Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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‘I couldn’t believe that someone with my experience couldn’t even get a job as a busboy.’

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Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

Eight months after exhausting his unemployment benefits, longtime casino bartender Bud Meyers is in desperation mode after “meaningless attempts to find gainful employment.”

CNN story on Meyers

Bud Meyers, who spent most of his adult life working behind a bar, has become the unwitting face of the older jobless in America.

Meyers lost his job at the Riviera in January 2008, and has joined the ranks of so-called 99ers who are still idle after exhausting two years of unemployment benefits. Unlike the many Nevadans who have suffered and deteriorated in obscurity, Meyers’ mental, physical and financial decline is on display on the Internet.

For more than a year, his blog posts have become increasingly desperate, drawing the attention of CNN, the Huffington Post and Associated Press. Using the pseudonym Bud Meyers to avoid personal embarrassment, he writes about the lack of jobs and problems obtaining benefits.

In his blog, Meyers rails against “meaningless attempts to find gainful employment” as well as his loss of identity and self-esteem.

“I’m tired of being talked to and treated and looked down upon as a big loser because I’ve lost my means of supporting myself at the age of 55.”

After reading a particularly dire excerpt from Meyers’ blog, CNN correspondent Ali Velshi assured viewers last month that Meyers was OK.

“Bud, I think you’re listening to this so hang in there, you’re not forgotten by everyone,” Velshi said.

Meyers’ story isn’t just about one man’s disheartening job search. It’s also about a class of workers approaching obsolescence in a town much changed from the days when they first came seeking opportunity.

Older casino workers such as Meyers feel passed over in a job market that favors applicants’ appearance and personality over work history or local connections, say job placement and training experts. Las Vegas always has been driven by eye candy. That was a commonly heard complaint even before the recession. Yet age discrimination actions rarely advance far. Employees are mainly concerned about keeping their jobs rather than causing a stir.

In two years of unemployment, Meyers drained his life savings of $40,000. But the experience has taken more than a financial toll on Meyers, who picks at his once-manicured nails and chain smokes while he speaks.

His graying hair and pale skin reveal a different man from the bartender who appears in personal photos with a tanned, chiseled face and gleaming black hair. The employed Meyers had coifed hair and a wide, mischievous grin. The jobless Meyers has ragged locks he cuts himself and insomnia, reflected in the bags under his eyes and an expression of defeat.

Though he subsists on just one meal a day to save money, the once-trim body that rushed about behind a bar, slinging drinks for tourists, has grown thick.

Many of the long-term unemployed like Meyers are showing up at agencies like the state-run JobConnect.

Ben Daseler, who supervises the state’s largest JobConnect office in central Las Vegas, said older hospitality workers are having an especially tough time finding work. Like other job seekers, he said, they are told to “be flexible and learn new skills.”

That may be easier said than done for members of the hospitality unions accustomed to the security of seniority rights and healthy wages, Daseler said. Many casinos offer on-call positions where employees may only work one or three days per week, he said. Some workers, he added, aren’t called in for months at a time.

That’s why JobConnect counselors, he said, are steering many job seekers away from hospitality jobs and toward other fields, like health care, that haven’t been as hard hit in the recession. But other industries weren’t on Meyers’ radar.

After losing his job, Meyers figured his experience and a persistent, chatty personality would land a new gig. Optimism waned as the months wore on and he was rejected from multiple casino jobs, from assistant bar manager down to busboy and barback. The latter job meant washing glasses and stocking bottles.

“I couldn’t believe that someone with my experience couldn’t even get a job as a busboy,” Meyers said.

Still, he spent months applying online for similar job openings. But many casino companies prevent job seekers from applying for more than one job at once, requiring applicants to wait several weeks before they can reapply for something else. He also walked into bars and casinos, talking with bartenders, managers and human resources representatives to get a foot in the door. You have to apply like everyone else, they said.

Meyers, a bachelor who lives alone, depended on his paychecks. Every month, he spends $855 on rent and $490 for his 2007 Chrysler Sebring.

Before the big Las Vegas casinos adopted the online application process of corporate America to filter thousands of applications at once, they often hired workers based on a few words of recommendation from another casino — or a smile and a handshake with the boss. That’s how Meyers moved around.

