Do you think you’re better than they are?

May 11, 2011 by

Do you think you’re better than they are?

Today, I happened to glance over at four women sitting at a table on the patio of a sidewalk cafe. They appeared to know each other well. They spoke casually as they began perusing their menus.

Jauntily approaching their table was the waitress, stepping out of the cafe. She asked if they’d like something to drink. Each of the women stopped momentarily to consider the waitress’ question, but before any of the other women answered and without consulting the other three the fourth woman, without looking up at the waitress, haughtily replied “You can bring us all waters, for now.” She then proceeded to begin telling the rest of the table what she thought looked interesting on the menu, essentially “dismissing” the waitress.

Wow….I must say, I was flabbergasted by this woman’s callousness. I was also struck by her comfortable willingness to completely invalidate the relevance of another human being. Additionally, she was doing this to a person who was graciously “serving” her.

I, in my time, have worked in many diverse of occupations. My career has been a fascinating and constantly winding path for me, always rich and full of diversity. I don’t like to sit in sameness for too long.
However, one of the professions I have never explored is being wait staff.

Yet, while I have never been a server or a waitress I have ever been aware of how much I admire the work they do and the occupational hazards they face, as today’s view was reminding me.

Their profession is a complex and intricate one. It is one requiring infinite patience to be well done.

The best waiters and waitresses I have watched are some of greatest managers of human behavior I have ever observed.

Food and drink can only carry an establishment so far. If people don’t feel appreciated or well tended to by the wait personnel they will not keep coming back.

Yet that delicate balance of humanness has two sides and there are humans on both sides.

The person who serves you is the person who you serve.

I do not mean to confuse you.
Allow me to explain.

Not one of us came here greater than any other one of us.

Not one of us, because of
where we live,
how much money we make,
what we own
where we go to school,
what we do,
how we worship,
what we play,
where we work,
what we drive,
who we’re married to,
how many degrees we have,
what clubs we belong to,
how many pairs of shoes are in our closet,
what we drink,
who we know
is greater than any other one of us.

Not one of us came here greater than any other one of us.

The person who is serving you is committing their energy to your comfort.
They are attending to your needs. They are being kind to you.

They deserve our consideration.
They deserve our respect.
They deserve our appreciation.

Often they will they will tell you their name. Try to catch it. Then try to use it in a caring way when you’re speaking to that waiter or waitress. You know what I mean; it’s nice when people remember our names. It acknowledges that they recognize us. We humans like being recognized in caring ways, no matter what our profession is.

Many CEO’s the world over count experiences when they were wait staff, in their youth, as priceless learning opportunities. Some of the most valuable times being when those whom they were serving treated the errors, the youthful CEO-to-be made, with kindness or generosity. They report those situations provided them with powerful lessons in benevolence. In addition, numerous Fortune 500 executives have noted they hire, in high regard, the person who treats the wait staff as highly regarded. Moreover, they do not give a second thought to the candidate who does not give the wait staff a second thought.

Many of these executive’s also report that their final decisions about whether to trust signing onto a multi-billion dollar business deal can hinge on their observations of how pleasant and considerate the other CEO is their exchanges with the wait personnel. This demonstrates to them the open-mindedness, fairness and collaborative energy the other Chief Executive brings to the table.

We have a great amount to learn from one another,
perhaps, almost as much as we have to teach one another.

But first, we must begin by valuing each other.

Whom you serve is the person who serves you.

31 Comments

  1. Thank you, kind John!!!

  2. How right you are, Kevin!! Thank you for your powerful contribution here!! : )

  3. I appreciate the thoughtful of someone who, like yourself Adeley, has walked in the shoes of the very necessary server. I have never, in my huge array of opportunities to try my hand at all things, ever been a server. Thank you for your insights, my friend!!

  4. Great perspective and insight here, Brooke! As one who did her share of waitressing in college, I fully appreciated “The person who serves you is the person who you serve” and your wonderful explanation that followed!

    All too often, as members of certain segments of our society or culture, we somehow forget our true place in it with respect to one another, which is surely on equal ground with all others. Our chosen profession or even part-time job is never who we are, only what we do. We should also be sensitive to the fact that many people do what they must do, but not always what they would prefer doing, in order to make a living or pay for school, meet medical expenses for a family member, or help an aging parent make ends meet, and so on… Some others enjoy the waitperson profession and are doing their best to make sure our needs are met in that setting…often a tall order, indeed.

    In the end it is up to us, as you so beautifully state, to give these wait staff, and all hard working people all the courtesy, gratitude, and respect they deserve! We must also remember that tipping should be fair and appropriate. Tips are not something” extra”, unnecessary, or above and beyond an already establishment paid salary! In our American culture, and many others around the world, unless otherwise stated on the menu, tips ARE (in essence) the waitperson’s salary! Knowing this, if we want the service, we are obliged to pay for it, and must not view it as superfluous!

    We are all people, and as you so rightly point out “We have a great amount to learn from one another, perhaps, almost as much as we have to teach one another. But first, we must begin by valuing each other.” I don’t think it can be said any better than that…and thank you for bringing something so important to our attention.

  5. A genuine thank you on behalf of people who have graciously served me over the years.

  6. J.D. Rhoades via Facebook

    Oh,. there are some people I definitely think I’m better than. People who are gratuitously rude to wait staff, for example.

  7. Brooke, just read the article loved it are well writen.

  8. NO! I don’t think I’m better than anyone. (though there are people who make worse choices)

  9. Good article and reminder on how we should be mindful of treating all with respect regardless of thier work station in life…Thanks!

