July 30, 2009

Points System – Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1, this blog post isn’t going anywhere… go ahead and click yourself over and come on back when you’re done. Or feel free and do the Memento thing, and read the second part first. Either way…

Here’s some more inspired lunacy from the “points policy” many casinos in Atlantic City use for their employees. As we said, you get only “12 points” before facing possible termination for cause. Now, these points do not stay on your permanent record forever – over the course of two-plus-decades (which many dealers have actually put in: starting at a salary of around $4.25/hour and getting raises at minimal increments after an annual performance review – with a maximum salary at $8.50/hour. That’s a tale for another post…) every dealer would likely be fired if there wasn’t some method of “removing points” from the total. And indeed there is… after twelve months on your record, your point disappears. So, if you call out sick twice each in October, November and December and somehow manage to avoid a pattern callout in the process, you’ll have six points on your record. Don’t miss any more days, and come the next January 1, they’ll all be gone and you’re free to call out again – and if you’re going to miss work, you’d better call out. Why? Because a “no-call/no-show” is an automatic four points in one fell swoop… and if you’re on the grave shift (4 AM-Noon) and you’re not feeling well and you call into the casino’s scheduling office, you’ll find it is closed, because it doesn’t open until “business hours” which for some reason doesn’t include your shift, even though the casino is obviously still open for business. They do have voice mail, but if it is still filled with messages from the previous shift, it might not record your message, or the shift manager might not even check it before it gets erased the next morning, or it might not even matter…

Once, nearly a full week after I called out sick, a shift manager came up to me and asked if I had been a “no-call/no-show” the previous Thursday. I thought back for a second to remember what day he was talking about, and then replied that I had been sick that day and left a message on the machine at around 1AM when nobody answered, as we were supposed to do. Because I had a good relationship with management and would never simply “not show up” for work, the shift manager did believe me, and added, “Yeah, that machine hasn’t been working lately. Got to get that thing fixed. I didn’t think you’d do that. Don’t worry about it.” I can’t imagine things would have gone as well with someone with perhaps a less-than-perfect reputation for honesty who was faced with a similar “he said, the machine didn’t say” scenario.

Moving on… what if you’re simply running late? You still have to call, and if you’re more than twenty minutes late, you’ll still get charged with half-a-point. After two hours, you get charged the full point, and they still expect you to show up. But why? If the points system is in place simply to make sure dealers show up when they are supposed to, and you have a legitimate reason for being late, and you do call in to let them know, why are you still being punished? And why would anyone actually show up after already being charged with the point? At that point, wouldn’t it simply make more sense to take the whole day off, since you’re being penalized as if you did anyway?

And what if you have to leave early? They’ll let you go, if they feel generous… but it still costs you half-a-point. The night my wife went into labor – and there wasn’t a person on that shift who wasn’t fully aware that I was about to become a father for the first-time, I wasn’t exactly quiet about it – I had been at work all of fifteen minutes when my cellphone vibrated. At that hour, there was only one person calling me, for only one reason. I alerted the pit boss and let him know I was going to have to leave, pronto.

“It’s time?”

“It’s time.”

He said he’d get right on the phone and have someone to “tap me out” – casino speak for getting someone to cover my tables for me. Within five minutes, everything was set. I was tapped out and shook the pit boss’ hand, along with several other well-wishers, and headed for the escalator down to the exit. Before I got there, one of the shift managers was getting off the “up” escalator, on the phone, in the middle of a conversation, but he signaled for me to wait a moment. I assumed he wanted to congratulate me as others had be doing, but imagine my shock when the first words out of his mouth were, “You know we’re still going to have to charge you a point for this.”

That’s how brainwashed many in casino management are – not all, but most. I actually said to him, dripping with sarcasm, “Well, gosh, maybe then I should stay…” and paused for a moment while he actually seemed to be waiting for my decision, as if there was one to be made. As it turned out, when I returned two weeks later after taking a bit of family time to be with my wife and newborn son, I discovered no additional points had been charged to my account.

However, I have seen first-hand many times as other shift managers and pit bosses had that knee-jerk reaction of “how many points is this worth” – even just before tapping off a dealer in his sixties to tell him that he needed to go to the hospital to check on his wife who had been in an accident while he was working. Yes, rules are rules, but where is the humanity?

Nowhere. And policy changes are clearly made with the intent to “push out” dealers who pull in a higher salary so they can save a few bucks an hour. How else can you explain this “new rule” that came into play shortly before I ended up leaving the casino…

Say you want to take a weekend off in August to go to a friend’s wedding. You get the invitation in May, and fill out a “special request form.” Now, usually given that much advance notice, and with the actual invitation in your hand, you’d think there’d be no problem getting those days off. You’d be wrong. Generally speaking, you wouldn’t know until the week before those dates, when the schedule for that week was posted as to whether or not you’d be “given the days.”

Of course, if you didn’t get them outright, you still might be able to find a part-timer to work those days for you… but, oh yes! Part-timers aren’t allowed to pick up days any more. And so, having already RSVP’s for the event, and maybe even booked hotel rooms or bought plane tickets, you go to the wedding anyway – at the cost of two points that you shouldn’t have had to “spend.”

And that was before the “new rule” came to pass which dictated that any person calling out on a day for which they were denied a special request would be charged double the points. So what ended up happening, was that if there was a day you absolutely needed to take off, you wouldn’t put in a special request for it, since if you were somehow denied the request, you’d be double-penalized – and therefore more dealer started accruing points on days they might well have had a chance to be given off, but couldn’t risk asking for.

As a result, fewer dealers requested days off for a short time… and then a funny thing happened. Many dealers started putting in special requests for days they didn’t need. They reasoned, and correctly so, that with fewer people putting in requests for days off, they would take a shot at getting a day or two off. If they didn’t get it, then no big deal. They had no plans anyway. But if they did… hey, it was like winning the lottery unexpectedly not having to work on a weekend.

And so a system designed to give dealers who absolutely needed time off for important events – graduations, weddings, family reunions, school plays, etc. – became a lottery for guys who simply wanted to watch the Eagles game from the comfort of home.

It boggles the mind…

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