindly when I was kind to them and made it clear that I was trying to help. So I think a positive attitude will go a long way in helping you deal with the customers.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 5:05 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

HiphopAnonymous, please report back and let us know how it went!
posted by lulu68 at 5:16 PM on October 21, 2012

Hey - now you never have to look up Unagi again! Now you know it. You'll have the rest of the menu down in a month or less.
posted by barnone at 5:51 PM on October 21, 2012

You can do it. I'm pulling for you.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:27 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, you know going in is the right thing. Not only won't you be letting your employers down, you'll benefit by seeing that not every night is like Friday night was.

I think tomorrow you'll realize you dreaded going in way more than you should have, and the actual work paled in comparison to this horrible apprehension.

Do you have a cellphone? Maybe try taking pictures of the food you still don't recognize or tend to forget. You can always show the pic to a customer, to ask if that's what they want. If the customer is on the phone you could maybe verify with a server or the management that you are matching the right food to the customer's request that way, too.

The object here is for everyone to get what they want in a timely manner. It's in the restaurant's benefit to make things more efficient, too, right? Sounds like the ordering process is way too complicated to me. The management might want to consider putting numbers, letters or a short, specific name by the most frequently ordered combinations, so you, or the customer, can just say "Number 2" or "Unagi sampler" to verify, and you'll know you've got the order right.
posted by misha at 6:54 PM on October 21, 2012

Response by poster: So... tonight wasn't as busy as Friday (as expected), but it was still pretty busy. I recall having closer to 12-15 to-go's then, and tallied up tonight's at around 7-8. A little more down time and some slight panic, but it wasn't as bad as last time's. Pretty sure I fucked up another order since there was a box with four California rolls off to the side. The lady manager was assisting me, and when I told her that I was pretty sure my previous to-go orders were correct, she concluded that those were missing from someone's order. I felt pretty bad as she scoffed and walked to the sushi bar to let the chef's know, but I've heard her scold one of the servers tonight and realized she's tough with everyone. Didn't take it personally and carried on.

Also made the mistake of forgetting to quote a time on one of my orders -- she caught me just as I ended a call:
- "How long did you quote them for."
- "...I didn't. (my stomach drops)"
- "*My name.* (eyes wide open). You need to tell them. Every. Single. Time. Do you understand."
- "Yes. Will do."
- "Call them back right now. Tell them it's at least an hour for to-go and an hour fifteen for deliveries."
- "Yes. (writes it down on post-it note). I have it physically right here in front of me."

This is something I want to make a habit of, since she did reprimand me for making "mental notes," and for good reason... because I did forget.

I think I'm just used to being coddled with gold stars and forehead kisses in previous jobs, so being instructed in a stern way is also a bit of an eye opener, but I think very much needed. She addressed some of my flaws I think that has carried over to other areas of my life (mostly stress-related): Calm down, don't spazz out, do one thing at a time, and never assume things (I was incorrectly making modifications on specific orders which confused the cooks in the back). Don't be shy to ask questions (sometimes I HATE to be THAT girl that has to stop someone who's busy to assist me; I realize now that it's better to be shown how to do something right [preferably the first time around] than to royally fuck up). Thankfully the servers have been very helpful and even patient with me, and the delivery boy has even gone out of his way to show me the ropes and give me pointers (God bless his heart). Before it got busy tonight, he showed me some tricky parts of the POS computer system since some of the items on there don't match up with menu items. I immediately took notes. He's only been working for a month and has been the biggest life saver. I'm hoping to be as skilled as he is in about that time as well.

What else? I have a very short attention span and have a natural tendency to take on more tasks than I can handle, and this job is teaching me to slow my roll and to do one at a time. I put a few customers on hold while punching in orders on the sales system, which felt nice as I was able to get orders in promptly. I'm still slow, but I'm getting better with it slowly but surely.

I noticed that the lady manager pulled up a document on the computer in the to-go room titled "Study Guide," which I figured was for me so I quickly e-mailed it to myself before she mentioned already having a printed copy for me in the back. I'm planning on studying that this week as well as compiling a binder containing the items complete with photos and descriptions.

Overall, I made decent tips this weekend, and since my brother wanted me to pick up food on the way home, so I brought in some Taco Bell. Doritos Locos tacos and Mexican pizza totes hit the spot. I feel like I'm forgetting to address one more concern but my eyelids are getting too heavy at the moment.
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 12:11 AM on October 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

I just wanted to drop in and say well done for going in and well done for managing a busy shift. I've worked a couple of jobs like this and it's always the worst at the beginning, when you're new and everyone else seems to be going a mile a minute. Just remember to breathe, you're doing great. :)
posted by fight or flight at 4:02 AM on October 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was the takeout person for a long time before I was a server, so I know how overwhelming it can all be. You are doing GREAT and I LOVE your great attitude, keep up the good work!
posted by triggerfinger at 4:34 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Late to this one but wanted to say that putting your hand up and owning up to mistakes, not trying to blame other people or processes or whatever and really owning them and working on them is actually an amazing quality that will serve you will in any part of your life. I'm impressed, and I bet once your boss realises you can do the job without stern reprimands, you'll start to hear that.
posted by Admira at 1:17 AM on October 23, 2012

Working in the service industry isn't easy- especially when you get slammed with customers. I never worked in a restaurant but I did work retail for many years during my high school and college days. Eventually you just get better at the job with experience. It's the only way to improve.
posted by jeahc at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2012

Response by poster: I'm not sure if anyone still follows this thread, but here's an interesting update:

For awhile, we've had a few slow days, which gave me the opportunity to get the hang of the job at a nicer pace. However, this past Sunday was hectic -- very much like the previous hellish day as I've described. In my attempt to do one task at a time instead of my usual multitasking, the avalanche of simultaneous phone calls overwhelmed me (I ended up with 2-3 people on hold for very long periods as I entered previous orders on the computer). Basically, it was another shitty evening at work, and I was beginning to hate my job but wanted to give it more time to at least TRY to kick ass before throwing in the towel for good.

The general manager came into the restaurant about an hour and a half into my shift this evening and told me she wanted to talk with me in the back office. She told me that my mistakes have costed the restaurant money and asked me how I felt about working there. I told her I had my doubts about it being a good fit, and she expressed something similar. I was told to transfer my current to-go orders to our delivery guy working, so I knew right then and there that she was letting me go. Told me I'm a smart girl and a sweetheart and this wasn't personal, and I was as sweet and as honest as can be. We ended everything amicably, and it felt very much like a lighthearted mutual breakup of a short-term relationship. Still felt bummed, but more relieved and liberated than anything else, I think. It was getting to the point that I began seriously dreading going in, and that says a lot considering I tend to be very enthusiastic about a new job.
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 12:48 AM on November 2, 2012

If you were eligible for unemployment, you might want to call it differently, but I think you should consider that for all practical purposes a clean quit. Not that you'll ever need to talk about this job again unless you want to, but in my state, the folks who judge this kind of thing have a guideline that says whoever first mentions the possibility of ending the employment may be considered the one who initiated it. You suggested the job wasn't a good fit upon being asked an open-ended question, so congratulations on both your honesty and on shaping the happy outcome yourself.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:36 AM on November 2, 2012

I think you can hold your head up high, because you gave this hard thing an honest shot, you learned from it, and now you can move on. Great job!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:34 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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