Lookin' Good at 58

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago I got a job to work in the Cayman Islands. Unfortunately when I got that job the recession hit and my future employer just called to tell me to stay home as bookings dropped off significantly and they were cutting back on staff.

A few months later I ended up working with a cruise line and the rest is history.

But today we are pretty much in the same predicament economy wise but with an added twist. We are in a global economy unlike the early 90's so what happens in China it begins to affect us right here in Canada. If Greece defaults we catch the flu.

Yesterday's post I told you of a bad table I had. But it doesn't happen often. The majority are quite fair and generous with their tip.

As far as I can tell in all my time working in this industry there has never been job security or a guaranteed minimum you can make. In fact the least I made was $50 a month salary while I was on the ship but that is where I also made the most money.

Nowadays a lot of cruise lines want to pay the servers more and have a no tipping policy so no matter how hard you work you can only make so much. That is not good.
So even the cruise ships may not be as good as they used to be.

So where am I going with this? I guess what I am saying is if I had to do it all over again knowing what I know now I may have taken something else up as a career.

Not that I regret having done anything I have in the past. I saw a lot of neat places and worked with fabulous people. I just wouldn't want to do it all over again. I wasn't most of the time rolling in the dough when travelling all around.

If you are planning on being a bartender or waiter do it while you put yourself through university or a trade. Get out by the time you are 30.

The times where you could make big money as a waiter are over. You may think where you are you are making good money now but I can bet people like you including myself were making as much back in the 80's.

People tipped more , spent more , had more disposable income and better yet your dollar went a lot further.

The only thing that is good about the business is why I have stayed in it all this time and that is cash. I wouldn't be able to handle getting paid every two weeks.

But here is the catch. I could if I did something else and made a $100,000 a year with benefits. But back when I went to work after high school and started bartending the cash was better than what some professionals were making. Why go to university?

Obviously knowing what I know now and what I tell my kids is get a university education. Be smart.

The restaurant industry is sinking. It not what it used to be. It is all part time for servers and bartenders and if it is full time there is probably a lot of down time in there to make up that forty hours.

I have to say to someone starting out dive in and enjoy it but don't be lured by the cash you walk home with on a good night. It will probably be the same cash you walk home with when you are married , have a mortage and gas is thirty cents more expensive than it is now.


SkippyMom said...

All very sage advice, but you seem to have this conversation often Steve.

Is this a mid life thing? It's just you seem to reflect on it a lot lately.

The economy is getting most of us down, and I know you say you don't have any regrets, and I know you life has been very rewarding, but y'know - it is never too late to reinvent yourself. [If reinvent is the right word.]

Just a thought.

Steven Nicolle said...

SkippyMom...I am writing this book on bartending so I am reflecting a bit on it. I really don't have too much to write on. I cannot just go back to school and start all over again. Besides I really wouldn't know what to take. My advice or post if you will is for people who are starting out. I say to them go get an education that is all.

Joe Sixtop said...

Dude, this is a good internet column and I always glad to read it, but these words of wisdom this time are incredible. The good news is, we won't be doing this crap forever (maybe just as long as we live is all!). I'm in a somewhat similar situation to yours. Hang in there bro. Cheers, ____-Joe

Steven Nicolle said...

Joe Sixtop...thanks Joe and finally someone sees my point of view. Anyone who has been in this business as long as we have would know it has not gotten better and in the future will only get worse. Cheers.

lvfrankg said...

You couldn't be closer to the truth. The heyday is definitely over for us. All the factors you mentioned, I see examples of in one form or another, every day.
Another thing I have noticed is a heightened sense of questioning the reason for tipping in general. You know, those people out there who think tipping should be banished from the land. This conversation comes up every so often, and the number of "anti-tippers" (communists) who chime in seems to be getting larger. More and more people are becoming "Mr. Pink". I'm sure the economy has something to do with it. People are justifying anything to save a dollar.
I have to attribute some of it though, to Gen. Y growing up and becoming a bigger part of the consumer chain. The "hipsters" these days are less sophisticated in just about every aspect. Anyone reading this who has been a server for a while knows what I'm talking about. Today's twenty-somethings are not as well versed in social skills, cuisine, or math as they used to be. I often find myself reverting slightly to the special dialogue I save for children when I am dealing with Gen Y tables. Much more individual attention is required, and way less appreciation is shown. Basically, it's like waiting on the cast of "Jersey Shore." You hit the nail on the head, Steve. Good post. Reinvention is a good word, I think I'm gonna look into that.lvfrankg BluntDinerz

Steven Nicolle said...

lvfrankg....for sure times have changed and you are right about the tipping thing. Today's youth is more versed in how to use their blackberry and covering that bill and not so much about using that money for tipping. There is no one young who cares about waiters. Welcome to the discussion.

jyotisharma said...

really very good and informative.i like it.It's just you seem to reflect on it a lot lately.
cruise line jobs

Steven Nicolle said...

jyotasharma....you would reflect too. Anyway I like to air what I think rather than talk always about the guest who didn't leave a good tip. This week though I am making a change going to my website more and something more fun to read. Stay tuned.