Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school
English 102, September 2019
I would like to present to the jury a case that is personal to me. I find it to be both grueling and heartwarming to think about. In this case, you will bear witness to the tireless work, that is a minimum wage worker. These young teenagers and young adults, slave over hot machinery for hours on end. They often find themselves ensnared in the trap of an unsatisfied customer. A painful plastic smile, plastered under tired eyes; forever living under the motto: “The customer is always right.” It is in this case, your honor and the jury, that I would like you to remember a few things. 1. Like most jobs, these customer service jobs aren’t a walk in the park. 2. These workers are still human. They make mistakes. They too suffer from the severe effects of exhaustion. 3. Never assume that they are 100% happy to help you, even if they say otherwise. Lastly, always remember that these workers suffer as well; even if you or the customers are blind to the fact. So, without further ado, I would like to call to the stand a worker that I know all too well, Miss Aaleah Krone, to be a witness to “The Case of the Minimum Wage Worker.”
Hello, your honor and the jury. I am here before you today because I believe that I am the perfect witness to aid in the understanding of what a minimum wage worker experiences on a typical shift. I would like to begin by saying that not all of my experiences at my job are terrible. I do not completely despise my job, but, as most of you could probably say, I’m not in love with my job either. I have worked at my job for the past year and a half. I started when I was a junior in high school, and I am currently still employed there. Like any teenager, I was elated to have an opportunity to earn my own money. To no longer be crushed by the weight of boredom when I want to go out with my friends and have no money to do so; unless I asked my parents.
I went into the job knowing that it was not going to be a walk in the park. I didn’t imagine myself frolicking through the building singing Kumbaya; but I was also not expecting to be weighed down by the rage of an unsatisfied customer. The latter is more of the reality of what it is like working at a minimum wage job. Every day, my entire being is constantly being put to the test. My ability to be patient, understanding, kind, hospitable and friendly. It is a never-ending battle of mind over matter. I say all that to say, t is not an easy job. At all. It is demanding, and it often feels as if the annoyance of an impatient customer, is being seared into the back of my skull; willing me to go faster than I already am. I am not superman, and neither are my co-workers. We are a group comprised of sleep deprived teenager working to have a little spending money. So, when customers get upset at the speed in which we are moving, I wish I could tell them that it we do more than just mindlessly fill orders. We are using skills that we learned when we were younger to help get orders made and out. We are pulling on the knowledge of communication and reading, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to perform our jobs.
I am a Cafe Associate at Panera Bread Company. The famous, not so “fast food”, restaurant that is home to the beloved Broccoli Cheddar soup, French baguettes, and warm “Chocolate Chippers”. At Panera, I meet all types of people that I am required to use skills such as communication for. I use communication with all of them, but my communication skills are very beneficial when I am dealing with someone who is placing a phone-in order. A phone-in order is someone who calls into the store to place an order to be picked up when they get there. I think of it as a pass to get ahead in line. All a customer has to do is place the order over the phone, come in, pay for their food, and then leave without having to wait for it. It can get a bit frustrating at times because sometimes when they call it in, the store is very busy. Communication has to be used with phone-ins because when we ring it into the system, it doesn’t appear on the screens down on Line. So, I, or another cashier, must go down to Line, say that we have a phone-in order, and tell them how much time they have to make it. Phone-ins get a little tricky because they aren’t always ready when the customer comes in to pick it up. If this happens, then we have to call down to Line to see if its ready and how long it will take. Communication is important in customer service jobs. If there is a lack of communication and teamwork, then the restaurant wouldn’t run smoothly.
Another type of customer that I see often are the sweet elderly couples. We are constantly changing the menu because corporate is always adding new items and removing old ones. When the elderly customers come in, they often cannot see the small print on the large dark menu behind me. So, I often find myself reading off item from the menu and assisting them in choosing their meal. I have to be able to read so that I can enter orders into the register so that it can then be sent to Line’s screen, where they will then read it, and prepare the order. I also have a screen to read as well. Part of being a Café Associate means that I have to occasionally prepare drinks. If it is a smoothie or expresso drink, it appears on the screen in bakery, and a noise will sound. The screen shows me any modifications that the customer wants. So, things like, almond milk instead of 2% milk; decaf expresso or an extra shot. It could be anything.
So, you see your honor and the jury, we are hard-working individuals. We are teenagers and young adults trying to make sure that customers are satisfied. We strive to have a smooth-running shift, with little to no mistakes made on our part. In order to have little to no mistakes, we must be able to have basic knowledge of how to efficiently communicate with others and be a team player. We must be able to read and write so that orders are filled correctly and are given to the correct customer. I, and the millions of other teenagers and young adults working minimum wage jobs, beg future patrons to understand that we are trying. We do occasionally misunderstand what is being ordered because of the loud banging of metal trays in the background. We do, write things or ring things into the system wrong. We work. We live. But above all else, we are human.