Monday, May 30, 2005

To stay or to go?

Okay, the break is over. Sorry for the very long absence (and thank you for the on- and off-blog concern for my absence) but somewhere between, school, work, wedding planning and trying to maintain relationships with the people in my life, I have run out of hours in the day. In fact, I think a good part of my recent weightloss has to do with the fact that I do not have enough time to eat food that would prohibit such weightloss.

But I am emerging from my blogless cave to rant. Yes, folks, rant. I know that never happens on this blog, [insert sarcastic eye-roll here] but today something happened so reprehensible, that I simply lost it.

At the hospital where I go to school there are 2 cafeterias available for the students. One is in the hospital, is relatively expensive, dairy and the food is gross. The other is in the student center (and thus aimed to students), meat, and somewhat cheaper. Today I went to purchase my usual lunch there, and was immediately aware of both a price increase (not hugely significant, but it would have been nice if there was a warning) and an additional, mysterious 1 NIS surcharge. This cafeteria, I must warn you, also charges 10 agurot for each packet of Heinz ketchup that one takes, even when you purchase an item entirely dependant on the ketchup to make it edible (such as fries/chips).

Anyway, between the slight price increase and the mysterious shekel surcharge, the cost of my lunch clearly crossed what marketing people refer to as the "JND" - the Just Noticable Difference (thanks to Bryan for teaching me that tidbit). I asked the cashier what the shekel was for, and she told me that the cafeteria had started charging an additional shekel for the take away container. Yes folks, in a hospital, where most people don't have the time to sit down and eat, the cafeteria realized that they could charge an extra shekel on a necessity for most of its patrons.

Now, this in itself is bad enough. I am certain that if take away service was not available most people wouldn't even eat there, because everyone takes the food away with them. But what was even worse is that there was no warning of this new surcharge. When I asked for the food in take away, no one said "That will be an extra shekel". Even though I thought there should be a clear sign about the new change in policy, I decided to check the price list (which few people look at anyway, particularly when one is used to a certain price) to see if they had put anywhere about this extra take-away fee. And in fact, there was no listing. There was the [old] price listed of a meal, and that was it.

So I asked to speak to the manager, and a man busy dishing out mashed potatoes told me he was it. I said that I didn't think it was fair to charge an extra shekel for take-away containers, but if that they were going to do so, they should at least warn patrons, or at the very least change the price list to reflect this. The "manager" told me that he could do whatever he wanted, charge whatever he wanted and that he didn't have to put prices on anything. This is something that I am certain he is wrong about - even in Israel there must be rules about prices on items.

So I said that I would like to speak to the manager's boss, and he told me there isn't one. He said (and I quote directly) "In this cafeteria, I am God. There is no one above me - I am as high as it gets." This from a man dishing out spuds to students who will all have better jobs than he has. [Sorry to get elitist - particularly from someone who will be wiping people's a**es for a living]. I checked around and he does have a boss, someone who does not serve mashed potatoes to med students.

So I put down my food, and said that he just lost his 1 shekel on a take away container from me, and he lost the food itself because I wouldn't be buying it, but I am not leaving it at this. I am not sure where to turn next, but this is so awful. I know its only a shekel, but its the principles involved - price changing without notification.

Suggestions, anyone?

Highlight from the next blog entry - I rip on the Rabbanut!!


Blogger treppenwitz said...

Hold on... I'm still catching my breath from the shock of seeing a new blog entry up!

OK, better now.

Here's what I would do. Forget the no advance notice part. That really is something that they don't owe you. But having an accurate price list for what they are selling right this minute? Yes, I am pretty sure they have to have that. More importantly, if there is a posted price list with the old prices, they may be legally obligated to honor them! I would check with a lawyer about this.

Now on to the spud nazi.

Let's forget for the moment his deity complex. The fact that he does have a boss is important. Once you have a clear idea of where you stand legally on the pricing issue you should have a polite but frank discussion with the big kahuna. Let him know:

1. You were charged a different price from those posted (if this turns out to be illegal)
2. You were charged for a container without it being printed anywhere that this would be the case.
3. The person serving the food was rude, abusive, and indicated that he was the owner of the franchise (this last will probably ruffle more feathers than the other two things).

If this doesn't get you any satisfaction here are a few suggestions:

* Bring your own disposable containers to put the food in.

* Ask for your food on non-take-out trays and plates and take them out anyway.

* find something that they don't charge extra for such as napkins and take as many as you can fit in your purse/backpack.

* If all else fails, smuggle in a couple of cigarette butts or even some dead insects and carefully mix them into your bowl of mashed potatoes. Then while you are still sitting in the place start screaming like Carrie at the prom! The follow up call to the ministry of health probably won't even be necessary when word gets around about what someone found in their food.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Great to see you back!

