I was walking around downtown Seattle last week on the way back to my car from the dentist. I walked past the only business I’ve ever been fired from, and accross the street from that business was a pretty freshly demolished building, and the parking lot had already been ripped up. Knowing Seattle, it will probably be another condo building by the time this actually posts. So I thought that it might be fun to tell the story of getting fired.
When I first moved to Seattle I had very few spots to go hang out at, Lighthouse coffee was one of them, and I was there a lot. They were opening up a second location in downtown Seattle called Wheelhouse Coffee. When Wheelhouse opened up that was my new second home since my internship at the time was downtown, and Jon Mansen worked there so I would stay there for his entire shift goofing around and getting work done. Wheelhouse put in beer taps and was going to start serving beer. They had a “grand opening” event and they needed a bartender (someone who had a permit to serve alcohol) so I told them I’d do it for free beer and some tips. It was a super fun event, Jon and I just served up coffee and beer all night. I apparently did well enough that the owner, Ed, asked me if I was interested in working there. I was part time at Tutta Bella, so I had the time to pick up some early morning hours at Wheelhouse. This was so exciting for me because at the time I wasn’t super happy at Tutta Bella, we had gone through another set of managers and I had lost my bartendering shifts. I thought I could stick around at wheelhouse long enough to graduate to Lighthouse, which would have been perfect because at the time Dana and I lived down the street from Lighthouse in Fremont. I was also friends with the crew at lighthouse. Things were really looking up.
Fast Forward and I work 2-3 mornings at Wheelhouse and one of them was a open-close shift on Saturdays mornings. Saturday mornings at Wheelhouse were not the most exciting shifts. I would bring my computer and do some writing, send emails, or watch netflix because I would normally have about 10 people come in all day. We were so slow at that point that as a joke we had made a twitter account for Wheelhouse and would tweet dumb stuff, innocent stuff, but dumb none the less.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Man Sam sounds like a pretty terrible employee!” Well the truth is that I was. Even my unhappiness at Tutta Bella could be tracked back to the fact that I just didn’t care, and it showed in my work. I loved connecting with people, it was just all the other things about working that I didn’t really care enough about to work hard. I was a punk ass plain and simple.
Back to Wheelhouse, One day in particular I decided that as a joke I would “live-tweet” my shift. THis is a dumb joke because basically nothing would happen.
The first customers of the day were almost always without fail Toyota car salesman. They worked at the dealership accross the street and they were my least favorite customers. They always pulled on the locked door 20 minutes before I opened up at the butt crack of dawn, Knock until I walked over an unlocked the door, order 4-5 drinks, 4-5 pastries and tip me at the most $1. The other times they’d come in would be in the middle of a rare rush, and while there were little kids in line they would really loudly swear and cuss and “talk shop” and they’d try to give me “the nod” which works if you’re not a douche (basically the nod communicates to the barista, “hey I’m just getting the usual, if you want to start it now, to save us both some time).
So As I was live-tweeting my shift, I was tweeting things like “still no one here”. “I promise i showered today, come hang out with me at Wheelhouse!” And then a crew of really rude Toyota folk came in and I just started to see red. After they left, I started tweeting about them. It was mostly just rants, and then as the day went on, I started to tweet at them. I would say “hey at Toyota of seattle, why do your employees come in and cuss and swear in front of kids?” And “hey at Toyota of Seattle We open at 6 on saturdays not 5:30, please let your staff know”. I didn’t think twice when I was just complaining on twitter about them, however when I started to actually tweet at them I did have a moment of pause. I thought to myself, “Sam you could get in trouble for this…” and I decided at that point that I didn’t care about the extra $60 a week I got from working at Wheelhouse and hit send on those tweets.
Fast forward to the next week. I am at Tutta Bella in between shifts and I get a call from Ed the owner of Wheelhosue and Lighthouse. This was years ago, so I’ll give you a paraphrase of the conversation we had,
Ed: Hey Sam, what up with this Twitter account? I didn’t even know there was one.
Sam: Oh yeah, I started it as a joke, just messing around we only have about 8 followers.
Ed: Well if its not a big deal why did I get a call from Toyota today? What the hell were you thinking on Saturday?
Sam: Not gonna lie Ed, I had a bad day on Saturday and those guys just got really under my skin. I was out of line, I’m sorry
Ed: Well I can understand that, but running your mouth like that isn’t good for business…. You know I have to fire you right?
Sam: Oh damn, yeah i understand. I’ll post an apology to Toyota and delete the account tonight.
Ed: I didn’t want to do this Sam, but you kind of forced my hand here. I need you to get that apology up now and delete the account right now. You can’t mess around with social media like that…
Sam: Yeah I figured, I’m sorry Ed. I’ll get it done as soon as we get off the phone.
Ed: please do. Bye
One thing you should know an out Ed, is that he is a pretty chill old dude who has been roasting coffee for decades. Word on the street is that he basically taught the guy who started stumptown how to roast coffee. The 1st stumptown in Portland looks eerily like Lighthouse coffee. Ed didn’t care about social media at that point at all. I don’t even think he has a Facebook account.
So even though I knew what was coming, the feeling of getting fired was really weird. I felt unwanted, not good enough, angry, sad, and relieved. It was just this nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Even though I was literally at my other job, and starting to like Tutta Bella more and more, I still couldn’t shake that feeling for a while. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Firing people is one of my least favorite things of my current job. I had to do it last week, and even though everyone involved agreed it was for the best for all parties, it still sucked. I failed that person, whether it was in training, being clear in feedback, having unreal expectations or maybe I failed them by hiring them. Firing someone means admitting that failure. It doesn’t feel much better on the other side of the table either.
I’m glad to see that Wheelhouse is still there and much busier than they were in the beginning. I am also confident that anyone I’ve fired has another job now, and I hope they are happy and successful there.
Not going to lie though, I was really happy to see that the Toyota dealership closed and got demolitoned. It was like sweet vindication when I saw that. I smiled a big goofy smile so that my freshly clean teeth showed all the way to my car.
Have you ever been fired? Have you ever fired someone? Let me hear about it. Hope all is well with you and yours. I’m starting to make a series of videos where Garry Potter learns to do things. I post them on all my social media accounts and YouTube channel. Here’s a link to my YouTube channel. Check them out, Let me know what you’d like to see Garry learn.