Archive for the Beta Category

Originally published Nov. 15, 2004

New Orleans is home to some of the world’s best (and worst) waiters and waitresses. From the old man who has tirelessly slung Shrimp Arnaud at Arnaud’s for 40 years to the miscreant poet who drifts into the city to “become a writer” and ends up shilling wings at a hotel restaurant, the often bustling Crescent City service industry can provide a ways to a means for just about anyone. And to the more cunning waiters and waitresses it can be the gift that keeps on giving.

R.C. DeGlinkta and Peter Francis are two former Bourbon Street waiters who, at the very least, were made privy to some of the city’s most notorious restaurant scam artists, and they wrote about it. “How to Burn Down the House: The Infamous waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible” is a true original in the book world. Equal parts “Anarchist Cookbook” and “Chicken Soup for the Broke-Ass Waiter’s Soul,” the Scam Bible is one-of-a-kind resource for waiters all over the country. Written with a personalized style that puts the reader right into the subculture of the restaurant with the bumbling mid-level manager (nicknamed “Schmoo” in many anecdotes), the hungover waiters and the oblivious yet arrogant customers.

The Chicory recently had the opportunity to interview DeGlinkta and Francis (who recently kicked off a blog to supplement their Web site) and here is what they said about Schmoo, the best scammers they ever met and their upcoming “In the Know” series.

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The Chicory: What was the motivation for the book? Civil disobedience? Tomfoolery? Rascalism? Other?

R.C.DeGlinkta: All those things and more. Primarily, the book is a roast and a parody of incompetent, jackass managers, whom we’re all familiar with. But, not only does it deliver a well-deserved insult, it also provides the hardworking server with a means to revenge himself, and further, to profit by it. It’s biting satire that actually bites.

Peter Francis: Essentially it’s a parody of the whole “How To” genre. A satirical lash-out in the humorous vein of Swift’s “Proposal” and Miller’s pair of “Tropics”. With just a dash of Genet for sport.

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The Chicory: Publishing “How to Burn Down the House” under your own names in the city where many of the skills in the book are undoubtedly practiced has to be a somewhat risky endeavor. Any backlash from restaurant owners?

R.C. DeGlinkta: I’m used to taking responsibility for my actions, and I encourage others to do the same. I welcome and am flattered by any backlash that results from that.

Peter Francis: Yeah, but if the whole shit house goes up in chunks remember what he said!

*

The Chicory: Being former waiters, isn’t what you guys have done here essentially biting the hand that fed you?

R.C. DeGlinkta: On the contrary, this book is a long-awaited memorial to waiters and bartenders, and after the dust settles it will be seen as a blessing. While initially both managers and waiters will benefit, the diligence and intelligence of conniving servers will long outlive the short attention span of incompetent management, and in the end it will be the waiters that come out ahead. The Scam Bible will bore its way into in the annals of underground literature and managers will return to their usual dimwitted state of denial.

*

The Chicory: In your own opinion, who is more easily-fooled the customer or the manager?

R.C. DeGlinkta: It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. In practice, the customer is generally oblivious, like the props in a shell game. The manager is almost always the one being deliberately misled.

Peter Francis: The manager of course though it can be a little betwixt and between, ahem, Floordick has a way of walking into the punches, God bless him.

*

The Chicory: Without naming real names, bestow upon the readers of The Chicory: a few of your favorite all-time scammers in the industry.

R.C. DeGlinkta: I remember the first time I recognized scamming as a valid art form, I was watching a legendary scam master, known to his friends as Mr. Shing-a-Ling, put a customer on ice. That’s when you pretend like the credit card machine is broken to force a cash transaction. The guy was pissed and pulling his hair out and all that, but Shing just spoke calmly, assuring the angry guest that this happened all the time and it was likely to be a while, as he performed a variety of meaningless card swipes and key combinations for effect. He drove this guy to the very brink and in the end was paid in cash. He deserved an Oscar for that performance.

Peter Francis: One guy comes to mind although there were so many, this guy was the best…and smoooooth.
His name was Anthony Adams and he was truly talented, even sold the menus.

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The Chicory: Of the 20 or so scams listed in the book, are there any you are particularly fond of for one reason or another?

R.C. DeGlinkta: Not really. I take Bruce Lee’s approach: whatever works. Adapt. The most yield for the least effort. That’s all that matters.

Peter Francis: I looked at it a little more like Aleister Crowley, that flamboyant old fraud from the other side of the pond, “do what thou whilst is the only rule”. Our Man In Amsterdam was especially appealing to witness, from a safe distance that is.

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The Chicory: In the history of these scams what was the biggest repercussion you were witness to after being discovered?

R.C. DeGlinkta: That’s the beauty of it. I have never seen any dire repercussions save questioning or termination, which is really amazing if you do the math. To a waiter with a good angle, two or three hundred extra a week is a meager take. That’s 10 grand plus, per year. Year after year that adds up to a tidy embezzlement. For instance, in 10 years that’s over a hundred grand! What other criminal gets away with a slap on the wrist and a pink slip for stealing that kind of money?

Peter Francis: I’ve heard some stories about scammers who got on the wrong side of a certain family of restaurateurs on Bourbon St. who ended up retiring hastily.

*

The Chicory: How about a ballpark estimate of the biggest take you have ever been privy to?

R.C. DeGlinkta: No can do. Vanity gets a person collared.

Peter Francis: Skip it, next question.

*

The Chicory: Tell us what the modus operandi of your “In the Know” series is.

R.C. DeGlinkta: For some reason we have acquired a bunch of underworld experience that we think might be useful to our readers, and with the help of Promethean Books, have decided to organize and release it in a series. “How to Burn Down the House” is the first of that series.

