Smart Girls Know: How to Behave in Public
Let’s cut right to the chase: It should be mandatory for all citizens to work in the service industry at least once in their lives. Whether it be a job as a waitress, bartender, retail clerk, or receptionist, I really believe that everyone would be better off with this experience so as to have any understanding of how to interact with and treat those who are in these positions.
Disclaimer: I love my job. I choose to work with people, face to face, because I think I’m actually kind of good at it. We certainly depend on tourism to get us through these busy summer months, but I honestly don’t always love the tourists. New Englanders may have a reputation for being gruff, but in comparison to some of the pushy visitors we’ve had, they’re absolute dreamboats.
Although I know that all of you, our lovely readers, are kind to those you meet in public, I’d like to just throw out some suggestions on how to behave. I’m sure you all know someone you’ll want to forward this to.
Don’t be an A-hole.
So many scenarios come to mind for this one, but what I’d like to focus on is simply that starting off being an a-hole when asking for something will get you nowhere. Do not start off a conversation by slinging accusations and threats. If you’re in a restaurant, it’ll get you spit in your food. In a retail environment, say goodbye to special discounts and personalized service. Yell at the receptionist? Forget about landing that premier suite that just became available. If you’re a jerk, they will want you out of their faces. Attract bears with honey, right?
Remember that those serving you are also humans.
This makes me think of US Magazine’s “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!” photos. Katie Holmes carries her own Starbucks cup! Amanda Bynes wears sunglasses! Retail associates get up early after a long night, walk the dog, make breakfast and open their stores with a key so that you can come in and look around and hopefully buy things! They also re-fold the
shirts/scarves/tablecloths you pick up and throw down in a wrinkled mess and pick up the straws and other random trash you leave on the floor and shelves carefully filled with merchandise. They are people. They have feelings. They are not robots. They also have ears with which to hear the things you say to each other (“Wow, this place is way over-priced.” or my personal favorite recently “Eh, I’m just not a (insert store’s name here) person.”) and noses with which to smell how badly you bomb their PRIVATE bathrooms.
Wait your turn.
Kindergarten basics. This goes hand in hand with remembering that the person serving you is in fact one person. They might be very busy trying to accomodate lots of other demanding people like you, but I assure you, they are definitely not purposefully ignoring you. It is NEVER acceptable to wave your bill in the air or make the hand signal of your signature to get your check. Same goes for a retail environment. I came out of the bathroom the other day to a man staring at me emerging from the bathroom door, tapping his foot and waving a glass plate in the air with an annoyed grimace . I’m sure this gentleman couldn’t see the emotion written on my face because he was blinded by his own immense importance.
There are a few times when tipping is standard:
In general, it is customary to tip 20% unless the service was markedly unacceptable. Try to remember that these employees depend on their tips to make a living – sometimes their wages are as low as $2.50/hr and they have to be charming, quick, funny, (and sometimes mind readers) all day long, every day, even if they’re personally having a particularly crappy day. They have the menu memorized, know every back street and shortcut in your city and hundreds of hours of practice with a blow dryer to get your hair to flip that way! Just do 20% whenever you can. It usually amounts to a few dollars for you, but a big difference for them. If a facet of your experience wasn’t enjoyable, tell the person, don’t try to make a statement by leaving a 10% tip. Then you just become another one of the jerks they talk about over drinks after hours and they give you a nickname like “Fatty with the bowlcut.” Be the bigger person, don’t be the guy they talk about after work and do favors for each other not to have to wait on you the next time you come in.
If you need help with that, download the Tip Calculator in the app store.
There could very likely be follow up posts to this as I have now opened the flood gates by reading the Wired article “How to Behave: New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans”. I am sure I’ll think of more every day. I don’t mean to start a bitchfest, but do you know what I’m talking about?