Starita versus the German

Kids, last week I was having a fictitious conversation with a made up friend of mine who had a really lousy day at work. His main concern was the lack of respect given to him after almost a decade working at the same job. Where was the loyalty? Where was the love? What can anyone do when their job isn’t satisfying them in the way they were taught growing up by 1980’s sitcoms?

I listened patiently, tossing in the occasional head nod and reassuring, “uh huh” when he looked at me and asked what should he do? I thought long and hard and decided to give my answer in the form of a story, a story from my life. A story, that happens to be true.

The year was 2007 and out of sheer desperation I had taken a job at a place that sells magazine subscriptions over the phone. The job had a fancy title but for all intents and purposes I was a glorified telemarketer.

Quick sidetrack – for thirty-three years I have been saying, “for all intensive purposes.” Just now it dawned on me that the phrase was “intents” not “intensive.” Sometimes I thank God for giving me a quick tongue, because if I slowed my speech down just a bit more people would realize I’m just an idiot with a big fat mouth.

Resuming now…

When I took this job there was a week of hardcore training, a trial by fire if you will. It was like we were contestants on some sort of shitty reality show on Oxygen or CMT or any other D-List channel that has horrible programming. Anyway at the end of each day we would gather together as a group and a German guy would come in and “dismiss” one of us. He clearly wanted to be Donald Trump with a German accent and his goal was to make someone who was “dismissed” cry. Unfortunately no one did, which just made him meaner and angrier as the week went on. Each day I would gather with the rest of the multi-cultural cast and wait for the charade to be over. I didn’t care about this job, it wasn’t going to be my career, I just needed the money. If I didn’t make it through hell week I’d at least have a funny story to tell people on my future blog. Perhaps it was this cavalier attitude or perhaps I just know how to sell bullshit magazine subscriptions, either way come Friday afternoon I was summoned into German guy’s office and he told me congrats I had made it on the team. He’s all smiley face and popping champagne, I’m all shruggy shoulders and nonchalant.

The German guy is telling me about the atmosphere of the place and how every Friday at 5pm they bring in liquor for us before we hit the bars and how much fun it will be to work here and blah blah blah until I calmly ask to talk about salary.

The week before, when I was contacted about the job they said the starting salary for the first six months was $30,000. After six months it would go up to $35,000 and then I would get commission as well. I said there was no way I could survive for six months on $30,000 and that I’m good enough to start at $35K. We went back and forth and the guy agreed that he loved by confidence and if I survived hell week they would waive the six-month period and bring me up to $35K immediately.

I reminded the German Guy about this conversation and he agreed to pay me $35,000. We slapped each other on the back and I went home.

Two long weeks go by at a job I positively hated, yet I was finding success at. Finally it was time for my first paycheck, handed to me on my way out Thursday. When I got home I opened the check and wondered what happened to that extra zero? I didn’t trust my math skills so I called my Dad and asked him to run some numbers for me. Three minutes later I find out I’m being paid at a salary of $30,000.

I’d been hoodwinked!

The next day I go to work and before we settled in I spoke with my immediate manager about the obvious accounting snafu. He looked at it and says, “Nope that’s correct.” I told him it wasn’t and he left to speak with the guy above him. Ten minutes later I’m in the mid-manager’s room as he tried to tell me that my memory was mistaken and my starting salary was $30,000. I’m starting to lose my cool so I ask to bring in the German guy. He would be my Ace in the hole.

The German guy goose-stepped in all nicey nicey and asked what was the problem. I explained the discrepancy with the money and reminded him of our previous conversation. In my mind I’m thinking, “here we go he’s going to remember and BOOM I can get back to this miserable job.”

Instead, with a huge German grin on his face he slapped me on the back and said I was mistaken, my salary was $30,000. Even better he then said, “No hard feelings, just the way things work around here.” I left the office, red in the face from embarrassment and anger and went to the bathroom.

The first phone call I made was to my cousin Matt, who let me vent. The second phone call was to my friend Mike, who suggested a fair solution to the problem. I should go on strike. Don’t make a single phone call until the problem is rectified. Thrilled at the idea of making a difference for future telemarketers I agreed and went back to my desk.

The first hour went by oh so slowly and I used up three pages of my notepad with doodles. Every now and again I would catch my manager looking at me and then looking away when our eyes met.

The next half hour I played a game, how long could I spin a quarter?

Finally, after ninety minutes of zero calls my manager said loud enough so that everyone could hear, “you know you have to actually pick up the phone to make phone calls.”

I calmly replied that I was on strike but I would gladly pick up that phone in exchange for five thousand dollars, to be spread out over the next six months.

The vein on his forehead thudded as he stood up to go talk with the mid-level manager. Five minutes later he came back and said I was wanted in the conference room. I sarcastically asked if a big sack of money was waiting for me on the table.

I happily opened the door and stepped inside the room. Waiting for me was the mid-level manager and the German guy. They asked me why I refused to work. I said we had an agreement and if they weren’t going to honor our agreement why should I work? The German guy was pissed that I just didn’t roll over on this and asked if we could compromise at $32,000. I calmly countered with $35,000 and they not so calmly countered by showing me the door.

When I went back to my desk to gather my things the people I worked with were in shock. One girl was angry with me, saying I was being ridiculous. I told her what was ridiculous was sitting at a desk for eight hours and getting paid the equivalent of working at a deli.

After I finished telling this tale to my friend he smiled at me. While it was a good story, there was no way he could ever go on strike. I told him he missed the moral completely.

So what’s the moral of the story kids?

Don’t ever settle for less than what you think you’re worth. Especially if there are Germans involved. The last time we tried to make nice with Germans we fought World War II.

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