Waiting tables is a lot like being a hooker.

Waiting tables is a lot like being a hooker. Serving’s proximity to prostitution and people’s refusal to accept that fact has always disturbed me. I may not be proud of that fact, but I accept it. Servers do things for other people and their money. The only difference is that our pants are usually on and we don’t go to the free clinics as often. Well, most of us anyway.

After a ten hour shift we still feel as used, abused, and dirty as someone turning tricks on the street corner of his or her choosing. Prostitution is socially unacceptable and largely forbidden by law. Waiting tables is a social necessity. There is a weird social acceptance of servers that is not afforded to prostitutes. Maybe there are good reasons for that. I’m really not going to debate the social merits of prostitution. I’m just trying to make a simple point: being employed as a waiter isn’t that far removed from prostitution. There is barely six degrees of separation between serving and prostitution. Our industry quickly descends down the ladder of morality and social acceptability despite the principals of the job remaining the same.

Most socially and morally accepted: Serving, waiting tables
Socially accepted but less morally accepted: Bartending
Less socially and morally accepted: Hooters Girl, Cocktail Waitress
Barely socially accepted and morally unacceptable: Topless Dancer
Not socially accepted in many communities and morally unacceptable: Stripper
Illegal almost everywhere and morally unacceptable: Prostitute

When I write “morally unacceptable” I’m not depending on some extensive study that measures the sensibilities of the American public. I’m speaking strictly from common sense. Most people find stripping and prostitution morally unacceptable and the law, for the most part, agrees with them. So, what ties serving and prostitution together? Serving tables straight down to turning tricks on a corner can be lumped into the category of the “service industries”. The practitioners of these jobs make their money by the service they give.

When you go to the Chinese buffet or any family style restaurant, how many of you actually tip? What is the most common excuse for not tipping the waiters and waitress? “I got my own food, why should I tip them?” Never mind the fact these poor souls probably make less then minimum wages and are counting on a few dollars here and there for their rent. The absence of socially recognized “service”, a.k.a. bringing food to the table, frees many of you from the tipping obligation. The reason? Lack of “service”. Many of you tip on service. Socially this joins the concepts of waiting tables for money and having sex for money whether we like it or not.

In my 29 years I’ve been employed as a tour guide, an Auto Cad designer, a delivery boy, a shift manager, an office assistant, an assistant manager, a general manager, a teaching assistant, and a public school teacher. I’ve been the boss; hiring, firing, scheduling, and responsible for all aspects of the store’s business model. I’ve been the $4.75 an hour teenager walking people through a subterranean tourist attraction. I’ve worked in the House of Representatives and seen how major pieces of legislation are constructed and eventually passed. I’ve also cleaned toilets and vomit. Why is it that I’ve been a server for the past seven years of my life?

Without question people work in the business for one simple reason: the money. No job pays the unskilled, uneducated, slightly educated, or the educated who are unemployable better than waiting tables. You can walk into a restaurant knowing only how to smile and make somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $20 dollars an hour. People who have no marketable skill other than their personality can make comparable money to people with extensive college education in a restaurant. Students who haven’t graduated from college can find good paying work in the restaurant business to help pay for bills and books. Recent college graduates can use a restaurant job to make ends meet while searching for their first “real job”. It all comes back to the amount of money available to people who would never be considered for other typically high paying jobs. To make money in a restaurant you have to be efficient, presentable, and not offensive to the guest. To make good money you have to be friendly, accommodating, and slightly superhuman.

Approximately 12 million people work in the restaurant industry. Females make up over 55 percent of restaurant employees. Over 50 percent of restaurant workers are under the age of 30 and 67 percent are single. The only other enterprise that employs that many people in this country is the government. Of these 12 million people, 71 percent have a high school education or less. I don’t want to get too statistical here, but think about these figures for a moment. Well over half the people working in a restaurant are female and under 30 years of age. Nearly two thirds of us are single and have a high school diploma or less. How many jobs are available to women, under 30, who have a high school diploma or less in this country? How many of those jobs involve cleaning floors and toilets? The only jobs women of this demographic can get that pay high enough to keep them above the poverty line is in the restaurant industry.

The unskilled and uneducated rely very heavily on your tips to make their rent and pay for their children’s heath care.


cyneath said...

Sounds like you work at one of these buffets.
Or maybe you used to be a prostitute.
Maybe you think everyone should get tipped for nothing. Maybe servers shouldn't work for tips. Maybe the managers should raise the prices on the menu and raise the wages for the servers.That way it doesn't matter to the employee how good or bad your service is because you end up paying for it anyway.
Yeah, that's a good idea.
I suppose the concept of acutally paying a bank teller to take care of a customer is like prostitution too, but the bank acts like the pimp that 'protects' the teller and gives them their 'cut' in the form of a paycheck.
Yep...all a buncha prostitutes..
everyone who gets paid for any job...
not just waiters and waitresses...

Anonymous said...

Moronically the previous douche knows nothing. If wages go up for servers your food prices do too....a lot. Tellers are paid plenty more than waiters thusly they aren't tipped. You sir are a moron.