7 Things I Hated About Being a Cocktail Waitress
If you’re like me, you’ve had your fair share of crappy jobs.
You’ve probably worked long hours at fast food chains, asking for what seems like the billionth time, “Would you like fries with that?”
You’ve probably sat at your desk job looking at the clock for the seventh time this hour, waiting for the end of your workday so you can go home, wake up, and start the tiresome ordeal all over again.
You’re not alone. Crappy jobs exist. They not only make you question your life choices, but they also make you question humanity in general. You wonder, have people become more horrible or has standing in these high heels while serving drunk businessmen just made you more cynical?
I’ve had my fair share of jobs that made me want to just curl up in my bed, forever. One of my most memorable jobs – and I’ve had many – was when I worked as a cocktail waitress at a high-end restaurant.
I had just graduated from university (for the second time), and I was flat-on-my-ass broke. While people my age were getting married and having babies, I was trying to pay my phone bill and save up money to finally move out. Imagine being a 26-year-old university grad, living at home. It sucks all the pomp and sass out of you, and makes you increase your cookie dough ice cream intake at least twofold.
After finding that I had $1.67 in my bank account, I put my pride and my two diplomas on the shelf and applied to become a server at a restaurant (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty). I had no waitressing experience. I had no idea how to carry more than two plates at once. I was hopeless.
They hired me right away. Go figure.
I eventually got fired from the job. No surprise, right? A waitress who can’t carry three or more dishes is asking for the boot. While I never learned the trick to balancing a third plate on my arm during my brief stint as a cocktail waitress, I did learn that I absolutely hated it — to my core. I realized that I’d had it easy as a student. Waitressing forced me to enter real life — and it wasn’t what I hoped for.
At least I got this handy list out of it.
Here are 7 things that suck (so hard) about being a cocktail waitress.
1. Your work outfit makes you look like a high-end escort
I know, I know. Appearance is important when you’re working in any profession. But neither before nor after my job as a waitress have I worked anywhere where things like practicality and not falling on my face due to impossibly high heels have taken a back seat to looking hot.
I worked in the bar area, where it’s paramount to look like a high-end escort.
Waiting tables is an extremely physical job. Servers work hours on end, running around, maneuvering past other servers, tables and people. Despite knowing this, my boss decided it would be a great idea to put each of these workers (well, the women, anyway) in high heels and a short black dress.
I remember when the new outfit change came into effect. I wanted to pull my hair out. What this was saying to me was that I was a commodity that needed to do what I was told and wear what they wanted me to wear, with no regard for my comfort or safety. It would be one thing if it was just an ugly uniform, but these changes made doing my job more difficult and unsafe.
But who cares, right? I’m only a lowly server.
2. Patrons think you’re beneath them
It’s amazing what happens when you don the revealing dress of a cocktail waitress. Like magic, you transform from a human being with thoughts and feelings into an attractive food and alcohol dispenser.
I’ve met some extremely smart and awesome people who are servers, and are also working to become doctors, lawyers, or vets. I’ve met cool people who are looking to break into the modeling or acting industry. I’ve also met servers who just love working in the restaurant industry and won’t have it any other way.
But who you are when you’re not teetering in heels and holding a tray of drinks doesn’t factor into how you’re treated by patrons. Being insulted by someone you’re serving is horrible, but the worst is being patronized or looked at with contempt. It makes you question whether or not to throw the drink in their faces — which you don’t do, unless you want to be escorted out of the building.
3. People tip you like you don’t actually need the money to live
Tips should be based on quality of service, so if the server was abysmal, the tip obviously should reflect that. But what if you’ve given someone the best service possible? What if you were there to refill their drink, ask if they needed any more horseradish, and just were all-out pleasant – and you still get shafted when the bill comes out?
What patrons don’t know (or maybe don’t care about) is that most people who serve aren’t doing it for the hell of it — they need these tips to live. Servers get paid below minimum wage, so tips are a lifeline.
I know that mishaps happen. For example, patrons who are visiting from overseas where tips are included in the bill or aren’t given at all may not be aware of tipping culture. But there’s nothing more disheartening than handing someone a $300 check and getting zilch in return. It just makes a sane person want to run around screaming and flailing about.
