Overworked and Underpaid: The Painful Truth About Being a Waitress

Before I got my current position as a quality inspector for an engineering firm, I was a waitress for a total of three years. I can safely say that it was the worst job I have ever had – and I’ve cleaned toilets for goodness’ sake!

During high school I never imagined I would ever be a waitress. I can be a bit clumsy on my feet, and I couldn’t see me managing to balance trays of glasses and meals on my forearms without dropping them. But I quickly learned that jobs are really hard to come by, and so when I finally got offered a job as waiting on staff, I didn’t hesitate in taking it.

When I started university – and thus at the hotel I’d been working at for the past two years – I started to really see how rubbish it can be in the world of hospitality. I know it’s not as bad waiting on in America, where you rely on tips to make a living, but because everything was prepaid for, I received no tips whatsoever. I was being paid below minimum wage, and asked to work pretty much every hour I possibly could; in order to pay my rent I needed to work 52 hours a month on top of my full time course at university. Not only that, but or every 4.5 hours we worked, 30 minutes’ wages would be deducted for breaks that we didn’t even have. Needless to say, what with the amount of work my course demanded from me, I was rather grateful for my student loan to fall back on.

As a waitress I have had to deal with a few really nice customers who I’ve been able to have a laugh with, and a helluva lot of really horrible customers I’ve wanted to punch in the face. Here are some of the types of customers I want to rob blind to compensate for the pain they’ve put me through serving them:

1. It would be funny how many people think that because you’re waiting tables you must be dumb and thus proceed to speak to you in a really patronising tone…if you weren’t so knackered from pulling all-nighters studying and completing your assignments towards your degree. I can’t wait for the day when I become a chartered engineer so I can wait for them to come back to the hotel and throw my CEng in their faces: “Remember your ‘idiot’ waitress back in 2013?”

2. If you have kids who don’t know how to behave at a function such as a wedding or whatever you’ve been invited to because you’ve just let them do whatever the hell they want, I really hate you. Do you know how hard it is to run around after customers with trays full of food when there are tiny children screaming and running around underfoot? And when they actually run into me while I’m trying to serve soup…*deep breaths*

And for the love of God, when I ask your kids to please leave the piano alone because it disrupts other guests, that is not an invitation for you to join them in bashing the piano keys (seriously, this has happened on too many occasions).

3. If you have preordered a particular course and decide that you don’t want that, you want a different one instead, that’s annoying but fine. If you decide that you want something else that is not on any of the menus because we don’t have that, that is not okay! One gentleman at a Christmas function decided he wanted chocolate cake instead of his crème brûlée, and regardless of the fact that three of us on different occasions told him that we didn’t have chocolate cake because it was not on the menus, and that we were running round like headless chickens, proceeded to argue with us for about half an hour. I avoided that man like the plague for the rest of the night.

4. When your food is taking too long, 99.9% of the time it is because of the chefs. Therefore your food isn’t going to turn up any quicker if you spend five or ten minutes having a go at me infront of 100, 200, 300+ customers because your food hasn’t arrived yet. I don’t care if you’re family of the bride, the host of your grandmother’s 90th birthday party, or even the lead singer of some band no one has ever heard of. I can’t snap my fingers and magically make the food ready – and even if I could, since you have been so rude as to try and humiliate me during such a big function, I wouldn’t. Just remember who’s serving your food…when the chefs finally cook it.

5. Snapping your fingers at me is rude and degrading. I’m not a dog or a naughty little child, so don’t treat me like one.

6. When I warn you that the plates are hot – and you can see that I am serving them with tea towels because they are goddamn hot – don’t grab it off me and then complain that it burned you.

And people think waitresses are dumb…

7. Don’t wolf-whistle, jeer, or hackle at me. I won’t hesitate in “accidentally” spilling something down your suit.

By my final year as a waitress I had more or less gotten to the point where I just didn’t give a damn. It’s a career that can really get you down because sometimes (most of the time) it is a thankless job where you’re only recognised for when you screw up. It can sometimes feel like you can do nothing right and that you are unappreciated, and I can’t express how happy I was to quit. Seriously, I was grinning from ear to ear as I handed in my badge and apron and clocked out that final time.

I know I will perhaps one day have to go back to waitressing, and that’s okay. I’m older and more experienced in that line of work now than back when I was 17, and I know I won’t stand for the nonsense I did from the staff again. Of course, I’ll have to deal with it all again from the customers, but if I can get a slightly better pay rate, tips, and basically don’t get screwed over, I will be much happier.

Until then though, screw waitressing. It sucks.

(Don’t) Cry Me a River

If you have a sob story, I probably don’t want to hear it.

Everyone has a sob story, and unfortunately we seem to have entered an era where we feel the need to spew our lives’ misfortunes to anyone and everyone we meet. Quite frankly, I hate it. I miss the days when you could work with someone for years and just about recall their first name, let alone details of psycho girlfriends and being kicked out college. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m your colleague, I am merely your colleague. I am not your friend, psychiatrist or agony aunt. Go talk to them about how rubbish your life is, not me.

I can’t really point at a date in which this new Let’s Get Everybody To Feel Sorry For Me mentality became the norm for society, but I know I blame two things for its existence: the X Factor (where if you didn’t have something dark and miserable in your life to whine about you wouldn’t be getting anywhere beyond bootcamp) and social media (where you only get likes and comments from people you don’t even really know if you post something really depressing or something to do with your achievements…and everyone seems to secretly hate achievement-related posts).

Risking sounding like even more of a heartless butthead than I already do, I only really care about my own sob story and that of my closest friends’. And it’s only my few closest friends who actually know my whole deep dark story of doom, and visa versa. Because I trust them and, obviously, they trust me. Hearing sob stories used to be a reward for being a loyal and unprejudiced friend, and it was touching to feel that someone felt comfortable enough to share with you such a personal period in their lives. Nowadays I feel bombarded with everyone’s dirty laundry – with regular updates too. Call me heartless, but telling me that you were bullied all through high school, or that your mother kicked you out when you were ten or whatever, is not going to make me like or care about you…although if your mum did kick you out that is pretty damn bad. But sob stories can’t get you a free ticket into my friends list or even my people-I-can-tolerate list. That’s the sort of thing I used to try when I was fourteen (X Factor inspired me), and I can safely say that offering the information that there was a 27% chance that I had rheumatoid arthritis and would be in a wheelchair in 5 years’ time did not earn me any real friends or sympathy. Just because I was going through some little flavour of hell doesn’t mean that everyone else could simply forget about their own problems – and their friends’ – to give a damn about the issues some weird girl they’d only spoken to once or twice was having. Like life back then couldn’t be stressful enough at that age!

I’m sorry, but they just get me down. If you consider how many people you may converse with in a day and then consider each and every one of them telling you something particularly dark or upsetting about their past or present, that’s calls for a pretty depressing day! And if you don’t really know that person, because they’re a work colleague or a friend of a friend or just a regular customer, do you really feel like the right person for this sort of talk? Do you really want to be? There are people who get paid a hell of a lot more than I do to listen to your problems; I can direct you to my first counsellor if you want someone who can give you all the sympathy you want.

I miss the days when our private lives were actually private, and we didn’t share them with the world. Surely we can get back to those days again, please?