The Customer Is Always…

By Jamie C. Baker

My first job was at Chick Fil-A when I turned 16.  From there, I worked retail at Belk and Shoe Carnival, and had a stint at an Outlet Mall.  I have waited tables and bartended at Chili’s, Applebee’s, Shoney’s, IHOP and more, and worked sales at a wholesale and retail warehouse.  I’ve managed customers for a landscaping company and handled patients at a chiropractic practice.  At this moment, I work for a massive drug development company in a position that requires absolutely no customer service work, and I love it more than words can express.

I’m grateful to currently be in a position where I don’t have to worry about the whole “customer is always right” philosophy.  If someone screws up, I tell them to fix it.  If someone is rude to me, I don’t have to put up with it.  When I’m put in front of a client, I’m not the one who has to answer to them, so it’s not a stressful environment with me feeling like I have to pop my customer service voice on and play nice.  There’s a mutual respect rather than one or both of us feeling an obligation to fake it.

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Why Do I Wait Tables (at Red Lobster)?

By Richard Johnson

Someone once asked me, “Why do I wait tables?” She suggested that since I have multiple degrees (I have a graduate degree as well as my undergrad) and I only make $40-$60 a night I should do something else.

First, I don’t only make $40-$60 a night. If I did, I would’ve gotten out of this business a LONG time ago. I have co-workers who make that a night because they suck and don’t care, but rare is the shift that I make under $80, and most nights are beyond that. Honestly, I am disappointed in less than $100 per shift (but yes it happens). It’s not worth my time (especially in winter) to drive into work for less than that. I have a fairly long commute by city standards to get to my restaurant. There are other Red Lobster stores (and other Darden owned restaurants) closer to where I live, but I work at my present store because I can make more money there than at most of the other regional stores. I’ve worked in enough Red Lobsters to know a good one when I find it. Good being a relative term of course.

Hypothetically, let’s say I work 5 shifts a week for 30 hours. In those shifts if I average $125 per shift, that is $625 a week that I am taking home (with health care and the pittance that we get as tipped employees, we never see our hourly wages). Figure I work at least 49 weeks a year and that is over $30,000. And honestly, there are people in my store who make more than that, all for a “part time” job. Plus I get paid vacation. Plus we get stock options. And dental/health care is available.

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My First Job Experience – A Norwegian Cafe

 by Nabeela Qaiser

My first job was at a café shop named “Kefe Nytt” in Fredrikstad in Norway.  As my first time working, personally it made feel proud.   I remember walking in very nervous and afraid.  I took a seat and glanced around.  I saw my expression mirrored in my co-worker’s face.  Yet, our supervisor welcomed us warmly and even gave us snacks.

I was very excited, but also a little nervous.  I did not know how to talk and handle customers, as this was my first time.  I was afraid of making a mistake and messing things up.  I was very dedicated to learn my job fast and make no mistake so I could impress my boss, Astrid.

During the first two training weeks, I learned how to make different types of salads and soups.  Sometimes, I made mistakes.  I burned the cookies in the oven and made the cake very sweet. I forgot the foccacia bread two times in the oven.  My boss smiled with angry eyes.

But time passed. I learned my job and perfected it.  The customers started loving my dishes and soon I became a really good worker and better baker.

It was an enjoyable experience and I loved every step of it.  Having a job was a way of making extra cash for clothes and makeup.  It made me feel independent and responsible.  I also learned how to handle my fiancés.  I had to learn how to take public transportation, how to interact with my coworkers and different types of people.  I also learned punctuality and especially how to be with my boss.  In a way, it was almost like I had learned real life skills in eight months.

I will never forget my first job experience.  It will always be a big part of me maturing and becoming a real worker.  This job taught me to always have an open mind and be willing to work in any type of work environment and to always be respectful and kind to others.


Born and raised in Qatar, Nabeela Qaiser has been in the United States for one year.  She has a husband and two children.  She is a hard worker.  She loves praying, cooking, reading, stitching and yoga.  She studies at the Harlem Adult Learning Center at the New York Public Library.  She wants to improve her English because it will open new doors.  She gives special thanks to all of her hardworking teachers.

A Waitress Abroad – My First Job

by Noelia Sanchez

My first job was 9 years ago in 2007. I was a student, and a friend told me “Let’s try to participate in a cultural exchange for university students.

I said, “I don’t know! Getting a visa is too difficult!!”

I knew that trying to travel to the USA was very hard and sometimes you couldn’t do it. But my friend insisted very much until I agree to participate. While in the process I felt exhausted by all of the requirements they requested from me and all the money I spent. Soon, it was time to go to the consulate, and thank God I got the visa. The most curious thing was, that the friend who encouraged me to participate didn’t continue with the process.

Well, the time came for me to travel and it was the first time that I took a plane. Everything was exciting to me.  It was an experience that I will never forget. I went to Miami and I had the opportunity to work in a restaurant as a waitress.  The owner was Dominican like me. But it was a wider Latin restaurant.  There were a variety of foods from different culture, like all who work there.  We were from different countries, Honduran, Cubans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, and Dominicans.  They are the nationalities I can remember. I had never been in a place where people worked together from different countries.  But we all tried and helped each other as brothers.

Since that time, as a customer, I am nicer with waiters. I understand the hard work they have day to day and how little they earn. There are long standing periods, many demanding customers or people with upset temperaments.

I only had 4 months of work there, but I learned a lot. I learned how to work in a restaurant, how to socialize with customers, the name of certain dishes, and how to deal with colleagues from different places. But something important that I learned was to improve my soft skills and my capacity to do my best.

My first job helped me to be more independent, work hard to achieve my goals and think about my future profession. My first job was the most interesting experience that I had.  It changed my way of thinking, and it changed my life.


Noelia Sanchez was born in Dominican Republic, and has lived in the United States for nine months. She studies English at the Harlem Adult Learning Center of the New York Public Library. Her instructor is Myrna Holguin. She writes “I am Adventist, with a strong trust in God, happily married and ready to conquer the world.”

My First Job – A Difficult One

by Thierno Diallo

I moved to the United States in 2014. After one month I had a job. My first job was in an African clothing store.  My job was to watch the merchandise inside the store. But I had a big problem with the customers because I didn’t understand English and Spanish.

The first day the boss explained the job to me.  He said, “You have to clean the store every morning.”

I remember the first customer was a woman with three boys. She asked me about the t-shirt and shoes.  I didn’t understand what she wanted.
She asked, “What kind of t-shirt do you have?”  I didn’t say anything.

She asked if it was cheap.

I said yes.  I didn’t know what she meant.  She didn’t buy the cheap t-shirt.  After she left, the boss called me inside.

He asked why the customer was sad.  I didn’t know what to say.
The boss reminded me to do a good job before he closed the store.  If I did bad work, I would have to pay for the merchandise.

I was very nervous with my boss.  My first job was a very difficult job.


Thierno Diallo was born on 1989 in Conakry,  Guinea.  He has been in the United States in 2014. He is single and likes to read Internet news stories.  He has a sister and brother in Conakry. He lives alone in the Bronx and is employed at a famous Italian restaurant in Manhattan.  He studies English at Harlem Library.  In the summer he will go to the CLIP  program at the Bronx Community College