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Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's Official: Servers Are Not Stupid!

It's hard out there for a server. According to a story on, U.S. Census Bureau figures show the number of servers who have college degrees is up 81% in 2010 from where it was in 2001. That's not saying that 81% of servers have degrees; it's saying that today there are a lot more servers who have pointless diplomas in their apron right next to their pad, pen and wine key. The number is at 159, 645 people but it only accounts for servers between the ages of 18 and 30. Since I am slightly over that median, we know the number is at least 159, 646 and probably more if you factor in other mature folks. (Please do not tell me I am the only server over the age of 30 who has a college degree.) What gets me about that figure is that there are some 18 year old servers out there who have college degrees. Did they start college at the age of 14? How in the hell are there people who are only 18 years old and already have college degrees? When I was 18, I was driving through Victoria, Texas in my dad's Honda while drinking California Coolers and listening to The Cure. I didn't have time for no stinkin' college graduation at age 18. The figures also show that there are 20, 475 janitors out there who have college degrees but I bet no one ever tells them to get a "real job." Or perhaps they have degrees in Custodial Arts, in which case they are actually benefiting from their college education.

The point of this post is to prove once and for all, that servers are not stupid. Okay, certainly there are some servers who don't know their asshole from a donut, but there are plenty of servers who have a real education underneath all that Ranch dressing and chicken wings. Just because a person is making their living by serving food does not mean they are so stupid that they have no other life choices.
I am so tired of that assumption; that we made shitty decisions and we're not smart enough to do anything else with our lives. Many servers keep serving because the hours are flexible and the money can be good when you consider the time it takes to make it. How many moms out there wait tablas because they can be done with their shift in time to meet the kids at home after school? Or how many people out there lost their "real job" at some 9:00 to 5:00 cubicle bullshit and had to reach into their drawer and pull out the old apron again? Waiting tables is a real job, people, and it's time we stand up and announce to the world, "Yes, I wait tables. I am not stupid. This is my job."

But back to the college degree. The study said nothing about what kind of degrees servers have. My guess is that there are lot of B.A.'s in Theater (guilty), Art History, Psychology and English. But wouldn't any server holding a degree in one of those fields tend to be an excellent server?

Theater Waiter: Our specials today are enticingly delicious and I will now re-enact the moment of when I first tasted the Broccoli Cheddar soup. I will be using a sense memory from my childhood and utilizing the Stanislavski technique while doing so.

Psychology Waiter: Yes, you say you want a salad, but is that what you really want? What are your instincts telling you to order? Are you sure that the salad is the right choice and if so, how does that make you feel? I will let you process that information and come back and take your order in three minutes.

Art History Waiter: The fried chicken has a golden crust not unlike the colors found in Vincent Van Gogh's iconic painting Sunflowers, but maybe not the painting you are familiar with. It is more the color of Sunflowers F.459, the second version with the royal-blue background. Tragically, that painting was destroyed in a fire during World War II  on August 6, 1945 as it was then part of a personal collection in Japan. But yes, the fried chicken crust is that color.

English Waiter: Your moveable feast of sustenance will be out expeditiously at which time I shall reestablish my presence to authenticate your satisfaction with the choices you made and confirm that everything is to your liking. I will then be able to validate my service to you in exchange for a gratuity of your choosing.

So, yes, lots of servers have college degrees. People can stop assuming that we are all a bunch of stupid idiots who only know how to carry trays. Most of us are pretty smart. And keep in mind you don't have to have a college degree to be intelligent. I have met plenty of professional folks with high paying jobs and high-falutin' college degrees who don't know the difference between their asshole and a donut which is usually not that big of a deal. It can get awkward though when you see one of them at Dunkin Donuts trying to rub a piece of toilet paper across a tray of Bavarian Kremes.

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Anonymous said...

I just told a customer this the other day! Funny I'm the moron but I just asked you how you would like your steak cooked an you answered Cooked! While looking at me as if i asked you the most idiotic question ever. What I said was no "Do you mean Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Medium Well or Well Done?" What I wanted to say " Are you seriously looking at me like I'm a fucking moron when you just answered that question as if I was going to bring Bessie from out back chop off a piece at the table and put it on your plate!" Hate people like that I wait tables because its good $ not because I'm an idiot!

