Let me share a little story with you:
You are out to eat at a restaurant during a busy summer month. Your server is working over time, trying to make sure that everyone has everything that they need. She has provided you with all of the information that she has been given from the kitchen regarding delays in service. The restaurant is packed. She is sweating a little, running around, but she is very nice and cordial, taking the time to answer all of your questions. Something happens in the kitchen, as the chefs are rapidly trying to serve a hundred and five people at once, and your food takes a little longer than you might like. You then choose to respond to this reality by screaming at your server, belittling her in front of five other tables, and degrading her as if she is barely deserving being spoken to. She offers you free drinks and dessert, while apologizing profusely. You pay the bill, over a hundred dollars, but you don’t tip her a single cent. You leave, and she cries briefly before plastering a smile on her face and heading out to serve the rest of her tables.
Admittedly, I was the server in this scenario, but the minute it happened I felt overwhelmed with the need to blog about it. I don’t often talk here about my other gig, you know – the one that pays the major bills, but I spend much of my time as a manger of a small restaurant on Cape Cod. Over the last twelve years of my life, I have held these jobs: waitress, manager of a restaurant, caterer, chef, cab driver, professional hula hooper, writer, editor, clothing-folder, counter girl, barista, bus person, gutter girl (read: the person who scraps the food off the plates before it goes to the dish washer), and bartender.
I have served many, many people. I have done it with a smile, 98% of the time.
Let me share another story:
You are out to eat with your significant other, and together share a laugh about a t-shirt with an oyster on a therapist’s couch with the text I think it’s time you open up. Your waitress says that, yes, as a social worker she thinks the shirt is hilarious. You look at her with a mixture of confusion and disgust and say, “Uhh.. You’re a social worker, but you still work in a restaurant?” You roll your eyes. Your waitress stammers, “Well.. I’m still in school.. which is really quite expensive…” You dismiss her and return to your drinks.
The way that we treat other human beings when we are out to eat or at the store or in a taxi-cab, is extremely important. What is it about paying for a service that makes us feel as though we own the person taking care of us, or that we are more important than them?Â Why do we chose to treat some people as though they are not worth our time of day? Why do we think we are so special we can mistreat others, just because we think that we are better than them?
Once, when I was driving a cab in Provincetown, MA, this happened:
You said, “You went to COLLEGE? And you drive a CAB? Your parents must be horrified.”
I smiled, and pretended this was funny. I wanted to say: Actually my parents are really proud of the fact that I have been working 40-60 hours a week since I was 12. The money that I have made has helped relieve them of the exceptional financial burden of raising three children. I have worked hard at every single type of customer service job possible, and I’m not ashamed.
I wanted to say: doing this job allows me the financial freedom to spend a portion of my day working on the things I am truly passionate about – helping others improve their body image and find freedom from their self-loathing. This job pays for my sizable student loans so that I can send myself back to school to get my masters. This job allows me to travel and experience the world. This job pays my rent.
However, I didn’t say any of those things, because I do not need to justify myself.Â Never once a day in my life have I felt badly about myself for working in the service industry to pay the bills. Never once have I looked around myself and though, ugh, I am just so much BETTER than this. I feel good about the fact that I work hard and smile and provide people with the best customer service experience possible.
I feel good about the fact that I am an exceptionally good waitress, but my waitressing skills do not define me.
Please, take the time to consider the fact that the people who are serving you, cleaning your house, watching your children, driving your cab, or doing any of the other things that make your day easier and more enjoyable are real people. They have real feelings. They are often working very hard, and take their jobs seriously.
It also stands to mention that many servers in the U.S. make under $3.00 an hour – which is why you tip them for their hard work to begin with.
Please take the time to consider how they feel when you under-tip them or take out all of your anger and frustration at the world on them. Please take the time to remember how wonderful your day can be when you treat others with kindness instead of disgust.
You don’t own the people who serve you, please don’t act like you do.