Local Isn't Always Better — at least not to their employees

One of the biggest problems with bad bosses is they don’t know they’re a bad boss.
I was excited to work for a local small business in Nashville. I thought this was my chance to learn “real” coffee and make latte art; to work for a place that didn’t use processed foods and artificial sweeteners. I wanted to be part of the community and grow with a business.
At the time, I didn’t have any intention of being a manager. I was still heavily involved in digital marketing work, and just wanted to be a part-time barista.
Sometimes, for me, part-time never happens. I am cocky in my abilities as a worker, especially in customer service.  I am a people person who processes and learn things quickly and knows how to be efficient, especially during peak rush times. I am not glorifying myself. I would never call myself the best writer or journalist or PR person (though I work hard and strive to be better), but when it comes to being a barista, I know I become an asset to any team.
This is the reason I never remain a part-time worker, in any field I go into.  I needed to get rid of something, and digital marketing was taking up all of my creative energy.  I wanted to reserve that creativity for writing, not PR/marketing.
This revelation is what led me to become the manager of the café. It felt rewarding at first, especially when the owner and I spoke of the future of the company. So many of my ideas were already affecting the business positively. The problem was, while the owner solely relied on me continuously, she kept telling me she couldn’t invest more money in me. In fact, she gave me two different pay rates. When I was on the floor working as a barista, I made less than when I was doing admin work. Yet, I still had admin responsibilities while I was in barista mode. It wasn’t fair, but I am a loyalist (as I’ve been told) and I believed the owner when she said she couldn’t afford to pay me more.
As months went by, and more work was piled onto me, (many times with the owner traveling out of the country while I stressfully made sure nothing went wrong) I began to realize nothing was going to change anytime soon. The rest of the baristas were under paid as well as myself. And I use the term “barista” lightly. We’re also kitchen staff that prepares homemade spreads and raw treats in an unqualified kitchen.
Oh, and the coffee? The owner could care less about coffee knowledge, and that was ridiculous.
She would pass off the continuous amounts of baristas quitting to the “nature of the business” and not the poor pay rate for the amount of work. She also loved to take away someone’s hours as soon as they gave their notice.
While I was on vacation, I had time to clear my head. It had been blocked for months, bogged down with work and the constant text messaging and emails from my boss and staff who rather contact me than her. My novel had been left hanging. My journal hadn’t been written in much. The gym was such a chore. My life was on hold in all areas while on her command I had to run around spot cleaning table cloths so she didn’t have to wash them!
I began thinking about all of the things my boss told me. Like how she didn’t personally make money off the business. Well, that didn’t seem to make sense anymore to my gullible mind. So many other things stopped making sense too. Like why I was still a manager for a company that didn’t value me enough or why I never thought I would be good enough as a manager for corporate coffee.
I left the old barista gig because of the decrease in my pay rate after I returned from 4 months of travel.  With a new district manager in place and an opening for a shift manager, I applied and was contacted immediately. They were offering me more money. More than what my current job was paying me to run a shit show. More than I ever made as a high paid barista in New York. Plus, all the health benefits, vacation, 40lk, stock, all of that free coffee and free lunch.  Oh, and proper break times, health code standards and better business practices!
It was a no brainer.
Where the conflict really lie was when should I tell my boss? I wanted to do right be her, but the timing of my new job start dated coincided with her being out of the country…again. I decided more notice was better and I was willing to work full-time for the last 3 weeks, plus help out while she was on vacation.
When I told her, it was all about her and her trip—even while I tried to explain I wanted to help out. She just walked away from me and when she came back over, she basically told me to leave.  She cut all of my admin hours, which would screw me over money-wise.
She continued to ignore me the next day at work and finally had a mature conversation at the end of my shift.  I didn’t see this as much as a change of heart as it was probably more of a realization that she would need me the next few weeks.
The past year, I learned the value of myself and unfortunately, I learned in business, you can’t trust someone just because you get along with them. My boss and I were friendly, and while she treated me with more respect than the other baristas, it felt like it was all for show in the end.
The other thing I learned is that I value structure and being an adult in the sense of having the experience to know when I’m being screwed. I like being a manager and having the freedom that corporate coffee gives me: I get to live out my free spirit lifestyle almost anywhere I choose, but still have things to fall back on like retirement, benefits and vacation time.
Life isn’t always greener on the other side, even when you work at a place that serves kale.


  • Sandy Lo

    Sandy Lo’s personal story is inspiring. She started, StarShine Magazine, an online publication in 2001, at the age of 18. She wrote her first novel in 2009, “Lost In You,” followed by the “Dream Catchers” Series. She was the first person ever to professionally interview Taylor Swift and has received personal endorsements for her books from members of boy bands Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Recently, she has been seeing some tremendous momentum in book sales on Kindle. She has been included on the “50 Writers You Should Be Reading” list by The Authors Show, and “Dream Catchers”, “Breaking The Moon” and “Indigo Waters” reached the Top 100 Best Selling Coming of Age novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. What makes this even more unique, is that Sandy relocated from NY to Nashville in order to write “The Watch Dog,” which is set in a fictional town outside of Music City. “The Watch Dog” reached the Top 10 Ghost Stories on Amazon. Aside from her writing projects, Sandy is also a freelance digital strategist.