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Food service harassment par for the course?

Working in food service can be stressful. Not only is it a busy environment, where speed matters and customers are going to be rude no matter what you do, there is also the pressure of working for tips.

Customers are unpredictable. You never know what you’re going to do that will impact the tip they decide to give at the end of the meal.

Being friendly is not an invitation to be harassed

Part of working with customers is being friendly. And often it’s not a big deal. For many people, working with people is one of the enjoyable aspects of the job. Especially when there are regular customers to connect with.

You also know that being friendly can cover a multitude of kitchen mishaps. Servers who are friendly, even when a meal come out wrong or takes a long time still tend to see good tips.

Then there are customers who decide that your approachability gives them permission to make a move. It’s hard to decide which is worse. The sleezy customer who tries to make a grab, or the one who makes uncomfortable comments throughout the whole meal.

You didn’t ask for this

There may be a lot of people in the same position, but that doesn’t make it right. You just wanted to make sure your customers were having a wonderful experience while you try to earn a living.

But when your job and your tips are at stake, what can you do?

Speak up!

It may be difficult, or even embarrassing, to say something, but it is so important to both you and your coworkers. You may not know how many other people are dealing with the same thing until you open the door to talking about it.

Talk with your manager or human resources representative. Whoever is available at the time the harassment happens. Ask to get someone else assigned to that table. While you may miss out on the tip for that one table, it’s not worth sacrificing your safety and mental health.

Continue to speak up when you encounter treatment like this is the workplace. While customer service includes dealing with people who are rude, that does not include when it crosses the line into harassment. Food service is not a career where you are expected to put up with harassment. No matter what your position, you still deserve to be treated with respect.

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