All Nighter

I’m typing this after having pulled an all-nighter tonight. Why did this happen? Here’s the story.

We’ve been enjoying life and living with little restriction. As my current tagline reads, we eat when we’re hungry, and we sleep when we’re tired. That said, our current sleep cycle begins in the morning and ends in the late afternoon. Today, we were supposed to wake up early so that we could meet JC’s former employer at 11 AM and collect her final paycheck. That’s right, collect her final paycheck from her final day of work, which occurred on April 21, 2013 – nearly two months ago.

We should have known something was up in the very beginning, when they asked JC to come in for a couple of “trials” to see if she would be a good fit to work at the place. The trial was at least two full workdays, neither of which were compensated. Now, to be clear, compensation was neither promised by the employer, nor expected by us. At the same time, if I were the employer, I would at least offer some sort of token compensation (maybe unsold product at the end of the day?) to make up for the person’s time. I mean, this is a low wage, front-end retail food-service job. Seriously, how much trialing is required? You’ve seen JC’s resume. She’s a fuckin’ degree-holder and graduated top of her pastry-school class. The “trials” just happened to occur on days with special, larger-than-usual orders. Trial indeed.

Later on, we found out that the contract JC signed was an illegal contract. In the contract, it stated that if JC decided not to continue employment during the probation period she would be dinged some amount of pay. When we checked the labor laws and consulted with the Labour Department, we found out that this behavior is explicitly prohibited in the labor code so as to protect employees from cheap-ass employers like this one. The law is clear in stating that that particular clause in the contract is null and void.

The other thing about the contract was that there was an explicit clause requiring JC to behave ethically and with integrity. As there was no corresponding guarantee in the contract stating that the employer would behave ethically and with integrity, I copied the entire clause and replaced every instance of JC with “employer”, and gave it to JC to ask them to add it to the contract. In my mind, the whole section was throwaway anyway because it was so vague; to anyone who was already ethical, it would make no difference whether the language was in there or not. I figured it would be a good way to test them. If it’s good enough for the employee, it should be good enough for the employer, right? Wrong. They rejected the addition, essentially reserving the right to behave unethically. Do as I say, not as I do.

(Speaking of which, they verbally “agreed” to consider increasing JC’s pay at the end of the probation period, but refused to add that agreement to the contract as well.)

On the day that JC was originally supposed to collect her paycheck 19 days after her last day of work (problems with the accounting software, of course!), there was a thunderstorm. She went all the way over there in the rain, only to find that the employer had indeed illegally subtracted the difference from her paycheck. The employer said it would consult its “legal department” (this is a 2-person business, and if there really was one, they would not have allowed the illegal clause in the first place) to find out if what we were saying about the labor law was true. OK, so we play along. A week goes by, no word. Two weeks go by, no word. Eventually, JC is the one to contact them to see what’s up. Then, it’s one excuse after another. A busy week. Oh, got sick. Have a bunch of meetings.

So, why did I stay up all night? Because I can. Because the chicken-shit amount of the paycheck makes no difference to whether we continue to enjoy life or not. Because I’m not going to change the way I’m currently living for some cheap-ass motherfuckers who don’t have the decency to pay their staff for services rendered. I’d rather stay up all night doing what I want to do than futilely attempt to fall asleep 4 hours before my bedtime and try to get up after sleeping for only 3.

I make no apologies for the level of discourse I’ve used in this post. I have the backing of principles and values. The type of people running this business are probably the type of coward who would hide behind such things as discourse, completely ignoring the substance of their own actions. Speaking of business, in business you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Everybody wins. Each side benefits. To me, these are the fundamentals of a long-term positive and productive relationship. On the other hand, the type of one-sided take-advantage-of-people exploitation happening in this situation is short-sighted and outdated (well, maybe not in developing countries – oops, did I just lump Hong Kong with the third world?). It just amazes me that what seems to be a promising premise, starting a new pâtisserie in Hong Kong, sharing your creations, following your dreams, being an entrepreneur, is tarnished by such cheap and unscrupulous behavior. I’ve tried the product and examined their sales model and, to put it mildly, they have some things to work on. I mean, maybe they can fool people in the beginning to part with their money, but long term, forget about it. What’s that statistic about businesses failing in their first year? Or that proverb? Fool me once, is it?

On a happier note, so far we’ve enjoyed a late night meal from McDonald’s, watched Iron Chef (Black pig, then clam battle), I’ve written and posted a couple of entries on Paris 2012, and now there’s a 1970 Hong Kong movie on TV (seeing my parents’ version of Bieber Fever has validated this entire exercise). The birds have started singing, the sun is rising, and later I’ll probably go shoot some buckets before getting ready to go pick up the check.

I’ll update this post if, during the course of picking up the check, something happens that refutes what I’ve said here this morning. Here’s to hoping I’ve been wrong. Still, whatever happens, whether we get paid or not, today is the last day that we will concern ourselves with this issue. Life’s too short.

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are.

Update 6/19/13 2:49 AM: Turns out I was wrong about the uncompensated trial days; the final paychecks did include these days. That was the only thing I was wrong about, though. First, we were asked if we would be OK receiving half the amount now, and half the amount in one month, in the form of a post-dated check. We accommodated because as I said, we wanted to put this behind us. After we agreed, we got lectured on the law, how to run a business, how we missed a great opportunity, how JC put them in a “very bad position” (yes, a little RETAIL SALES job that didn’t work out put them in a bad position). OK, so they wanted to get in the last word. When I tried to explain the part of the labor code regarding probation, I was dismissed and kicked out of the store. I guess when you’ve got no argument, those are the best courses of actions (the LA LA LA I can’t hear you tactic). Only thing left to do is to cash the checks. Oh man, please don’t bounce so we can finally get this over with!

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