Friday, December 6, 2013

No More Coffee-Making Dreams

I was recently invited to an interview for a highly un-lucrative, part-time job opportunity to make coffee for a large coffee retail giant at a location embedded within a large grocery store. Needless to say, I accepted the invitation. And while I did not spend last night in sleepless anticipation, it was nice to receive an invitation to a job interview. 

I arrived on time, and was initially unsuccessful at locating my interviewer, a store manager. After chatting it up with the presently-employed, friendly, and helpful baristas at the coffee stand, one of them dispatched the manager to the coffee area via the store intercom. After a few minutes, the manager eventually materialized and acknowledged my existence (+1 point), and told me to be patient while she attended to another non-urgent matter; talking to a random employee about training someone on a cash register (-1 point). After about 10 minutes had lapsed, the manager finally approached me again and told me to follow her to the interview room. We walked through the store, through the meat department, and eventually up the stairs to the employee break room.

She produced a 3-page set of standardized interview questions, and started firing away. The interview itself was fairly straightforward, until she asked me to pretend like she was a customer and to persuade her to buy a beverage; "It's cold outside, I want a beverage that is warm, and not too sweet." This was difficult, mostly because I don't really care if someone wants to buy coffee or not, and shitty because I didn't have time to prepare a believable pack of lies prior to my interview. I replied with a fragmented series of disconnected phrases about why I like coffee so much. I have no idea how my answer passed this test, but it did. Note: If you find yourself in this scenario, just remember that it does not make a damn bit of difference what you say as long as you smile. 

The manager completed the set of interview questions, and determined that my answers were somehow satisfactory enough to proceed to the next phase of the hiring process. She retrieved a foil-wrapped canister from a nearby table and opened it. Then she informed me that there was an required pre-employment saliva-based drug test. Then she read a script about the nature of the test. At first, it seemed legitimate. However, toward the end of the script she said something about how the results of my test may be shared with other health databases.

I responded by saying that I felt that drug testing was not necessary to successful coffee-making, to which she assured me that most jobs require this type of testing. My entire professional life quickly flashed before my eyes, and I only recalled one prior instance of this happening to me at a large grocery chain, where I passed the ten-minute saliva test in front of a panel of four judging interviewers. However, this time I argued, explaining that this was not standard for most jobs and that despite being drug free, I was not comfortable completing a pre-employment drug test because I felt like it was a violation of my privacy. I quickly realized the futility of further pressing this point, and slightly changed the subject by asking which health databases these results could potentially be shared with. She said that she did not know. Then I asked what they are testing for, which she also said she did not know. Then, I finally asked, "Are you administering tests for unknown substances, and potentially sharing the results with unknown parties?" She said, "Yes." Finally, I asked if she knew if they were testing for legal substances, i.e. alcohol, nicotine, etc. Once again, she did not know. 

Her ignorance regarding the tests was shocking to say the least. I felt disappointed in myself for my momentary acceptance of the test. Had she not said anything about 3rd party health databases, I may have voluntarily subjected myself to it. I was thankful that she jolted me back to reality with the particularly scary finale of the script. However, I decided to end the interview by politely thanking her for her time, saying goodbye, and exiting the room.

I must admit that I am not familiar with statues pertaining to hiring or health-insurance discrimination based on the use of legal substances, but that is beside the point. The point is that participating in tests for the presence of undefined [possibly legal] substances is a terrifying prospect for the working class. Why are the substances unstated? Why do the parties administering these tests now know where the data is shared? Don't get me wrong, I am not entirely against drug testing for some jobs, such as operating heavy machinery, shooting at things, or nuclear reactor maintenance, etc., but the substances being tested for should be identified, and the data-sharing policies should be clear, otherwise we have no idea to what we are subjecting themselves. This is a slippery slope, and it is especially important to act on principle in this era of rapidly diminishing privacy. 

I now realize that my coffee-making dream-fantasy has ended and I've awakened in the sad reality where I only make coffee at home. However, making a principled decision to not submit myself to ambiguous substance use screenings is much more satisfying than persuading someone to buy overpriced coffee that they don't need. 

Have you had a similar experience?

No comments:

Post a Comment