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Old 11-10-2010, 08:10 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Ever worked in retail/food service? Did it change you?

So have you ever worked in retail or food service? Did the experience of working in either change how you view the job and the people who serve you?

Personally, I wish everyone had to work a job in both retail and food service sometime in their working life. I've worked a couple retail jobs--one was a combo food service/retail position in a service deli, and the other was throwing freight/working the floor during the Christmas shopping season for a mass market retailer. In terms of food service, I've worked as a line cook for a popular brewpub chain here in Oregon, and also worked as a cashier/sandwich girl for a deli on campus, in addition to the service deli experience previously mentioned.

When it comes to customer service in retail, I have fairly high expectations when someone helps me. More often than not, I prefer to help myself, and tell the customer service person thanks but no thanks when they offer to help me find something. But when I do require help, I expect them to help me with my problem until it's solved. This comes from the retailer I worked for in the service deli--their motto was PACE: Please All Customers Everyday. This meant that if someone came up to the service deli and asked where nails were, I was expected to walk them over to hardware and show them where the nails were. If it was busy, I was expected to call a PIC and have them send someone to show the customer where the nails were. I really, really dislike when I ask someone at Home Depot where something in their store is and they give me vague directions because THEY know where it is, but I do not. I would prefer that they walk me to where the item is, instead of telling me that it's in Hardware on Aisle 5. For all I know, Aisle 5 is huge and the item I am looking for is hiding somewhere on it.

As for food service, I am sympathetic to servers--to a point. I know they have no control over food times and so getting plates out can be hard if a place is slammed. I understand that they forget things. I tip very, very well when service exceeds my expectations. For example, there is one server at my favorite brewpub who I love. I get super excited when I'm seated in her section. She made a mistake the last time we went there with my parents--my mom had said that my dad liked the chocolate porter, but my dad ordered the hefe-weissbier for his next pint. The server brought back the chocolate porter. Whoops! She apologized, said she had even written down the right beer on her pad, and brought out a pint of the hefe-weissbier on the house. Now that's service. I also like that she is not looking to turn the table. She would rather that we take our time and enjoy our food and beer. She even admits that she hates the sight of an empty pint glass

I am not sympathetic towards the poor service I've received at another brewpub in town. Why? I used to work at the other location in town, and am familiar with the food times. The service is slooooow, slower than the kitchen is turning out plates. I often see the servers hanging out, chit-chatting, while the food languishes in the kitchen, waiting to be served. Suffice it to say, we rarely go there--only if there is a major sporting event, since they have the largest screen in town, since we're going to be there a while. Their service is heavily commented on by people around town, to the point that people in the know go to the other location because of the difference between the two.

I know there are lots of other people on the board who have worked in these two areas. What are your expectations of customer service and how have they changed based on your own work experience?
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:19 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes. I eat a lot more. Gained about 20lbs from 140lbs to 160lbs back then. More later.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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yeah it changed me. i learned that korean girls are cute as hell and that sushi isn't as hard to make as i thought it was
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I have never worked in either retail or food service. However, after I read "Nickel and Dimed", I became a much better tipper.
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Old 11-10-2010, 01:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I've worked in retail but never the food service industry. Retail just has to THE worst job, EVER, being bombarded with unbelievably stupid questions, jackasses who think you can move mountains just for a 2 dollar sale, belligerent attitudes, the I'm better then you looks, violent outbursts over ridiculous issues, stupid bosses who have no business being in charge of anything and about a million other problems all for minimum wage, shit benefits and no vaction time. (I actually worked in a place that only hired people part time, 39 hours a week, so they didn't have to give any benefits at all).

Since that time I've developed a pretty sympathetic stance towards people in retail (or customer service in general) I know how stupid, difficult, thankless and sometimes dangerous the job can be you don't always have time to please everybody or fulfill every little request (especially at 5.75 an hour or whatever min wage is these days). I've learned that I'm really nobody special in the grand scheme of the retail world and the person I'm dealing with has already dealt with a hundred people just like me and probably has little to no interest in who I am or what I need. Why would they? Ringing up another sale means nothing, you still get paid the same. As long as the person is at least polite and takes the time to help me out with reasonable questions or requests I don't really care what they do or how they act.
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Old 11-10-2010, 01:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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I used to sell custom window coverings for a major dept. store.
The store manager had his face airbrushed onto a full-sheet cake,
for our employee christmas party.

Beneath his image, written in neon orange icing, it said: "Let them eat cake."
He had no clue as to the history of that phrase.. He just thought it cute.

