I’ve been a server for a while—a little over two years—and have hated almost every moment of it. During my first week of university, where I studied journalism, a professor told the whole class that we “probably wouldn’t get jobs in the industry.” At this point, I’d already taken out a 27 thousand pound loan and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else, so I finished my three years and hoped for the best. And it seems that the professor was almost right. All that’s followed since graduating has been a string of internships, freelance jobs, and chasing down those freelance people to pay me the little I’m worth. But it’s not all that bad, because I’m living in New York City, where I’ve always wanted to be. Like all major cities in the world, however, they require a shit load of money to live in and I can’t live on tap water and air. Also, I need somewhere to sleep. Which is why I work as a waitress. Many creative people do it; I’m not ashamed of working in a service job while gaining enough money so that I can write on the side and do what I love. Service jobs do test you. They are tiring, demanding, and don’t pay what they should. It also doesn’t help that many customers overstep their boundaries when it comes to dealing with a server, so, I’ve made a short, easy to follow list for anyone who enters a restaurant or bar on how to treat their female server:
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT TOUCH ME
If you need another beer, water, or want to know where the toilets are, simply ask. Even if it’s loud, I am paying attention to you and when I’m close enough to hear, ask me. A polite “excuse me” will whip my head around because as I said, I’m doing my job and I’m looking out for if anyone needs anything. You do not need to poke me to get my attention. You do not need to tap me on the shoulder. If you are walking by me, you especially do not need to touch the small of my back in order to let me know you are behind me and move me out of the way. Whenever I go to the service station or kitchen I am in very close proximity to others and I have never need to touch anyone I work with, so you don’t either.
Don’t click (snap) your fingers at me
If I haven’t checked on you for a while and you desperately need something I don’t mind a small wave. Bare in mind that you are not my only table in the restaurant and unless you have booked the whole place out just for you I do have other customers to serve. Sorry. Now, if you’re waving like a person drowning at sea, keep in mind that my boss might see this and I’ll get in trouble. Make eye contact with me, make a small universally understood singing the bill gesture. Don’t, however, click at me like I’m an animal. Remember your place: You aren’t a member of the royal family in the middle ages and I am not your servant. You’re drinking happy hour priced beer and wings.
Don’t flirt with me
Do I go to your place of work and flirt with you? No, because that would be highly inappropriate. Regardless of whether this is a place where people come to relax, drink and enjoy their time after work on a Friday—I do, in fact, work here. This is where I make my money to live. Furthermore, acknowledge that you are putting a server in a position where they are unlikely to be rude as you are the paying customer. I cannot tell you to “fuck off” like I would if I weren’t clocked in. I cannot leave the premises if you are being overly creepy. Most of what I can do is smile, laugh and pretend your unwanted attention is exactly what I want. I do not want to be flirted with at work. No one in the restaurant industry does. I solely want to make my money and leave so I’m not on my feet anymore.
Don’t make me give you my number
Yes, this has happened to me and a few people I’ve worked with. Customers, unaware that we can’t say no because 1. we’d get in trouble for being rude and 2. we need the tips, have taken our phones and put their numbers in or followed themselves on Instagram. Realize that we will block, unfollow you as soon as you leave. You’re using your position of power over us and this is creepy behavior and no one likes it.
Don’t write your number or a message on the bill
I will show all of my co-workers and laugh at you. I might also give your number to someone that isn’t me just to fuck with you. Not only will my co-workers see this, but my boss also will. Surprisingly, I don’t get to personally keep these bills and whatever you write will be passed around. For this reason, I will share a note I once received: “You are hot. I like your accent. Plz phone me so I can show you a good time.” Tempting, I know.
Don’t wait for me after my shift
When I’m asked what time I finish I will not give you the right answer because that’s a weird thing to ask. Are you assuming we’re going to do something together once I finish and that I don’t already have plans? Do you think I’d rather spend time with someone I served beers for than go home or do whatever it is I plan on doing? Always assume it’s a no. And, if you wait for me at the bar and watch me until we’re closing I will guess that you want to kill me. I’ve had to sneak out different entries of restaurants and walk my friends out because of people like you. It isn’t attractive or serendipitous that you’re waiting for me to finish and for me to realize you’re still there. I can see you; I’ve told my co-workers about you and we all think you’re a weirdo. Go home.
Don’t ask me my political/religious views
If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t expect me to agree with you because you’re my customer. So, don’t get upset if you ask me about him and I give you an answer that you won’t like. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. The only thing I’m interested in is knowing what you’d like to eat and drink and if you’ll leave me an ok tip. I don’t care if you served in the military and love what Trump is doing for you. I don’t care that your granddad was a coal miner or that you don’t like paying taxes. I don’t care if you don’t believe in climate change. Frankly, I’ll think you’re stupid and probably pay less attention to you, meaning you’re doing yourself more harm by venting to me.
Don’t ask my co-workers where they’re from
This is a less insulting one as I’m clearly white and British (although everyone assumes I’m Irish, for whatever reason I don’t know). But don’t ask my blatantly non-white co-workers where “they’re really from” because that is insulting. Wherever they are from is none of your business nor will it change how they serve you; they don’t have the time either to intricately explain their family tree. Moreover, don’t assume that they are one thing, because you might be wrong and further insult them. Just because someone is speaking Spanish doesn’t mean they are from Mexico or want to hear about your crazy trip to Cancún.
Don’t ask me to drink with you
I don’t know how many times I need to repeat this: I am at work. I don’t want to and cannot drink while at work. Even if you beg to ask my boss if it’s okay I am not allowed. I can’t afford to drink at work because unlike you, I’m not sat down and relaxing. I didn’t choose to be here on a weekend, my schedule required me to be. I’d much rather be out with my friends drinking at a bar, too. I am not. I am at work. If I say I can’t the first time, don’t try to convince me with a slurred sales pitch about only living once.
Lastly, do tip
I’m poor. I’m tired. I’m overworked. My feet hurt. My soul is drained. The least you can do after making me list all the beers on tap (only to pick Bud Lite), run to the kitchen for extra ranch dressing, fix the wobbly table and box your food up is leave a decent tip. Even more so if you’ve been inappropriate with me. I have had plenty of tables that have flirted and asked me out only to leave a shitty tip. Shame on you for thinking I want to go out with a stingy person.
Image Courtesy of Lynn Mimistrobell via Flickr
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