BY WREN PUCKETT, CONTRIBUTOR
No need to beat around the bush here: working customer service will make a person realize that humans are a gigantic pain in the keister.
Recently I worked a Valentine’s Day shift as a host. Doesn’t sound awful, right? I can snoop on the lovey-dovey couples snuggling up to one another in booths; people are probably feeling generous, so I might make an extra tip or two. And hey, I wasn’t alone and bored on Valentine’s Day. I was too immersed in bringing bread to tables or cleaning menus or re-situating a highchair for the 304th time.
All those things I mentioned before were perfectly accurate. I spied on some amusing moments. I made 30 bucks more than I do on average. I was surrounded with co-workers I generally quite like. In fact, working on Valentine’s Day would’ve actually been a great experience, except for one little thing…
People are jerks. Exasperating, vexing, self-centered jerks. Not you, I’m sure you’re lovely. But the huge swarm of humans as a collective whole.
As with any job in hospitality, any mistake is our fault and we will apologize profusely for it. You bump a table and spill your milk, we are so sorry. You jump out of your seat at the same time we are holding a massive platter of hot food behind you, forgive us, our bad. Or my personal favorite, when your children pelt us with crayons or then say they need more crayons—will you ever find it in your heart to forgive us?
Within my six-hour cupid holiday shift, I had six people snap at me and point to get my attention. I was knocked hard in the ribs while holding a chair because the lady at the head of the table didn’t want me to set the chair there. I had a man walk up to me with a wad of used tissues and insist I take them. All of which I apologized for.
Why are employee turnover rates, even for fine dining restaurants, so high? Why, since coming to the job less than a year ago, have I seen four hosts start and quit in that timeframe?
Maybe it’s coming home with pasta sauce on your face that nobody had time to tell you about. Or maybe it’s because a customer is yelling at you because they didn’t put in a reservation and the restaurant is on a 40 minute wait. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s not because of that night’s shenanigans, but all the other nights’ built up reserve.
Maybe the hospitality industry is just tired.
But—a customer is a paying guest. They chose to come to your establishment. They chose to spend their free-time, their entertainment time with you. We should be honored and humbled by their presence, right? We should be thankful beyond compare: “May I serve as your mere footstool, my good sir?”
Where is the balance? How do we take care of both the customer and the employee? How do we prevent the long winded complaints (like this one from yours truly) of employees in the hospitality industry? Because honestly, it’s a pretty great place to work most of the time. You make friends, make money, and work flexible part-time shifts.
There must be some reasonable, moderate solution. Henry Ford implemented the 8-hour work day to keep his employees sharp, contrasting the average 12 hour days people often pulled beforehand. Perhaps it’s time for another shift in the mindset of our population—do your part, and please be kind to your waiting staff.