server Archives - I Hate Working In Retail


21 Confessions Of A Former Fast Food Worker

I can’t tell you which chain I worked at, but you know it. You’ve been to it probably more than once. It’s not the biggest, but it’s in the top 5. And my experience is not the exception to the rule.

1. If you are a girl working the drive-thru window (like I was many times) you will definitely get hit on in really obvious and offensive ways. And the manager won’t do anything about it.

2. That picture that went around the internet of a big woman sitting on a chair in the line at a fast food restaurant: That is not unusual. In fact, usually customers who do that are much, much bigger than her and they will drag a chair around with them everywhere they go.

3. Almost any time you try and engage in any kind of polite conversation with the customers, they will either completely ignore you or respond to you in an even more aggravated way. “How are you today?” is just met with their food order.

4. A lot of customers are so big and look so physically unhealthy that you almost feel like a bartender who should be cutting them off. They’ll order family packs and three value meals and you can’t do anything about it, even though you know it’s killing them.

5. A good percentage of the customers are regulars, some multiple times a day.

6. The ice machine is by far the grossest place in the whole restaurant. It gets cleaned out sometimes, but not as often as it should, because it’s a job no one wants to do and everyone thinks “Oh, it’s frozen, it can’t be that bad.”

7. The managers were always on the verge of quitting, or brand new, so the cleaning never got done the way it should. Everyone just wanted to go home at the end of the day so the rule became “If you can’t see dirt, it’s clean.”

8. Never look under the grill in a fast food restaurant. Just, don’t do it.

9. Pretty much everything comes in frozen, and the stuff that doesn’t, you almost wish it did.

10. If you are ordering something that isn’t very popular on the menu, ALWAYS order it fresh and wait the extra five minutes. I’ve seen things stay under the heating lamps for an entire shift because no one orders it. If you get it at the end of that, it will taste and feel like cardboard.

11. One time I found a bug in the french fries while I was scooping them out and my boss just told me to throw it away and keep scooping.

12. The soft serve machines never get cleaned out. In my year and a half at this location, I never once saw anyone give it a thorough internal cleaning.

13. The most depressing thing you see by far is morbidly obese toddlers and children who are already eating one or more grown-up value meals with extra large sodas.

14. The safest orders on a menu are: the most popular sandwich, chicken nuggets, and french fries. The turnover on them is so high that there’s very little chance anything bad has happened to them.

15. I’ve never seen anyone spit in someone’s food (though I know it happens), but I’ve definitely seen multiple things dropped on the floor and then wrapped up and served. The five second rule is more like the thirty second rule.

16. Most employees are not allowed to take lunch breaks during shifts so we are STARVING through the whole afternoon.

17. Pretty much every employee is talking shit about the customers at all times, but I think that even normal people become absolutely insane and so rude when they order fast food. They act like we’re their slaves and they don’t have to have manners. And then there are the people who are so socially untrained they basically can’t eat anywhere else.

18. The worst customers are the homeless people who yell at you and the teenagers who sit in the corner for hours, make a mess, and try to sneak alcohol in their cups. It’s impossible to tell which is worse of the two.

19. Almost none of the employees at my location were teenagers. Most were working parents who were supporting themselves with multiple jobs, or people like me who were college students.

20. Even if the calories are marked a certain amount on the website, the products are all way more fattening than that because of how much grease is used on the grill.

21. Even if something says it’s vegetarian, chances are it’s probably not. If you’re trying to stick to any special diet, my advice is to not go to a fast food restaurant. It’s just not for you.


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We Are the 20%: What Tips Mean to Servers, Bartenders, Doormen, and Baristas

 In this week’s issue of New York, Adam Platt tried (unsuccessfully) to go gratuity-free, as he wondered if it were time to topple the institution of tipping. Here we talk to some of the estimated 20 percent of workers who rely on tips — bartenders, servers, doormen, and baristas — about the difference gratuities make to them, why you should tip for coffee, and how they work their customers.

