I am a Nepalese British. My parents remind me very often that I am lucky to have grown up in England and I agree. I have always been grateful for the sacrifice my parents have made so that I can have a brighter future. When I finished my A-Levels I decided to take a gap year instead of going to university because I was scared and I knew I wasn’t ready, but really who is every ready? In my gap year I decided to work. In the beginning I got a cleaning job at a hospital through an agency, the hours were short and I was paid well but I didn’t like it. It felt mundane and the hospital felt cold and depressing. I left finding a temporary job in retail for Christmas. The hours were short and I was paid well, moreover I had co-workers, co-workers that I liked. They were very welcoming and friendly. But I felt like a burden there, I wasn’t great with the customers, I wasn’t able to give expert advise on the products and I barely got in on time to work. I was an awkward potato at work and lacked people skill, I couldn’t make good conversation with the customers nor the other workers but I am grateful for the experience. Christmas ended and then I was left with nothing.
Thankfully my mum found a Nepalese owned buffet, possibly in need of a waiter. I went in there for kind of like a trial day. It was a mess, I totally flunked it. I wasn’t good despite my experience in waitering back when I was sixteen. I believe my nervousness combined with the busy night and the new environment didn’t help me on that day. They called me back for two more days, informed me that I would receive £5.55 per hour (the minimum for my age range) and then they didn’t call me back. I quickly realised that they didn’t like my work, that was reasonable but I still had to collect my pay for the two days. When I go into to collect the money, which they are paying me cash in hand (which I believe is illegal), I also happen to be accompanied by my mother. As soon as my mum sees the manager she realises they are actually related through marriage. To this day I am still unsure if the reason he called me back was because of my mother or not. He may have been in need of staff but he clearly didn’t like my work and didn’t call me back earlier, so who knows?
So this is where the problems begins. I continue working part-time, then they inform me they need a full timer and I volunteer (extra cash is always welcomed), they are a bit sceptical because they were looking for a man to work the long 60 hours (or more) a week, but no one is offering and I am the only one who is. I end up with doing 50 hours a week and I take two days off. The managers inform me that for 5 days I will start off with £187 and something pennies. This already threw me off but I didn’t want to be impolite, he does add that as I work there longer my wage will increase, this would apparently happen in a month. For about a month I worked for £3.74 or so per hour, this was clearly very under the minimum wage but I didn’t sign any contacts and the cash was in hands so I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t like the business was formal to begin with. A month passes and there’s no change in my wage, so one day I bravely ask for a rise, he says he’ll look into it. The shifts are usually from 11 till 3 than again from 5 till 11. I never get a pay rise but I want more, so when one of the older full timers leaves for his holiday I begin to do 60 hours a week (six days a week with only 1 day off). They pay me £250 that is £4.17 (rounded up) per hour, it’s still under the minimum wage but I am not sure about all the complicated legal things here, I feel like that there’s a loophole where the manager can get away with paying me so little. When I talk to the older boys who have been working there longer, I express my desire to earn the minimum wage (because we should be entitled to that) they laugh at me, was I asking for the impossible or was I that funny for no reason?
I start becoming angry. The hours are long, the managers and customers are both very demanding, there are issues with the chefs regarding the tips and I don’t even get paid that well. My attitude starts changing, instead of thinking I will do better I start thinking, fuck this shit hole. I don’t get a goodnight sleep and we eat lunch at 3pm and dinner is usually after 8:30pm, moreover on Sundays we work from 11 till 9 with only a 30 minute break and whatever time we need to eat a late lunch and dinner. It’s stressing me out so I decide to go back to 50 hours a week. But nothing improves the environment at work feels dark (thank god for my two friends at work though) and I am only paid £208 or £210 per week (I don’t bother to check because I know that none the less I am still being paid very poorly). I leave work with a two-week advance notice to my managers. I know it’s a short notice time but this work didn’t begin with any proper rules any ways, furthermore my full timer friend was also leaving and I didn’t know how I could cope at work without him there. When a new girl comes in to work full-time as I finish my last week, I also find out that she is paid £240 for 50 hours a week, interesting. But honestly I felt lied to and I felt like I was being used.
And then there was the issues with the chefs about the tips. Waiters don’t have a table to serve each, we do everything and anything to make sure the customers are happy. Therefore if a table does leave tips behind we put it into the tip box to be shared between the waiters and chefs. But early on the waiters taught me that we take some of them for our selves, at first I was shy about it but when I was only getting a pound back at the end of the day, I realised being nice wasn’t the way. I always only took a little to make sure that there was still enough to share at the end of the day. But when the chefs talk about us taking the tips they accuse us of ‘stealing’. All I can think is are you being serious?
Am I selfish? For wanting minimum wage even though I know that business inst doing great. But they make enough and we never get any of the service charge that they charge the customers. There’s even been talk in our community that the manager (either the head or assistant) had their house robbed and all the money he was saving and/or hiding (people believe he could have been avoiding tax) . So am I asking for too much? The hours at work are too long, I wish the managers had a better system in place. Am I asking for too much? I want a part of the service charge being shared out to the staff. Am I asking for too much? I want the managers to actually also work on the buffet. The manager at my old work place would waiter with us and helped in the kitchen as well as the dish washing room. And the old manager at the buffet used to also waiter. Am I asking for too much from my bosses? I mean they would save some money if they worked instead of hiring, right? Am I being naive in finding the hours too long and the work too stressful or is this just adulthood? My manager said I had to see from both sides, but I feel like I am. I validate their actions but then I realise they were wrong, or am I still blinded by my inability to sympathise and empathise?
But I do own up to one of my mistakes. I should have voiced my dissatisfaction at work sooner. Saying I’m fine when I am not will never make things better.