Right now, Horeca United is campaigning against Lupi Coffee (read the full story here).
We asked two of the workers, Theodore and Niklas, to share their experiences. This is what they said:
My name is Theodore, I’m 30 years old. I finished my studies in Greece and then decided to move to the Netherlands for work, because in Greece it was very difficult to find a job with good salary. 2 years ago searching for a place to work with good conditions and salary, I worked in many bars and cafes through The Hague. Finally I ended up in lupi coffee. I worked for lupi 3 months. It was the worst working experience I had. I hadn’t work for over 3 months at that time, so I was in need of money, for my expenses. At the interview everything seemed ok, but the reality was different.
First, I had to pay almost 300 euros for the barista course, even though I had worked as a barista before. For 8 hours all I did was foaming soap. With no breaks. Mr Akef was never happy with the result. I needed the money so I accepted the offer. The whole course costed 1000 euros which I never got back. Then, I started realising that it was a bad place: the shifts were 10 hours long with no breaks. No food was provided. I wasn’t even allowed to sit! I had to look busy always.
They expected from me to be happy always and ask people to give us reviews. The toilet was not working properly so I had to find ways to “help myself”. Management was not helpful at all. My questions never got answered, And they kept giving us more responsibilities even though it was not part of the contract. I had to do managerial work.
These things affected my personal life. I was out of home from 7.15 in the morning until 19.00, I was always tired, both mentally and physically.
The money I received at the end of the month were never enough and never the amount a had calculated. I was getting paid for 8.5 hours and not 10, which was my shift. The opening and cleaning were not included. There were times that I wanted to leave the country, it felt worse than Greece. I didn’t have time for my cat and other hobbies and I was miserable.
Payments were late, and never complete, the invoice was fake. When I spoke about it, they tried to manipulate me, saying that we need help, and we will make you manager. In reality I was already a manager, since I was working on my own all shifts and taking care of orders.
With my colleagues, we have a good relationship and soon we started talking about all the things that were happening. We decided that it was enough and we are not slaves.
We decided to contact Horeca United to give us some info about the situation and what we can do.
Our goal is to not let this happen again. These people should not have a business and keep treating people like that. We believe that with the help of the union we can let more people know about the place, and be sure that this will not happen again to anyone.
It feels really good doing this campaign, we workers can do things and management and owners should treat us with respect, without us their business cannot survive.
Please support us however you can, either by becoming a member at horeca united, or helping us with flyers, bad reviews.
One thing that I want to tell Mr Akef and management that they need to change their approach, stop taking advantage of people in need. We all worked very hard and this was never recognised.
My Name is Niklas and I come from Germany. I am 25 years old and study Psychology in Leiden. In my years living here in Leiden, I was hopping from many delivery jobs on the bike for thuisbezorgd and other companies. These were the most likely jobs to get, when you are an international student and do not fluently speak Dutch, especially during the covid times. I always wanted to work more in contact with people and was happy when I finally found a job for that as a barista at Lupi.
When I had my job interview I was very excited and felt I have come to the right place. The owner talked about the mentality of the shop of being one where everyone is happy, the workers love to work and the customers are happy. Concepts like the Lupi happy hour where for 30 minutes the music is put loud and there is a free espresso for everyone, were new and appealing to me. When I left the job interview, I thought I found a workspace where positivity, happiness, teamwork and honesty are core values. I could have not be more wrong.
I was told that I have to make a barista training before I can start work there, which will cost me 290€. Since I have almost no experience in the restaurant or café area, I thought that it is normal. Furthermore, I was excited, to do an official barista training course with other participants and learn more about coffee, to learn everything a good barista needs to know and be capable of. I had no reference if 290€ is expensive, so I just paid it. Excited and nervous I went to the first day of the “barista course”.
It was probably the most disappointing work-related experience I ever had. Instead of learning with others in a professional setting how to become a good barista, I was in the shop with Mr Akef alone. All I learned the whole day was how to foam water with soap. At the end of the day, after 4h of foaming water, Mr Akef told me, that if I am able to foam 20 times in a row perfectly I am ready and can go otherwise I have to start over again. Not sure if that is psychological that beneficial.
“Barista course day” 2,3 and 4 were in the shop in Leiden, where I learned with the assistant manager how to open the shop, use the cashier, serve customers etc. This definitely deserves the description trial day rather than barista course, cause I am not sure, if vacuuming, wiping and cleaning the shop are part of a barista course. Basically I paid them to work trial days, serve costumers and make profit for the company.
I was told that my “barista course” is finished and I am gonna get paid for working once I am able to run the shop alone. I should have escaped already back then. But since I already paid 290€ to them, I wanted to make it worth and earn my money back. I also only got told that I would not be paid for cleaning after I paid already for the course. So they basically bound me to the place by making me pay before revealing their ridiculous working conditions. I think it is easy to imagine how I experienced the work from that time on.
The list of problems I faced was very long. We were always alone in the shop during the week, and one shift was always 10h. Since there was noone else there was no chance to take a lunch break. Nevertheless, a lunch break of 1h was deducted from our payment. We closed the shop at 18h every day after working 10h straight. We had to log out of the system then in the cashier. After that we had to clean the shop which lasted around 30 min. Since we were paid based on our login and logout in the cashier we weren’t paid for cleaning. Furthermore, we were threatened to not get paid when we wouldn’t clean good enough.
On sundays it was more busy but still there was only one worker in the shop. To „support“ us, we were told to not use dishes but the plastic cups and plates. Every Sunday I had to throw 4-5 huge bags of one way cups and plates waste away. I never saw such an unnecessary waste production just to save the money to pay 2 workers.
It is just insane that people have to pay 290€ for a non existing course and instead pay for working. The whole business of mr akef is build on exploiting people who need the money. For him 300€ is not much for us it Is a lot.
The treatment from Mr Akef is without any humanity. He is just taking advantage of every worker he is hiring. He loves to hire underaged or international people cause underaged are cheaper and internationals don’t know the law and don’t have places to get help so they won’t complain about the ridiculous conditions. The place is an atmosphere of criticism, pressure and exploiting.
The relationship to my coworkers was good, but since we normally worked alone we never really saw each other, only at the mandatory monthly meeting or when one ended the shift and the other one started.
Everyone was very careful with complaining but slowly I started talking to 1-2 people and asked how they experienced the working conditions. At one point we founded a WhatsApp group of 8 people and were finally able to talk open about our opinions and exchanged experiences which left me shocked to hear. Within a month everyone of us quit, with most of us receiving payment reductions.
I only was able to quit when I found a new job cause I need the money. I found a new job as a waiter as another coffee place. I was very skeptical if the treatment was the same there and I had a lot of trust issues to my new boss if what he is saying about the working conditions is true. Luckily it is a very nice shop and I am happy working there and to experience fair conditions.
We are all students or young working people so we don’t have that much money to pay a lawyer. We are very happy to find with Horeca United another way and option to find justice. Please share the story with as many people you want and know. Go to one of the shops look around and feel the atmosphere. See for yourself if you think our story is true and if this is a good or bad place. If you agree it is not a good place help to let others know what happens there. With this you can save new people from getting exploited for getting hired there. This exploiting business has to stop. He has to stop being able to do this otherwise more and more people will get exploited by him.
If I had to say one thing to Mr. Akef, I’d tell him that I feel sorry for everyone that has to work for him.