I've had a LOT of jobs.
That's what happens when you have an entrepreneurial spirit but you gots ta eat. You have to work.
When I was 18-21 years old, my job of choice was waiting tables. My mom was a waitress all through my childhood. We used to go down to the pizza place where she worked and I would watch her command a room of hungry customers like a conductor at a symphony.
I've worked at a pizza joint, a few bars, a "country cafe" in California (that one was a hot mess), fine dining.....I have stories of really great customers...and really terrible customers. I know what it's like to live on tips and tips alone.
And waiting tables taught me more about life, work, money, and hustle than ANY workshop or book.
1. TIP BASED INCOMES ARE HARD, YO.
I can remember getting my actual "paycheck" from some of these waitress jobs and having them be $0. Or $10.00. On average I made about $2.75-$3.50 an hour as a waitress. I relied heavily on my tips to make ends meet. Some nights I would KILL IT and the pockets of my apron would be stuffed with crunchy dollar bills. That meant: Awesome, I get to eat this week.
Some nights no one would come in and I'd want to weep. That meant: Guess rent is gonna be a little late.
Now that I don't have a tip-based income I still try to remember my apron-wearing brothers and sisters in the trenches.
BE A GOOD TIPPER. The Karma is totally worth it. Believe me.
Oh, and don't be one of those jerkfaces that gets all political and says "I don't BELIEVE in tipping, they should pay you a living wage"
Yeah, they should. But they don't, dude.
There's also a special seat in hell, at the right hand of the Dark Lord, for people who leave those "fake dollar bills" that say something about Jesus and tithing.
2. SMALL TALK AND THE ART OF THE DEAL
I learned SO MUCH about how to talk to people, SELL to people, and finagle myself a good tip. There is nothing more off putting than going out the eat and the waiter/waitress just has a crap personality.
Believe me, even if where you work has abysmal food....you can save someone's experience by serving things quickly, with a smile, and a bit of self-depreciating humor.
I always felt it was my MISSION to get the crabby cakes customers (and believe me, they are out there in DROVES) to LOVE me. It was my challenge and I accepted it with gusto.
When I worked at a local Country Club, it was always the crabbiest of patrons that I liked the most. If I could get them to crack a smile, or at least have mercy on me, I was golden.
The art of the smile and sell.....it works. And I learned it all waiting tables.
3. MULTI TASKING LIKE A MOTHA'
Seriously, there is no other job out there where multi-tasking is so IMPERATIVE. Screw this up and you will suffer the wrath of angry patrons.
Greet the table, get the drink orders, deliver them correctly, get the food order (with all the intricate "special orders" included), work together with the kitchen to get the food out hot and in a timely manner, follow up with the tables, make sure everyone has napkins and full drinks and silverware, make sure they're HAPPY....oh wait, there's another table....and another....and another....and they all want different stuff.
Bored? Then how about some side work!
Yeah, it's a JOB. A job that will train you for the "real world" better than any other job out there, believe me.
You ain't lived until you've been "in the weeds" on a busy Friday night.
People often ask me now how I can be at a wedding, eat my vendor meal, quick photograph the garter toss, get a bazillion "grip and grins" of family and friends, and still manage to set up lighting for the dances or remember to remind the couple to cut their cake?
Because I was a waitress.
4. COUNTING BACK CHANGE
This is huge...and no one agrees with me, it seems.
One of my absolute PET PEEVES (I have quite a few of these, I think) is going to a restaurant or drive-thru (or, lets face it, anywhere I'm spending cash) and having the cashier hand me a bundle of coins and paper money awkwardly as my "change". 90% of the time they don't even say "And $such and such is your change"...they just dump the money in my hand like a toddler handing you a dirty tissue.
My first waitressing job was at a pizza place where the cash register was old school and didn't TELL you how much change to give back. So, you had to learn to "count back change". This is a LOST. ART. I tell you.
It doesn't help me much now that I'm out of the retail business, but I've impressed MANY an old timer with my ability to accurately count back their change.
Then they would love me and tip me more : )
The lesson?: Develop a skill that is rare, special, and marketable and people will reward you for this.
5. TERRIBLE PEOPLE AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
This was a big lesson learned. People LOVE to be unsatisfied. They love to complain. They love to feel like they're pulling their weight sometimes.
Now, mind you, this is not EVERYONE....but if you wait tables long enough you will meet those special snowflake customers who were BORN to make your life miserable.
The one who is SO picky they should never go out to eat ever.
The one who will eat their ENTIRE MEAL and then complain that is was unsatisfactory.
The one who comes in the same time EVERY week....orders the same thing....ALWAYS complains about it....but keeps ordering it.
The one who thinks you're too expensive (OMG, THE PRICES ARE RIGHT THERE!)
The one who treats the wait staff like their own personal maids and butlers. Not a please or thank you in sight.
The ones who bring their kids in and their kids climb on the tables and scream and throw things and spill stuff and are generally terrible human beings and they sit there staring at their phones.
The ones who think it's okay to put their hands on you, make rude or sexually explicit comments, or to treat you like a "non person"
This is being thrust into the bowels of human nature....and how you deal with it or come out of it alive is important. You can apply these developed skills in every other area of your life.
Some people are terrible. Your jobs is SELL and influence them.
6. BEST "DAVE JOB" EVER
Seriously, for all the pitfalls of waiting tables....you couldn't ask for a better way to make quick money.
So, if you're looking to take on a "Dave Job" (a 2nd job that helps fund your debt snowball)....consider waiting tables. The education you will gain from even a short time waiting tables will rival any business degree you could possibly get, I swear. It's ALL business basics: selling, marketing, people skills....wrapped into one face paced environment where you will either sink or swim.
It's not for everyone.....but everyone SHOULD try it...at least once.
If anything, you will come away with an incredible appreciation for the job itself....and it'll turn you into a fabulous tipper!
One of my FAVORITE non-fiction books is a book called "Waiting" by Debra Ginsburg, a life-long waitress and writer. It's funny and completely spot-on with what life is like waiting table. Totally recommend picking up a copy if you want something relateable!