Tauranga grocer David Stewart speaks out after list of employee rules goes global

A Kiwi greengrocer’s instructions for new employees has gone global after a disgruntled dad shared a portion of them online – but the man behind the list says the international headlines don’t tell the full story.

The list went viral after it was tweeted out by the father of a former employee of The Fresh Market in the Tauranga suburb of Gate Pā.

It made headlines for UK publications such as The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Mail and was shared around the world.

“My kid recently left her job at a local retailer (which employs mostly 16-year-olds to pay well under minimum wage),” the tweet read.

“This is a letter she received from the boss when she arrived on her first day on that job.”

The list of rules, which has been circulating online since the early days of the internet, is often quoted as coming directly from software mogul Bill Gates.

According to myth-busting website Snopes.com, the list was in fact created by Charles J. Sykes, author of the 1996 book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, Or Add.

Examples of the advice given on the list include:

•Life is not fair. Get used to it.

• The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does.

• If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss.

• Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.

• Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t.

Comments flooded in on the now-deleted tweet, with some saying the list was “insulting” and “sad”.

Others agreed with the sentiment, with one user writing: “It’s spot on and exactly what needs explaining to the kids these days!!”.

'What we try and do is help people'

None of the overseas reports named the business or the boss in question, but the Herald tracked David Stewart down at The Fresh Market to see if he stood by the advice.

When the Herald called this morning he was busy mucking in at his business and initially reticent about stepping into the spotlight.

“I think you guys should be reporting on some of the more important things in New Zealand like the spiralling crime rate, the roads that are s***, the hospitals that are buggered and the schools that are buggered,” he said.

Stewart told the Herald that claims he paid under the minimum wage were totally untrue.

He said that the online complaint was the first of its nature that he had received in his four-decade career, adding that he thought it was typical of a modern, online world where the full story is not always presented.

He had a message for some of the “keyboard warriors” who had criticised the list.

“If people have something to say to you or about you, why don’t they just do it in person?” he asked.

He said the note was part of a wider suite of tips and tools that he provided to new employees, including information on how to be smart with their earnings and choose a Kiwisaver plan that best fits their goals.

“What we try and do is help people,” Stewart said.

He said he also coached new employees in effective customer service – and the potential cost to the business if customers were treated poorly.

The greengrocer said that he did occasionally hire the odd bad apple, but had employed “thousands” of hard-working young people in his time.

“This is not a holiday park working here, we deal with fresh produce. We do the same thing every – but the rules change every day. It depends on weather, it depends on supply, it depends on all sorts of things.”

Stewart said his business started at 5am and finished at 6pm and was open six and half days a week.

“They have to work. They are paid good money,” Stewart said, stressing that his staff were always paid above minimum wage.

“Always have and always will be,” he said.

He said that he had witnessed “massive” changes in the young people he took under his wing and had ongoing, positive relationships with many of his former employees.

He cited one current part-time employee who is leaving school this year with his own vehicle and over $25,000 in the bank from “working hard”.

“No one’s gonna support him.”

He said he had other employees who had won scholarships to university, including one who returned fortnightly to work weekends for him.

“These are keen young people and going for all sorts of different occupations, amazing young people”.

He admitted that the advice was now decades old, but it still had the ability to “make people think about what they’ve got to do”.

Asked if the list was simply common sense, Stewart gave a knowing laugh.

“Do they have it? They don’t have any practical sense at all mate, they don’t have anything at all. They have parents who run around and do things for them all the time.”

Stewart said that current Government policy such as one year free at university was doing young Kiwis no favours.

“Life isn’t easy mate, it ain’t fair. Get used to it,” he said.

“We all work. We all get up, we go to work, we do whatever is required. There are 25 people here and they are all happy as and every other business I know is exactly the same.”

He said finding good employees was a problem across New Zealand.

“It’s very difficult employing people in general. It’s very easy for people not to work.”

Stewart is currently looking for part-time employees.

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