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The Chicory: Take this time to praise or assail your publisher, Promethean Books.

R.C. DeGlinkta: The have been very open-minded. Many people were convinced that we wouldn’t find a publisher, that the book was too inflammatory, poorly written, etc. So, we are thankful they stepped up. It’s been a good experience so far.

Peter Francis: I’ve enjoyed working with them. When we were shopping the manuscript around it was easy to get discouraged, to start second guessing yourself. Promethean Books ‘got it’, thought it was funny, and rolled the dice. Let’s hope it comes up a winner for them…and us.

http://scambible.blogspot.com
www.scambible.com

Originally published Nov. 9, 2005

Seems there is quite a hullabaloo going on in the Quarter and a few other neighborhoods in the city about the recently installed electronic parking meters. You know, the kind that brought parking into the 20th (not 21st) Century by allowing for credit card payments and such? No more fumbling around in your pockets for change or digging underneath your seat to get a few extra minutes. No more buying a 25-cent pack of Big Red just to get some change from an indifferent store owner. Sounds great right?

Not so fast.

According to a recent lawsuit filed against the city the meters were installed without notice or review and violate a law that states tickets can only be issued when a red flag is displayed on the meter. Since the new meters issue printed slips that indicate when time is up, issuing tickets based on those terms is said to be a violation of the law. Perhaps it is. But the real reason the lawsuit has been filed is because people think the new meters are ugly. The “red flag” part is just a device to have the city remove them. No boby really cares about the language of the law, they just want the ugly meters gone.

I happen to love the new meters. They have saved me on quite a few occasions because I almost exclusively carry credit cards and very rarely have two bucks worth of change on hand. They have never malfunctioned on me and I thought they were a step in the right direction. I welcomed them.

I’ll give it to people who oppose them that the meters could be a bit more aesthetic and frankly that’s about the only good thing that can come out of this entire mess – that the company that makes these meters can find a way to make them more aesthetic. Because, if the people who are suing get their way, the meters will be removed and any tickets issued while they were in use will be refunded. That’s just ridiculous and a huge waste of much-needed funds that could go elsewhere (and no, I don’t mean into the hands of crooked politicians).

The city planned for ten years to have these meters installed. God knows at what cost of management, workload, materials, studies and manpower. Also, the machines cost around 7,000 bucks a pop which I don’t think ACS State and Local Solutions is likely to just refund. Then there is also the amount of money that is going to be needed to have these new meters removed. Then there is the amount of money that will be needed to install new meters. I mean new-new meters or, new-old meters, I guess.

Anyways, I’m sure it will add up.

A story written by Mary Foster of the Associated Press and posted on Nola.com on July 20 quoted a man named Chris Sharkey stating that he didn’t think the new meters were that convenient either, mostly because they don’t take bills. While I agree with Sharkey that the new meters should take bills, I disagree with him when he says they aren’t convenient. They are considerably more handy than the old “Cool Hand Luke” style meters we had before. As I stated above, change is not always available so having an extra option is always nice.

Also, the new meters are solar powered and THAT’S cool.

I think what is really at the crux of this whole mess is that the city didn’t ask anyone before installing the meters. At least that is what I am gathering from the language being bandied about in the papers. Like a supervisor that somehow gets skipped in the chain of command, people just want to know what’s going on. I don’t blame them for that.

What I can blame them for is being quick on the draw to fire off a lawsuit that will: 1.) Waste money needed for a myriad of other projects throughout the city. 2.) Reverse ten years of work and planning. 3.) Reduce the number of options myself and other New Orleanians will have at when we are trying to park in the Quarter.

The logical conclusion to this mess will be for the city to attempt to make the new meters more aesthetic. They should do this with the cooperation of the citizens who have voiced concerns about the current meters and then, hopefully, both sides can reach a compromise.

Replacing the meters shouldn’t even be on the table. There are much bigger fish to fry in New Orleans. And everybody can think of at least one I’m sure.

Originally posted Jan. 17, 2006
Just when I thought there was no way I could ever bestow my sympathy on Ray Nagin again, CNN turns around and shows that, in the parlance of our times, it is truly the media that always proves to be the most tactless party in any given scenario. I’m writing about what happened on CNN tonight.

Normally, I try to avoid the 24-hour news networks. I only tuned in to CNN tonight because they were hyping an appearance by our honorable potty-mouthed Mayor, he of foot-in-mouth disease. Come to find out Nagin cancelled at the last minute due to an “emergency.” Anchor Anderson Cooper didn’t to a good job hiding his disappointment. He quickly mentioned the several times Nagin had cancelled at the last minute in the past then posted a correspondent in front of Bourbon House where Nagin was having dinner with members of Bring Back New Orleans. In a smarmy manner, he asked his correspondent, “Does it look like there are any emergencies going on in there?”

Actually, as a citizen of New Orleans, I consider Mayor Nagin’s appearance at a dinner with a group dedicated to rebuilding the city about a thousand times more important than him appearing on a cable news show. The entire city is in a state of emergency these days.

Nagin’s comment on MLK Day were troubling and insensitive. But watching CNN tonight just made me realize how out of touch mainstream media is about what is going on down here.

Why are the words “chocolate city” more of a talking point than words like “category-5 levees” or “coastal restoration?” I hate what Nagin said. I think it set us back. But to hear CNN try attempt to grind their axe about Nagin canceling on them and postulating that somehow Nagin breaking away from Bring Back New Orleans to talk about a political gaffe he made the day before is even more insulting.

The show seemed to be a hatchet job. Very little positive was said about Nagin and there really wasn’t much as far as well-rounded reporting. I’m not sticking up for Nagin, I just would rather him be meeting with Bring Back New Orleans than getting lambasted by Anderson Cooper.