Entitlement, or, Service Workers are Not Your Personal Servants

Today’s writing is a little bit ranty, but I’m not going to apologize for it:

Have you ever been rude to a server in a restaurant simply because you are having a bad day?

How about this one: Have you ever been more than five or ten minutes late to an appointment without calling ahead to let them know?

Have you ever no-showed a medical appointment without notice?

The above scenarios (and countless others) exemplify a basic lack of respect and decency when dealing with people who work in a service-based industry.

Now, I know it’s a bit confusing, but service workers are not servants. Let’s take a look at the definitions, shall we?

ser·​vant | \ ˈsər-vənt  \one that serves others such as a public servant
especially one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer (per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

service worker
According to 41 CFR 61-250.2 [Title 41 Public Contracts and Property Management; Subtitle B Other Provisions Relating to Public Contracts; Chapter 61 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, Department of Labor; Part 61-250 Annual Report From Federal Contractors], service workers means workers in both protective and non-protective service occupations. Includes: Attendants (hospital and other institutions, professional and personal service, including nurses aides and orderlies), barbers, char workers and cleaners, cooks (except household), counter and fountain workers, elevator operators, firefighters and fire protection workers, guards, doorkeepers, stewards, janitors, police officers and detectives, porters, servers, amusement and recreation facilities attendants, guides, ushers, public transportation attendants, and kindred workers. (per USLegal.com)

There is a distinction here, one which is very important. The definition of “service worker” specifically leaves out household/personal servants.

When you walk into an appointment late without the consideration of calling ahead to make sure it’s still alright to come at all, you are showing a lack of respect for the service worker’s time, as well as other people who may be awaiting their time slot. With many service workers, such as hairdressers, healthcare workers, etc., this can result in every customer/client/patient after you having an increased wait time for the rest of that day. Have some respect. Be on time. If you can’t be on time, call. If you call and the provider states that you will have to reschedule, don’t try to get that person in trouble with their employer (you are not, in fact, their employer–you don’t pay their salary, and your lateness adversely affects the business/provider’s bottom line). Just politely reschedule, apologize for missing your appointment, and make more of an effort to show up on time for your rescheduled appointment. If the provider is kind enough to allow you to show up late, apologize for your lateness and thank your provider for their understanding. By the same token, if you are at a medical  facility, hotel, or other establishment which has a “check out” time, adhere to it and respect the staff’s time and the fact that they likely have duties that you haven’t thought of.

When eating at a restaurant or being served in a bar or pub, being needlessly rude to the serving staff is not only uncool, it shows them and the rest of the patrons what kind of person you are. If an order is wrong, politely tell the server and ask–ask— that the order be corrected. If the for your order is excessive and you cannot wait for it to be brought to your table (hey, I understand that time is sometimes an issue), politely explain your situation to the server, ask that they cancel your order, and leave the establishment. No need to cause a scene. You never come out looking like the “good guy” in those situations. It’s not hard to be polite. It is hard serving people who refuse to be polite.

If you are scheduled for an appointment, medical or otherwise, keep the appointment. If you are unable to do so, call and give your provider as much notice as possible. No one is going to yell at you. Call them. Be an adult. You took a slot up on the schedule that could have been used by someone else. The least you can do is let the provider know that you are going to be unable to make it. You may be the sole reason that the provider is at work at all that day. By letting them know you aren’t coming, you prevent them from wasting more of their time or setting aside clients/customers/patients that showed up for their appointments just in case you happen to show up.

The fact of the matter is that service work is difficult and ever-changing, and I am not talking about changing rules (which is a problem in and of itself), I am talking about the changing needs, wants, and demands of the clients/customers/patients. It’s difficult to be prepared for every situation. Having a little courtesy and basic manners will go a long way toward making your own experience, not to mention the experience of the service worker, a much more enjoyable and less stressful one.


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