Those days are over, said Greg Abate, who runs the city’s oldest and largest bartending school, ABC Bartending.

“The days of getting jobs through the buddy system are gone,” he said. “This is new Vegas, which is pool parties and nightclubs. You think a casino wants to hire someone who’s 50 years old serving drinks to 21-year-olds?”

Long resumes are viewed as more of a liability than an asset in today’s economy, he said.

Sherry Cummings sees many people like Meyers in her line of work. She instructs bartenders-to-be in checking IDs and handling drunks for the agency Techniques in Alcohol Management, or TAM, that certifies all working bartenders in Las Vegas. Besides her day job, Cummings spends time boosting the spirits of unemployed service workers. Her advice: smile like you mean it and be flexible.

That’s harder for the long-term unemployed, especially men whose identities are mostly wrapped up in their jobs, she said. A shellshocked demeanor can derail a candidate’s job prospects, as casinos want happy, confident and optimistic people in service jobs, she said.

“Women are used to having multiple identities, but there’s an ego thing men have,” Cummings said. “Losing their job takes the wind out of their sails. When they’re interviewing for a job they don’t have the same energy about themselves.”

After applying for a busboy job, Meyers received a notice from the casino saying he had failed the psychological questionnaire following the formal application. Meyers figures his truthful answer to a question about his level of optimism for the economy cost him the job.

Meyers has lived in isolation since he lost his work.

He is estranged from his mother and from the rest of his family. Most of his friends were co-workers with their own pressing concerns. Some are out of work as well. Those still working, Meyers said, want little to do with him since he became unemployed — a feeling of survivor’s guilt, perhaps.

“They give me this look like I’m a dead man walking,” he said. “They’re afraid that what happened to me will happen to them. Or that they will catch it from me.”

It wasn’t until Meyers stopped looking for work last fall, becoming even more cut off from the world, that he received national attention.

“I have pondered the absence of relevance in my past life, and the lack of significance my passing will be to the world,” Meyers wrote.

As a white man over age 50 who also lacks a support network, Meyers fits the profile of people most vulnerable to suicide.

With homeless shelters full and social service agencies focused on families with children, more people are calling the statewide suicide hotline for help such as financial assistance with rent and food.

Statewide, the Crisis Call Center received 3,931 calls for help with various needs — employment, food, shelter and transportation — a 17 percent increase from 2009 and a 48 percent jump from 2008. This doesn’t include the greater number of hotline calls from people who were suicidal and did not openly request financial assistance.

Since the downturn, more hotline calls are coming from unemployed men in Las Vegas between ages 50 and 60 who are too young for Social Security and too old to appeal to employers, said Debbie Gant-Reed, crisis lines coordinator for the Reno-based Crisis Call Center.

In many cases, callers have exhausted their savings and feel hopeless about their job prospects as companies seek people at entry level wages, favoring younger, less experienced people, Gant-Reed said.

“They feel like they can’t recover” financially, she said. Unlike those from society’s fringes, they tend to be middle-class people “who have lost everything and who aren’t used to going without.”

The Crisis Call Center also receives suicidal letters addressed to the White House and expressing frustration with the poor local economy and a lack of jobs.

There’s some hope for Meyers, though. A Henderson woman who read his blog and lost her own job offered to take him in.

Meyers said he’s too polite to refuse a stranger’s help. While fearing he will only be a burden, the tone of his voice lifts as he mentions her.

“I don’t know how I’m going to be of any help. But she keeps telling me, ‘We’ll make it work.’ ”

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  1. "failed the psychological questionnaire" for a busboy...then he is told to 'find out where to compromise in his search'. Was he shooting too high in applying for a busboy job? How lack of compromise was ever part of the problem. Maybe he should try standing on the sidewalk in front of Home Depot?

    And his family is in Cleveland so HIS PROBLEM becomes that he doesn't fly back for the weekend BBQ/social life? What does the family BBQ do for a resume?

    Hair coloring would work a lot better. Also - cigarette smoke sticks to a person's clothes. Walk into an interview smelling like a pack of Camels and don't expect success...I'm surprised no one told him that.

