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How to Survive Working in the Service Industry During the Holidays

December has officially arrived, which means that wrapping paper, family dinners and frantically trying to organize your squad to buying tickets for the same club on New Years is about to become your reality (if it isn’t already). Ah yes, the holidays are truly the most magical time of the year…but if you’re working in the service industry, the holidays are a double-edged blade.

Whether you’re working retail and get stuck working a Black Friday shift or serving your millionth reservation of a family dinner, the holiday season can be draining if you’re always focused on making it wonderful for other people. Here are my tips to keep from going full Grinch if you’re working in the service industry:

1. Book it off

This might seem like cheating, but honestly, the only way you can survive working in the service industry is if you have your own special events that you’re planning on attending, where you can focus on enjoying yourself and spending time with your friends and family. Book these dates off ASAP because chances are that none of your co-workers are going to want the NYE shift either.

2. Keep your eye on the bag

As much as customers might think that we’re running around trying to find out if the gluten-free noodles are actually gluten-free (no, ma’am we’re actually really looking for a lawsuit) because of our passion for waitressing, the truth is that there is exactly one reason why people work the service industry: money. And the holidays are expensive as hell, so while having your manager calling you in last minute because they’re slammed might be annoying, you’ll be grateful for it when you’re paying off your credit card at the end of the month.

3. Let it all out

Did the creepy old man hit on you and still only leave a 10% tip? Is there a woman insisting that the item that’s been out of stock for a week is hiding somewhere in storage? Find a friend and let it all out, but just make sure you’re doing it where no customer will overhear you. It’s healthy to vent, and having someone validate the ridiculousness of a scenario can make it feel much more manageable.

4. Get in the spirit

Do what you can to enjoy the holiday spirit yourself, if your work’s dress code lets you wear a Santa hat, throw one on. Pro-tip for servers: wearing red lipstick is not only festive, but according to researchers from the Universite de Bretagne-Sud, waitresses wearing red lipstick received up to 50% more in tips than waitresses going for more natural colours.

5. Remember that customers are people too

It’s pretty common for customers to treat people in the service industry as sub-human, something about a uniform just makes people forget about common courtesy. But honestly, I think that people working the service industry can forget that customers have their own lives and messes as well. Yes, the lady could have said please when she asked for an extra side of ranch, but it’s very possible that she has had a terrible day or didn’t get enough sleep the night before. The holiday season is stressful for everyone, and the best way to get through it is to acknowledge this. Be kind to your co-workers and customers, and when you’re going out yourself, you BETTER be kind to the person on the other side of the counter.

Hopefully these tips can help make your working holiday from school a little more bearable this season!

Bria Steele

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Bria is a 3rd year psychology student at Wilfrid Laurier University.
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