Post written on: 5 January 2016
Earlier last December, I applied to the local Mcdonalds as a service crew. They got back to me at the end of the month and located me somewhere else since that particular outlet was short of staff. It was neither near nor too far from my home so I said yes. I was gonna work part-time even as the semester starts. There’re so many questions I’d like to answer. I had wanted to find out how it is like working in the frontline of a fastfood restaurant. This means cashiering; food-handling and cleaning tasks, which my would-be manager would call these as versatile duties.
Every now and then when I get to Macs to have my fastfood fix, I always see different faces at the counter. Mostly elderly workers and young teenagers who’d just been out of school and waiting for the results of their leaving exams. Occasionally, you see faces other than the two groups. They look like they’d been there for quite awhile now. They look young, fresh and… full of future (?) However, the rate that fastfood chains are paying their employees, how do they manage to stay afloat with enough crew behind the counter? To get food in time for customers, how?
You could say they’re utilizing an abnormally-large pool of part-time labor. Really? For $5/hour, they’re able to build up this pool on standby? Everyone gets paid the same except for the managers. I read about the term, McJob, today. Defined by wiki as a “low-paying, low-prestige dead-end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement”. Macs eventually expostulate the term by inventing the concept of McProspects, which supposedly meant one has to and CAN work its way up to management. Check out an interesting read related to this here.
I’d read about personal recounts of working in a fastfood chain both online and offline in school. Specifically in America. An instance here. Most of them weren’t pleasant tales, of course. Wages precede above other concerns like working hours, workplace conditions, customers and the people in the workplace. It makes sense since all of us work for the check to pay bills. But why are these “crews” willing to work in these fastfood chains in the firstplace? Is it really the case of no-choice but to work at Mcdonalds/KFC/Burger King etc. etc.? I wouldn’t be able to judge the situation in America. In Singapore, there’re aplenty of food places hiring people at a higher rate.
I figure it wasn’t gonna be any fastfood restaurant. It has to be Macs. Why? This, is the epitome of a successful fastfood chain and an MNC known to all. Regardless of the class; continent; level of education; age or generation you come from; even if you’d been a homebody all your life, everyone knows Macs. Deviating alittle – when I go overseas, Macs is that place you feel closest to home. The food taste the same. The surroundings look the same. I am guessing Macs outlets look similar everywhere around the world as well.
I wouldn’t expect to have all my questions answered, especially questions like “why do fastfood jobs pay so little?”. You could earn more giving out flyers outside the train station and it wouldn’t require you to have any education/training but a “thick skin”… I would still have to get most of my answers online and then relate it to the meagre amount of time I spend there.
Today during the interview, I was told what I’d be doing on the job; introduction of the hierarchy checked; dress code checked; paycheck procedures checked. I start next Tuesday.
Post written on: 15 January 2016
Three days ago, I started work at Mcdonalds. I’d intend to write about it on Tuesday night so that the memory was still fresh, but slept alot afterwards. I didn’t think it was work at Macs that tired me out. Instead, it was Mornings. On my first day of work, I went with the 4-hour shift starting from 10AM. The branch that I was working at is located in a fairly remote but still an accessible area. I had to take a bus from the train station. My other colleagues had told me that we don’t get as much of a crowd as other outlets do. The entire seating area is visible from the counter; no outdoor areas or corners to accommodate more seats. There’s also an handicap toilet at the back.
In the morning, I met with the restaurant manager at the branch. He was nice and casual, which meant it didn’t felt too stressful to receive instructions from him despite his position. I was given my one set of uniform, a cap that may be alittle too small for my head and a name tag pin. I was told to handle the seating area where all the customers have their food. He got a lady to mentor me with the tasks I was to engage in when I’m assigned to this area in the restaurant. She didn’t seem like a local; maybe a Malaysian who has been living here for a long time now. She often refer herself as a third person – “auntie has been doing this for ten over years”. At first, I thought she’d been referring to the cashiering auntie all the while until I clarified. She was patient and assured me that these were simple tasks and I’d pick them up in no time. I gotta do mopping and never to forget to squeeze the mop dry and lay out the “CAUTION: WET FLOOR” signage, clear trays, refill the condiments, wipe the seats and tables, and rinse the trays then dry them with hot towels.
I felt alittle uncomfortable at the beginning with customers staring at me, which almost seem like sympathy stares. Sometimes, switching from that to gawks. I took a quick glance at them and immediately look away. Hate eye contact, hate it even more when I hold eye contact with a stranger by accident and I smile miserably at them, then they don’t return the
same miserable smile. But you get used to it as the hours ticked by and cleaning up after them feels more OK now.
The kitchen turns out to be a very chatty environment. I didn’t partake in the giggly atmosphere but it was still nice to overhear their teases. There were three elderly aunties; two situated in the kitchen and one being the only one at the counter to handle the orders. And three other female staff, including my “mentor”. There was another manager whom I learnt later that he was about a year or so younger than me. There was also a very articulated teenager who has been working part-time for about two years and is waiting for his exam results. He made some pretty harsh but harmless remarks while I was rushing to get the orders fulfilled during lunch hour, where he sighed and shook his head when I took awhile to scoop the fries and learn to use the ice-cream machine for the first time.
They had asked me the same thing I wrote about above: Why do you work here? I told them as it is, I wanted to know how a fast food restaurant functions. What I left out was that it was the social aspect I was interested in, rather than the technical aspects of running this.
Was it hard work?
Was there the monotonous, neverending work nature that people speak of jobs in diners or any food places?
Where does society’s stereotypes of diner workers come from?
Mainly: Why do you stay here? For some of them (three of them to be exact), the proximity of the workplace to their home largely determines why they work there. The some-of-them also wanted to kill time, plus that proximity.
Post written on: 5 February 2016