  10. To Lisa: Love you too, baby…. miss you…. oxo…

  11. J.D. Rhoades via Facebook

    One of the ways I judge people is by how they treat waitstaff and other service personnel whose jobs don’t allow them to answer back.

  12. And this is why I love you.

  13. That is awesome Liz! Some people need to be put in their place! It would serve everyone well to remember the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. If you want good service be a good customer.

  14. I dig that, Michelle!!! : )

  15. Michelle Holme via Facebook

    Hell no! My opinion,We are who we are,Are jobs does not give us the right to abuse others,If you to demean someone that tells me, That person has issues,My advice there are some good therapist out there try one!,

  16. Yeah, Mandi, sounds like perhaps….. ah, not the job for you…. just sayin’…… : } lol!!!

  17. Lawd no! I’d last 10 min. before I’d be done jacked somebody up for having bad manners. Mm mm!

  18. The inability of many people to empathize with others is a major reason we are frequently such a cruel species.

  19. One time, as I struggled with a haugthy customer (she KNEW I had better seats available – she would NEVER sit so far back. Oh yeah, the show had been on sale a month!) She reared back and announced, “Young Woman, I’ll have your job.” And I lost it and rejoined, “Madame, you couldn’t HANDLE my job, because I have to work with people like YOU!” She flounced away, and I sold her tickets to the next man in line.

  20. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    I don’t think I’m better than anyone, really. However, I am willing to bet that I did my job better than most!

  21. Conchita Terry McIver via Facebook

    What a beautiful article Brooke. How much better the world would be if we all observed the Golden Rule, “Do unto others…” Have an absolutely wonderful day.

  22. Hey Catherine, I still want to sell you your food. Get me in there. (:

  23. David Traub via Facebook

    The first thing in a restaurant I find out the waiter or waitresses name and refer to them by name only. Always have, always will, for exactly that reason. My mom always had the milkman, the fruitman (Hyman Kaplan) the washer repairman(Frank Gilchrist), the mailman (David Murphy) sitting around the house having coffe when I got home from school. They hung clothes on the line for her. They went up in the attic for suitcases, it goes on and on and on. It was wonderful. I live my life the same way.

  24. Way to put it Catherine!! Been there, done that…..as I know you have! 😉

  25. As a lifetime food service person I have seen it all. The service business whether food or retail or anything else that you have to wait on the public can be at times trying. A lot of the workers are not in this business because they choose to. They are in it because it is the only job they can get. There needs to be respect on both ends. I get so frustrated when my staff is treated like second rate citizens just because they are food service workers. But I also hate when the person I am with discrespects the person behind the counter because they think they are second rate citizens. Can we say it goes back to your parents and how they raised you to treat others????

  26. Caroll Houser via Facebook

    I’ve had every job there is in the restaurant business. You know that, Kristen. I would fire someone on the spot if I found them tampering with a customer’s food. I’ve never seen it happen in any establishment I’ve worked in. The nastier the person is, the nicer I get. It’s a matter of personal pride to not stoop to the level of the rude or dismissive. You’re so right, Brooke, in this essay. I worked at a place once where every waitress was getting her undergrad or graduate degree in something. I used to joke that I’d be walking up to tables saying, “Hi, I’m Dr. Houser, and I’ll be your waitress this evening. ” You can’t judge a waiter because they wait tables. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and the most intelligent, have waited tables. The best of us, can read human nature like a book, and adjust our style within the time it takes to get to the next table.

  27. I have waited tables (I’m really bad at it) and have friends and family who’ve done it. My daughter hated the arrogance of people she waited on. When you insult & degrade the hard-working people who are serving you, they may very well spit in your salad before they bring it to the table. Not me, not my daughter, but I have it on excellent authority. Be nice.

  28. Kathryn J. Stiles via Facebook

    I think we are all simply people. 😀

  29. Kevin Robison

    Brooke,

    You make excellent observations about how a customer should treat the staff. It reminds me, however, that a wait person must perform above and beyond the simple task of taking orders and delivering food. The waiters who impress me most are those who are able to strike that balance between being a persona and being a person. The first thing I remember having to do in the job was to “read” a table and get a sense for who these people were and why they were there. Now I find myself on the other side, assessing the server and getting a sense for who s/he is and why s/he’s there. I just can’t help it.

    Does this person really want to be helpful or is this just a job to be endured? Does he think he’s really good at it but isn’t? Is she trying too hard? Or is this person a natural? Does he speak just loudly enough for everyone at that table to hear the specials? Does handing out and collecting the menus seem natural? Does s/he even know the menu? If servers are really good at all these things, I tip very well — even if they don’t understand that rotating a wine bottle at the end of a pour will prevent dripping. An extra buck is in it if so.

    As far as class and status, people like the woman you describe should be mindful of the fact that not only is the server a human being, but that there are wait staff in high-level restaurants who clear six figures a year. Can she afford to eat in one of those, and how long would it be before she was asked to leave?

  30. Having spent a number of years serving people, I find it fascinating that someone has finally outed the haughty, self-indulging, boarish type of customer whose only means of showing their importance is to belittle waiters and waitresses. Wait staff are among the best balanced people you will ever meet. They have their personal problems just like all of us, but a good wait person will overcome his own problems and display optimism, happiness and downright courtesy in dealing with you. Thanks Brooke for pointing out the bad apples in the bunch, perhaps reading your article will change some attitudes for the better…JWSIII