• Wed, Sep 8 2010

A Former Disgruntled Assistant Has Advice for Cocktail Waitresses

This week, my colleague Jennifer Wright’s post about her experiences as a cocktail waitress and the customers she hated inspired a couple of my own job-related flashbacks. Though I’ve never worked in the food service industry, I have worked in the douchebag-service industry. In other words, I was an executive assistant. (I’m also the author of the recently published book Save the Assistants. I’ll let you guess what inspired the title.) Here are some suggestions for unhappy cocktail waitresses, based on my own experiences hauling coffee to old men who called me “sweetheart.”

  • Find humor in the situation. Sometimes my boss’ over the top rantings were so absurd that I could either cry or laugh at them. Choosing the latter is what kept me sane.
  • Kill ‘em with kindness. Sometimes when my boss was being extra douchetacular, there was no way I could outscream him. Instead, I let my voice get so quiet I practically whispered. He had to quiet down enough to hear what I was saying.  I was so nice it was almost sickly. It confused him, because he expected me to meet his anger with my own anger, and when I batted my eyelashes and acted like goshdarnit wasn’t today such a nice day, it threw him totally off balance.
  • Be grateful, but also be smart. A lot of the commenters on Jennifer’s post thought that lowly cocktail waitresses should be grateful for being employed at all. If you’re broke and have been searching for a job in a bad market, it’s normal to be happy you’re working. But it’s also fair to hate what you’re doing and want to do something else. It’s possible to simultaneously hate your job and be glad you have it.
  • Find a mantra. Whenever I was really stressed out at work, I would repeat a phrase to myself over and over again in order to calm my mind. Mantras can be anything from “It’s almost five o’clock” to “I am better than this” to “Ommmmmm.” If you’re regularly dealing with people who stress you out, you need a quick, easy way to get your blood pressure back down.
  • Keep your goals in sight. If you want to be a cocktail waitress forever, great! If not, have goals – big ones like “own my own restaurant someday” or smaller ones like “use this job to pay for college classes” – and remember them often. It’ll help keep day-to-day annoyances in perspective, but it’ll also help you remember what you really want to do with your life. And, of course, when you do own your own restaurant, I know you’ll be super nice to everyone on your staff. Karma can be great like that.
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  • Eileen

    I had some pretty ridiculous experiences working at a coffee shop and then retail, and thinking of them as potential ridiculous stories helped a lot. Do I want some weird, drooling old man with a cigar in a non-smoking establishment to think it’s okay to greet a seventeen-year-old girl with the phrase, “Have you taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience?” only to follow up with “Do they have television in your country?” if she looks as if she may be of Asian descent? No. Does it make a good story now? Yes.

  • that kim girl

    When I was waitressing at an upmarket bistro for lowmarket people, unfortunately most of my co-workers and I ended up drinking our way through it.