Carrie said...

I eat out and I never think the waitstaff are idiots. In fact, the few times I have "tried" working in tow capacities(hostess & server0 in a restaurant due to the nostalgia of meeting all sorts of people- It was an "Epic fail." Remembering table numbers, who ordered what at each table, how to place the plates in front of customers who eyed food like porn, customers who stared at my brassiere area, and poured iced-tea from a pitcher into glasses, not laps.

I would like to open a small cafe- Even though my skills are prehensile.

Anonymous said...

My pet peeve is when servers don't write down the order and then they bring you the wrong thing. I realize that many, servers are able to remember complicated orders, but I don't like it when a particular restaurant requires their servers to not write down orders. I recall one restaurant where I used to eat all the time, this happened like three times in a row. After that, I started writing my order down on post-it notes and handing it to the server. They were not offended, on the contrary, they thanked us - AND we got the correct things we ordered. It turned out that the restaurant had new owners who decided it was a good idea to not let the servers write anything down, and then add all kinds of new items to the menu. I don't think that servers are stupid just because they can't remember every little thing all the time.

I realize this is not what the blog post was really about, but it reminded me of it.

Rebecca said...

My degrees are in social and behavioral science and my 14 years of employment in academia makes it pretty much impossible for me to find work in my field, thus I wait. I wait and I listen to 1%ers talk about their wealth and how much they disagree with taxes being used for social services programs (that might employ people like me if they weren't hemorrhaging from funding cuts).

I wish that Romney and his ilk would serve for 30-days, so they could feel the joy of working on their feet for low wages and cash tips. Maybe they would learn a little compassion and we'd have fewer people who think that they "deserve" A+ service and leave a "better luck next time" note instead of a tip.

It's almost funny to think about what my landlord would say if I wrote him a "better luck next time" note instead of a rent check. Or what the non-tipper would think if their employer gave them a "better luck next time" instead of a paycheck?

California Girl said...

Love the "field" waiter examples. I majored in English Lit with an Art History minor. But you already did those. Wonder what a P.E. major would do or say? Perhaps roller skate to the table, flex muscles, offer appetizers infused with steroids or vitamin supplements, push the energy drinks?

Anonymous said...

Great post! And you are definitely not alone - I am a 37 year old waitress, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering...I worked in my field for a few years, but I went back to waiting full-time because I was happier (overall) and the money was better! Sometimes I regret it (like when costly medical expenses arise and I have no Health Benefits) but overall, I am a much happier person who makes a decent living and is finished work by no later than 3pm every day.

Becky said...

I've noticed that people with certain college degrees (in other words, non-business degrees) do better at any job that people without degrees. There are a lot of people where I work who will run across something they don't know, and it never occurs to them to do something as simple as a Google search. College grads can at least do that ;)

LaLa Lady said...

I have 4 BA's, one of them being a Philosophy degree. A table filled with grad students kept miss -pronunciating Camus, a prominent French philosopher. One of them asked, quite snidely, how would I know?

Je veins de faire.

Tobi said...

I think there are people who just go out of their way to assume people are idiots, especially if they think those people are beneath them.

I've never been a server, but when I was in grad school I worked in retail. There are always people who assumed I was an idiot because I worked there.

Later I became a teacher. Same thing. Some treated me like I only taught because it was the only degree I could manage (even though I have both a BA and MA).

I now work at a law firm. Sometimes I will work the front desk (we rotate). Those same types of people assume I'm just the idiot receptionist. In reality, their cases wouldn't have shit done if it weren't for people like me.

Anyway, people suck.

lala said...

Great post again BW, and very timely.

Jillianne said...

I know exactly what you mean. I work, not in a waitressing job, but at a McDonald's. But all but three people that I work with (out of 40 something) have some sort of degree or are working toward their degree. I was training a boy who was class valedictorian and he asked me a question about making change and a customer had the nerve to tell him the he "needed to go back to school and actually pay attention in math" when he was the one that caused the confusion in the first place. I know exactly what you mean.

