Work Experience Reconsidered — Part 2
My second job was with a Finnish travel agency Norvista that in 1997 used to have its office in the Astoria hotel right opposite the Isaac’s Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This was a summer job, part of the practical training that everyone who studied the hospitality management in the Haaga Institute in Helsinki, Finland, had to undergo. I worked there as a travel agent for three months in 1997 and three months in 1998.
The location was superb, the setting — elegant, the view from the office windows just a pure dream. This was the wrapping. What about the content? To start with, I was paid in cash, unofficially. For all official organisations I did not exist, not that I minded, as at the time I was living and studying in Helsinki.
Salary, although not great, was enough to buy food, have fun, and also buy presents for friends and parents. This time the canteen where I ate my lunches was right in Astoria, with the menu to match. All would be perfect but for one major thing — the clients who frequented our travel agency. They were the nouveau riche of the 1990s. Their talk and walk were far from elegant, their wishes outlandish, and their threats real. Every day I would come early and leave late, working hard to fulfil wishes of the self-proclaimed ‘elite’. But they were rarely happy for the list of their wishes never ended, even when they were already undertaking their trips.
The question that often popped up in my head was — even though we had been taught that the client is always right, why did we have to put up with the clients who were obviously wrong? The answer of course was money. The agency was literally swimming in cash. Once received, it was neatly stacked in a huge safe that was emptied daily.
The conclusion: more often than not certain employers and companies would put profit higher than moral, integrity, and decency; what is more they even would be willing to sell their soul for ‘cash’. But in the end is it worth it, really?
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