Life in the Public Service Industry

By Kristian Buckner | Jun 11, 2013

I started working my first job when I was fifteen. I've been working ever since.


I'll probably be like one of those old timers who are way past when they can retire but refuse to, not for need of money, but for the need to not be idle. I hate that, continuously finding myself being idle. So I fill my time with work.

Lately I've been working a lot. And by "a lot," I really do mean like morning until evening every single day. I'm not entirely sure how I found myself in this predicament. However, there's some things about working three jobs in the public service industry that I've learned.


First off, I've learned that you can't always take people seriously. Not in a, "they're joking, don't take what they said serious," kind of way, but in the way that people are very rude, I'd go so far as to say mean spirited. There's in fact a great deal of people who will come to an establishment and just be so incredibly and unforgivably rude to the person serving them, and those people? I figure that those people are either having a really, really bad day, or that they have never worked in a public industry serving people like themselves to understand. But either way, I've learned not to take it too seriously.

Back to when I was fifteen, I guess that waitressing job really broke me. Who knows if I'd ever been rude to people serving me before, but after that, I definitely wasn't. I went home a lot of nights crying because I honestly didn't know how to handle people. But after a little while, I figured it out. I couldn't take every rude thing they said personally, it didn't make me less of a person or less of a good waitress. It was just that person, and if I took every little thing that people said personally, I wouldn't be able to survive.

That leads me to the second thing I learned. As I got better, and got my second job waitressing, I discovered that you can't give people a chance to be rude to you. If you make people exceptionally happy with the service they are receiving, and you're assertive in a positive way, they really don't have an opportunity. But you must be thorough. I always had to make sure that the people I was serving didn't have a thing to complain about, unless it was the taste of the food, in that case, it wasn't my fault.

The third thing I learned is that even when you do everything perfectly, you still can't make some people happy. I remember several times when I had a costumer that had everything to complain about, even things that didn't apply to my service, like the weather. God forbid that it was raining outside because sure enough it would be my fault that it was raining and that they got wet on the way inside the restaurant, therefore totally ruining there meal, which would reflect in my tip.

When I got my job in a fast-food joint I learned something completely new: people think that the people behind the register at a fast-food restaurant are the lowest of the low. I've had a plethora of people just look at me like I was stupid just because I was a teenager working in fast-food. I had a man give me his money to pay for his food once, and then remembered he had extra change, so he gave me that too, but it was after I had already typed in the amount in the register for it to tell me how much to give him back. Not an issue at all normally, I took AP calculus, I think I can handle basic math. But before I had even a second to count how much exactly he had given me so I knew how much to give him back, he barked back at me the amount I owed him, as if I would never figure it out on my own. (I'm not sure still how people have created the stigma that the worthless work in fast-food when it's not at all true. I've met some great people working in fast-food.)

One of the last and most important things I've learned in my cycle of learning in the public service is that every single person that walks through that door is a person who has good days and bad days, laughs and loves, has true feelings just like me. And there's a way to connect with that person, even if just for a moment, there's a way to make their day, to make them smile. I tried that tonight at work, I tried to connect with every person that I served. I figured it would be a challenge, considering the stigma with fast-food. But I discovered something very valuable, that it is possible to connect with every person. Tonight I talked to two women who had been travelling and had six hours to go in front of them because they lived in Nashville, and had had so many amazing experiences. I talked to a man, a regular, turns out he knows how to write Chinese. I talked to a woman who took a plane with her husband last week and had the time of her life in Chicago seeing the Rolling Stones in concert for the first time. And I talked to fireman, who in fact, had saved a cat from a tree, and had a picture to prove it.

Every person has a story. Every person likes to be able to relate to someone. If they walk through that door, expecting a dumb kid at the register that they don't feel like dealing with today, but instead they find a real person who wants to connect with them, well, that's a treasure in itself. It'll make their day and yours, and it'll make your boss' day when there's even more repeat costumers because of the experience they had.

So, that's the lesson today. To all the servers, no matter the service, connect with your costumers. In turn, there will be a happier work atmosphere and more business for your business.

Costumers, remember, everyone that serves you deserves the same respect you know you deserve as a person. Being kind will receive kindness, you reap what you sow.

Everyone should work in the public industry at least once. Until you do, you will never understand the importance of being a good costumer.


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