Friday, October 08, 2010

Be Nice To Wage Slaves

(News-Herald, October 7) Is it really that hard to be nice?
I don’t mean syrupy sweet gooey niceness. I’m not asking for fawning devotion to kissing backsides. I’m not even asking for dumped-on doormat behavior.
The vast majority of my Applefest interactions were pleasant, even more than pleasant. Perhaps I noticed the outbursts of unpleasantness because they stood out in such stark contrast, or because we ate out more, and eating establishments seem to be one of those places where people feel free to get their rude jerk on.
“Hey, we need some spoons!” barked the woman at the next table at one place, using a tone of voice that suggested that the spoon oversight was a personal insult and that a restaurant that didn’t respond instantly to her smallest need was borderline abusive. “Hey,” her attitude suggested. “If you think I am going to put up with this spoon-deprivation attack on my dignity, you can just forget it.”
My children used that same formula when they were about four. “I need a cookie,” they’d command. The usual reply was, “Well, then, maybe you should ask nicely for one.”
It’s not just restaurants. The world seems loaded with people who treat minimum-wage workers as if they are contemptible over-paid lackeys. I have lost track of the number of times I have wanted to tell someone, “Look, this man/woman is just trying to do his/her job. Give them a break.”
I’m not excusing bad service—lord knows there’s enough to go around—but one of the virtues of small town life is supposed to be a higher standard of kindness than one finds in the Big City. People are paid to do a job, frequently the mere pittance of minimum wage. When you ask them to go way above and beyond, the least you owe them is simple courtesy and kindness, and a basic awareness of when you’re being a pain in the tuchus.
Walking into a store five minutes before it closes? Especially if it’s just to look around with no real intent of buying something? You are being a pain in the tuchus.
Holding up the line while you fish for pennies in the bottom of your purse is being a pain. Asking a server to move eight tables together to accommodate your large party is being a pain. Asking the woman at the clothing store to fetch you forty-seven dresses to try on is being a pain (especially when you don’t intend to buy any).
These pains are no fun to employees, but they’re part of the normal wear and tear of the job, part of the reason that few people decide to make a career out of minimum wage work.
What is not a reasonable part is throwing a big bunch of abuse-sauce on top of the big bowl of tuchus pain. It’s inexcusable rudeness.
Calling the employee names because she doesn’t bring you the dresses you don’t intend to buy quickly enough is rude. Griping and complaining because the server doesn’t just clear the restaurant and seat your forty-seven guests RIGHT NOW is rude. Abusing any employee because she won’t change company policy for your personal benefit is rude.
And yes, there is a special corner of hell for people who demand extra service at a restaurant and leave a lousy tip. I don’t care if you’re on a fixed income or if that would have been a great tip during the Truman administration—if you can’t afford to leave a decent tip, you can’t afford to eat out, and you should stay home.
We make a lot of noise in this country about the value of good, hard labor and the importance of willingness to do an honest day’s work. We complain about welfare, and insist that Those People ought to go get a job, no matter how minimum wagey. And then we turn around and treat minimum wage workers like low life lackeys.
In an area like ours, where so much of our economy is carried on the backs of minimum wage workers, and so many of them are the young people that we also claim to value, that’s just really wrong. If you think a job is worth doing, how hard can it be to be nice to the person who does it?
Just treat people, including working people, with the same kindness, decency and consideration that you would like to receive. It’s not that hard, and I’m pretty sure that the principle has been brought up before.

1 comment:

The Bakers said...

You said it. Great essay and 100% correct. Thanks for posting your thoughts on this.

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