You’re Welcome: What a Tip Looks Like to Servers

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Ryan Viramontes, 22 (left)
Bareburger Chelsea
$125 in tips per shift

Tips are our entire wages, really. If someone doesn’t tip at all, we’re working for free. Customers don’t realize quite how far it goes sometimes. All the restaurants I’ve worked at, you can’t talk to the guests about the tip. It’s so weird that it’s something we do depend on and it’s treated like a little secret gift. It’s the worst when you have a table that you’ve been laughing and joking with and get nothing in return. Super-nice people with a 15 percent tip, it’s like, whatever. We’re aiming for 20 percent.

Senami d’Almeida, 37 (center)
The Little Owl
$300 to $400 in tips per shift

In August and certain holidays, New York clears out, so you notice the change in your income. I have had nine-to-five jobs where you make a good living, and it’s bored me to tears. If they said, ‘We’re going to make you salaried and you would make what you make now,’ I would consider that. But there’s no way you would make as much.

Jane Muller, 47 (right)
$80 to $200 in tips per shift

Getting tips is an art. A lot of that is making them laugh once or twice. I have sort of a New York sense of humor. When it’s obvious that you are understaffed, you get great tips. When I was pregnant, forget it! I got the best tips.

The Diner Waitress
Your server is most definitely judging you.

Donna Lillis, 56
Kellogg’s Diner
$300 in tips per shift

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Being a waitress is like being a psychiatrist. You have to treat every table differently. Most people ask me to recommend, and I never just straight sell the most expensive item. I ask them what they want, what they are in the mood for, and slowly guide them from there. Don’t jump right to it. You have to work it. I watch for the leader—that’s the one who is paying the check, and I’m always right. I’m using reverse psychology. You go for jaws: That’s the big one. That’s the one who has the money. He’s usually the loudest. I focus on them, but they don’t even know that I’m pinning them down, that’s how dumb they are. I love men, but they are so fucking stupid. I use my looks, but then I also use my mouth. I’m a well-dressed, clean woman who looks nice but also has good vocab, so they can’t figure out what the fuck is going on.

With tourists, I ask where they are from right away. The French are the fucking worst. I say, “Listen, I want to let you know”—I look at everyone at the table, because eye contact is very important—and I say, “Listen, guys, you have to know this is how it goes.” I tell them the tip’s not included.

I work hard dealing with kids. They make a mess. They rip up the sugar packets. Terrible. But when someone sees you catering to a child, they will tip well. I make fantastic money with the families.

I recently served a sweet young couple. They had rings in their noses, real Mohawks. I was wonderful to them, and then I go over and see that they didn’t leave anything! It was a $75 check. Oh, no way. I go outside and say, “Excuse me, guys, I saw what you left. Was my service bad? I’m so sorry!” I say all this bullshit but what I’m thinking is, “Why didn’t you tip me, motherfuckers?” He said he didn’t know. I said, “That’s okay, I’m letting you know for the future.” But he gave me $50 out of his pocket. If you don’t tip me, I will go after you, and I will get it. I know who has and who hasn’t got money. I said, “You two are very sweet, your parents did a wonderful job.” That’s my line. See, a lot of yuppies—I call them “money”—I make them laugh. I like these kids, and I get the rapport back, I think, because they don’t get it from their mother. They give me a $20 or $15 tip for a $20 check.

Someone left me 35 cents. I was watching, and as he got up, I say, “You forgot your change; you need this more than I do. Have a great day.” What the fuck am I gonna do with 35 cents? Get the fuck out of here, and that was on a $30 check. You make me feel like an asshole, I’ll make you look like a triple asshole. The ones with the ‘Wall Street Journal’ under their arms, I call them the martini guys. They are the ones who give you 35 cents. Don’t tip me at all if you are gonna leave change.

