Six ways to give back to the service industry

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.

I’ve worked multiple service industry jobs. And let me tell you, they suck. Most retail and food service places are set up for high turnover rates…they pay minimum wage, burn up the employees, and then toss them out when they get to be too much trouble. This keeps costs low, for you, the consumer. Granted, there are a lot of people working service industry jobs that fit the stereotype of the uneducated, idiotic burger flipper who spits in your food. But most of them are kids or young adults or even older adults who are struggling to get by. They don’t have experience, maybe, or they’re down on their luck. In this economy, there are a lot of well-educated people with degrees or specialized training who, for one reason or another, are working service industry jobs.

And this time of year is especially hard on the retail guys. They’re super busy, working late hours, the customers are rushed and stressed and have even shorter tempers than usual. Management is trying to get the most work out of the fewest people, and money’s tight all around.

So here are a few ways to, if not to give something back, at least to make someone’s crap job a little more bearable:

1. Pay attention. If you’re speaking to an employee, especially if they’re helping you, look them in the eyes, and don’t get distracted by something else. Give them the full attention you would give anyone else (or I hope that you would give anyone else). Yes, they are paid to help you. But they are not paid to get treated like shit. Say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me.” Be polite.

2. Keep your cool. Shit happens and things get busy and sometimes they’re understaffed. It’s no excuse for poor service, but if you see the employees running their legs off, give them a break. Things may get screwed up or you may have to wait. Be patient, and picture yourself in their shoes…they’re probably not having a very good day. Your shitfit may get you a free meal, sure, but is it worth it? Believe me, you will get used later on as an example of a dick customer. The kind that whines and screams and gets everything but fellatio from the management. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, yes, but the squeaky wheel is an asshole that’s likely to get replaced at the next opportune moment. Do you really want to be referred to as the “corn salsa lady?” That’s the legacy dick customers leave behind. Also, it makes things that much worse for the employee and everyone the employee has to deal with later on. It’s not all about you.

4. Don’t let other customers give the employees shit. Service industry employees are paid to kiss ass. And not in a good way. They’re often not allowed to tell the customer that their kids should not be attempting to bang the glass fishbowl on the floor. They’re often not allowed to tell asshole customers that they have to leave the store. If you see someone being an unreasonable ass, call them out on it. You’re a customer, you can get away with all kinds of shit the employees can’t. “Excuse me, but could you please restrain your child? She’s about to break that fishbowl.” “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re being really loud. Could you tone it down, please?” Or for the really bad ones, “I’m sorry, but you’re acting like a dick.”

5. Try to be accommodating. If you see an employee coming down the aisle with a load of bricks or something, get out of their way. It’s common fucking sense. Hold the door for them if they’re coming in after you. Remember, they’re people, too. Occasionally bad moods cannot be helped. Even if they’re being sharp with you, smile and say “Thank you,” anyway. Who knows, it may help them calm down and remember that you’re a human, too, and not the source of their troubles.

6. I lied, there isn’t a number six. Whatcha gonna do, fire me?


3 Responses to “Six ways to give back to the service industry”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Unfortunately, I doubt corn salsa lady cares much about her legacy, simply that she got that damned corn salsa, and for $2.00 less because she bitched. Asshattery gets free stuff, which leads to repeat asshattery. Until the morons at the top realize that the best course of action for asshat customers is in fact to tell them to deal or GTFO, this shall continue to be the case.

    Which brings us to number four. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. In addition to the free stuff the asshats get, they also have the pleasure of no one calling them on their bullshit. It’s a common tactic of bullies, go for the targets of least resistance. Sure, they could win in a fight, but they’d prefer you go down without a swing, and the typical retail environment does just that. So when you, the other customer, have the ability to deliver that proverbial swing, do it. The bully doesn’t get their way, or at least doesn’t get as satisfying a victory, you feel better for putting them in their place, and quite often you make the employees day a lot better as well, as the vast majority of the shit they put up with goes by not simply unpunished, but rewarded.

  2. You also seem to be missing a number 3…

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