This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Old Colonel Vesey was standing by when I was trying to instruct Tom, our storekeeper, how he must do to meet the views of the hotel company and especially the company's very exact and methodical bookkeeper, and the Colonel, who was an ex-hotel keeper himself, having run the only tavern in Wayback for a number of years before, dropped the remark that he " did not see the use of keeping store-room books, anyway; that he had never kept any." That was just the sort of remark that Tom liked to hear, for he was nothing but a gay and noisy young fellow, who wanted to do no more work than necessity compelled him to do. He liked well enough to sit in the store-room with a dime novel ready open on the table; to bluff off one who came for stores; tell the next to help himself, and swear when another came for whom he had to reach something down from an upper shelf or open a new package; and he liked very well to use his position to hand out nice fruit and such good things to the pretty girls and withold such favors from those who did not please him.
He had held such positions before in unmethodically conducted houses and imagined that hotel storekeeping was just that playful sort of business everywhere, until he was installed In the storeroom of this first-class hotel and then the requirements of the new place bewildered him; and, instead of blaming himself for his want of knowledge of the real duties of the position, he simply said in a self-complacent way that his darned luck had led him to a place where they were nothing but a set of cranks. Colonel Vesey himself was employed in some subordinate position in the front part of the house and meant nothing in particular by his random remark, and Tom did not stop to think that the Colonel's hotel-keeping had not been a success, but had left him in a dependent condition after all. All Tom cared for was to find that somebody shared his views, and made his indignation at the cranky requirements of the company's bookkeeper seem perfectly natura^ Consequently this moral support from such an old hotel keeper did Tom a great deal of harm.
I had brought him there myself, rather liking his cheerful disposition and thinking that he could be trained to become a thorough hotel man, and this first-class hotel storekeeping seemed to me to be the finest opportunity a young man could have to get a knowledge of the business from the very foundation. But there was something deficient in Tom's nature. He was lazy. He was too easily discouraged. Goods were sent in by merchants who neglected to send the bills with the goods; Tom declared he could not enter the things in the receiving book when he did hot know the prices. Such goods were issued to the different departments and entered in his issue book without the cost prices. His daily account of issues could not be made up correctly. Bills came in to be paid and he had lost track of the goods, could give no account of them. Some goods sent in were billed twice over - that is, a bill would come in with the goods and another for the same goods would come in, either through mistake of the merchants or because it was the regular monthly presentation of bills, and most of the time Tom would enter the second bill as well in his receiving book, which at the end of the month, when everything was added up, made it appear as if he had received a lot of goods which he could not account for.
The company's bookkeeper, being as bright and keen as a diamond, never made any quibbles about such blunders, as some might have done, by trying to frighten Tom with the threat of making him pay for these goods which his book seemed to show that he had received and yet he could not produce, for the bookkeeper saw into the mistakes at a glance, but seeing Tom was but a poor stick and a hindrance to the account keeping instead of a help, he mildly advised that he be discharged and a better hand put in his place. But Tom saved us the trouble. All the fun of store-keeping had vanished; he could not even enjoy his novel; he dared hardly give grapes, pears and oranges to the pretty girls in the yard any more for fear the "cranks" would go to weighing, measuring or counting and ask him what he had done with the stuff. So one morning he did not appear at the store-room. He left the key hanging on my door knob and had run away. It is all very well to propose to "fire out" a hand who is only half a hand, but in reality hotel keepers, stewards, headwaiters, housekeepers, employers, all are very slow to discharge the help that they can get along with at all. It may be difficult to find the better one to put in the place. There is a chance that the new one will prove worse with some other failing.
There are really but few trained hotel hands and none harder to find than real experienced store-room keepers. There are plenty of hands always wanting to work, whole helpless families of them, but when do they know? What can they do? What have they ever learned that is use-ful? To be a hotel storekeeper it is necessary to know something about accounts and be quick at figures; besides that there is some muscular labor to be performed. We find plenty who can work, but they cannot keep books, and some who can keep books who cannot or will not work with their hands. And a good many poor creaturers seeking work say pitifully, "But I can do anything you tell me and shall soon learn." Yes, if we only had time and patience to train every new hand that comes along; but we all have our own duties, tasks and anxieties and want to be assisted, not to be always giving assistance. However, a store-room keeper had to be found, for business was crowding everybody. No male storekeeper could be found. A young lady was advertising for a situation as assistant bookkeeper. I answered the advertisement, stating what was wanted, and she came and made a favorable impression at once.
In the large cities there are numbers of female storeroom keepers in hotels and restaurants and they make a trade of it, following the same occupation for years. It is suitable employment for a woman. There is some laborious work about it, but generally some help is available to be called in at the worst times. Mr. Tatillonner - that was the company's bookkeeper, I did not mention his name before because I hate to write long words - intimated that now a new person had taken up the duties it would be wise to train her just right, by which I understood very well .that he wanted somebody to fall in with his own special method of hotel bookkeeping, and classify matters and things as they came to hand, all ready for him to transcribe them into his own system of accounts, and I seconded him in his first instructions and explanations as much as lay in my power amidst a rush of hotel business in the height of the season. Steward's and storekeeper's bookkeeping is not the hotel bookkeeping, but only auxiliary. The steward's books must be right and show faithfully the incomes and outgoes of his department before the hotel bookkeeper can make out whether the hotel is making or losing.