The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 4, 2013

Murray: Pearls of wisdom from Ponderosa Steak House


In my defense, that one day was rough. I was a "host," which meant my job was to walk around and ask people if they wanted steak sauce or ketchup. And when it looked like they were done with their meal, I was supposed to ask if I could take their plate away. The first guy to whom I directed the empty plate question simply dropped his fork on his near-empty plate — which startled his wife and daughter — and said to me in the most impatient possible voice, "Does it look like I'm done?"

Second, make sure you don't screw up financial transactions.

It won't surprise anyone to know I'm not the guy you want running the till at a hot dog stand. I'm just not a numbersy, get-it-exactly-right kind of guy. But when I worked at Hal's in the Maplewood Mall, that's just what I had to do.

On two occasions when people were purchasing jeans or sweaters with "charge cards," I forgot to run the card through that old-school roller device that makes a carbon copy of the numbers on the card. Why is that important? Without that, there is no purchase. It's as if we let them walk out the front doors with free jeans.

My attitude on those was pretty casual. I figured the guy would give me another chance. He didn't. I was fired. And rightfully so. So sweetie, get the financial transactions right.

Third, remember that everything you do these days travels with you. This is your first job. It can be the beginning of a amazing career in the workforce, the first stop on your road to riches. Play your cards right — always show up on time, remember to treat customers with respect, work hard even on the days you don't want to be there — and this first job will lay the foundation for everything that will follow, including all future jobs, college admissions success, etc.

Or, if you don't play your cards right — quit after your first day, screw up financial transactions — it can be your Ponderosa. Don't let Music Mart be your Ponderosa. That's nothing to be proud of.

Robb Murray is a Free Press staff writer. He can be reached at 344-6386 or

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