I wouldn’t say this is a rant, more of a piece that has something you can take away from it.

Most people will have had some experience with customer service. You’ve most likely been on one side of the counter, either way, whether you’re the one buying the stick of gum, or whether you’re the one selling the gum. This post goes into not just the general customer service of those working behind tills, those dealing with people in general – be it on the phone or via some kind of abstract platform – but the working folk that must face people and their crap that comes with it every day.

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Working in customer services teaches you so much, and I’m speaking from experience of being a waitress in a local pub/restaurant – nothing too glamorous, and certainly not glamorous behind the scenes. Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s not necessarily an industry looking for high-end qualified employees, but you take so much more away from the job than mere ‘experience’ or ‘hospitality skills’. How about phrasing it, ‘learning to take a lot of crap from shitty customers’, or ‘putting up with a beyond bad circumstance for more than you should’, or even, ‘learning to recognise just how awful some people can be’. I’m not bitter (ha – you may think otherwise), I just see this as an opportunity to shine a light on the darker parts of the catering industry and give hope to those still struggling to get by through the truly exhausting experience of waitressing.

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Waitressing, I think, can be classed as one of the most underrated jobs, it is so much more than what meets the eye – LONG SENTENCE ALERT –

You’re on a below average wage, run off your feet for over ten hours straight, minimal breaks – if you get that privilege – constantly stinking of hot fat, dealing with rude people who direct others’ faults at you, have a million different tailored orders to remember, being barked at by anyone and everyone, risking losing your job after mucking up one dessert order and all the while, you have to keep those pearly whites gleaming for the next group of bustling patrons who will no doubt demand you to recite the entirety of the menu – FRONT AND BACK. At the end of the day, you could argue it’s just delivering food back and forth, and delivering back the empty plates back to the kitchen. And if you think that’s the end of it, you’re an idiot.

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It’s not all bad, I know it’s not and there are so many people who thrive off being in the industry. It’s great for people who love high-pressure working atmospheres, and enjoy a challenge. And I’m sure those people who love the industry received a high-level of quality training and decent practice of their role before even receiving their official uniform. People – particularly small business owners – forget the price they pay sometimes, and poor training, if any is provided at all, will result equally in poor results. What more could be expected?! But you will still probably get shouted at when you lay the table the wrong way anyway.

Which brings me onto my next point – what you learn about people through working in this industry.

When people are out in public, they can be completely different. They say how you treat your waitress sums you up as a person. And that’s spot on. You’re the one being treated, served, provided for with what should be of great quality. You’re the one paying the bill at the end and therefore, in theory, you’re the one with the power and authority, the one who contributes to our wage and the one who we as waitresses need the most. But you, as a customer, you know this. It’s just about whether you choose to abuse this level of power, and more often than not, that’s the case.

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There are lovely customers which genuinely stay with your thoughts for years; the classic regular who you have a weekly chat with, the ones who always bring you chocolate bars and the ones who just generally care about how you are. But unfortunately, sometimes the bad can outweigh the good.

Difficult customers can come in a range. They can choose to pick on you, and only you, through finding a fault in any aspect of their culinary experience, make any excuse to challenge your temper and knowingly test you in general. These kinds of people are great. And when I say great, I mean that all in earnest. Looking outside the picture, who is the better person? You. You resolve the problems with a smile on your face, deal with any issues they might have without a quarrel and they walk away the same person they came in –  rude, arrogant, pompous. You however, walk away having grown from the experience. It’s difficult, extremely difficult, to keep your cool, but these kinds of people want you to crack. And what does that show? They find entertainment from other people’s weaknesses, which essentially just goes to show their own weaknesses.

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The easiest way to deal with shitty customers is to realise that something has made them into the person that they are. They may have experienced something otherworldly that has made them embittered and rude. But the one thing you must always remember is to never take any kind of shit personally. I remember the days when I ran to the bathroom to cry in secret, thinking how much I hated my job. It still stays with me today, and every single job I go for now, it has negatively affected. Because of this first experience, which was incidentally the worst so far, for every other job I go for I’m just terrified it will be the same. I left my first and worst job over four years ago now, but that fear and anxiety still lingers and will still for a while to come. I absolutely dreaded every shift I had and honestly, I was a pretty useless waitress – how could you expect me to excel in a place I genuinely loathed? If I didn’t have my friends there to relax with while the boss wasn’t looking, I would have easily thrown my apron on the floor and left mid-shift. There were perks I guess, a free drink at the end of a shift, but certainly nothing that could have made me stay longer than I did.

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The experience has opened up so many doors, because I know surely nothing now can be as bad as that. And jobs I have had since have been a wonderful breath of fresh air, a huge relief, which goes to show that if you are sat here thinking you’re in the same situation, it gets so much better. To discover that all jobs weren’t like my first one was a massive weight off my back and hugely refreshing. Being in my final year of university, I can’t imagine leaving the part-time job I have now!

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No, waitressing may not have been swimming through sewers or working in a slaughterhouse, but this experience wasn’t a physically impacting one, it was an extremely mentally impacting one. In some cases this can be even worse – but with the fear I still have in going for new jobs, I hope to use it to grow. I’m now at the stage in my life where I’m thinking about building a career (crap). Knowing it’s doing something I absolutely love, I’m going to make sure that it will be anything but as horrible as that first job as a timid, awkward 17 year old. Now I have the confidence to know when to say enough is enough.

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