I like Trep's ideas, but most importantly, congrats for doing the right thing and voting with your dollars (or NIS's as the case may be). Too many people forget that in a capitalistic society, our money IS our power in such situations. I hate hearing people complain about the price of something and then shelling out the cash for it anyway. Unless it is a necessity item, such as medicine or utilities or something, there is no reason that you HAVE to pay the high prices. And if you do, then from an economic perspective, the company is justified in charging that price -- it is "fair market value" since their supply and your demand met at that price point. Sorry for MY rant, but it irks me. :-)

Regardless, the other option, beyond Trep's suggestons, is to just start bringing your own food from home!


6:33 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Here's an idea: Get permission from the hospital to set up a stand outside the cafeteria, at which you sell take-away containers for 50 agurot apiece. THAT's capitalism for you. :-)

7:51 PM  
Blogger amechad said...

In addition to the very good comments above (though I doubt the hospital will let you sell your own take out trays let alone do you have the time, I presume) , since you are at a hospital owned by Hadassah, I think that letting Hadassah know what's up and a letter to the Jerusalem Post when some Hadassah event is being held or when the Hadassah leadership is in town can do wonders.

Unfortunately your experience seems very "Israeli" to me. After all, customer service? What? And especially in a hospital cafeteria.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Dash Riprock said...

Damn! Sarah took my idea. Only way to top it would be for you to either stand by the order line and inform people of the specials they have at the other (non-surcharge)cafeteria, or to start selling sandwiches outside yourself.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

This was so fun to read! I don't know how I managed for a whole month!

It's interesting that you believed him when he said he was the manager, even though you didn't believe his other claims like "there's nobody higher!"

He must be having the quite a laugh from this. I would love to see what he's writing on his blog!

10:20 PM  
Blogger Gilly said...

Good to see you back and will look forward to seeing your rip on the Rabbanut (an easy target...)

6:28 PM  
Blogger Daphna said...

Hmmm...I see my reaction is a bit different than the others. But then, I spent 8 years supporting myself as a waitress, and a couple more years before that supporting myself with minimum wage jobs. I worked 60-80 hours a week to make ends meet, and I was one of those people who you would have looked at with an "well EXCUSE me, Missy, but I am more educated and am going to earn more money, so why don't you know your place?" Because, as everyone knows, education and quality of character are mutually inclusive.

I am no longer a waitress, and in fact, I now (Baruch Hashem) am quite well educated and have a good job. That being said, I have served lots and lots of people just like you, with just your attitude. Here is a suggestion for you: remember this, you are a nurse. Not an actress. Your contempt and haughtiness are doubtless coming through. Why should the guy be nice to you? Are you treating him with respect? Do you think of him with respect? Here he is, probably working his ass off doing thankless, low-paid work and he has to deal with some bratty student with an ego problem.

Second: ONE shekel. Hello! Get a grip! ONE shekel. Advance notice for ONE shekel? Should they add it on to the price list? Yes. Should they give you advance notice? No. And you know what, if they forget to add it to the price list, it is ONE shekel. Out of curiousity, would you throw the same fit at Olive or Normans if they were to raise their prices or are they allowed to run their business as they see fit?

I don't know what finally came out of this, but it seems to me that it is entirely possible that the guy's manager is going to be terribly angry at his employee and fire him on the spot. It is also entirely possible that he is going to laugh and say "what, she is crying and screaming over a shekel? Those Americans!"

8:01 PM  
Blogger Daphna said...

"This from a man dishing out spuds to students who will all have better jobs than he has"

I spent ten years waitressing and working even lower-paid minimum wage jobs (60-80 hours a week to make ends meet). Baruch Hashem, after a lot of hard work, I was able to work my way through college and now have a solid education and a good job. That being said, I still have not forgotten what it is to be in a low-wage, low skilled job...and how it felt to be treated with contempt and disrespect by those who held the attitude that I was "just" a waitress, or a gas station attendant or a night shift countergirl and really, I should know my place, and that is on the bottom of the evolutionary chain. For your edification:

