Smiling for a Buck

I am a mutt. Being half Aussie half Yank means I’ve had a foot in both countries throughout my entire life. For the holidays I’m off to visit the other part of my family in sunny California. I will not be making coffee for anyone but myself for 6 weeks, a Merry Christmas to my espresso stained hands.

I’m switching gears and becoming the customer. No, I’m not going to leave trash all over the café or threaten legal action if an establishment doesn’t serve soy, I’m just going to observe and blog.

Customer service in the United States is a completely different experience. My first encounter with Australian hospitality made me so frustrated and upset I felt like a washed up celebrity demanding notoriety.

I couldn’t understand why the waiters, baristas and check out people weren’t paying me any attention. Bare minimum did not cut it for me. I was used to constant questioning on my food, drink and mood to the point of harrassment. I’m sure if I had asked to be spoon fed the request would have been met with glee.

Of course this is partly due to the 20% restaurant tip on top of the bill, the unspoken thank you for an attentive waiter. At coffee houses it was loose change or a dollar. I’ve worked in both, the money was more lucrative when food was involved and pay checks became secondary.

In order to boost the tips it is necessary to kill every customer with kindness and bend over backwards and beyond to keep the 20% thank you fee consistent. Fake smiles go hand in hand with clothing compliments. Even if you think track pants and high heeled shoes are poorly paired, grin and gush.

It wasn’t until I realized how spoilt I was from the American way that I started to gain some patience and even modify my own way of dealing with customers. By dropping the charade I began to look at customers as actual people instead of bags of money clinking to the register waiting for me to push the right buttons so cash would pour out.

I became more laid back due to my hospo experience here and learned that it wasn’t about the money it was about the people. I took to this mentality like a shot to milk (go with it) and suddenly my days were less mundane and more enjoyable. I actually cared about what the customer was getting instead of trying to make an experience better with a toothy smile.

Now I’m going back with my newfound ethics to compare, review and try not to scrutinise the old ways that now seem foreign and over the top. Sometimes I miss the tips but I don’t miss the plastic demeanour that accompanied them.

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1 Response to “Smiling for a Buck”


  1. 1 Martian December 28, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Nice! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?


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