I've had all types of employment. Each experience was a learning about the world, class.

Observing & thinking. Enlightening & disheartening moments alike, brought forth change.
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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i worked for a major drug store chain while in jr. college...

i was a store manager for another major drug store chain right out of college, and a department manager for a major retail chain prior to beginning my career with the feds...

i tended bar as a part-time job for many, many years...

i care not to ever get involved in retail again, but i loved working a bar and would do it again in a heartbeat if the right situation presented itself. damn, what a great job tending bar is...
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Working at the Wendy's then the Sizzler (no longer there) in Snows current home town motivated me to join the military. Worst jobs ever but working for the state of Oregon was a pretty close second.
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Yes, I worked as a waiter during highschool and college. I overtip servers these days to compensate for the low tips they will receive from other people.

I never complain about the food or send it back. You have been warned.
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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My expectations for customer service?

The same expectations while driving or biking in traffic.
The mix of the courteous, rude, indifferent, observant & not so.

I know there were days when I was going through a nasty divorce, having chronic
health problems, or other stressful events, it was nigh on impossible to be chipper and always perfectly polite to customers.

I try to cut my fellow planet inhabitants a lot of slack. You never know exactly what someone else is dealing with.
The times when I fail to do that, are good humility lessons.
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:50 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I worked for many years in restaurants with very short stents in retail in between. I learned how to work fast, how to work smart, and how to look like I was working hard. Flexable hours, great/sucky co-workers, and cool bosses made it some of the best jobs I worked at. I had fun, learned how to cook good food, and roll a good joint.

I also became very bitter and developed a hatred for people. I saw people at their worse. Want to see an asshole become a bigger asshole? Let them bitch at a server when something goes wrong. I saw people act like assholes just because they could. No amount of good tippers could make up for the overwhelming amount sucky people that eat out in restaurants.

Sometimes I miss cooking a in a kitchen, but every time I open the oven and get that blast of overheated air in my face, I miss it a little less.

Personally, I think everyone should work in service industry job at least once in their life. Like a lot of the European countries do with military service.

"You are 18 now, grab a scrub brush and start washing dishes. See you in a year."

I bet money people would tip a lot differently.
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Old 11-10-2010, 04:33 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I spent the majority of my working life in retail and service industry jobs: I cashiered and threw freight for 2 major grocery chains; I've worked at a movie theater, retail in the mall, and a gourmet popcorn store; I've worked at a gas station, a fast food restaurant, and as a parking lot toll booth attendant. I have a lot of customer service experience under my belt and quite frankly, kicked major ass at it. I moved up or was given extra responsibilities in every position that I stuck around longer than a few months, management always loved me because I have a strong work ethic and got things done. That said, I really lost my rose colored glasses during my stint in retail and learned to dislike a great many people along the way. I am so very, very thankful that I no longer work in customer service.

When I was working for one of the grocery chains, I moved up from general merchandise clerk to nutritional foods manager. The company I worked for would advertise having a knowledgeable nutrition expert on staff, meaning me. Pfffft. I never received one iota of training. I would tell people they needed to speak to their doctor, pharmacist, or a real nutritionist when they would ask me questions - I wasn't going to pretend to know something about something I really didn't, I couldn't tell them anything other than what was printed on the packaging. I was paid to put the shit on the shelf. I think a lot of that goes on in retail - people expect expertise from someone who is paid jack and always has too much to do with not enough time to do it in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wes Mantooth View Post
I've learned that I'm really nobody special in the grand scheme of the retail world and the person I'm dealing with has already dealt with a hundred people just like me and probably has little to no interest in who I am or what I need. Why would they? Ringing up another sale means nothing, you still get paid the same. As long as the person is at least polite and takes the time to help me out with reasonable questions or requests I don't really care what they do or how they act.
This pretty much sums up my expectations of retail and service industry. When you threaten to take your business elsewhere, the clerk you're speaking with truly doesn't give a shit. Chances are, their supervisor doesn't either unless that person owns the business. Rude, demanding, obnoxious, stinky, drunk, self-absorbed people outnumber the few patrons who make it worth your while to go the extra mile.
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Old 11-10-2010, 04:34 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I bet money people would tip a lot differently.
I don't want to turn this into a minimum wage debate, but the idea that servers should be exempt from minimum wage just seems sucky to me. Minimum wage in Oz means exactly that - we *pay* the minimum wage for serving staff already, so the x% tipping really doesn't happen here. Tipping is a bonus, but is not expected at all.

