Working in the food service industry for 16 years has been such an interesting study in human behavior.
With the added component of hunger, a customer’s basest character really shines through.
On days that are uncomfortably hot or busy, such as my last two Fridays, the real egomaniacs have been especially eager to identify themselves. Their need to be considered important, for some reason, doesn’t embarrass them.
I have a hunch that the consumer driven business model of allowing—and throwing freebies—at this kind of behavior goes a long way toward explaining a lot of the political atrocities in this, our capitalist machine.
I’m so grateful for the many customers I meet who accept occasional basic inevitabilities (like waiting their turn) gracefully. Even more delightful are the people who choose to react to mistakes with compassion for the human beings who make those mistakes. I believe these are the customers who deserve to be given free stuff when something has gone wrong, and given preferential treatment at all times.
For the others: I don’t believe shaming people is an upwardly mobile form of manipulation. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile technique to use even on humans who have allowed themselves to turn into nasty hobgoblins. In fact, how can these creatures ever learn to show compassion if their own repulsive behavior prevents them from experiencing any of it anywhere they go?
But showing kindness to people who are impatient and impossible to please is exhausting even when there aren’t that many of them. And when they come in hordes, it becomes difficult to deal with anyone at all in a pleasant way.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people working in customer service to stand up for themselves.
I don’t think “find another profession, then” is a good solution. No human ever deserves to be treated the way my worst customers treat me over things like not bringing them as many butter packets as biscuits, or the table next to them ordering minutes after them but getting food minutes before them.
If we allow anyone in our communities to be trampled like this, we’re giving the powerful in our culture permission to trample anyone who hasn’t chosen brute force as a way of life.
So what do we do, then? We remember our own value, for one thing. We refuse to allow ourselves to be treated as inferior so that we can avoid becoming bitter and hating people. This enables us to have an enormous positive impact that we may never even see.
It took me a long time to realize that my job is as crucial to the fabric of society as any other role a person could find him/herself in. I care a lot about doing it well because I believe my job, done well, has a big impact on the state of the world.
If you’re feeling up to it, please remember that when you show appreciation to those of us working day after day in what are perceived by some as “lowly” positions, it gives us energy and makes it easier for us to treat the sorts of people who seem like they’re on the verge of snapping with the kind of firm gentleness that I think ultimately helps everyone out.
Want to see us smile?
Dude, just smile at us. It’s so easy.
Author: Trudi Nelson
Images: TV Still
Editor: Travis May