*This column has been corrected as of Feb. 19, 2013 to better reflect the topic at hand*
There are a lot of terrible jobs out there. While they all have their shining moments of unpleasantness, one particularly outstanding example lies in the collection of jobs known as the service industry.
You have undoubtedly encountered employees in this field of employment. They check out your groceries, answer your questions in retail outlets, clean the toilets that you use in institutions of higher learning and (of course) deliver your food to you in restaurants.
Service is (literally) the name of the game in this industry, and how the customer views the service is held as a high priority. Basically, they are not allowed to be nasty to you, the customer, no matter how nasty you are to them.
In a recent opinion editorial on the Guardian’s website, one such employee took to the internet to detail one such encounter that got her fired.
*Correction— The gender of the pastor was identified incorrectly at time of publication, and has been adjusted.*
The employee, who worked at an Applebee’s in St. Louis, noticed that a patron had, apparently, denied a tip to another server. The patron had scribbled out the amount paid for tip, and scrawled “I give 10 percent to God, why do you get 18?”, signing her name with the denotation “Pastor” in front.
*Correction* The 18% tip written in the receipt represented a mandatory gratuity, which Applebee’s requires for parties over six people. The pastor crossed out the amount in the tip ($6.29), however that amount was charged to her credit card as a gratuity. She has apologized for her comment, and stated that she had left $6 in tip prior to discovering that the gratuity was charged. Applebee’s has confirmed that the tip was paid.
Understandably peeved by this, the employee posted a picture of the offending recipt to Reddit.com, assuming the patron’s signature was illegible. Soon thereafter, the offending patron ran across an article concerning the denial of a tip, and demanded that everyone at that location be fired.
The waitress was fired –– not, she suspects, because the restaurant was represented poorly, but because of the embarrassment suffered by the patron.
This is something that has to change in today’s society. Not the wonton embarrassment of patrons at the hands of the employees, but the treatment of employees in the service industry in general.
I speak from personal experience when I say that working in the service industry is awful. At the establishments where I was employed, I worked generally long hours for pay that I am fairly certain that I could barely live off of. On top of that, I had to deal with a lot of unpleasant people while I did so. People would show up with a thousand coupons and yell at me when it took too long to scan them all in. People would cast aspersions about my character, despite having never seen me before. People would chew me out for policies that I could not change. You get the idea.
I’m one of the lucky ones, being a temporary seasonal worker. I don’t have to work this sort of job year-in, year-out like this Applebee’s employee used to.
What these people don’t seem to understand is that our entire job is to serve them and that our employment depends on being considerate to everyone who walks into the establishment. It’s generally a thankless job — a thankless job that demands long hours and supplies small pay.
So if you are embarrassed because one employee decided to rat out your unpleasantness to the Internet, tough. You kind of deserve it.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what station in life you occupy, or how much money you make. We all learned the same lesson back in Kindergarten — the very same lesson that that fellow Jesus Christ was famous for: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Or, a translation for the modern day, “Don’t be a dick, bro.”
So pay the tip. Say thank you when the cashier hands your credit card back. Try to understand when an employee apologetically says that he can’t override an item for a sale that finished the night before. They’re nice to you, as they are contractually obligated to be. And they put up with a lot of nastiness in return, usually just for doing their jobs.
A little common courtesy to them in return goes a long way — and is generally the best possible way to avoid Internet-wide humiliation. Take that as a life lesson.