Being a Waiter Sucks: What’s Up For the Future of the Service Economy in the New America? pt. 1
By Benji Yosarrian, SV correspondent
There is a joke management has in the restaurant service industry. The hotter the hostesses and waitresses, the tighter the economy is. Business 101, sex sells yr hot cakes. Sexist? Sure. Does it really matter in our society? Not at its currently prevailing functional level. Any advertising marketer can tell you that it is hard to convince a man to change his routine and walk into a new establishment, especially when he is stretching his USDs. The obvious solution is to get the tail in there, and like so many good hound dogs, they will come barking in after the scent, ready to spend money and impress those working girls. Most chicas couldn’t care less, so long as it keeps the electricity running at home and the pills in the bread basket. Lucky for some, these fine, utility paying ladies are finding themselves flocking into the restaurant job market.
The media has vastly influenced the spread of the ‘no-cares lifestyle’ culture; starting in the sixties (when gas was a quarter and the dollar was beginning to enter its role as the world reserve currency) and progressing lavishly through the nineties, and into today. The message: if you are not eye-candy drinking free vodka on the poolside in the backyard of some primitively minded crappy rapper’s mansion in SoCal, then you don’t have much worth as a woman. No doubt about it, pretty has its perks. But, today’s economy has the roof on fire, and ‘no-cares’ is becoming ‘have-to-cares’ as prices rise and liquidity tightens.
Alas, these whimsical opportunities start becoming more and more rare in a debt ridden economy where collapse may well be the only resolve, for better or worse. The hot chick of yore, in Old-America, could do very well for herself outside the sphere of IHOP. Handouts, freebies, high-paying product promotion gigs, mooching off of cocaine dealers or (the dream!) marrying money (as it were); were all great alternatives to full-time work.
Today the unchecked steady and planned debt-deflation of the US economy, and its correlate, ‘cold’ inflation, means that dollars are getting harder to keep a hold of and are becoming increasingly harder to get a hold of. And if you are too hot, you may loose your job like this poor woman. [http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/22/lauren-odes-worker-sacked-big-breasts-gloria-allred_n_1535276.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false]
It seems that over twelve years ago when I got my first job in the industry I worked with regular old, and young, Joe’s and Jane’s. I was able to make near twice the money in about half the time. A friend recently told me that over the past five years, serving in a corporate steakhouse gig, he has watched his annual income fall from 60,000+ to around 30,000 dollars. People I worked with were there because they didn’t have an interest in working a straight 9 to 5 job. They liked being on their feet and out of an office. They enjoyed restaurant culture and it afforded them good income and high life flexibility. This was back when gas was a dollar and these were those personalities who fit outside the normal spectrum: backpackers, musicians, travelers, never-worked actors, poets, painters, Students, activists, punks, goths…you know the type. Water finds its own level.
If you are like me and have tattoos, piercings and a subculture sect to your look, the industry has by now made a selling point of our unique counter-culture throes. Thwarted again! Until now they have had little choice. That was the job pool for restaurant managers to draw from. We truly have become the freak show trying to make a buck off of the waning middle American belt. Nowadays the population of restaurant employees are mid twenties, early thirties and beyond.
And they are not only hot chicks seeking to sling food and drink, but college grads are also on the rise in what is among the most base of jobs in the US. Not base in a sense that we don’t work hard for our money. In fact, in a lot of states, restaurant work is right up there with heavy labor as far as bureaucratic purposes are concerned. Being on one’s feet for several hours, running back and forth for several miles a shift, awkward turning on the joints and always having loads in the hands are all great ways to break the body. Not to mention being an emotional punching bag for cynically embittered and economically disparaged Americans trying to play king for an hour. That, in its own, can have a peculiarly negative impact on a human spirit.
When I say base it is in the sense that one doesn’t need a higher education to preform the job skills. Restaurant work is a skill-set and is improved upon by experience and a strong knowledge of what makes people tick, if you are good. That aside it looks as if bachelor degrees are becoming the new high school diploma for job prerequisites. People skills or not, could the ever increasingly vicious job market start selecting degrees first for work in the hospitality industry over the next few years of downward economic spiral?
From personal experience I can certainly see that creeping into some aspects of the biz. For now, it doesn’t even need to be a requirement. Three years ago when I was managing at a microbrewery in Oregon a ‘dishwasher wanted’ ad on CraigsList could generate up to three responses from those persons with doctoral degrees. In less than a day and a half. Needless to say they were overqualified for the position and the seventeen year old hungry kid got the job.
Circa post-2008 college grads are flocking into service and retail jobs. Those two fields and roughnecking on the oil rigs are looking to be America’s only careers to offer this upcoming generation. A new type of generation who are desperately trying to pay off school debt by working as unpaid interns. Making up in volume for what they lose in time and salary.
Bush has truly left no child behind and socialism means we all suffer equally. One in two kids getting out of the university racket are not finding jobs at all, much less ones traditionally associated with graduates. Many go back to school and incur more debt, others default and try to dodge their arrest warrants. The debt slave is ever younger and here’s a great figure: 85% of college grads are moving back in with their parents! And to think that not so long ago I was raised on the old New England ethos, ‘when you are eighteen you are an adult, out of the house and on your own.’
Apparently this advent of delayed adulthood is to be a heralded hallmark for new-Americas economy. Check out this article [http://www.marketwatch.com/story/restaurants-add-560000-jobs-in-past-two-years-according-to-new-national-restaurant-association-analysis-2012-04-09](courtesy of PRNewswire via COMTEX) from April in MarketWatch (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal) and read the propaganda wheel turn. Great, restaurants have added over half a million jobs in two years coming in at about ten percent of the workforce. It’s all marvelous bells and whistles but what it really means for the economy is less showy. It is said that bars and bankers make off great in a depression as laborers try to drink those high interest rates, impossible debts, bankruptcies and foreclosures down. Having one’s house taken for pennies on the dollar after pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the bank for it goes much better with lime and salt.
One big problem with this transition (aside from cocaine dealers loosing their harems and the trillion dollars in student loans slow-coasting for impact with the debt bubble) is that as servers and retail floor associates, we don’t produce anything. The US has long since become a service economy and not a production economy. Production generates influx and that is what service serves and pockets from, the excess. That excess, the production, is now overseas and even higher service positions in businesses have followed. Sherwood Forest looks always more depopulated.
It is doubtful that the conflagration of hot chicks and degreed frat boys are going to provide us with a sort of high utopia of dining experience. Pure intellectually derived conversation with eugenically derived scenery is reserved for the elites. More likely this new fleet of service industry workers will slowly become cynically embittered, much like myself. (Will they become Silver Vigilantes?) Realizing that the money is alright for what it is, but realizing, as everyone soon will, that that paper money doesn’t stand against rising utility and food prices. Also, with pennies becoming so pinched, it may very well mean that restaurant work will debilitate to being just another minimum wage job like selling clothes in a department store. New-America is the end of an era where hot chicks and restaurant workers could live high on the hog off of others drippings in their respected realms. If there is one thing I can be certain of, it is that restaurant owners have no plans, nor means, of subsidizing there service staff’s lagging tips in the falling economy. Meaning America’s promising new job market is more evidence that, hot as she is, she is entering the third world.
Benji Yossarian is a SilverVigilante.com correspondent, a former ex-Marine, a former ex-activist and a former ex-patriot. He has no degree, no certifications, affiliates with no groups and is self-educated making him an expert in nothing. Trusting him is dubious at best, especially as he feels everyone is trying to kill him.