Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Everyone Should Work In The Service Industry

Yes, I am one of those people who believes that everyone, at some point in their life, should work in the service industry in some way, shape or form - as a waiter or waitress, as a cashier, as a sales associate, something, anything, because I believe that anyone who has been through that would find it a hell of a lot harder to be a douchebag when they are the customer.
I work as a sales associate in a Broadway theatre. Not one shift goes by where I am not treated poorly by a customer. I don't understand why people find it appropriate or necessary to treat people in service positions so poorly, but I DO know that people who have been on the receiving end of that bullshit are a lot less likely to dish it out themselves. Even if I am having an absolutely shit day, I will still be polite to my waitress at dinner, or the cashier at the supermarket. Because it's the right thing to do.
So I have a couple of things to say to people who find such decency beyond them.

1. 90% of the time, we have no control over what you're complaining about.
Yes, the T-shirts are expensive. No, they're not quite true to size. But do you want to know something? Hard though this may be to believe. I don't actually make up the prices, and I don't make the T-shirts either. I just work here. Telling me that you think our merchandise is highway robbery, or that even the smallest size is too big for you or your child does not make any difference to me. There is absolutely nothing I can do. And because of the nature of my job, there's nothing I can say either, except to apologize to you for something that, by the way, also isn't my fault. I have no control over what we produce, how it fits, or how much it costs. You know what else? It's not your waitress' fault that the kitchen ran out of filet mignon. It's not your hostess' fault that there's a half hour wait for a table. It's not the cashier's fault at the supermarket that the price of milk has gone up. It's not your cab driver's fault that there's traffic. Your waiter cannot miraculously make your meal cook faster. The cashier at the supermarket can't print coupons on demand. I cannot pull the exact merchandise you want out of my ass. Bitching to these people achieves nothing but making them feel badly for things that are beyond their control. And 99% of the time, it's something that we've heard too many times before.

2. We don't know everything - and it's not our job to.
As someone who has lived and worked in Manhattan, and in Times Square specifically for 3 years, I am pretty familiar with the area. So if you need directions or a restaurant recommendation or something like that, it's likely that yes, I will be able to help you. But if you're going to see a show at another theatre and you didn't bother to get directions to it beforehand, don't bitch me out if I don't know where to direct you to. Your waitress might not know either - she might be new to the area. Your cab driver doesn't have to know how much it costs to get in to wherever he's taking you. We are not endless fountains of information. I sell merchandise. I am not with the ushers union, I am not with the box office staff, and I am not with the concessions company, so NO, I don't know how much the tickets are, where your seats are, or how much your cocktail will cost. No, it is not my first day. But it is not my job to know that information. In fact, we have been specifically instructed NOT to learn those things because it's not our place to be directing customers to their seats or rattling off every possible price of a ticket, and if we get it wrong, it inconveniences the people whose job it IS to deal with that. So stop shoving your ticket in my face and rolling your eyes when I tell you I'm not sure exactly where that seat is, because if you piss me off again, I'm going to tell you it's up 3 flights of stairs.

3. Familiarize yourself with gratuity practices before you travel.
I'm willing to admit the fact that various countries do things differently where gratuity is concerned, so you may not be used to the way things are done where you're visiting. Some places, it's automatically included. Some places, it's inappropriate to tip a bartender. Some places, it's inappropriate to NOT tip a bartender. But it's YOUR responsibility to find out before you go. Here in New York City, you are expected to tip your waiters and waitresses, and your bartenders, and your cab drivers, among others. And if it's a position that is expecting you to tip, their hourly wage reflects that, so if they are providing good service to the best of their ability (see point #1 about things that are not a waiter/waitress' fault) for goodness' sake, TIP THEM! If you don't have enough money to tip your server, don't eat out, or go get some fast food - don't make them suffer for your poor planning.

4. "If you don't like it, get another job" is not a valid argument.
And the next time I hear someone say that, I'm going to go off on them. Every SINGLE day I get up and I search for jobs, partially because I do not make enough money at my job, and partially because I would like to work in the field that I am trying to make a career, and trust me kids, it's not the service industry. Anyone who is working right now or who is trying to find a job knows that they're not just lying around waiting to be snapped up, and that for every available job, there are many, many people trying to land it. You do not get to rob us of our right to complain about people like YOU treating us like shit by saying "If you don't like it, get another job." Some of us keep these jobs because they work with our school schedules. Some of us use it to supplement income from our day jobs which also don't pay enough. Some of us just can't find another job. So shut up, take your merchandise, eat your burger, drink your cocktail, and LEAVE.

5. Be respectful and polite.
When I say "Hi, how are you?" don't ignore me. Don't shout at me, don't cut in line, and don't interrupt me when I'm speaking to someone else. I will get to everyone, and the more patient and relaxed everyone is, the better it will go. "Please" and "Thank you" go a long way, and so does a "How are you?" in return, even if it's far from genuine. Don't get angry at a server who isn't 100% happy and cheerful to you when you're treating them like shit. Lucky for you, I'm not actually allowed to NOT be 100% happy and cheerful, so if I insult you at all, it will probably be in such a passive aggressive way, you will never notice. But really, just don't be a douchebag. It's not hard.

What would you add to this list? What points do you agree/disagree with?


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