    Eat Oatmeal and cooked whole potatoes three times a day with a daily vitamin to keep your energy up - these foods are most affordable and energy is critical to success.

    Oh - and if you need a laugh, call Joe Heck to find what jobs he is bringing to Nevada. Humor will brighten your day.

  2. GOV O.2 Brian Sandoval has failed this man and Nevada. This man is paying for Sandoval and his families medical insurance, mansion, car and fancy inaugural ball.

    Hate talk radio has stigmatized the unemployed.

  3. Hey, Cliff...
    That's just sick, man.

    Haters hate.
    It's what they do!

  4. This is a very moving and well-written story.
    It seems obvious that those posters who have jobs (or who are retired) don't have any clue what difficulties can be faced looking for a new job.
    I hope the Sun publishes many more stories about ordinary Americans struggling in this recession.

  5. Cliff.

    Before attacking Obama's ears, I'd take a look at the Republican crew. One leader is Orange, another looks like he put his finger in a light socket, and another looks like he went to Floyd the barber in Mayberry and had him empty the bottle of hair tonic on his head. "Grease is the word." Not to mention Republican women commentators complete with "Adam's Apples." So much for civility?

    It was Nixon, the Republican, that "opened up" China...and the Republicans and their big business benefactors have been cozy with them every since. I have as little to do with China and their products as possible.

    Also, you assume facts not in evidence about my supporting Obama. Continuing the 2 Bush Wars, expanding the Afghanistan involvement, continuing the Bush bailout of Wall Street, not extending Medicare for everyone and crafting an insurance company handout as "health care reform" and so on.

    No, I'm in the "disapprove" category when it comes to Obama.

    Sandoval is responsible for the unemployment because he has water-boarded the Nevada economy from the get go by destroying "tax predictability." Cities, Counties, individuals, big and small businesses are in a quandary about what the tax policy will be, preventing new hiring. Also, as AG, he steered away from protecting age discrimination in the work place.

    This guy will be trashed and second guessed the way the "homeless guy" featured in the Sun awhile back was.

    As for these "truck driving jobs in 2 weeks," that is completely bogus, there is quite a bit of unemployment in that industry. Many driver jobs involved transporting building materials and construction equipment are gone, and the level of transport of food, household goods, and other commodities is relatively stable.

    Mr. John Parsons fails to see that many college graduates, MBAs, attorneys and others, even in health care are having job problems. So trashing "Bud" and his name ..."John" (isn't John another name for a bathroom? I'm going to the "John")

    I can remember someone name "Jody" was a weekend hate talker on a local hate talk station, she lamented that her "day job" was that of a civil engineer and she had been out of work for 4 months. Shortly thereafter they fired her from her radio station job.

    There but for the grace of God go you.

  6. >>Your big ear Obama failed the nation with his over two years of communism which you support.

    The only hate anywhere comes from you and your kind.

    <<

    Pot? Kettle? Meet Cliff.

  7. I remember being at MCI years ago and we were hiring developers. We had a number of seasoned folks apply and interview and I asked one of the hiring manager if they were likely to get hired. She told me that they were highly unlikely to get hired because people that have been well above a certain level have a hard time adjusting down. She added that they often feel that they should advance faster if there are upgrades available and it creates problems. So, unless they get the strong sense that the person can manage that downgrade well, they won't take the chance. I was torn because it seemed like it was a waste of some good talent and experience, but I did understand that have a good cohesive team environment is important as well.

  8. @dipstick

    "its time for this gentleman to stop with the pity and start using the smarts that got him to where he was before the crash."

    -- That's cold. There is a lot of luck in finding a job as well.

  9. @mred

    "GOV O.2 Brian Sandoval has failed this man and Nevada."

    -- Too early to put that on him mred.

  10. Nevada is STILL GOING DOWN from the stock market CRASH of 2008 - This was caused by bankers, mortgage companies, insurance companies all cashing in on Liar's loans and UNREGULATED Mortgage Insurance policies with NO LIQUIDITY.