Anonymous said...

I had a woman say to her young daughter, "this is why you should stay in school. So you don't have to work a job like this." I have a teaching degree. I make more money waiting tables. Maybe someday Mrs. Pretentious will go to her daughter's parent teacher conference and have to see me looking back at her. Maybe I'll have to remind her where she's seen me before.

Cool Beans said...

1. I have an English degree. So do 2 other people that I work with.

2. I am 30. I am definitely in that age group where you were expected to go to college, so I'm willing to bet that LOTS of servers over the age of 30 have degrees as well.

3. At least 50% of the servers in my restaurant have degrees... and the last 3 servers I hired all have degrees.

4. I bet a lot of the general population aren't aware that you have to have a degree to be a manager at a lot of chain restaurants.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a lowly moron without a college degree but I know how to Google search, thank you very much. I may not have a college education, but do you know what else I don't have? I do not have thousands upon thousands of dollars in school loans to pay back on a degree I can't use because I can't find a job in my field. Do you want to call me too stupid to Google search now? You have fun paying back all those loans and I will enjoy KEEPING the money I earn, which is MORE than enough to pay my way in life and support myself, even without a precious, useless piece of paper in my hand from a university.

llamalluv said...

it's possible to complete an associates degree before the age of 19, if one starts kindergarten at 4 and/or takes some AP or college classes during high school.

Silvia said...

BW, I read your blog because you are a great writer and show that you are smart in every post. I disagree with your premise here, being intelligent and having a degree are two entirely different things. Unfortunately it appears that some schools today will hand out degrees simply for paying tuition and showing up for a few classes. I work in HR and I am appalled at the low quality of some applicants with MAs. On the other hand, I know many highly intelligent people who did not have the opportunity to go to college. This is especially true of my generation and my parent's generation. Regardless of your education level, you can be a highly intelligent person. Just because someone is a waiter, a receptionist or a sanitation worker doesn't mean that they are stupid. That's just a person's job and they have their reasons for having that job. As you say, being a waiter and having flexible hours works for your lifestyle. Someone else may take a job that's considered "low-level" because jobs are scarce right now. I'm sure that we've all met people in "high-level" positions who are dumb as rocks. I'm trying to say that we shouldn't judge someone based on their educational level or on their job. Also, even if someone IS mentally handicapped, we should treat them with respect. Sorry for being so preachy today.

DMT said...

Well Mr/Miss "anonymous", all you have done is prove that although you can claim to be smart enough to use google you certainly cannot claim to be smart enough to read the article before you comment.

Bitchy Waiter didn't say that if you don't have college education you're stupid he said there's a common assumption made by ignorant people that just because someone works as a server they have lower intelligence when figures show that plenty of well educated people work in that sector. He also conceded that just because you have a parchment it doesn't mean you're equipped with street smarts or common sense.

So to conclude, you are as you so finely put it, a lowly moron. But not because you never attended University, it's because of your prejudiced and ignorant attitude towards other people.

DMT said...

I am a post graduate server. I graduated with a BSc in Biology but due to the recession all the major labs in my country have put out a hiring embargo so I'm doing an MSc in Health and Safety Management to widen out my field and make my skill set applicable to more jobs.

There is nothing wrong with being a server many people enjoy this work. I certainly enjoy making coffee and food at my cafe. However, I don't like the abuse I've been forced to take over the years, which has motivated me to get a job where I don't deal with the public anymore. But for now I'm happy to put up with it the money is good and the hours fit around my education nicely

DMT said...

@Bitchy Waiter, sorry to clutter you in box but I owe someone an appology.

@Mr/Miss "anonymous" I missed the post by Becky that suggested that people without degrees are too stupid to use google, and didn't realize that's who your post was aimed at. I can totally understand your justified annoyance.

I take back what I said, and happily eat my own words. Please accept my unreserved apology.

Anonymous said...

All is forgiven. I'm glad I kept reading comments because I was about to explain that to you. It was not BW's post, it was Becky's. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I've never thought of waiters and servers as dumb, is that just an American thing?

Anonymous said...

