Why Everyone Should Work In The Service Industry Once

By Bethany Fischer on May 5, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic took a huge toll on the service industry. People waiting tables, working retail, and many other jobs faced massive losses that left people in extremely difficult positions. Restaurants and storefronts had to find ways to continue serving their communities while keeping their employees safe at the same time. The unemployment rate in service industry-related jobs jumped over 11% in the wake of the pandemic, and many still struggle to find employment now that normalcy is slowly being restored.

What was once an overlooked and underappreciated industry, the service industry quickly became the foundation of society that many people didn’t know they were missing. People took for granted their favorite waiters and hairdressers, and activities enjoyed for entertainment and leisure, like concerts and hotels, could no longer operate under COVID restrictions. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the people who run the service industry are pinnacles of daily life.

Now that we have experienced what life is like without the service industry, it is important to show gratitude to those who do these thankless jobs to keep our society functioning. The job is not easy, and service industry employees face many challenges that those in other fields may not even consider. Everyone should experience what it is like to work in the service industry at least once in their lives, and here’s why:

1. It teaches you grace

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Working in the service industry really is a thankless job. For often low wages, employees are expected to bend over backward for the demands of the customers and employers, all with a smile on their face. “No” is not part of a service employee’s vocabulary. In an industry where “the customer is always right,” service industry employees are granted little room for error without facing backlash from angry customers and their one-star Yelp reviews.

While it is understandable to expect a certain quality of service for paying a price, it is also important to realize that service industry employees are human, just like everyone else. They are not excluded from imperfections and many things that customers may find irritating fall beyond their control. It is easy to think that you practice and extend grace to others until you are scolding a service worker for getting a detail wrong on your order or forgetting to apply all of your coupons. Until you work in an environment where you must grit and bear criticism with a smile, it is hard to fully understand what it is really like.

2. It gives you perspective

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Most of us have experienced waiting for long periods of time in a restaurant for what feels like a minimal amount of food. How many times has a mother said to her children, “Wow! Did they have to go kill the cow for your cheeseburger?” while subtracting money from their server’s tip in their minds? How many times have you seen a disgruntled customer say “can’t you just check the back?” with a passive-aggressive sigh at the cashier at your favorite clothing store? Where you ever threatened to live a hard and unfulfilled life as a fast-food employee when you got a bad grade in school? Many are taught from a young age that working in the service industry makes you less worthy of respect. The truth is that it takes so much more than many could even imagine to keep the service industry up and running. Most of that energy comes from entry-level employees.

If you could see beyond the smoke and mirror that the service industry constructs to give customers a good experience, you would see the chaos that goes into providing good customer service. When you are waiting for your meal at a restaurant, you aren’t seeing the 6 other tables that your server has been assigned in 45 seconds. When you are shopping in a store, you aren’t seeing the gaps in the inventory that the cashier has already checked for 5 times that day. You aren’t seeing the 8+ hours that the fast-food employee has spent on their feet to feed their families. Experiencing the inner workings of the service industry firsthand gives you a perspective that you wouldn’t have just from looking in from the outside.

3. It shows you how you treat other people

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We’ve all heard it said that you should see how someone treats certain people before you decide to date them. These people include their mothers and their waiters, or any service industry employee in general. The way that someone treats these people is usually a good indicator of what kind of person they are. Are they someone who is patient, kind, and understanding to everyone, or are they only like that towards people who they deem worthy? More importantly, will they extend these selective behaviors towards you?

Someone who is disrespectful to service industry employees often behaves that way out of a sense of entitlement. They don’t feel that they have to give respect to certain people because they aren’t worthy of it in their eyes. These kinds of people may not show appreciation to others when someone is kind to them. They may be critical and impatient when mistakes are made, and unforgiving when these mistakes are rectified. This is not the kind of person that people should strive to be. It is easy to snap at a service industry employee when you are unhappy until you have been behind the counter and belittled. You may think that working in the service industry takes no skill and is for the uneducated until you have personally put in the work to satisfy an angry customer. Working in the service industry forces people to hold a mirror to themselves and ask, “what kind of person am I?”

Conclusion

We have learned through their absence that the service industry is an integral part of our society. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 26 million people worked in a service industry role. While those numbers have dropped due to health and safety guidelines, it is still an important industry that often leaves its employees underappreciated. This lack of appreciation can stem from a lack of knowledge about the industry. Working in the service industry can teach people valuable lessons about grace, perspective, and how you treat others.

The act of service is a virtue that everyone would benefit from cultivating in their own lives. Treating others with respect, no matter their class or occupation is a sign of a mature and developing society. While the world changes and adjusts to a new “normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, society must also do the work to ensure that those at the foundations of our communities, service industry employees, are given the respect that they deserve.

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