The Doorman on What He Expects
Angel Morales, 54
Biggest tip: $350

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

I know who doesn’t tip at the holidays. We distribute the cards on the door of each unit on December 12, and through New Year’s I total what we got and what apartment gave me more. Some other doormen are nicer during the holiday season because they want the tips, but the tenants know who does their job all year round. Sometimes I get things other than money: gift cards, bottles of wine. One woman once gave me a box of socks she had designed. The smallest tip I ever got? Two dollars. It was from a little old lady and she gave me $2 in an envelope. Her writing was so shaky it was like she was in an earthquake. You look at her walking and you are like, I don’t know how she does it. I didn’t mind that she was a $2 tipper.

Baristas on Why You Should Tip for Coffee

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Gregg Butler, 23 (left)
Joe Grand Central
Tips undisclosed

If someone gets a regular coffee, they think that they don’t need to tip. I think there’s an understanding that if you get a complicated coffee you need to tip. We have two separate tip jars; sometimes people will tip right after they order and pay, and then sometimes they will tip when they see the drink and it looks beautiful. Music plays a big role in tips, oddly. Slow, sad music isn’t going to get you good tips. The only time I get annoyed is when people order coffee for their entire office and don’t tip. I’m making six large almond cappuccinos and it’s like, “Ugh.” If you are sending an intern to get your coffee, give them tip money.

Ariel Pang, 22 (right)
Van Leeuwen, East Village
$30 to $130 in tips per shift

My co-worker was serving a sweet couple, and when they left they kept saying, “Thanks, thanks!” Then they just left and my co-worker was like, “That thanks was in lieu of a tip.” I think the over-the-top thanks annoys me more than no tip.

The Veteran on Who Tips Worst, and How Not to Embarrass Yourself at a Bar

Paul King, 33
Owner, Boobie Trap

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

I get the classic rookie quote all the time: “Yo, make it strong,” or ”I can’t taste the liquor,” and they leave like $3 on the first drink just to say, “See, I’m tipping you, where’s my free drink/strong drink/attention?” even though there are 20 people who want a drink as well.

Other bartenders will always be the best tippers. Tourists aren’t the worst tippers, rich kids are. You see, tourists just need to be told to tip; rich kids don’t know the value of money. To them, the bill is a joke, but that line under it that says tip is for the peasant. I’ve heard of bartenders putting what they call asshole tax, extra money on the total, on them. If someone has made you a drink that took some time and took them away from making other drinks, then you need to tip more than a dollar. If someone has made you a communal drink like a pitcher, $1 is not cool; tip like a meal, 20 percent, on those. Oh, and people, please, stop with the change in the physical form or on your credit-card tips. You’re embarrassing yourself.

How Bartenders Work Their Customers

Elijah Miller, 32
$150 to $350 in tips per shift

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

To get good tips, you have to quickly become an expert at noticing what people want … whether they’re lonely and looking for a connection, or whether they are trying to get away from their family. I don’t think people know that bartenders often put their own money into the register for free drinks. This takes a lot of prejudging and educated guesswork about the person you’re serving. There’s a certain kind of person who will tip a whole lot, exponentially more, if they’re tipping on free drinks. When they tip you $40 on $15 worth of beer, the bar and the bartender make out really well.

Niral Shah, 27
Baby Grand
$300 in tips per shift

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Some of my best tips come from tourists, which is odd. They don’t know the norm, so maybe they overdo it? The drunker they are, the smaller the tip in general. Very big tips make me feel uncomfortable. For instance, when I get $20 with every drink and the customer is drunk, I feel bad, but, to be honest, the longer I do this the less bad I feel. People who tip a bit more will sometimes make an effort to make sure you see the tip. Like, they will hold their check back a bit if they are in a group and all are paying by card to make sure I know who tipped more. The most demanding customers tend to tip less.

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The Difference Between Average Servers And Rockstar Servers


First of all, am I going to say no? No. I literally get paid to bring you what you want. Obviously, you can have a coke and a water. Are you going to drink that water? No. You’re going to suck down the coke, I’m going to bring you two more cokes then I’m going to pour the full water in the dump sink after you leave. You know that. I know that. But yes, I will bring you a coke and a water.