If we have bad service, we vote with our feet....by never coming back!

So, instead of charging $5 for something and expecting the customer to pay $7, we just get charged $7.

I've never worked in either food or retail and really don't have any interest on doing so.
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Old 11-10-2010, 04:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
©
 
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Ever worked in retail/food service? Did it change you?

Both.

5 years of working in a country club kitchen convinced me to go to college. I appreciate being able to cook well; but my people tolerance just wasn't up for it.

My next career while going to college was repairing point of sale terminals. My portion of the job was OK; but my idiot tolerance just isn't that great, either.

I have plenty of respect for people in either line of work; but it isn't a good fit for me. It did motivate me to get a degree, though.
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Old 11-10-2010, 05:14 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by spindles View Post
I don't want to turn this into a minimum wage debate, but the idea that servers should be exempt from minimum wage just seems sucky to me. Minimum wage in Oz means exactly that - we *pay* the minimum wage for serving staff already, so the x% tipping really doesn't happen here. Tipping is a bonus, but is not expected at all.
The thing with tipped wage is this, you can't make LESS than minimum wage even if your base wage is less than minimum wage.

Say you make $2.50 an hour plus tips. The minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. You work 3 hours and make $5 in tips. That's $7.50 + $5 for the 3 hours. That's $10 less than minimum wage, so if you claim your tips correctly, then you should get $10 extra for that day on your check for the week. The restaurant HAS to bring your wage up to minimum wage on your paycheck. Bad thing about it, sometimes you just barely make minimum wage because when you are on the floor, you don't always have tables. So you might made good money in the middle of the rush but the hour setting up and the 2 hours with tables you won't make jack. So for all the time you work, you make minimum wage all day... which still sucks.

The idea behind tipped wage is that, if you work for tips, you will give the customer better service than if you made the same if you didn't give a fuck. The bad thing is that even if you give people the best service you can, they still will give you nothing.

I don't like any job that pays me based on the generosity of the general public. People suck and don't tip. Give me a straight wage any day of the week.
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Old 11-10-2010, 05:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I worked for a year in high school as a busboy at a Red Lobster. It was OK but I knew after that that I didn't want to work in the restaurant biz.

I didn't like the smell you took home with you on your clothes and I didn't like the pressure that came with the rush. Also, "The customer is always right" blows.

I've never liked pushy salespeople so have always avoided retail. I'm very thankful for my time working in Theatre and the Arts.
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:20 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Location: Oregon
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindles View Post
I don't want to turn this into a minimum wage debate, but the idea that servers should be exempt from minimum wage just seems sucky to me. Minimum wage in Oz means exactly that - we *pay* the minimum wage for serving staff already, so the x% tipping really doesn't happen here. Tipping is a bonus, but is not expected at all.

If we have bad service, we vote with our feet....by never coming back!

So, instead of charging $5 for something and expecting the customer to pay $7, we just get charged $7.

I've never worked in either food or retail and really don't have any interest on doing so.
It only happens in certain states--in Oregon, servers are paid at least the minimum wage plus tips.

This thread has uncovered some interesting stories and lessons! Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far. I look forward to hearing more.
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:27 PM   #18 (permalink)
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i've worked retail during the christmas holiday rush, and I've delivered pizzas while I was going to grad school.

Providing customer service while in a dry, warm place can be trying enough, now imagine you're having to stomp through rain, snow, trash, and the dark to find people and still deliver that service.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:10 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I worked in a FotoMat booth for a year. I was a manager/supervisor of 4 other FotoMat booths at 16.

I also worked at a video rental store for 2 years.

The FotoMat experience taught me how to be a manager and be responsible for other people. It gave me leadership experience at a young age and I somehow always found myself in some sort of leadership position despite not being part of school leadership council and the like.

The video rental store taught me to appreciate the diversity of people's movie choices. I watched a lot of bad movies for a long time because people who I respected had different tastes. I learned to love foreign and cult films because of it. I also learned to appreciate all the names and jobs in the credits. I learned to also stay for the credits despite the Ferris Bueller reasons.
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:02 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I've worked in Retail and Food as well Cinemas.

(I've been a waiter, ticket taker, popcorn slinger, Gap salesperson, etc.)

The one major thing I learned from these jobs is that I did not want to be doing these jobs for the rest of my life. While there are some great customers, there are many that are complete fuckwads.

