I know that for most of you, you didn’t choose the food service life. The food service life chose you, whether it was to work your way through college, to fill the gap between careers, or just because no one else was hiring. The pay sucks (often lower than minimum wage if you’re in the restaurant biz), but it’s better than nothing. And maybe you genuinely enjoy your job. That is, except for the shitty customers. If your food service job is your first customer service experience, maybe you weren’t prepared for how absolutely dehumanizing it is sometimes. Between crappy, slave-driving management, and angry, entitled customers who don’t view your job as a real job, or you as a human being, it takes a whole lot of effort at the end of the day to not just say, “fuck this shit.”
Believe me, I know. I’ve worked in food service. I’ve worked in retail. I’ve worked at grocery stores, I’ve scrubbed toilets for a living, and I’ve also done “high end” office work. I’ve worked in a lot of different fields and dealt with a lot of different walks of crappy customers and clients. Being treated sub-humanly is not exclusive to retail and food service, but working in those fields seems to give you the worst of it.
It gets to a point where you want to retaliate. To fire back at that customer who’s being rude or treating you as lower than the dog shit on their shoe. Revenge is so sweet. And I’m all for revenge when it’s fairly harmless. You know, making an impatient person wait, not letting that rude penny-pincher use their day-past-expired coupon even though you know you can without getting in trouble. Stuff like that. But messing with food is where I draw the line.
I’m sure we’ve all seen Waiting…, the 2005 movie with Ryan Reynolds that illustrates more of what goes on behind the scenes in the restaurant industry. There’s that part we all know and love, where the cook spits in the food. Some of us felt a sense of justice. Others, a sense of dread.
See, the thing is, some of you hate your jobs so much that it doesn’t take much to slight you. Judging from anonymous image posts on the internet, these offenses can be anything from being a “skinny bitch ordering a diet soda” to “being indecisive” all the way and up to curtness and impatience. And when someone has done you so wrong, you exact revenge in the only way you can: by fucking with our food. Which can be really, really dangerous.
The movie theater image sparked backlash on tumblr, where users shared stories of fear because of diabetic siblings, and experiences with negligent baristas causing lactose intolerance reactions because they ignored a request for no milk. A few weeks ago, a barista made a post on facebook about switching people’s coffee to decaf if they’re rude. Someone in the comments bragged about “breve-ing” a “skinny” latte if someone is rude. I was one of the only ones in the thread who didn’t think any of that was okay, no matter how rude the customer is being.
The biggest issue here is that you don’t know what health issues, allergies, or intolerances someone has. Everyone in the thread seemed to think that giving a person decaf instead of regular coffee can’t possibly trigger anything, but I spoke to a girl who agreed with me, and she suffers from a narcolepsy disorder. Drinking decaf when she thinks she’s getting caffeine can fuck up her entire day. Altering the sugar or fat content of a food item, or simply scraping off a condiment when the condiment was specifically requested to be omitted, can all severely fuck with someone’s health. And you can’t tell by looking at them what their issues are, nor should they have to explain their allergies or sensitivities because you’re being a moody asshole today.
A little over a year ago, I had my gallbladder removed. Before that, I spent 8 months in nearly constant pain because I had an inch-and-a-half diameter gall stone. Eating any amount of fat would give me intense abdominal pains that lasted for hours, sometimes caused vomiting and diarrhea, and could usually only be quelled by heavy duty, knock-you-the-fuck-out pain killers. If a barista had ignored my request for a skinny latte because they thought I may have been rude, the resulting gallbladder pain would have put me out of commission for the entire day, causing me to cancel appointments, call out of work, etc. And while you may think that’s justified comeuppance, I may ask you to reconsider.
The thing is, “rudeness” is up to the worker to define. Judging from the pictures above, a complicated order can set someone off. I’m socially awkward, and have incredible social anxiety. I’m that person mentally rehearsing what I’m going to say a thousand times before I get to the counter. Often I start rattling off my order when the cashier has asked me how I am that day, but only because my brain has already prepared my speech, and anything other than what I’ve mentally prepared throws a wrench into the cogs. I’m also incredibly indecisive, but I try not to hold up lines. I’m not trying to be rude, but I can absolutely see how someone would perceive me as rude, especially if they’re already having a bad day. So fuck me, right? Or fuck someone with food allergies because they have a “complicated order.” And fuck anyone you don’t like, because apparently that’s all it takes sometimes.
I’m not trying to say that everyone who ignores a “hi, how are you today?” is just a victim of social anxiety. There are some truly rude people in this world who deserve every bit of karma that this universe serves them, but don’t do it by messing with their food. Because being responsible for someone’s allergic reaction, hospital visit, or potential death is not something you want on your hands. It’s also your job to serve food to people correctly. A pharmacist doesn’t switch someone’s medication or dosage because they feel disrespected. I don’t give someone a bad haircut because they’re not being nice to me.
Make people wait a little longer. Kill them with kindness. Be a little more compassionate. But don’t fuck with their food.
Stock photo from Freeimages.com