Walk mile in service: Students should experience industry to understand challenges of job

Kaywin McCall

In 2013, the US Census found that 1 in 4 high schoolers work part-time jobs during the school year. Many of these jobs are in customer service, whether it’s in the fast food industry, a restaurant, a grocery store, or any other positions that deals with people, and helping customers get what they want or need.

Whether you’re ordering at Chick-fil-A, Sonic, or waiting in line at a grocery store, there is always a person behind the register. In this town especially, many high schoolers are the people behind the register, taking orders one after the other or answering the same questions all day, every day.

Everyone working in customer service has a story to share about a not-so-happy customer. Whether it’s a customer who ordered the wrong thing, and was then mad that they got the wrong thing, or someone who asked a question that they didn’t like the answer to, most service industry employees have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

I worked at Chick-fil-A for about a year and half, and I learned so much in that time that I wouldn’t have been able to learn anywhere else. I learned how to serve others, including refilling someone’s drink, cleaning tables, restocking sauces, running food out to cars, and taking orders with a smile. It was always “my pleasure” to do so. Even more important than the general tasks of the job, I also learned how to listen to people, coworkers and patrons alike. I learned about hardships that people were facing, about good times people were enjoying and was able to celebrate with various sports teams if they came in after they won a game. I met people who would become regular customers that would keep up with my life, while I kept up with theirs as well. I also learned how to treat people with respect, even when they did not respect me. Saying “yes sir” or “no ma’am” when someone is yelling at you because they ordered wrong requires a lot of control, but it will go a long way.

The job has also taught me how to be a better customer. I learned how to properly order at a fast food restaurant and how to be patient when my order doesn’t come out the right away, because you never know what is going on in the kitchen or behind the counter. The person taking the order could be in the middle of a 12 hour shift and made a simple mistake. The kitchen could have made a mistake, or I could have made the mistake while ordering. I think fast-food workers and customer service workers get a bad reputation from customers, because at first glance, how hard is it to “click a button for a chicken sandwich”? It’s not as simple as you think. At Chick-fil-A, employees have to take the orders, make the drinks, count the cash/change, try to connect with the patron, deal with the background situations, while also dreading the flood of people coming in the door. All of it is served with a smile, because it’s their “pleasure” to do so.

While working as a fast-food worker or someone in customer service, nothing ruins your day as quickly as a rude customer. There’s nothing like coming in to work with a positive attitude after an already long day to be met with an unappreciative customer who slurs their speech, won’t listen when you repeat their order to make sure it is correct, and then gets upset if it’s incorrect. Next time you enter a fast-food restaurant or check out at a grocery store, remember that the people behind the register are human too, try making their day like they’re trying to make yours.

Working at a fast-food restaurant has taught me many lessons on work ethic, how to keep moving and stay on my feet for 8+ hours, how to serve others, how to listen, and how to be appreciative of other workers at different places. McDonald’s ran out of coffee? That’s okay. I’ve done the same thing. I can wait. They’re no longer having a sale on an item? That’s alright, that’s not the cashier’s fault, so there’s no point of me taking my frustration out on them.

I’ve had bad customers, but I’ve also had really good ones. I’ll never forget this single mom who came to Chick-fil-A to eat dinner with her two children around 9 o’clock. I was having a really rough week, and it was showing. She asked me to grab her some sauce, I did so, and then she handed me $2. I said thank you and then carried on with cleaning. A couple minutes later, I walked back to her table and said, “I’ve had such a rough week, this means so much to me.” She smiled, stood up, gave me a big hug, and then asked me what was going on. She took time to listen to me, and then she prayed over me. I took that experience and began to do the same when I saw people in need that came into Chick-fil-A. I’ve had opportunities to pray for police officers, soldiers, people with injuries, a homeless man, and sick people. Working at a fast-food restaurant and customer service has given me opportunities to serve others, whether it’s picking up someone’s trash, listening to someone, providing a smile, food, a hug, or a prayer.

I think everyone should work in a fast-food restaurant or in a customer service position at least once in their life to experience how it is to be the one behind the register. Always remember that each person is important and can make an impact no matter what job they hold.