After working as a server myself, servers are some of my favorite people on earth. They experience the best and the worst of humans – sometimes in the same thirty minutes. They deal with impressively high levels of stupidity on a daily basis, and they still manage a killer fake smile at every table. Well, the good servers do.

There is a distinct difference between the average server who is just doing their job and the rockstar server who is killing it. And the difference is this:

It’s Thursday night. The restaurant is staffed for a weekday dinner and you get absolutely slammed. Table after table is walking in and that manageable six table section is suddenly your worst nightmare because not only is your section filling up, but you’re also getting tables on the patio.

You have a family of four whose anxiety-ridden mother wants you to know that “We’ve never been here before!” meaning she wants you to hold her hand through all ordering procedures. You have a table of six truckers that want you to explain the entire beer list so they can all order Bud Light. You have a couple on a date who wants nachos as an appetizer with no sauce, no jalapeños, and everything else on the side. You have an elderly couple who wants to split a half a sandwich with a side of soup that your kitchen doesn’t make. And the hostess just sat you a group of nine teenage girls that have never been out to eat without their parents, “So, what do you have here?” …we have menus.

Behind the scenes, the kitchen loads your nachos full of jalapeños. You can’t put any orders in because the computers are full of other servers. The ice tea runs out. There are no straws in the server station. Did I just pour a coke or a diet coke? Absolutely everyone is in your way, and the bartender can’t get you the truckers’ third round of Bud Lights because she’s busy taking an order. Oh, and the hostess just sat you two more tables.

“Is the spicy burger hot?”

“This coke tastes weird.”

“Where those beers at, sweetheart?”

“We’re all on separate checks. All nine of us.”

“Can we have extra plates for these nachos? and extra sour cream? and extra napkins?”

“We’re all going to get milkshakes.”

(If you ever want to join the ranks of deeply hated restaurant customers, order milkshakes during a rush. Do it.)

So now you’re walking at speeds previously unknown to man. You’re printing checks, making milkshakes, taking orders, delivering food, and, “Yes, sir, I would love to change the channel to the game you want to watch so you can fully ignore your wife for the next forty-five minutes.”

And this is the moment.

This is the difference between the average server and the rockstar. This is when the average server starts blaming someone else for the fact that they are drowning:

“The manager didn’t schedule enough people.”

“The kitchen keeps messing up my orders.”

“The hostess sat me three times in a row.”

“People around here need to do their job.”

And the most popular: “I F*%$#%G HATE PEOPLE!”

So, go ahead. Blame away. It’s easy, it makes you feel better, and at the end of the day – you made it through. That makes you an average server.

The rockstars, on the other hand, they don’t blame. They just do it. They say to themselves, “This is the job. Those tables are my income. More tables means more money – so bring it on.”

And that’s it. That’s the difference. Rockstars don’t get angry. They just move faster, smile bigger, crack a joke and do the best job they can. If they make a mistake, they own up and apologize – sincerely. They say please and thank you to their coworkers. They make their tables laugh and somehow manage to do side-work in the midst of chaos. They’re the ones that are offering to take ANOTHER table while average servers are crying in the corner. And the best thing about rockstars: when they have a free minute, they’re helping everyone else. Because they are here to do a job and do it well. And they are most likely making bank.

I love rockstars. If you’ve ever served, you know the feeling of walking into work and being relieved that you’re working with people who are going to help your night go smoothly. Those are the rockstars.

So, to all the servers out there: next Saturday night when you drop a tray of drinks, serve bread to a gluten-free kid, or introduce yourself to the same table twice, think about the choice that you have: you can go ahead and blame someone else or you can own it. This is the job. These guests pay your rent, buy your groceries, and would finance your netflix binges if anyone actually paid for netflix but we all have an obscure cousin’s ex-boyfriend for that. So treat your guests well, apologize sincerely, say please and thank you, and help each other out. The restaurant world needs more rockstars, and you probably need bigger tips – someday you may actually have to pay for netflix

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