I am a server/bartender at a hotel bar and lounge. Oddly enough i have a degree in hotel and restaurant mang. I work with a lot of people who javr degrees and or working on them. A few of them in engineering! Its amazing how many guest i've had come up to me while im doing side work, suh as folding napkins, and ask if this is my life plan or fold napkins for the rest of my life. Well people...thesr napkins aren't going to fold themselves and if i dont do it what will you have to wipe your puss ass face on and blow you nose in!

Laura said...

I sometimes feel like the people I wait on are extreme idiots. Well, at least where common sense is concerned. Yesterday I was asked, "Are the salads made of lettuce?". I quickly said, "I'm not sure, let me check really quick." And then I went and hid in the walk in for ten minutes writing it all down in my notebook for later.

I'm college educated, but because I'm a waitress, people treat me like I'm some lowly slave without a thought in my head. I'm actually very smart and creative. Honestly I would rather be designing something and putting my skills to use but I make decent money serving for the time being until I can go back to school and further my education.

Anonymous said...

Wow! How can we get the uneducated to understand this? Can we put this in the bible somehow?

Anonymous said...

Oh please.....they can say what they want about us so called 'Stupid Waitpeople' but we're laughing all the way to the bank ;)

Anonymous said...

While I agree in theory, I must add that I know PLENTY of people with degrees who, in my opinion, are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Education does not always equal intelligence.

The Soup Grannie said...

I have a degree in science.

KVT said...

I am 42, have a college degree (women's studies, thank you very much), and due to my national merit scholarship, graduated with almost no debt. Not only are servers not stupid, we are not unskilled. Pressed to take a busy shift, most of the people we serve would end up hiding in the bathroom in tears before the shift was over.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so easy for people to criticize servers about their job, yet they don't seem to realize that without us they would be making their own food and drinks at home, which is why they're out in the first place?

Gangle said...

The reality is, people who carry on like that are only doing it because they get the same at work.... you don't think that those snooty idiots with 'real jobs' don't have their bosses and clients riding their arses all day long for being incompetent and stupid?
They only way they can see to compensate for that is to pick on someone else, because they lack the intelligence to do anything else.
And yes, I am talking to YOU springs1, whereever you are.

JoeinVegas said...

Hold on - you don't have a degree in Waitorial Arts? UNLV (University of Nevada at Las Vegas) offers a degree in Leisure Arts; I have a friend in that program, he wants to design golf courses, so I think he will be joining you shortly.

Lori Kaminsky said...

Bitchy, you are awesome, lmfao. I have a BA in Sociology/Criminolgy, almost a second in English with a 4.0. Yes, I'am treated like a servant,etc. The place a work serves the same f-n soup every night, every night I am asked "what is the soup tonite", or what meal is this (retirement community). However these are wealthy people spending $6,000 a month to live there so I take it up the ass. And the reason I serve with my degree is because I am white, speak English, and live in Arizona. No social service jobs for the English speaking white aint right person.

Katy said...

This is for the old, dried up woman that told me, "obviously this is too complicated for you to understand." It wasn't. And you peering over my shoulder at the POS system (which I know you don't understand) doesn't help. I have a college degree. Just like 20% of my co-workers, and another 70% who are working on a degree. You have no right to talk to me, or another 90% of those I work with, like that. And you didn't tip? I don't even care. Your gift to me was leaving. Have a great day.

allerictostupid said...

Ha! So funny. I am 8 classes away from my B.S. in psychology, and the way you wrote the English major's speech made me laugh, because that is exactly what I do to my tables when they try to make me feel stupid. I would say at least 60% of my guests become instantly confused if I use any word containing more than three syllables. I must say, I was kind of hoping my degree would help me out of the pancake-slinging business, so it depressed me some to find out I'm still going to be smelling like syrup every day!

Josh A. said...

I have two degrees and I worked in the biz for 10 years while working my "real" job as well. I did it for fun and extra money. However, in a po-dunk town like mine there are a lot of chowderheads. I asked for a vodka-cran and a shot of rumpleminze last night and the waitress left, came back and asked me if I wanted them mixed together. Stuff like that happens constantly around here.

Frank G said...