4. Your co-workers were taken from the cast of Mean Girls
Working with nearly 20 girls is seriously a pain in the ass. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those girls who “just doesn’t get along with girls.” I have many female friends — but when you’re working in a stressful, competitive environment with a ton of other women, drama is inevitable.
A few of my female coworkers were pleasant and cool, but I’m pretty sure the rest were taken from the cast of Mean Girls. I walked onto the job and immediately felt like I was stepping into someone else’s territory. One girl in particular took an immediate disliking to me. She’d been working there for five years and felt it was her duty to let me know I wasn’t good enough and never would be. I would walk near her only to have her look at me with the glance and behavior of someone who’s just been caught talking about the person.
Eventually, I approached her to clear the air. What had I done to offend her? How could we work this out? I was met with an innocent expression and she denied having any ill will towards me. Clearly, there was a problem — but when she needed me to take her shift, boy, was she ever pleasant. Fakery is almost worse than outright hostility.
5. You remind your manager of someone she hated in high school
Apparently, the Mean Girls syndrome applies equally to management as it does to servers. For some reason, my manager hated me. I would make an effort to say hello to her. She would either respond curtly or I was met with silence. My conclusions were either she was having a bad day or I reminded her of someone she hated in high school.
I’m not trying to say that I was the world’s best server — in fact, I probably annoyed her with all my mistakes. But her high school antics of silence and mad dogging were very unprofessional.
6. Drunk patrons treat you like a trained monkey
If you’ve ever been a server, you’ll know that managers tell you serving is like acting. You have to put on a show for people — make them feel good about hanging out spending hundreds of dollars on bottles of tequila and expensive wine that could probably pay for your first five student loan payments. You’re basically a trained monkey for hire. Nothing made me more aware of this fact than the night three businessmen came in for a night of reckless fun, beers and steaks.
“Why don’t you tell us a joke,” said one of the drunk suits. The one sober guy looked at me with an embarrassed and shameful glance.
What I wanted to say was, “Why don’t you go screw yourself,” but what I really said was, “Did you hear about the tragedy at the shoe factory? There was a fire and they lost 1,000 soles.” Not only do you become a trained monkey, but you also end up telling lame jokes you won’t even tell your five-year-old nephew.
It didn’t stop there. The night was young and these dudes were looking to party. As they got more and more drunk, they also got funnier and funnier (not). When they first came in, I’d told them my name was Nok (pronounced “Nook”). They had a ball with that one.
“Does anyone ever call you Nookie,” one genius inquired, giving me a little wink.
I wanted to throw the drinks in their smug, flushed faces, but I continued to smile like the gracious server I was. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of my 20% tip, which I worked for like a dog.
I later saw them walking to their car at closing time. I walked quickly to my vehicle, hoping not to catch their eyes. I went home and did what I did on those heinous nights: I counted my tips and listened to some depressing tunes.
The next day, I drove up to the restaurant and parked. I queued up Ray LaMontagne’s Empty and wallowed in self-pity. I finally exited my car, wearing my little, black cocktail dress, and hoped something would change, and that I could eventually find a job where I didn’t have to look like a high-end escort. And then…
7. You get fired for an idiotic misunderstanding
I’ve never been fired from a job in my life, with the exception of this one.
It was the first day of the dreaded new outfit requirement, and I was feeling really uncomfortable and restricted in my new black dress when a woman with five kids came in. I knew she was trouble from our very first interaction. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and her ice-queen demeanor left me chilled to the bone.
At the end of her meal, I (apparently) took too long to get her change and made the mistake of joking about pennies. I said something along the lines of, “You don’t need those pennies, do you?”
She took this to mean I was calling her cheap and trying to steal from her by trying to keep all the change for myself. She spoke with my manager (who already wasn’t my number one fan), and I eventually got fired for my quip about pennies.
And those, my friends, are the reasons why I never want to waitress again. Feel free to gripe about your own serving job in the comments. We can commiserate!