1) Education and class/character are not mutually inclusive
2) There is nothing classy about being a snob. Haughtiness does not add to anyone's character.
3) Honest labor is honest labor, and a man who is willing to work at a dirty, difficult low-wage job in order to support himself and his family is worthy of far more respect and admiration that he who would rather sit unemployed (or go running back to the US!) than take such jobs because to do so would be "beneath him"
4) You are a nursing student, not an actress. If you respect a person in your mind and in your heart, that comes through. And if you do not respect a person in your heart, and if you hold them in contempt as being beneath you--well, that is going to come through as well. And if you go around sending off those "I am your social better Boy, so you had better remember who you are talking to" vibes, well, you really should expect problems.
5) Everyone, including myself, complains about Israeli service, and with a fair amount of justification. That being said, there is one area in which Israel has one up than in the US. I waitressed in both the US and Israel. In the US, customers expect that they can act however they wish (obnoxious, rude, condenscending, insulting) and the person serving them must continue to treat them well. (We are not talking about polite people making valid, polite complaints and expecting equally polite treatment. We are talking about people acting like jerks). It is really a sort of actions without consequences/spoiled brat mentality. In Israel, things are a bit more grown up. You want to be obnoxious? No problem. Back atch'a.
6) It was ONE shekel. ONE shekel. Should they have posted it? Yes. It is really, truly, such a violation of the rules of service that they did not post a notice about the addition of ONE shekel? No. Do they have to tell you in advance? Please! Do you expect Olive or Caffit to notify you when they change their prices?

9:56 PM  
Blogger Noa said...

Daphna, this was not a post about Israeli service. This was not a post about elitism. This was a post about affixing incorrect prices, and the man's reaction to being caught as such.

Yup, you're right, it is ONE shekel. The shekel is not the issue. If its such a small amount, why not change the price list (easy to change - its written in dry erase marker).

The point here is that I expect to pay the price I see listed. Yes, if Caffit or Olive changed the price by one shekel I would be equally as pissed.

This is a student cafeteria. It is aimed at poor students who are also orking their way through school (some as waitresses, some (like my classmates) as the staff in hospitals who thanklessl wipe up puke and piss and crap for minimum wage - the wage I also earn at my job).

I am not an elitist. I ALWAYS treat waitresses, postal clerks, janitors, ashier clerks with respect. Like I said, I am someone who will be wiping butts for a living, so far be it from me to think education = job status. But when someone treats me with disrespect - telling me he's God and he doesn't have to answer me, well then I lose my respect for that person.

I will address the denoument of the stoy in another post, but this man lied, was not the mnager, and has been fired. Not over the one shekel. Over the way he treated a customer.

Secondly, the prices (because this is a student cafeteria) are set by the Student Union, and require approval by the Dean of Students. Who did NOT approve the 10 agurot for ketchup, the shekel for take-away or the new charges. The Dean of Students threatened to revoke their license to operate in the student union.

The prices have returned to normal, ketchup is now free and my friend has been fired.

Sorry to say this but I think you have a chip on your shoulder about this waitressing thing. Just because I lashed out when treated disrespectfully by a food service employee (and I've been one too before), doesn't mean I am a spoiled American or that I don't respect people who wok at low-wage jobs. It means I don't respect people who lie and treat me disrespectfully.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Noa said...

And yes, I expect anyone to post their prices correctly on the items they offer for sale - IT'S THE LAW!

11:46 PM  
Blogger Daphna said...

I actually have no chip on my shoulder about the waitressing. Yes, when I was 21 and waitressing and my friends were all finishing college, my lack of education was difficult for me to live with. But that was long ago, and if anything, I am happy for the detour; it worked out very well for me. The skills and the lessons I learned doing those jobs have helped me a great deal in various areas of my life, including in my non-waitressing jobs now. For that matter, starting college late allowed me to go in with a much clearer idea of what I wanted to study; and a much more serious and focused attitude toward my education than I would have had had I started school at 18.

As for your respect for others...if you truly have that respect, why would you even bring up the concept that this man was dishing out spuds to med students who would earn more than he does? What is the connection? What is your point in making such a remark? If the issue is really and truly only the service, than it should not matter if he is serving med students or the guy who sweeps up the streets.

And as for wiping people's asses, I do not for a minute believe that you think of your job as low-level, dirty work.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Noa said...

Daphna, looks like you do still have a bit of a chippie, but no matter. If you'll re-read the post, instead of flying off the handle, the fact that he was dishing out spuds to med students was brought in to refute his calim that he was the owner of the cafeteria (as he told me he was, hence he could charge whatever he wanted). I simply stated that i I found it unlikely that the man dishing out spuds was the man who owned the place. I mean, have you ever seen the owners of Caffit or Olive wiping down the tables in their joint? If you saw someone wiping down the tables in a restaurant, would you believe them if they told you they were the owner?

And, obviously I was right. Because the REAL owner of the cafeteria fired that man's sorry ass the second he got wind of what happened.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

I see this flap is long over, but practically every restaurant owner I know wipes tables, waits tables, or cooks. Sometimes all three. Is that so surprising?

5:22 AM  
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