Don’t be a dick to the service industry

Politeness is half good manners and half good lying.
~Mary Wilson Little

I know there’s a stereotype about food service and retail employees. Lazy, belligerent, unambitious, illiterate hicks that spit in your food. And that may be true in some cases. But not for the grand majority of us.

We’re students, fighting to pay our bills.
We’re college grads, waiting on the economy to pick up.
We’re unable to further our education, and have no other choice.
We’re people who decided that the rat race just wasn’t worth it.
We’re working two jobs for whatever reason.
We’re newcomers to the area and just picked up the first thing that came along.

Just because we didn’t drop everything immediately to come serve your god damn food doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It may mean that we’re busy. I had a man get pissed off at us because I was helping another customer, another employee was filling the ice machine, and the other employee was trying to finish wrapping the cookies before we got slammed. He couldn’t even wait all of thirty seconds. We didn’t ignore him…it’s company policy that within two seconds of a customer approaching the sneeze guard we greet, even if we’re unable to serve. We don’t waver from that rule because we hate being ignored ourselves.

Get off your damn phone when I’m trying to serve you, check you out at the cash register, or any other situation that involves me paying attention to you. This is my pet fucking peeve, right here. Get off the phone. It’s not that important, and if it is, the person on the other line deserves your undivided attention, not your half-assed “uh-huhs” as you grunt and point at what you want like a fucking ape.

Yes, you may complain to me. If I feel the complaint is valid, I’ll forward it to management. Yelling at me, however, will achieve nothing. And keep in mind that I don’t always have a lot of say as an employee. I’ve worked in stores where I had a lot of say as an employee, and your complaint that the price was too high might make a difference. But in the majority of places, that’s not the case.

Remember that certain behaviors may be required by management. I may be required to ask certain questions or say things a certain way or refrain from particular actions. Again, a quick expression of your disappointment will get you farther than a bitch-fest.

Be polite. We don’t get paid enough to be treated like shit. A simple “please,” “thank you,” or “you’re welcome” is just common courtesy, no matter the situation.

Above all, remember that I, as a service industry employee, am human, too. Sometimes I work fourteen hour days or I didn’t eat lunch or shit hits the fan and I’m grumpy and snappish. Sometimes we have a line out the door for two hours and I’m not really in the mood to smile at your kid and pretend like I’m interested in hearing about your day. On the other hand, maybe your kid did something funny or I really did like your shirt a lot or I think you have a cool job. If you keep that in mind, I’ll try to keep in mind the fact that you’re human and might just be having a bad day.


5 Responses to “Don’t be a dick to the service industry”

  1. Dargon Says:


    Sometimes I think people should be required to spend time working customer service just so they realize how much of a dick they are.

    • Oh yes – I’ve often felt the world would be a better place if everyone had a mandatory two-year stint in customer service, at least. Because after many years of retail jobs, I know that I certainly am far better behaved than the average customer. The amount of entitlement I would see expressed on a daily basis… it boggles the mind. So much superiority usually founded on nothing at all.

      • I completely agree– we need more solidarity.

      • Dargon Says:

        I was once quite embarrassed to go anywhere with my mother as she was one of the self-entitled jerks. She now works retail, and her tune has changed considerably. Actually working the job really gives you a sense of perspective.

  2. Amen x2

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