Travel Editor Fern O’Shaughnessy gives her honest opinion on the difficulties she has faced waitressing and gives her opinion on the industry as a whole

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When waitressing, I’ve received plenty of looks from people in high-earning jobs that I think clearly say, ‘you’re just a waitress, what do you know?’ They require me to do a service – getting their food – yet they look down on me for doing the job. I think that a lot of people have this stigma, and it is quite often not the over-paid that are the worst; the restaurant that I work in has an on-going joke that students can be the worst of all for this very same thing.

Despite the majority of us being students (I am the only one from UoB where I work), and suffering the very same troubles that our customers face, we cannot help but resent them as they order a glass of tap water instead of a coke, and we watch our ‘Spend Per Head’ plummet: no chance of winning that bottle of wine now!

If you can afford to go for a meal, you can afford to leave a pound for the person who has waited on you hand and food

The other reason our hearts plummet as soon as someone pulls out their phone and utter the dreaded words – ‘oh, I have UNiDAYS, by the way, sorry I forgot to mention!’ – is it often means they will not leave a tip, no matter how much time you have spent on them. Saying ‘I can’t afford to’, however much it may be true (trust me, I’m a student who has to work 25 hours a week to pay for rent), the general perception of every waitress or waiter who serves you will agree: if you can afford to go for a meal, you can afford to leave a pound for the person who has waited on you hand and food – particularly as you just got £10 off of the bill. 

An issue rarely talked about in relation to those in the service industry: mental health

More importantly, however, is an issue rarely talked about in relation to those in the service industry: mental health. I’ve joked more about losing the will to live and my soul being dead more at work than I have anywhere else. Yes, everyone grows to hate their job, and it’s a part of adult life, but studies have shown that those in the hospitality industry have a higher chance of becoming an alcoholic, as well as a 22% higher risk of a stroke on average than those with ‘low stress jobs.’ I have to say, as a waitress (although I may be bias), that this does not surprise me. I have had customers sexually harass me, scream at me for trying to clean the table next to me, and I’ve had to clean up an entire table’s vomit after they spent five hours drinking. None of whom left a tip. 

Another study, carried out at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, also argued that disruptive shift patterns are linked to cancer and poor health. The high levels in stress at work also leads staff members to resort to drinking and smoking as a way of combatting the strenuous workload. Where other professionals – such as teachers and doctors – also have mentally taxing jobs the high reward that also comes with their job allows them to feel empowered and therefore flourish, the whims of customers and management dictates the experiences, and workload, of staff members. 

I do go out for food and I too get frustrated with my server when they bring me a calzone instead of a pizza. But, as someone who understands that this person has probably been on since twelve and it’s now seven – they’ve most likely gone without a break – I would recommend that you consider that they’re under a lot of stress to make everybody happy.

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