    This recessions was caused by the unregulated "FINANCIAL GENIUSES" who ARE:
    Not the Communists
    Not the Socialists
    Not the Taliban
    Not the Illegal immigrants
    Not the Mexicans
    Not the European Intellectuals infiltrating our Universities

    This recession is 100% American Financial Genius CREATED by lack of regulation and not one single ounce of Personal Responsibility, because Personal Responsibility ends above a certain income bracket!!

    Remember: China's economy is booming - they had to raise interest rates to cool it off. Looks like the Communists and Socialists are the only political system that can run a stable financial system - LOOK AT THE WORLD NEWS, not the Clark County Line.

    It's NOT THE COMMUNISTS OR SOCIALISTS - their economies are BOOMING!

  11. This is what the unemployed face in this economy, thanks primarily to large US corporations and the cretins that work in their HR departments:

    No recent experience - Gotcha
    Gap on your resume - Gotcha
    Job changes on your resume - Gotcha
    Held the same job too long - Gotcha
    Held temporary rather than permanent jobs - Gotcha
    Missing one of the ten skills on the list - Gotcha
    Overqualified - you might quit - Gotcha
    Didn't score as their type on the psychological test, even though you were already promoted once in that field - Gotcha
    It took you only two months to learn the technology, but the HR person grills you on whether you have three years of experience - Gotcha
    You are disabled and the ad for a desk job requires you to lift 25lbs - Gotcha
    Someone you never met, who interviewed you for five minutes on the phone, checked the do not hire box in the applicant tracking system two years ago - Gotcha
    Recruiter's placement percentage will go down in the applicant tracking system if he submits too many risky (e.g. older) candidates - Gotcha
    Didn't follow up soon enough - Gotcha
    Called too soon - too aggressive - Gotcha
    Too much academic experience - Gotcha
    Other candidates have a Ph.D. - Gotcha
    Didn't remember the answer to an arcane question about a course you took 20 years ago or a software detail you can look up in the manual - Gotcha
    No older employees/women/minorities on the interviewing panel - Gotcha
    One out of eight interviewers votes against you - Gotcha
    You got through the first two interviews, but the third time you came back someone didn't like you - Gotcha
    You are fat and the job is in (insert city) - Gotcha
    You wore a suit and the interviewer wore a t shirt and bike shorts - Gotcha
    You weren't well groomed enough - Gotcha
    Former employer prohibits references - Gotcha
    Bad marks on your credit rating - Gotcha
    No room in your budget for all the gear they expect you to own - Gotcha
    They call someone who is not on your reference list and that person badmouths you - Gotcha
    HR PERSON READS EVERYTHING YOU EVER WROTE ON THE INTERNET AND DOESN'T LIKE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS - GOTCHA
    Manager advertises the job for five months,finds no one good enough and withdraws the position.

    Real person and not a robot - Gotcha

    (List courtesy of LAS, Redmond, WA)

  12. Don't give up Bud, hang in there! Help might be just around the next corner. People need to show some compassion, they may be next!

  13. Good Points. There is a 10-15% overcapacity of PhD in many fields.

    Constructive ideas? If you unemployment has run out...

    training: Coach new bartenders and bars, customer relations, tips for getting bigger tips, Print-up some business cards and get some low cost web-presence, Craig's list, etc. You are already a blogger. You already are "nearly famous." Charge minimum $20 an hour for consulting.

    Hire out as a personal bartender for parties, meetings, etc. $20 an hour, minimum 2 hours.

    Hire out as a product demonstrator for liquor companies, liquor stores, feature new drinks, etc.

    Obviously, things might be hand to mouth, but this might help a little til new ideas and opportunities develop.

    Get ready for to be a target of hate. It is not OK to fail.

  14. "Bud, I think you're listening to this so hang in there, you're not forgotten by everyone," Velshi said."

    Along the rest here safely and remotely patting Bud on the back, I don't see Velshi or anyone else offering cash or anything else to ease his suffering. Except for that nice Henderson lady at the end.

    Mostly what I see in this article is crushing the myth old white guys are in charge of anything. Anyone else notice that's who you see mostly around this town, holding up the signs asking for help?

    "Life begins on the other side of despair." -- Sartre

  15. Having run several businesses in the past and working in management positions it was always easy to eliminate an applicant. Nothing has changed. People like Bud have to reinvent theirselves and look for new types of employment. Even going to community college and learn some new skills. I know it is easy for me to critisize someone. Keep in mind we are never to old to learn something new.