Nobody ever "set out" to be a waiter but the intelligent people that fall into it stay in it because they're smart.

Seems to me like the sharper people tend to be the career servers.
It's just so frikkin' easy for a bright and personable person to make good money and make it look easy.

Also, there's a tremendous amount of freedom in being a waiter. Only a dummy doesn't know the value of freedom.

I know most of Bitchy's readers are Rockstar servers - How many places have you worked as a server where it took you no time at all to be considered on of the best in the place while others who have worked there a while still fuck shit up every night?

The mental midgets bow out of serving after a couple of years. It takes a very independent, brave and strong-willed person to do that job for a long ass time.

Nobody is looking out for servers. We gotta be tough too. Day after day of humiliation, regardless of how big or small, can drive a weaker person bonkers.

There's no retirement or any of that. No job security. Money skills have to be top notch. No way a dummy could do it.

Granted, we couldn't walk into a dentist office and start drilling on the first day, but I'm certain most of us would be the clear victor were we to switch jobs for a week with 95% of the people we wait on.

T-Money said...

I've been a server/bartender for 13 years, am 30 years old, and have a masters' degree in music performance. I still play/teach music all the time, but also work full time in a restaurant. People constantly look down on me and are rude and disrespectful for my career choice. I had a state govt. job and sat in cubicle land for a while. Hated my life. I make twice the money and I'm much happier waiting tables. Normally I let people's rudeness slide right off my back and it doesn't bother me. The ones that get me are the people who don't respond to anything you say, like you don't even exist. I like to give slight sarcasm in dealing with these people. Examples:

Me: "Hi, folks how's it going tonight?"

Table: .........

Me: "Great! Glad to hear it! What can I get you to drink?"


Me: "Hi, folks! How's everyone doing tonight?"

Table: "Water with lemon!" (in a very snarky tone)

Me: "Congratulations, I see you've been here before. Be right back with that."

T-Money said...

I've been a server/bartender for 13 years, am 30 years old, and have a masters' degree in music performance. I still play/teach music all the time, but also work full time in a restaurant. People constantly look down on me and are rude and disrespectful for my career choice. I had a state govt. job and sat in cubicle land for a while. Hated my life. I make twice the money and I'm much happier waiting tables. Normally I let people's rudeness slide right off my back and it doesn't bother me. The ones that get me are the people who don't respond to anything you say, like you don't even exist. I like to give slight sarcasm in dealing with these people. Examples:

Me: "Hi, folks how's it going tonight?"

Table: .........

Me: "Great! Glad to hear it! What can I get you to drink?"


Me: "Hi, folks! How's everyone doing tonight?"

Table: "Water with lemon!" (in a very snarky tone)

Me: "Congratulations, I see you've been here before. Be right back with that."

Jenny said...

While no one has ever told me to my face during my shifts that I am "stupid", I do sometimes feel an underlying presence if I fuck up a little in their eyes.
Thinking that servers are stupid is pretty much the same as when anyone else judges anyone else for doing something specific. Like one time I was on a train and a food trolley came along. I ordered a sandwich, a drink and a chocolate bar or something. He started punching the food items into the touch screen but he announced the total price before he'd even finished. Unlike me, he seemed to be perfectly at ease with mental arithmetic, and I overheard him perform the same flawless additions of prices as he headed down the trolley to serve other people.
Also, customers can be complete morons. Like when you ask what sauces they would like and they answer 'yes', or people misread the menu that they go ahead and order something they don't want, so we have to take it back and make what they originally wanted, or even if someone says they want "fish and chips" in an f-ing fish and chip restaurant with at least four different types of fish.
Btw you missed a Music Degree version of taking someone's order. It would probably go something like:
"The crusted salmon has an ordered texture to it, like Bach, but its fluid taste is more like the beautiful tones of Debussy. Would you mind if I sang the Specials to you?"

Unknown said...

Oh wow, I'm doing the exact same as you. However I had no interest in lab work and was more focused on health care. Do a ton of internships! I intern with a bunch who regret not doing this earlier to gain job experience. Your experience within biology is completely transferable into this field so it shouldn't be hard.