I always strive to *not* be a fuckwad when I am dealing with someone in a service industry role. I start off with the assumption they are competent and good at what they do. My expectations are high but not unattainable. I am patient. If you are attentive and reasonable competent, I am good.
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:22 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Deep fryers on fire off the shoulder of Outback Steakhouse. I watched green beans glitter in the dark near the Boston Market. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:00 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I worked at a Little Caesar's for about two years as an assistant manager. I did every job in that place. This was shortly after the switched to all $5 Hot-N-Ready pizzas. One a regular weekday my store did about 3K. On Fridays and Saturdays we could easily make about 5-6K. It was insane. Three ovens all at about 600F cranking out pizzas constantly.

I loved how fast paced it was. I loved dealing with jerky customers and telling them they they couldn't treat my counter people poorly. We would have a lobby of people shoulder to shoulder and they would ask why we didn't have pizzas "Hot-N-Ready". It is fun trying to explain just how impossible it was to a bunch of desert rats.

Me: See those ovens? (nods) Well, we can only get 6 pizzas out at a time.
Customer: So?!
Me: Well, you just ordered four and that guy in front of you just ordered 6 and the guy who just left ordered 8. And NONE of you called ahead with your special orders of light sauce or extra cheese. So, you can just wait!
Customer: oh...sorry

I learned how to bust my ass and how to handle a lot. I can now look at a situation and decide if it is worth being upset over poor service. If it appears that they are working damn hard but things are just not going right, I cut them some slack. But if I can see that they are slacking off or not doing things as they should, there will be no sympathy and often little to no tip from me.

I also worked a retail job at a Sears during Christmas season. I was the only non-commissioned worker so I ended up doing the most work and had I made commission my numbers would have been higher than the others. People were always nice to me, but the other people on commission I determined were selfish and jerky.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:05 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Deep fryers on fire off the shoulder of Outback Steakhouse. I watched green beans glitter in the dark near the Boston Market. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
You're a helluva comedian. Hah!
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Old 11-11-2010, 01:55 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I have been working at a local restaurant for 5 years now, and recently began working at a retail store.

My first customer service-oriented job was at Princess Tours, as a sales associate. At first I thought seeing so many people who were demanding, aggressive, and haggling was a by-product of the cruise industry-that is, these people expected it all to be done exactly like they wanted when they wanted it, as a "package". But as my current full-time job proves, it's just that people's attitude toward customer service reps plain sucks.

I am very good at my job. Because of my insights into customer service as a whole, I will always initially give my server/clerk the benefit of the doubt. I always tip generously, even if the service was just okay. If I thought they did an exceptional job, I'll let them know by complimenting them and telling them why (some of my best 'tips' have been acknowledgments of my service). A low tip from me is a pretty big insult (although of course how would they know).

I wholeheartedly agree about the mandatory customer service. If only they knew, as they say.
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Old 11-11-2010, 04:34 AM   #25 (permalink)
 
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i've worked in various restaurant positions, mostly in kitchens and not with a whole lot of skill in the way that you need skill to cook in a resto and not for yourself or a dinner party. i don't think they changed me. what i learned about was the importance of who you work with and of functioning as a team. i also learned about differing coping strategies people had for stress and the ways in which kitchen workers and alcohol abuse often go together. it was fun, all in all. i'm glad i don't do that any more though.


i waited tables briefly until i told someone to fuck themselves. i was carrying a tray full of glasses through the bar that separated the diningroom from the kitchen in the racket club where i worked. it was polka night. i remember seeing a very large white object dressed like a sofa moving quickly toward me in a kind of polka intoxication. she steamed into me and i stumbled toward a row of people in low chairs who were drinking, watching other people play tennis and lying to each other about their own games. i managed not to drop the tray on anyone or break any glasses, but i did run into someone who started yelling at me about tennis elbow. fuck yourself seemed both logical and necessary.

i was a busboy when i was in high school. i had to wear black pants. the pants i bought weren't correct. the maitre d' told me they reminded him of a small town without a dance hall. no ballroom.

i worked at the harvard coop in a print department for a while. i hated every minute of it until i figured out that it was easy to steal books on the way out at night.

i worked in a record store for a little while. for reasons i dont remember but which probably had to do with drugs i got the job while pretending to be english. one day i forgot that i was english. management decided there was something fishy about me. one day you're english, the next day you're not someone said to me. so it appears i wish i had said in return.

i didn't learn much from either of those gigs. but i took away from them more or less what charlatan said. people are fuckwits. try not to be one.
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Old 11-11-2010, 05:18 AM   #26 (permalink)
has all her shots.
 
