Girls in the Service Industry Aren’t Free to Talk Politics
Ever since the election results came in and we found out Donald Trump is going to be our next president, it seems like people have been talking about politics nonstop — at home, at work, and on social media.
But for people who work in the service industry, things are different. Voicing the wrong opinion to the wrong customer could leave you without a tip. Because if you’ve ever worked in any type of service industry, you know the customer is always right.
Sure, it’s annoying when they claim they ordered a burger well-done when they clearly ordered it medium-rare, but what about when they say shit that’s inherently sexist or racist? Do you stand up for yourself and voice your own opinions? Or do you hold your tongue and pray that they at least give you a big tip for listening to all their bull shit?
Mark*, a server at a restaurant in Brooklyn, says he never holds back his political opinions. His place of work stopped serving Yuengling beer after the brand publicly backed Trump and he “never gave a second thought” to telling people the reason why they didn’t carry Yuengling.
“I just don’t give a fuck,” he said.
For most girls, it’s a different story. Maybe it’s because we haven’t all learned to “lean in,” or maybe we’re scared an angry customer will do more than just not leave a tip. Maybe we just want to get that money. But whatever it is, the election has brought up difficult situations for anyone who works for tips or commission.
Andrea* worked at a diner in New Jersey for a few months after graduation while applying to jobs, and the further we got into the election season, the tougher things got.
“Once election season really hit its stride, it’s all this one table of regulars would talk about,” she said.
“They were die hard Trump supporters in a restaurant full of POCs,” explained Andrea. “They thought Hillary was Satan and that she deserved to be locked up and that Trump was going to save all of us. They’re older white men with the ‘suck it up’ mentality.”
Andrea politely argued with them about certain topics, such as LGBT rights and immigration issues. But when they told her that if she voted for Hillary, she had no morals or education, she was “dumbfounded by all of it.”
“In this instance, I just walked away,” she said.
It’s not just cranky old white dudes that spend way too much time in diners, either. Olivia*, who works at a high-end clothing store which she’s asked us not to name, had a customer experience that will make your jaw drop (or not, because you’ve learned to expect this type of behavior).
“While in the middle of trying on a $2,500 shearling [coat] to possibly add on to her $5,000 purchase,” she said, “a customer said that Obama brought out the worst in minorities and that she wished it could go back to when she was younger and everyone kept their opinions to themselves.”
The woman added, “God wouldn’t have given you the life he did if he had wanted you to change it.”
Way to kill the American dream, lady.
But it’s not just the service industry and retail workers that are influenced by arguable customers, as Rose*, a pharmaceutical rep, explains.
Rose is in sales and works on commission, so her money depends on seeming like a chill, agreeable person just like a server. She says that politics come up at least three times daily during her work day, and if one of the doctors that she sells to brings politics up, it’s because they want to argue, even if they are supporting the same candidate.
“It’s not like [in] a restaurant where you can have all kinds of people coming in,” says Rose. “The doctors are super educated and generally well informed, so if you’re going to go there and fight them, you really need to know your stuff backwards and forwards.”
Rose says that her counterpart (who supports Trump) recently got “ripped apart” by a doctor.
“Even though she was well informed and fought a good fight with valid arguments,” she said, “he still tore her apart because one, he still had more knowledge and facts to support his argument and two, he was the customer and knew she couldn’t go much further than they already had. She left the office upset and it really got her nowhere.”
For this reason, Rose just stays out of it and bites her tongue.
“If they have similar views to me, I’ll chime in a little,” says Rose, “but even if they’re totally out of line, I take a very middle of the road stance. I’ll never support their argument if I don’t share the same views, but I generally try to be agreeable or change the subject politely because arguing with them is not worth their business or our relationship.”
We’re all for using your voice and getting loud about your beliefs, especially now that certain people are trying to silence us. But in the work place is one time where you’re totally justified in keeping to yourself. After all, it’s tough to work on evening out the wage gap when you can’t even make tips from the shitty customers at your job.
But for all the times you have to bite your tongue, yell louder when the time is right.