My “career” in the service industry has been a circuitous one, beginning during high school with a job at:


I was a sales associate who enjoyed ‘finger-spacing’ the hangers on the racks and dressing up the display mannequins. I also had a knack for folding shirts perfectly–WITHOUT the folding board (gasp). I enjoyed meeting new people and pretending I was interested in their Friday night date with “this really sweet guy” or the bridal shower of their future attorney cousin-in-law. I learned a lot from that experience– mostly how careless people are when they go shopping. People REALLY don’t pay attention to the “man behind the curtain” or how much of a pain in the ass it is to scrape away at the piles of clothing left in the fitting rooms and figure out exactly where each article originated from. Believe it or not, PEOPLE have to clean up your mess, folks. We haven’t invented enough robots yet to install one in every retail store across America. Until we do, human beings will continue to clean up after their thoughtless fellow citizens.

After high school, I left for college in Philadelphia and, determined to become a part of a legacy, I “applied” for a waitressing job at

Smokey Joe’s Bar

I put “applied” in quotations because in reality I was the only person in their right mind who would even THINK to apply for a waitressing job at “Smoke’s”. No one else even knew there was a restaurant in the “PENNstitution”. I did, though, and I took advantage of it. I worked multiple hours a week in between classes, serving mostly Penn alums who had come back to reminisce about their own time at Penn and the accompanying Smoke’s adventures.

Eventually, I decided I wanted a job as a bartender at the joint–a coveted job, given to only one other female before me. During my shifts serving, I would watch Joe, the daytime bartender, pour and mix drinks, learning the tricks of the trade and familiarizing myself with the techniques behind every good bartender. I also established a faithful clientele of “regulars” who came to know me by name and associate daytime Smoke’s with the “cheerleader with that hair”. One week, Joe took ill and spend about ten days in the hospital. Because no one else was available during the day, I was appointed his substitute. I must have proven myself in that interim because when Joe returned, I was given a weekly nighttime slot.

And so began my legacy as Smokey Joe’s Thursday night side bartender.

My nighttime clientele consisted mostly of the football and basketball teams, as well as my sorority sisters. But I would see just as many “typical Penn students” on a weekly basis– and these would be the people who would most impact my service industry world view.

I was appalled at the treatment I was given as a bartender at Smoke’s. While my friends treated me like a princess (to get free drinks, no doubt), those who did not know me considered me a slave to their inebriation. It was my sole purpose every Thursday night to wait on them, hand and foot, and to cater to their every whim. I cannot tell you how many times I was snapped at. I don’t even snap at my DOG. And I sure as hell do not respond to finger-clicking.

What people need to understand is that the bartender, NOT you, is in control at the bar. I don’t care WHO you think you are and what you threaten to do if I don’t acknowledge you– the fact of the matter is that you came to this bar to get a drink, and if I feel like I’m being treated poorly, I have every right to ignore the hell out of you. Which means one thing: No drink for you. Sorry ’bout it. Learn to treat people with respect and you’ll be treated the same way. It’s the Golden Rule, simple and true.

I am MUCH more inclined to accommodate people who are sympathetic to my situation and patient with my constraints.

…Which brings me to my most recent employment at

Eastern Market

In order to protect the reputations of the innocent, I am refraining from identifying my current place of employment, but I have worked here since they opened nearly two years ago.

When I applied for employment, I told my manager that I wanted to continue bartending. He informed me that they had enough bartenders and that he would start me out as a server until a slot opened up. I served for about a month before the bartenders began dropping like flies. I couldn’t understand why no one lasted in the position– until I was “promoted”. After the first week of bartending here, I realized immediately that this was NOTHING like bartending at a college bar. It was one of the most stressful positions I’d ever experienced (and I’d worked FIVE JOBS during my undergraduate career– simultaneously). After a few months, I went back to serving and eventually transitioned to the even less-stressful and more gratifying position of hostess, which I currently maintain.

While each has its benefits and disadvantages, I have learned countless lessons from my various positions at this establishment. I am a million times more conscious of my behavior when interacting in the service industry and have develop increasingly more compassion for my fellow employees. Hopefully, I will be able to impart some of my insight onto readers for their own future interactions with service industry personnel.


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