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I come from a restaurant family. My grandfather owned a successful bbq restaurant in Atlanta. My mother opened her own bbq restaurant using his recipes in New Smyrna Beach, FL which unfortunately was not successful, but I spent a lot of free time there. My older sister has been a waitress off and on for most of her working life, so I have shared in a lot of her stories and have pretty much taken on her perspective when it comes to assessing service in a restaurant. I'm a good tipper and an excellent tipper when service is exceptionally good. And I consider all of the possible causes before I conclude that I've gotten bad service.

I worked the soda fountain of a legendary Jewish eatery in Orlando for about three months (before, thankfully, finding a better job) and it was one of the worst jobs of my life not because of the customers but because of the also legendary waitstaff who treated me like I was inferior and their slave to boss around. Not all of them, of course, but the ones who had been there 15-20 years seemed to have a whole lot of faith in the aristocratic hierarchy they had created while serving the same people, the same food everyday. It was a weird place, probably exceptionally weird.

As a teenager I worked as a hostess for a well-known, popular seafood restaurant that was infested with rats and that was pretty illuminating, too, and weird.

Never worked in retail unless bagging groceries count.

I was a hairstylist for a while, but I don't guess that counts, either.

I try to be nice to everyone, though. Not obsequious or overly ingratiating, just courteous.

Overtly bad or rude service does get under my skin, though, and it seems to be getting more and more common.
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PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile. - Ambrose Bierce
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:21 AM   #27 (permalink)
Upright
 
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Location: Lincoln, NE
As a waiter, I've learned (or taken on) new ways of thinking. It amazes me how rude and self absorbed people can be. I blame the internet and tv for the mass amount of people that have no social skills and can't simply look me in the eye and order what they want. Sadly, this job makes identifying behavior based on outside appearance (clothing, grooming, facial expressions) a reality that is mostly accurate. The worst part of the job is not getting adequately tipped, especially when I work hard and offer wonderful service. I adapt to each table, changing my tone to physical distance from the table and so on. Even so, bad tippers are abundant and I wouldn't recommend serving tables to anyone without a tough skin.
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Old 11-12-2010, 12:27 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Location: Washington, DC
Working for 4 years in different food/service positions, I am more likely to give a person the benefit of the doubt and tip more. I can easily put myself in their shoes and figure out if service is bad due to too much going on that is beyond their control or incompetence.

I agree, these are positions that everyone should have so they know how hard it really is and how people should be treated with respect. Just because they are in the service industry doesn't mean they are your servants.
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:58 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Location: My head.
I'll be honest, I have LOVED all the waitstaff I've encountered. They're all very attentive and don't scowl when I ask for something unconventional. This is why I only hit on them AFTER paying them ... hehehe

But seriously, if I had been forced to work in the fast food biz, I wouldn't have. Teenage rebellion/fight the machine/stick tot he man would have kicked in. But ever since I was told "What? Whats that? You need a car? Sure, lemme give you some cash" **Mom reaches into purse and hands me ˘27** I knew I was going to be forever dependent on utterly materialistic and superficial shit. If I go an entire week without a guaranteed paycheck I die a bit inside.

I'm not a douchebag though, so I can't say working in fast food has changed me. I've always been very objective to my surroundings so even when I first went into it I knew it was going to be hard.
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Old 11-12-2010, 09:18 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Two bits of knowledge gained from my retail day stand out above the others:
1) Someone's behavior is difficult to predict based on their appearance
2) There are a lot of batshit crazy motherfuckers out there

As for requiring people to work in retail/foodservice, I don't think it will have the intended effect. Many people I've met have a hazing attitude - I went through shitty work conditions, now it's your turn.
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Old 11-17-2010, 11:51 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Location: under your bed
In high school, I worked at a Burger King. Went home smelling like french fries and hamburgers, and the dog wouldn't stop following me around until I took a shower and changed clothes.

I've worked retail for several years now. I like most of the people and their quirks. I'm one of the favorites of senior citizens who shop early in the morning. For some, it's part of their daily routine to get them out of the house. Go out for coffee. Call so-and-so. Feed the birds. Call so-and-so again because you (and they) forgot that you already called. Stop by the store to buy 2-10 items and tell ItWasMe everything you did in the last week, even though you just saw her yesterday. One old lady used to tell me ... in great detail ... about her ongoing battle with constipation.
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