Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Work Ethic - A Rant

A few months ago, I decided to try a new career. After being in supervisory/management positions for the last 15 years or so, I wanted to try something that did not require me to manage people. It's not that I don't like managing people. I just needed a change.

So I went to poker dealing school in Las Vegas. It's a five week course, at the end of which, you've got just enough skill and practice to get yourself hired at a casino/poker room.

Poker dealers can make a pretty healthy living once they're working full time. A decent dealer in a decent room can average $20 an hour without too much trouble. And with the explosion in popularity that poker has experienced in the last two years, there are usually more positions avaiable than there are dealers. As the owner of the poker school I attended told me, it's too easy to get a job as a poker dealer right now.

So what do I have to rant about?

Like every other job, this one is 99% attitude. Learning to toss cards around a table, handle players chips and money - all this is easy. Practice and experience improve your skills, or at least they should. And like every other job, there is the small percentage of co-workers who don't know how good they have it.

I get absolutely hacked off by individuals who have been doing the job less than six months, and are complaining when they only made $150 for an 8-hour shift. Yup, just shy of $19/hr., and they can do nothing but complain. There are folks that work at the same property we do making a quarter of that, with far less pleasant jobs, and happy that they can take home a paycheck.

My job involves dealing cards to folks who are in Las Vegas for a good time. Are there people who are a pain in the ass? Sure. Bad tippers? Count on it. And yet, you still average good money. That is, after all, what an average is all about. Sometimes it's lower, sometimes it's higher. It balances.

But these folks act like they are owed more, like somehow they've been cheated. They make what is really a phenomenal amount of money for slinging cards around a table. But the part they really don't realize is, their attitude is what is killing them.

More than once I've sat down to deal at a table, having previously been warned by the outgoing dealer that "they're a bunch of stiffs". I leave the table 30 minutes later with 2-3 times the tips the previous dealer made. I'd put this off to luck, if it wasn't consistent. Why does it happen? Because the dealer ahead of me has the personality of a wet dishrag.

One guy thinks he's going to be a professional poker player - this is just a temporary gig. And he treats players at his tables with that attitude. What does he care? They're just "fish" that he'll ending up taking money from later. They're targets, not customers. They're just an annoyance. And yet he doesn't understand why he keeps getting smaller tips.

Then there's the dealer who's only there for the benefits. There's more than one, but the general attitude is the same. They have to maintain 30 hours a week to keep their benefits. So when they hit their 6 hours for the day, they want out. Doesn't matter how busy the room is, what the needs of the businees or the customers are. Just get them out. And they act like it with customers. To them, they are simply killing time until they've hit their required hours. And when they do hit their hours, God forbid anything delay their departure. Customers get a blank stare, a cold thanks when they give the dealer a tip.

And then we have the inflexible, the rude, the just plain disgruntled. These folks for some reason seem to be constantly pissed at the world. For whatever reason, they have been unable to get some other job, and feel insulted that they are working at this job. And of you don't follow their view of how things should go, you're just an asshole who deserves nothing but the most rude treatment. In one case, one of these guys had dealt a few winning hands to a particular player. This player had neglected to tip him. On a subsequent hand, the player realized he hadn't been tipping, and tossed the dealer a couple of chips. The dealer's response? A sarcastic, "Think you can afford it?".

But the amazing thing with all these folks is, they're still there. They still show up for work, and will get flamingly indignant at any situation where a lower seniority person gets what they feel is better treatment than their position demands. Never mind that the guys with lower positions WANT to work. That they have to be satisfied with 3 shifts a week because any more would qualify them for benefits, while others try to see how few hous they can work and still collect theirs benefits.

The newer guys have to deal with showing up at a table where one of the more tenured malcontents have ticked off the entire table with their attitude. You spent the first few minutes just getting folks to relax. You have to remind them that they're in Las Vegas. They're there to have fun. Of course, if you're successful, you'll often get decent tips just because you aren't the previous guy. I got tipped $2 by three different people last weekend just for sitting down, they were so thankful for the dealer change.

And that hits on the part that annoys me the most. These dealers seem to forget that they chose to work there. Let's paint the picture: Las Vegas, free booze, folks looking to have fun, money getting tossed around like it's from a Monopoly set. And all you have to do is deal the cards, run the game, and help them have fun. How bad can this be?

So where am I going with all this?

I wish that this was an isolated issue. But in every business I've worked in, these folks are there. The attitudes of "do as little as possible", "they owe me for showing up", "I'm only here until I find something better" are all over the place.

I wish I knew what was behind this. I don't think there's an easy answer. What I do know is that I've gotten tired, as a consumer, of being treated as an interruption, a nuisance that is to be dispatched as quickly as possible so that the person who is "serving" me can get back to their incredibly important discussion about the capri pants they bought yesterday.

Fast food restaurants, department stores, theme parks, anywhere where customer service is supposed to be the focus - these are the places where you see these issues crop up most frequently. At some point these folks have developed the perception that they are getting paid to show up, that actual work is unnecssary. Dealing with a customer is beneath them.

And we, as consumers, have aided this by reinforcing this perception. We have become so focused on getting our goods as cheaply and quickly as possible that we have become willing to sacrifice actual service to save a buck. Brands that were once hallmarks of quality have given way to cheaply produced goods, with the expectation that their shortened lifespans are offset by cheap replacement. We get our food delivered to us at hyperspeed, and we tolerate the rude, or at best, indifferent attitude we get from the people taking our order.

We see people people who want jobs not being able to get them, those with jobs acting like it's owed to them, and fat cats lining their pockets with the profits of low cost goods, produced for a gluttonous market.

I thought maybe a rant would make me feel better. I was wrong.

No comments: