I Am Held Hostage (And So Are Other Women)
By Robyn De Leon
There has been this recent Twitter meme going around that points out a woman’s experience in customer service, which is pretty funny and very popular. It has over 57,000 retweets and 240,000 likes. It goes: “Flirting w/ girls who are working is so rude af because ur basically holding them hostage bc they HAVE to be nice to you” (via @MajorLuiGame) It makes me chuckle bitterly because while it’s funny and the hostage imagery is pretty exaggerated, it’s also a tweet that’s ironically a not so far off experience for women who work in the customer service industry. And for me personally, it’s actually quite spot on.
This summer, I finally started working in what I consider my first real job. Although it’s in food service, a tough area in the industry, I love the place I work at and the people I work with. I’m learning a lot about adulthood and society and myself in the process. After my training though, I began taking a lot more responsibility at the register, which includes taking peoples order, initiating small talk to create a fun-loving and social vibe for our brand, as well as smiling 24/7.
Now it’s not that I don’t like talking with people, making friends, or creating connections, but when it came to talking to men especially, I began noticing that the nicer I looked or acted the more inclined they were to taking longer at the front or calling me from across the kitchen to chat, even though I was clearly busy trying to help my co-workers in the back or worse trying to help other customers that were genuinely waiting for my assistance. It’s unfair to me, my co-workers, the customers, and the function of the place overall.
There was this sense of advantage I felt like people (and guys especially) were taking of me just because I was in a position that constrains me from acting how I truly want to act. Obviously, I want to keep my job and my dignity so I’m not going to curse out a customer, but people with these underlying motivations also know this and seem to take advantage of the situation just because I have to do my job and they can’t get in trouble like I can.
I’m convinced that this happens a: because of sexism and b: because of Western mentality that the customers always right. Western society leads us to believe that we must cater to every whim of the customer especially in cases where they aren’t actually right. It’s an extra step for women because we are already expected to be lovely, dainty, and kind beings. If we’re not, we get called out immediately for being cold or blunt or bitchy.
My advice to you dear reader and anyone else who is a customer (which is everyone, me included) be considerate of people who work in food or customer service. We deal with hundreds of people daily and though the majority of people are nice, it's still draining to socialize for hours on end 5 days a week. To guys: stop flirting with women, it's not cute or quirky or whatever. If you really want to make a gal happy, tip us well and be respectful of our time. Thanks~