  16. This is why I love the Las Vegas Sun...HUMAN interest stories. Liz is the new bomb!!!

    Nice writing, Liz-girl.

    In the mortal words of an idiot boy's retarded father, "READ MY LIPS."

    There is no SOCIAL ARCHITECTURE in Democracy to handle this situation. (Hoarding and legalized theft by the select, the incredible, the beautiful, the better than everyone else...few)

    Computers, automated systems and overseas slave markets have PERMANENTLY,
    PERMANENTLY,
    PERMANENTLY reduced the need,
    reduced the need,
    reduced the need for human labor,
    human labor,
    human labor.

    Even my brilliant Perpetually-Expanding BRAKEOUT Revitalization Plan is only a band-aid without SOCIAL EVOLUTION.

    What do you do?

    Spread the workload and wealth evenly to create EQUALITY.

    To create WHAT?

    ...Equality.

    Equal rights, Equal social positions, equal assets...that's where the word equality comes from..."equal."

    Say these very basic concepts over and over until it breaks through all of the childhood programming and thousands of brainwash sound bytes, cutting through the fog of "conventional wisdom."

    (the new oxymoron...conventional wisdom)

    If you disagree, then give yourself a hard slap, go back and read these very rudimentary truths again.

  17. Seriously, this guy planned on being a bartender his entire life? You'd think that someone that has been unemployed for over 6 months may deem that their $490 car payment doesn't make sense anymore. You'd think that someone who has run out of unemployment benefits would stop chain smoking. I have compassion for many of the unemployed, but there comes a time when you have to do something about it. Continually trying to get a job in food & beverage where you know you no longer fit in the mold for that position is an exercise in futility. Not cutting frivolous expenses is foolish and doesn't really deserve any sympathy.

  18. It's a huge s*** sandwich and we're all gonna have to take a bite.

  19. Hey man, you can always look out of state. The work is were you find it, but you have to go where it is.

  20. Ok,...he needs to quit smoking,...thats the first thing for a lot of reasons,...but beyond that Winkler is SPOT ON!!!, however I'm going to add one factor and thats the inability for anyone to actually apply in person. We have made the computer do the dirty work for the hiring managers. They don't talk one on one with anyone who now must apply online.

    Those with no money or work likely can't access a computer to search for work much less apply for it. If they do,...the hiring manager simply deletes the majority of them that fail to catch his eye,...he never has to look at the applicant, speak to the applicant,...or see if there is a quality that might be an asset to his company. If he doesn't like what he reads online the applicant is deleted.

    Employers might tell you your application will be on file for 6 months, yet how many have applied for a job online, didn't get it, but see it available again within weeks? If they actually kept it on file instead of deleting it they should be contacting you, only it never happens,...you were scrapped in the beginning.

    Regardless of age,...the system of hiring is broken along with the economy,...and was well pointed out by Mr. Erwin Winkler and while Bud is the subject of this article,...he's one of thousands.

    Where the hell are we? Is this still America?

  21. Shows how out of tune the Las Vegas Sun is. You don't even know your own publication. It was mred himself that said he'd stand before the Chinese tank in an earlier comment.

    Everything I said in the comment of mine that you removed was simply reiterated from your favorite posters. Funny how you didn't remove it when it was posted by the other side.

    Not unexpected from a liberal press that pushes propaganda, tells lies and denies freedom of speech. You can choose who can speak and allow your favorites to hide behind fake names.(Your employee and fellow liberal?)

    But I've used my real name, long before you decided to have your "trusted" pages which is nothing of the sort to trust.

  22. Calling all ambulance chasers again, we have an age discrimination suit here. The man is over 40 and qualified but continues to get passed over because his plumbing is different.
    ****

    Forget the "ambulance chasers" aka lawyers. The legal profession is THE worst in age discrimination against their employees or prospective employees. FIrms know how to walk that fine line.

  23. JUST ME

    You're an ASS!!! Be careful- bad times may befall you sooner then you think. There is NO GUARANTEE these days, whether in your job or your life. I'd watch the karma if I were you.