Sunday, November 8, 2009

I bravely wade into the server/diner war

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1) - You’re the Boss Blog -

We're willing to do whatever it takes to keep you in this dead-end job

I worked in restaurants for years. Long, tortuous, evil years filled with all the misery that one would assume is found in working as a server. Worse, the restaurant that I worked at for the longest time was a place known for its salad bar and frequent foibles of the franchisees getting sued for some form of sexual discrimination/harassment or another. Good memories. It's not that I hated every minute of it (just most), but it did give me a particular perspective on the service industry.

This is the second blog post I've seen recently about dining out and the politics of servers, and it never ceases to amaze me what people seem to expect from a server. This post is particularly amazing for number 7 "Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness." Cute, dude. Really cute.

Whatever miserable experience this guy is going to create for the poor servers that are going to work for him aside, the comments to part 1 and part 2 are interesting because they show a real divide between people who have been or can empathize with being a server and people who clearly are used to being on the other side of the "service profession." And I think this speaks to how poorly we recognize that we are, in fact, living in this world together.

Look, I'm not into lifestyle BDSM, I don't get off on bringing you buckets of ranch. I don't find fulfillment in abasing myself before you for the 15% tip that, when you think about it, my actual employer should be paying me anyway. I enjoy paying my bills.

Given that we're, apparently, moving toward a service industry based economy, perhaps we should think about what the service industry implies. That my job is to be the middle link between you and your desire does not mean that I am, to echo Kant, a mere means to your desire. I am still a person, and despite the fact that my job is not highly valued, I can really fuck up your nice evening out.

There is a lot of behavior that speaks to a very rich sense of privilege in the comments by people who can only think of themselves as diners. You see the same thing at grocery stores, shopping centers and, weirdly, in some of the horror stories at Rate Your Students. (Look, I don't know what, exactly, constitutes the service industry, but teachers aren't it.)

In the case of restaurant work I think the problem can be traced to capitalism and the way we pay our waitstaff. I worked for 5 years at $2.65/hr. If I wanted to pay my rent, I had to put up with some really amazing behavior from the "guests." This puts the waitstaff in this interesting position of being torn between management, the customers, and usually the rest of the staff as well. Ah, capitalism. Only with that can you go to eat a meal and get a servant for a while. Like you're British fucking royalty.

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