‘Cheers for that, mate,' The Customer says with an appreciative nod, as I pass him a bagel which - if I do say so myself - I have just put together expertly. Instead of telling him he’s welcome and wishing him a good day, however, I stand there silently seething because The Customer isn’t talking to me. He is talking to my male boss who is standing behind me, drinking a coffee, having had nothing to do with this transaction other than, y'know, simply being a present man: a quality so revered by some of our male customers that they cannot even see us waitresses when we pass them their food, having been dazzled by the omnipresent masculine capability reigning over us.
During university and since graduating last year, I have had the dubious privilege of working as a waitress and server in a number of establishments. This variance of experience has led me to come up with a short guide about The Customer for any young lady about to embark on their first waitressing adventure. Now, let's be clear: you will meet wonderful people who treat you with the respect and decency which you deserve, undoubtedly. Many of them will be men. But, unless you're living on Cloud Nine, you will also meet those who I am about to warn you about - and these sorts will be known as The Customer throughout.
For your convenience, I have split the guide into three basic sections:
1. Your Name
Firstly, anyone who's been working in the service industry for five minutes or longer will be able to spot the red herring in my masterful first sentence, because the chances of being a female and being called ‘mate’ while you are standing behind a counter or wearing an apron are none to none. The wearer of The Apron - universally recognised as an invitation for condescension and/or sexual advances - must only be referred to using adorable nicknames including but not limited to: ‘sweetie’, ‘babe’, ‘darling’, ‘hun’, and various regional variations. However, if you do not fit into any of these categories or respond unfavourably to them, you must by process of elimination be uptight - leading to the inevitable conclusion that your name is, unfortunately, ‘that bitch’ instead.
When a woman is wearing an apron and proffering a cup of tea and/or making a sandwich, it is absolutely acceptable for The Customer to replace polite pleases and thank you’s with winks and grunts, or of course to pretend that you are invisible, depending on your level of attractiveness or according to The Customer’s mood. Replacing smiles with leers and conversation with innuendo is to be expected, especially if you’re ‘asking for it’ with your pretty long hair, short skirt, or obvious possession of a vagina.
3. Getting to know each other
Getting to know your customers is a vital part of excelling at your job in the service industry. You will find in a waitressing context that some of your customers make this extremely easy for you, mainly by asking repeatedly and earnestly if you’ve got a boyfriend; if your boyfriend took you out at the weekend; what your boyfriend does; and whether you cook for your boyfriend at home as well as at work (FYI, then you all laugh.)
N.B. If you are one of the sad, lonely girls without a boyfriend then you will be given sad, lonely face. This is a way for the customer to connect with you before asking for your number or patting you sympathetically on the arse.
Moving forward with your waitressing life
I do hope that this guide will help you to excel on your waitressing journey. Do not fear The Customer, as this is a waste of precious time and energy. Instead, allow for the natural personal growth that comes from such interactions: your cold, steely look will grow even colder and steelier; eventually, it will be a look which makes people stop mid-stupid-sentence, look at their feet and feel ashamed of themselves as they think about their mothers and sisters and what Maggie Thatcher might say.
You will also develop the ability to say something entirely pleasant such as, ‘Will that be everything today?’ in a way that is so filled with sugar-coated venom that The Customer will only hear, ‘Please drown in this cappuccino, you worthless pervert.'
It's worth bearing in mind that these are useful and transferable skills which will serve you well in all aspects of your life - even when you have hung up your apron for good.