I worked in the service industry for 15 years. Shame on you for leaving a bad review right now.

I remember the exact moment I broke down. It took place at a popular restaurant in my town at 6:41 p.m. on a Friday night in late summer 2021. I was crouched in a corner next to the host’s booth, patiently waiting for my takeout order. On a bench across from me sat a man and a woman with face masks pulled down to their chins, exchanging looks of indignation with each other.

“We made a reservation – they have to honor it. It’s 6:41! We should have been seated 11 minutes ago,” he huffed.

” This is unacceptable. There are only two waitresses working on a Friday,” she confirmed, a tiny bit of saliva flying from her mouth. She took out her phone and raised her eyebrows. I saw her lips turn into a smile as she sneered, “I’ll give them a bad review.”

Although I was another patron at the time, I worked in the service industry most of my life. I’ve assembled Whoppers, folded T-shirts into perfect squares, served tables at high-end restaurants, bartender, made coffee drinks, and checked people into a hotel.

Today, I still have one foot in customer service as an executive within a hotel group. I know firsthand that customer-facing roles have always been difficult and bad reviews have always been an unpleasant and unavoidable part of the job. But leaving a scathing review during a pandemic for a minor inconvenience isn’t just wrong, it’s cruel.

“Excuse me,” I said to the couple, my high voice muffled by my N-95 mask. “In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a pandemic and a socio-economic crisis. Everyone is understaffed. People have to call from work because they don’t know if their sore throat is due to allergies or the plague. Have a little compassion or stay home!

In perfect timing, the host approached right in the middle of my rant. Wide-eyed, he handed me my dinner and said in a low voice, “Thank you for saying that.” I wanted to kiss her. Instead, I nodded, thanked him, and slowly turned back to the waiting couple.

I was embarrassed, because public outbursts are not my modus operandi. But I also felt a hint of triumph when I noticed the woman had put her phone away.

I work with several hospitality professionals, and each of them entered the business because they love people. They love meeting people, talking with them, making them smile and organizing memorable experiences. Sure, some get into the service business because it’s a convenient option, but most people serving your dinner, checking you into your hotel room, or making sure your seatbelt is fastened before theft do it because they enjoy the interactive nature of the work. .

But then the pandemic hit. A genius in the legislature has decided that people who work in grocery stores, restaurants and hotels should shoulder the burden of enforcing public health rules. Retail and service industry workers have been labeled as essential workers and told to ignore advice on staying home to be safe. IInstead, they were tasked with continuing to do their customer-centric work while enforcing haphazardly designed security policies with little direction from the people who created them.

Just when it seemed like we were all finding our groove with the culture of social distancing, the supply chain broke, inflation soared and the great resignation came with.

Not everyone joined the Big Quit. Many service and retail professionals continue to hold their own. Paid employees in grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, budget motels and posh resorts, they work hard, shift after shift, to give the rest of the world some semblance of normality. Then there are the independent contractors, those who bravely go where app users don’t, instantly fulfilling virtual shopping cart wishes and delivering food, groceries and household items directly to our carries.

Throughout each wave of the pandemic, retail and service professionals donned their uniforms and badges, and served others with smizes shining above their masks. Are servers, cashiers and baristas as cheerful as they were in 2019? Maybe not. It’s hard enough to activate the charm when half your team is out with COVID and you’re working six double shifts a week. It’s almost impossible to show enthusiasm for dinner specials when you’ve just lost your grandmother to the coronavirus or learned that your child’s daycare is closing – again – due to exposure. to COVID.

And do we celebrate these steadfast professionals in retail and hospitality? Not anymore. In fact, if they dared not meet our pre-pandemic expectations, we might hit them with a “I want to speak to the manager” or, as was the case with the couple at the restaurant, a bad review.

The very idea that someone can see empty shelves, COVID numbers and “Help Wanted” signs and still be shocked to find that the quality of service is less than it was is something I cannot not understand.

I came across one of these particularly harsh reviews while researching the hours of operation of a nearby grocery store.

“The lady behind the counter in the bakery department either lacked customer service skills or hated her job, I couldn’t tell,” the disgruntled customer said before ending dramatically with “I won’t be coming back.” .

Curious to hear the other side of this review, I contacted an employee of this same grocery store who works in the bakery department. She takes pride in her craft, posts photos on social media of bakery displays and celebrates her team’s ability to survive unprecedented circumstances, like the shortage of disposable pie containers that occurred around Thanksgiving l ‘last year. I asked the employee what she would say to the reviewer if she had the opportunity to answer without fear of repercussions.

“We are exhausted. First, we were terrified not just for ourselves, but for our families. We all have children. Then the schools closed and we started doing even more double duty. Now, after three years of this, there is no more room for fear, there is no more room for joy. We’re just erased,” she told me. “We are in survival mode.”

I have several friends and colleagues in the service, retail and hospitality industries who have been pushed to their limits. Personally, I left my old customer-facing management position because I was exhausted and mentally exhausted. In my own small community of service industry workers, I know of two attempted suicides, six visits to mental health facilities, three denied attempts to verify in a mental health facility due to insurance issues and countless new antidepressant prescriptions.

So yeah, if you’re leaving a bad review right now, you’re an ass. Everything has changed everywhere. There will be longer lines. Your booking time is now an estimate. They no longer have lawyers. They are understaffed. They are exhausted.

Instead of leaving a bad review, praise the person who helped you, especially if they seem emotionally drained. Put your damn basket back in its place. Tip 25%. If you’re going on vacation, bring a bag of goodies to the flight attendants and leave a good tip for your hotel housekeeper. If you see an employee having a bad day, tell them you appreciate them.

For people who are already taking those extra steps to be kind, you are making a bigger difference than you might think.

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