Customers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Part 1)

In our culture, food service workers are often looked down upon as uneducated, lazy, unhealthy, unsuccessful people who couldn’t get a better job – and this stereotype is incredibly unfair.
I know food service people who have multiple degrees, but decided they loved cooking more than being a scholar; I know workers who enjoy making people’s days so much that they go out of their way to make customers smile and feel welcome; I know workers who are brilliant and talented, and so dedicated to their job that they didn’t have the heart to leave. And on top of that, everyone needs to eat. Food is something that will never go out of style. Truth is, we all desperately need food service workers in order to maintain our hectic, over-full, fast-paced lifestyles. Some people recognize this and treat food service workers as real people. Others, well, don’t.

For this series of posts, I will be describing some of the different types of customers that I have encountered over the last three years of working in food service (specifically, in a college dining hall). Some are wonderful and make every shift a little easier or at least happier. Some aren’t necessarily pleasant or unpleasant customers, but are just plain interesting. Some could go either way depending on the day, and you just have to keep your fingers crossed that they’re having a good day. And some are downright terrible.

My first group of customers are the good ones. These people are the ones that make me smile and feel like my job is totally worth it.

The Polite One: This customer is usually reserved, maybe a little shy. They might look you in the eye as they say “Thank you,” or maybe add a “so much” onto the end of their expression of gratitude. If they ask you where something is, or if you have any more of something, they’re genuinely thankful that you helped them out or at least got back to them with an answer quickly.

The Ray of Sunshine: This customer is literally always happy. Every single time you see them, they are predictably smily and excited about life. When you swipe their meal card, they grin as though they’ve won the lottery. You sometimes catch them singing to themselves as they get themselves a drink, and their joyfulness is so contagious that you can’t help but smile too, at least for a little while.

The Disney Fan: I don’t know if this is the case at every dining hall, but at ours we have music playing in the seating areas. Generally, the music is a mix of 80’s and 90’s greatest hits, but every once in a while there’s a more recent popular song or – dare I say it – a song from a Disney movie. This customer will squeal with glee when the familiar instrumental begins, and then belt out the lyrics as passionately and loudly as possible, without error, no matter how early it is in the morning. I have even heard groups of college guys simultaneously gasp, and then cry out in pure ecstasy, “MY CHILDHOOD!”

The Friendly Regular: Most food establishments tend to have regular customers, and college dining halls are no exception. (For us, of course, this could be due to the fact that most of our customer base actually lives in the same building the dining hall is in… but I digress.) This customer comes in for almost every meal, and they remember you. They see you at work so often that they know your name and greet you as though you’re best friends. When they ask you how you’re doing, they actually expect a real answer. Honestly, they treat you like a human being. It’s really quite impressive.

…and lastly…

The Cleaner-Upper: These customers aren’t necessarily pleasant to interact with, but they definitely make life easier for employees and later customers. If they spill something or break a dish, they immediately let you know. When they’re finished with their meal, they take all of their dirty dishes and napkins to the dish drop-off, leaving nothing but crumbs at their table. They even put their dirty silverware where it belongs! It’s a miracle!

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the double-plus-un-good customers. Stay tuned!

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